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I. Introduction. A. Context. 1. Paul was on his second missionary journey. a. After being arrested in Philippi, having preached to the jailer, and the jailer and his house having believed and having been baptized, he went to Thessalonica. (i) He reasoned with them for three Sabbaths: seeking to prove Jesus was the Christ. (ii) Many believed: both Jews and Gentiles. (iii) But the unbelieving Jews were jealous and stirred up a mob against them. (iv) So the brethren sent them away to Berea. b. In Berea, they were well received. (i) The Bereans were more noble-minded than the Thessalonians. (ii) They searched the Scripture to see if what they were hearing was true. (iii) They didn’t simply take Paul’s word for it. (iv) Nor did they argue solely from their passions. (v) They used their minds, guided by God’s Spirit. c. But the Jews from Thessalonica came, stirred up the crowds, and they had to leave. (i) Paul went first to Athens; Silas and Timothy were to come as soon as possible. (ii) While he was there, his spirit was provoked by their idolatry. (iii) He began to reason with them in the synagogues and market-places. (iv) In the process, some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to speak with him. (a) Epicureans: followers of Epicurus, pleasure seekers. (b) Stoics: followers by Zeno, taught materialism, pantheism, fatalism, to be independent of externals, strict asceticism. (v) They wanted to know more, so took him to the Areopagus (Hill of Mars), a place where those gathered would discuss new things. 2. Of course, Paul took the opportunity to proclaim Christ. a. He addressed what they needed to hear. (i) You’re religious, you do religious things. (ii) But you worship ignorantly. (a) You have an altar to “an unknown god” (v. 23). (b) “The God you don’t know about is the one I want to declare to you.”
b. Paul began where they were: (i) He didn’t say they were actually worshiping the true God. (ii) He didn’t say that what they were doing was pleasing to God; it wasn’t. (iii) The unknown god was not so much the point of contact as their religious nature. (iv) But he took something from their culture and started to tell them what they needed to hear: (a) Here’s a lesson about evangelism. (b) Paul didn’t start in unfamiliar ground, but familiar. (c) But where he started was with the nature of God and man. (1) What God is like: He is One who doesn’t need anything. (2) And what man is like: He is absolutely dependent on the true God for everything. B. Preview. 1. This is what I want us to be reminded of today. a. We need to know this so that we might better evangelize. b. We need to know this so that we don’t forget to glorify God and thank Him. (i) God is invisible, though what He does isn’t. (ii) But because He is invisible, we forget how great He really is. (iii) We often forget what we owe to Him. 2. Today, I want us to consider these two doctrines Paul used to evangelize the Athenians. a. This morning, I want us to consider God’s independence. b. This evening, I want us to consider man’s dependence. c. As we do I hope our eyes will be opened again to God’s goodness: that He is the source of all our good. II. Sermon. A. First, we need to understand that God is eternal. 1. He exists outside of time. a. Eternal is often used to refer to endless time. b. But it really refers to timelessness. c. God is not bound by time. d. He exists outside of time, as well as within it. e. Time is His creation. 2. This means that He has always been. a. The three persons have always been. b. Even though the way they are distinguished makes it seem otherwise: (i) The Father begets. (ii) The Son is begotten. (iii) And the Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son. (iv) These things are also eternal.
3 (v) There was not when the Son of God was not. (vi) In the same way, there was not when the Spirit was not. (vii) All three are equally eternal. B. Because He is eternal, He doesn’t owe to anyone or anything for His existence. 1. If God, and only God, is eternal – which He is – then there isn’t anything He depends on, or could have depended on, for His existence. a. He is the uncaused cause; in other words nothing caused Him. b. His reason for existence – unlike ours – is in Himself. c. He did not need anything to be, nor does He require anything to continue to be. 2. God is the only One who is necessary; everything else isn’t. a. One of the early arguments for God’s existence was the argument from necessary being: (i) Everything we see around us isn’t necessary. (ii) They don’t of necessity need to exist: the world, the stars, planets, us. (iii) We can conceive of them not existing. (iv) But there is one thing that must exist, that is impossible not to exist, that cannot not be, and that is God. (v) He is that being which is necessary: it is inconceivable that He could not be. b. Edwards believed that God is the space in which we and all things exist, because it is the one thing that cannot be thought of as not existing. (i) Paul tells us as much in our passage, “For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children’” (Acts 17:28). (ii) He doesn’t mean that God is empty space; but that the space we conceive of as empty isn’t really empty: it is God’s being. 3. But as we saw before, because God doesn’t depend on anything for His existence, He also doesn’t depend on anything to fulfill His Word. a. What He promised He can do. b. What He promised He will do. C. But third, because He is eternal and independent, He doesn’t need anything. 1. He didn’t create to fulfill a need. a. The world: He would be perfectly blessed without it. b. Man: not for fellowship; He is triune and has perfect fellowship. c. To provide for us: except kindness and mercy compel Him. d. To keep us in existence: it doesn’t satisfy any need. e. We and the creation don’t add anything to His happiness or blessedness. 2. He didn’t redeem us to fulfill a need.
4 He didn’t need to send His Son to justify us: obedience and atonement. To protect us. To use us in His kingdom: could have used the angels. To take us to heaven, eternal existence: could have let it end here. Of course, once He promised, He had to do so. But He didn’t need to promise. What He does, He does freely, because He wants to, not because He has to. Our existence, our provision, our salvation, our usefulness, our security in this life and eternal security all come entirely from God’s goodness, not from any need He has to do these things for His own happiness. He is eternally blessed. i. “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:24-25). 3. “God is a being that is all-sufficient. He stands in no need of any creature. He has need of nothing, of none of us. He has enough within Himself before the world was; God was as blessed in Himself as now He is. There can be nothing added to Him; there is such an excellency even in God’s being itself, that there can be nothing added to Him. We are poor creatures that stand in need of a thousand things continually, the air to breathe in, the earth to bear us, fire to warm us, clothes to cover us, meat and drink, a thousand things; we stand in need of the meanest creature, and if God should take away the use of it, our lives would be made miserable to us. But that is the excellency of God’s being that He has need of nothing; He has all within Himself; all the creatures in heaven and earth cannot add to Him; no, if there were ten thousand worlds more, although God did possess them all, yet they would not add one whit to what is in God Himself; therefore, though the Lord has made the heaven and earth, and all things therein, yet we must not think that God is ever a whit the better for these things, or has the more glory. He had as much glory and blessedness as now He has, or can have. When all the angels and saints shall be eternally blessing God in heaven, yet they can add nothing to God’s glory. We say the sun is a glorious creature, but does that add any light to the sun? So for saints and angels to be praising and blessing God, what does that add to God? And in this the Name of God is excellent” (Burroughs, Day by Day, 25). 4. Let’s bow for a few moments and meditate on His greatness and blessedness in Himself, and thank Him that He willed to make us and to share His blessings with us. Amen. a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h.
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