Acts 17:24–25 (ESV) … “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
The greatness of God: He is Creator (v. 24). Every thinking person asks, “Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?” Science attempts to answer the first question, and philosophy wrestles with the second; but only the Christian faith has a satisfactory answer to all three. The Epicureans, who were atheists, said that all was matter and matter always was. The Stoics said that everything was God, “the Spirit of the Universe.” God did not create anything; He only organized matter and impressed on it some “law and order.”
But Paul boldly affirmed, “In the beginning, God!” God made the world and everything in it, and He is Lord of all that He has made. He is not a distant God, divorced from His creation; nor is He an imprisoned God, locked in creation. He is too great to be housed in man-made temples (1 Kings 8:27; Isa. 66:1–2; Acts 7:48–50), but He is not too great to be concerned about man’s needs (Acts 17:25). We wonder how the Council members reacted to Paul’s statement about temples, for right there on the Acropolis were several shrines dedicated to Athena.
The goodness of God; He is Provider (v. 25). Men may pride themselves in serving God, but it is God who serves man. If God is God, then He is self-sufficient and needs nothing that man can supply. Not only do the temples not contain God, but the services in the temples add nothing to God! In two brief statements, Paul completely wiped out the entire religious system of Greece!
It is God who gives to us what we need: “life, and breath, and all things.” God is the source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). He gave us life and He sustains that life by His goodness (Matt. 5:45). It is the goodness of God that should lead men to repentance (Rom. 2:4). But instead of worshiping the Creator and glorifying Him, men worship His creation and glorify themselves (Rom. 1:18–25).
The government of God: He is Ruler (vv. 26–29). The gods of the Greeks were distant beings who had no concern for the problems and needs of men. But the God of Creation is also the God of history and geography! He created mankind “from one man” (Acts 17:26, niv) so that all nations are made of the same stuff and have the same blood. The Greeks felt that they were a special race, different from other nations; but Paul affirmed otherwise. Even their precious land that they revered came as a gift from God. It is not the power of man, but the government of God, that determines the rise and fall of nations (Dan. 4:35).
God is not a distant deity; “He [is] not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27). Therefore, men ought to seek God and come to know Him in truth. Here Paul quoted from the poet Epimenides: “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” Then he added a quotation from two poets, Aratus and Cleanthes, “For we are also His offspring.” Paul was not saying that all people on earth are the spiritual children of God, for sinners become God’s children only by faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:11–13). Rather, he was affirming the “Fatherhood of God” in a natural sense, for man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). In this sense, Adam was a “son of God” (Luke 3:38).
This led to Paul’s logical conclusion: God made us in His image, so it is foolish for us to make gods in our own image! Greek religion was nothing but the manufacture and worship of gods who were patterned after men and who acted like men. Paul not only showed the folly of temples and the temple rituals, but also the folly of all idolatry.