To an unknown god. The inscription on the altar might seem to be an example of people hedging their bet just in case they have missed something. If that is the case, then Paul is correcting the naivete of the religiously curious Athenians.
But notice the language. Paul is not...
God, in this moment free me from grasping to control, and teach me to dwell in you. Amen.
In Acts, Paul visits Athens and finds the people worshiping various deities. He attempts to show them the one true God not by open confrontation but by understanding where they are in their own thinking and then engaging in conversation. This model is confirmed in First Peter: We should always be prepared to give reasons for our faith, but this should be done with gentleness and respect, not confrontation. The psalmist promises to make offerings in the Temple to the Lord because God has brought the people through a period of testing. The psalm thus also ties into First Peter where the believers are being tested. Jesus tells his disciples in John that God will send the Spirit to empower them to demonstrate their faith by keeping his commands.
Read Acts 17:22-31. When have you searched for God? How did God’s nearness surprise you?Read Psalm 66:8-20. What tests have you endured? How have you known God’s presence through times of difficulty?Read 1 Peter 3:13-22. How does your faith help you determine what is right? How does it give you courage when doing what is right brings you suffering?Read John 14:15-21. When have you felt encompassed by the Trinity? When has your identity as part of this family felt fragile?
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