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Acts 17:29

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, etc. - This inference of the apostle was very strong and conclusive; and his argument runs thus: "If we are the offspring of God, he cannot be like those images of gold, silver, and stone, which are formed by the art and device of man; for the parent must resemble his offspring. Seeing, therefore, that we are living and intelligent beings, He from whom we have derived that being must be living and intelligent. It is necessary, also, that the object of religious worship should be much more excellent than the worshipper; but a man is, by innumerable degrees, more excellent than an image made out of gold, silver, or stone; and yet it would be impious to worship a man: how much more so to worship these images as gods! Every man in the Areopagus must have felt the power of this conclusion; and, taking it for granted that they had felt it, he proceeds: -

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Forasmuch then - Admitting or assuming this to be true. The argument which follows is drawn from the concessions of their own writers.

We ought not to think - It is absurd to suppose. The argument of the apostle is this: “Since we are formed by God; since we are like him, living and intelligent beings; since we are more excellent in our nature than the most precious and ingenious works of art, it is absurd to suppose that the original source of our existence can be like gold, and silver, and stone. Man himself is far more excellent than an image of wood and stone; how much more excellent still must be the great Fountain and Source of all our wisdom and intelligence.” See this thought pursued at length in Isaiah 40:18-23.

The Godhead - The divinity ( τὸ Θεῖον to Theion), the divine nature, or essence. The word used here is an adjective employed as a noun, and does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.

Is like unto gold … - All these things were used in making images or statues of the gods. It is absurd to think that the source of all life and intelligence resembles a lifeless block of wood or stone. Even degraded pagan, one would think, might see the force of an argument like this.

Graven - Sculptured; made into an image.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Here we have a sermon to heathens, who worshipped false gods, and were without the true God in the world; and to them the scope of the discourse was different from what the apostle preached to the Jews. In the latter case, his business was to lead his hearers by prophecies and miracles to the knowledge of the Redeemer, and faith in him; in the former, it was to lead them, by the common works of providence, to know the Creator, and worship Him. The apostle spoke of an altar he had seen, with the inscription, "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD." This fact is stated by many writers. After multiplying their idols to the utmost, some at Athens thought there was another god of whom they had no knowledge. And are there not many now called Christians, who are zealous in their devotions, yet the great object of their worship is to them an unknown God? Observe what glorious things Paul here says of that God whom he served, and would have them to serve. The Lord had long borne with idolatry, but the times of this ignorance were now ending, and by his servants he now commanded all men every where to repent of their idolatry. Each sect of the learned men would feel themselves powerfully affected by the apostle's discourse, which tended to show the emptiness or falsity of their doctrines.
Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 233-42

Thus persecution followed the teachers of truth from city to city. The enemies of Christ could not prevent the advancement of the gospel, but they succeeded in making the work of the apostles exceedingly hard. Yet in the face of opposition and conflict, Paul pressed steadily forward, determined to carry out the purpose of God as revealed to him in the vision at Jerusalem: “I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” Acts 22:21. AA 233.1

Paul's hasty departure from Berea deprived him of the opportunity he had anticipated of visiting the brethren at Thessalonica. AA 233.2

On arriving at Athens, the apostle sent the Berean brethren back with a message to Silas and Timothy to join him immediately. Timothy had come to Berea prior to Paul's departure, and with Silas had remained to carry on the work so well begun there, and to instruct the new converts in the principles of the faith. AA 233.3

The city of Athens was the metropolis of heathendom. Here Paul did not meet with an ignorant, credulous populace, as at Lystra, but with a people famous for their intelligence and culture. Everywhere statues of their gods and of the deified heroes of history and poetry met the eye, while magnificent architecture and paintings represented the national glory and the popular worship of heathen deities. The senses of the people were entranced by the beauty and splendor of art. On every hand sanctuaries and temples, involving untold expense, reared their massive forms. Victories of arms and deeds of celebrated men were commemorated by sculpture, shrines, and tablets. All these made Athens a vast gallery of art. AA 233.4

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 462

In former years the apostle had publicly proclaimed the faith of Christ with winning power, and by signs and miracles he had given unmistakable evidence of its divine character. With noble firmness he had risen up before the sages of Greece and by his knowledge and eloquence had put to silence the arguments of proud philosophy. With undaunted courage he had stood before kings and governors, and reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, until the haughty rulers trembled as if already beholding the terrors of the day of God. AA 462.1

No such opportunities were now granted the apostle, confined as he was to his own dwelling, and able to proclaim the truth to those only who sought him there. He had not, like Moses and Aaron, a divine command to go before the profligate king and in the name of the great I AM rebuke his cruelty and oppression. Yet it was at this very time, when its chief advocate was apparently cut off from public labor, that a great victory was won for the gospel; for from the very household of the king, members were added to the church. AA 462.2

Nowhere could there exist an atmosphere more uncongenial to Christianity than in the Roman court. Nero seemed to have obliterated from his soul the last trace of the divine, and even of the human, and to bear the impress of Satan. His attendants and courtiers were in general of the same character as himself—fierce, debased, and corrupt. To all appearance it would be impossible for Christianity to gain a foothold in the court and palace of Nero. AA 462.3

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Ellen G. White
Education, 67

See Paul at Athens before the council of the Areopagus, as he meets science with science, logic with logic, and philosophy with philosophy. Mark how, with the tact born of divine love, he points to Jehovah as “the Unknown God,” whom his hearers have ignorantly worshiped; and in words quoted from a poet of their own he pictures Him as a Father whose children they are. Hear him, in that age of caste, when the rights of man as man were wholly unrecognized, as he sets forth the great truth of human brotherhood, declaring that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” Then he shows how, through all the dealings of God with man, runs like a thread of gold His purpose of grace and mercy. He “hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us.” Acts 17:23, 26, 27. Ed 67.1

Hear him in the court of Festus, when King Agrippa, convicted of the truth of the gospel, exclaims, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” With what gentle courtesy does Paul, pointing to his own chain, make answer, “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” Acts 26:28, 29. Ed 67.2

Thus passed his life, as described in his own words, “in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” 2 Corinthians 11:26, 27. Ed 67.3

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Ellen G. White
The Ministry of Healing, 214

The experience of the apostle Paul in meeting the philosophers of Athens has a lesson for us. In presenting the gospel before the court of the Areopagus, Paul met logic with logic, science with science, philosophy with philosophy. The wisest of his hearers were astonished and silenced. His words could not be controverted. But the effort bore little fruit. Few were led to accept the gospel. Henceforth Paul adopted a different manner of labor. He avoided elaborate arguments and discussion of theories, and in simplicity pointed men and women to Christ as the Saviour of sinners. Writing to the Corinthians of his work among them, he said: MH 214.1

“I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.... My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. MH 214.2

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 292-3

In the person of His only-begotten Son, the God of heaven has condescended to stoop to our human nature. To the question of Thomas, Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake” (John 14:6-11). 1SM 292.1

The most difficult and humiliating lesson that man has to learn is his own inefficiency in depending upon human wisdom, and the sure failure of his own efforts to read nature correctly. Sin has obscured his vision, and of himself he cannot interpret nature without placing it above God. He cannot discern in it God, or Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. He is in the same position as were the Athenians, who erected their altars for the worship of nature. Standing in the midst of Mars’ Hill, Paul presented before the people of Athens the majesty of the living God in contrast with their idolatrous worship. 1SM 292.2

“Ye men of Athens,” he said, “I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our beings; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device” (Acts 17:22-29). 1SM 292.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1068

20-25 (Psalm 19:1-3; Acts 17:22-29; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3). Nature's Revelation Imperfect—The most difficult and humiliating lesson that man has to learn is his own inefficiency in depending upon human wisdom, and the sure failure of his own efforts to read nature correctly. Sin has obscured his vision, and of himself he cannot interpret nature without placing it above God. He cannot discern in it God, or Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. He is in the same position as were the Athenians, who erected their altars for the worship of nature. Standing in the midst of Mars’ Hill, Paul presented before the people of Athens the majesty of the living God in contrast with their idolatrous worship. [Acts 17:22-29 quoted.] 6BC 1068.1

Those who have a true knowledge of God will not become so infatuated with the laws of matter or the operations of nature as to overlook, or refuse to acknowledge, the continual working of God in nature. Nature is not God, nor was it ever God. The voice of nature testifies of God, but nature is not God. As His created work, it simply bears a testimony to God's power. Deity is the author of nature. The natural world has, in itself, no power but that which God supplies. 6BC 1068.2

There is a personal God, the Father; there is a personal Christ, the Son. [Hebrews 1:1, 2: Psalm 19:1-3 quoted.] ... 6BC 1068.3

The ancient philosophers prided themselves on their superior knowledge. Let us read the inspired apostle's understanding of the matter. “Professing themselves to be wise,” he says, “they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.... Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator.” In its human wisdom the world cannot know God. Its wise men gather an imperfect knowledge of God from His created works, and then in their foolishness they exalt nature and the laws of nature above nature's God. Those who have not a knowledge of God through an acceptance of the revelation He has made of Himself in Christ, will obtain only an imperfect knowledge of Him in nature; and this knowledge, so far from bringing the whole being into conformity to His will, will make men idolaters. Professing themselves to be wise, they will become fools. 6BC 1068.4

Those who think they can obtain a knowledge of God aside from His Representative, whom the Word declares is “the express image of his person,” will need to become fools in their own estimation before they can be wise. It is impossible to gain a perfect knowledge of God from nature alone; for nature itself is imperfect. In its imperfection it cannot represent God, it cannot reveal the character of God in its moral perfection. But Christ came as a personal Saviour to the world. He represented a personal God. As a personal Saviour, He ascended on high; and He will come again as He ascended to heaven—a personal Saviour. He is the express image of the Father's person. “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (The Review and Herald, November 8, 1898). 6BC 1068.5

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1084

“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.” Paul was a very great teacher; yet he felt that without the Spirit of God working with him, all the education he might obtain would be of little account. We need to have this same experience; we need to be afraid of ourselves. We need individually to sit at the feet of Jesus, and listen to His words of instruction (Manuscript 84, 1901). 6BC 1084.1

1-4. See EGW on Acts 17:34. 6BC 1084.2

1-5 (Acts 9:3-6; 22:3, 4). Instruction for the Church Today—[1 Corinthians 2:1-5 quoted.] Paul was not an unlearned man, but the preaching of Christ was a new gospel to him. It was a work entirely different from that he had engaged in when he hunted the believers from place to place and persecuted them even “unto the death.” But Christ had revealed Himself to Paul in a remarkable manner at his conversion. At the gate of Damascus the vision of the Crucified One changed the whole current of his life. The persecutor became a disciple, the teacher a learner. 6BC 1084.3

From that time Paul was a truly converted man. God gave him a special work to do for the cause of Christianity. His instruction in his letters to the churches of his day is instruction for the church of God to the end of time (Letter 332, 1907). 6BC 1084.4

Eloquence in Simplicity—[1 Corinthians 2:1-5 quoted.] Paul did not come to the churches as an orator or as a scientific philosopher. He did not seek merely to please the ear by flowery words and phrases. In eloquent simplicity he proclaimed the things that had been revealed to him. He was able to speak with power and authority, for he frequently received instruction from God in vision [vs. 6-10 quoted] (Manuscript 46, 1905). 6BC 1084.5

(Acts 17:22-34.) Spiritual Power Not in Human Wisdom—[1 Corinthians 2:1-9 quoted.] The apostle Paul had all the privileges of a Roman citizen. He was not behind in the Hebrew education, for he had learned at the feet of Gamaliel; but all this did not enable him to reach the highest standard. With all this scientific and literary education, he was, until Christ was revealed to him, in as complete darkness as are many at this time. Paul became fully conscious that to know Jesus Christ by an experimental knowledge was for his present and eternal good. He saw the necessity of reaching a high standard. 6BC 1084.6

It had been Paul's custom to adopt an oratorical style in his preaching. He was a man fitted to speak before kings, before the great and learned men of Athens, and his intellectual acquirements were often of value to him in preparing the way for the gospel. He tried to do this in Athens, meeting eloquence with eloquence, philosophy with philosophy, and logic with logic; but he failed to meet with the success he had hoped for. His aftersight led him to understand that there was something needed above human wisdom. God taught him that something above the world's wisdom must come to him. He must receive his power from a higher source. In order to convict and convert sinners, the Spirit of God must come into his work and sanctify every spiritual development. He must eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God (The Review and Herald, July 18, 1899). 6BC 1084.7

2 (Galatians 6:14). The One Central Truth of the Scriptures—There is one great central truth to be kept ever before the mind in the searching of the Scriptures—Christ and Him crucified. Every other truth is invested with influence and power corresponding to its relation to this theme. It is only in the light of the cross that we can discern the exalted character of the law of God. The soul palsied by sin can be endowed with life only through the work wrought out upon the cross by the Author of our salvation (Manuscript 31, 1890). 6BC 1084.8

4 (ch. 4:9). Faithful Preachers a Spectacle to the World—Our work for this time is not to be done by enticing words of man's wisdom, such as were used by heathen orators to gain applause. Speak in the demonstration of the Spirit, and with the power which God alone can impart. The testing truths for this time are to be proclaimed by men whose lips have been touched with a live coal from off God's altar. Such preaching will be a decided contrast to the preaching usually heard. Faithful, God-sent messengers are a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men, not because they place themselves in high positions, but because they show that they are strengthened and helped by the Spirit (Manuscript 165, 1899). 6BC 1084.9

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Ellen G. White
The Story of Redemption, 312-3

See him in the dungeon at Philippi, where, despite his pain-racked body, his song of praise breaks the silence of midnight. After the earthquake has opened the prison doors, his voice is again heard, in words of cheer to the heathen jailer, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here”—every man in his place, restrained by the presence of one fellow prisoner. And the jailer, convicted of the reality of that faith which sustains Paul, inquires the way of salvation, and with his whole household unites with the persecuted band of Christ's disciples. SR 312.1

See Paul at Athens before the council of the Areopagus, as he meets science with science, logic with logic, and philosophy with philosophy. Mark how, with the tact born of divine love, he points to Jehovah as the “Unknown God,” whom his hearers have ignorantly worshiped; and in words quoted from a poet of their own, he pictures Him as a Father whose children they are. Hear him, in that age of caste, when the rights of man as man were wholly unrecognized, as he sets forth the great truth of human brotherhood, declaring that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” Then he shows how, through all the dealings of God with man, run like a thread of gold His purposes of grace and mercy. He “hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us.” SR 312.2

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