Acts 17:30 | Ignorance or Holiness

Ignroance

If someone called me ignorant my initial reaction would be to throw up defensive shields and turn on my offensive arguments of war. However, the truth is that I am ignorant on a great many subjects. Yet to call someone ignorant does seem to be an insult in an age where information is literally at the fingertips of anyone with a connected device. At this point in life I may remain ignorant of a specific topic unless or until there is a need for me to be educated. This brings me to the book of Acts with one of the most interesting chapters where the apostle Paul makes a stop in Athens Greece. While on this stopover he is invited to speak to the Areopagus. The Areopagus was a location where a council of the most educated, likely wealthy, men and women of Athens gathered to “spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21 ESV) This crowd is not ignorant. These are the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers that helped to build the foundation of western society that I materially benefit from today. Yet Paul addresses them and tells them that they have been ignorant.

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:29-31 ESV

The old saying “Ignorance is bliss” highlights the fact that being unaware of the complexity and realities of this short life people blissfully unaware of the impending dangers that lay ahead. The fact that ignorance about a topic or event may eventually get one into trouble in no way slows the trouble or prevents those events from unfolding. Paul tells us all that while we like to make God into an image of our own choosing God has revealed himself and will no longer overlook such ignorance. A day of impact and judgment has been set when the time of mercy and grace will end. At that moment God will call men and women both alive and dead to account. Paul uses a word for ignorance here that is not a general kind of ignorance. These people of Athens he is speaking to are not ignorant people. Paul calls them a special kind of ignorant ἄγνοια (agnoia). This is an ignorance of divine and moral knowledge. While for their time these people of Athens may have known about the physical world they were ignorant about the moral implications and the dead spiritual conditions that shadowed their minds. Much like the modern world of today.

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ! Ephesians 4:17-20 ESV

Do not be ignorant Paul preaches to us today. Do not be ignorant of the moral and spiritual darkness of the land we live in. Repent, turn away, from that darkness. Flee from the selfish life of lust, sensuality, and greed. Do not be ignorant because God will hold against people a life impurity. Even more God has made the Bible, his revelations, available to a majority of people the world over. Ignorance is not an excuse because God will not overlook sin when that person has at their literal fingertips access to direct revelations about Christ and salvation.

Christ is the opposite of ignorance. He is the truth. He is the life. In him is found self-control, unselfish love, and a beating heart. This is what is learned when in Christ and how we become a new creation no longer darkened by ignorance of a former life.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct 1 Peter 1:14-15 ESV

Creation, Laws, and Christ

laws

God, the maker of heaven and earth is present and draws men and women to himself. He is drawing people to himself because in our rebellion we have distanced ourselves from His perfect holiness. But God made a way and He…

4 desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:4-6 ESV

The knowledge of truth God wishes is for all people to know Him. Understanding God’s desire from the following facts may lead to a restored relationship with God. These truths while boiled down to the following statements here does not mean an easy answer and there is no simple prescription when it comes to God because each person is unique in how they react to these truths. In fact, Jesus claimed few people will navigate this narrow road.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 ESV

To know God and reconcile with Him the following three key truths must be understood, believed, and embraced. Each of the following facts are progressive and many reading this may find each successive truth more difficult to agree with but Christianity and salvation require all three.

Where there is a Creator there is a creation.

Creation is an irreducible truth it is not an accident or a random occurrence. The humanist champions of science worship the order and the repeatable laws that make up the scientific method. But those same worshiper’s state that random nothing created the perfect order of science. An atheist worldview is such an odd paradox. And truth be told most people assume and accept some type of Creator be him personal or impersonal.

20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:20 ESV

Where there is a Law there is a Law Giver.

Accepting a Creator is an easy first step with religions and people the world over finding peace with this truth. Where the specific truths of Christianity become complicated and many find objection is in man’s relation to the law. The scientific method assumes natural laws are in effect. Force and friction are mathematically measurable. Violating those laws of nature will not allow society to create the combustion engine. In the same way God of the creation has put in place laws of human nature and violating those laws causes death and failure of the engine, our body and soul. The well-known Ten Commandments are a perfect representation of God’s laws and the recognizable effects of their violation. Do not steal, or lie, or kill. Also worship God and God alone are examples and yet people break these laws and know in their heart what they have done is wrong. All men and women have fallen short of God’s standard (be honest) and Paul writes the penalty is death. Sinners (you and me both) deserve death because all have broken the laws of God. Each person has a broken fellowship with the Creator and He sits in judgment on our crimes.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:28-32 ESV

Where there is Christ there is Salvation.

While most people accept “god” in the first truth about creation few agree with the second point that they have broken the laws of God and are therefore guilty sinners deserving of death and punishment. As stated in the intro being Christian is not an easy road. Sadly, people in a dwindling percentage agree and accept the second truth about sin and law breaking. Because of that even fewer will listen for the final truth the best truth of the three which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus resurrected from death and Peter’s first Christian sermon on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago states the final key perfectly. If you accept God and you acknowledge you are a sinner breaking God’s laws then listen now to the greatest news ever told.

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:36-39 ESV

“the Way”

way

Early on in the life of the Church it was not yet called Christian, Protestant, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Pentecostal, or Reformed. It was simply known as “the Way”. Saul, before becoming Paul, wanted to round up the members of the “the Way” and later after conversion Paul caused problems for entire regions as a member of “the Way”.

19 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. Acts 19:23 ESV

I like the name “the Way” for the early church because it is so perfectly descriptive of the purpose and point of life. In the Greek, the word used to describe the local church is properly understood to mean simply a road, journey, or a traveled way. It can be used in metaphor as course of conduct or method of thinking. Those outside and inside the early Church referred to this newly formed group as “the” way, road, and course of conduct. Not “a” way but “the” way. They were making a statement that the path ahead is definitive and final with no other options being true. The reason this is so perfectly descriptive is that Jesus himself spoke of salvation as a journey not a status. Jesus also used the exact same word to describe this choice in journey.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 ESV

We are all journeying in this life on some road or way of thinking. Jesus made special care to note that His way is narrow and difficult. The way of the world however is wide open and easy, but it leads to destruction. Life is hard and people make bad situations worse with bad choices. Sometimes I am amazed at how fast those bad choices spiral out of control.

24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:24 ESV

When our founding parents were moved out of paradise “the way” to life and fellowship with God was cutoff. Our rebellion against our creator keeps us all headed for destruction and broken before a perfect and Holy God. Jesus has come to make a way for creation to return to our natural state of fellowship with our Creator.

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:3-7 ESV

The beauty of this journey and way is that if one would stop running and listen there is a guide who knows the way and is ready to show the way. More He is the way. Through Him is truth and life. What was once blocked and guarded because of rebellion has been opened and made possible by the perfect obedience of Christ.