In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas came into Lystra and healed a lame man. The superstitious people of Lystra started to worship them as Greek gods. Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes and declared themselves to be merely men. They encouraged the people to turn from idolatry to the true and living God. In Acts 13, Paul appealed to Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament as proof for Jews who had yet to become Christians, but these in Lystra were idolatrous Gentiles. How did Paul address them? Did he simply quote an Old Testament scripture? No, he didn’t. He knew it would not have much effect. Paul appealed to creation as a witness to the existence of God. Does the fact that we cannot see, touch, or feel God mean that we have no witness from God? No. God’s goodness is shown in the creation through rain and fruitful seasons (Acts 14:17). Paul declared to those at Lystra that God has not left us in the dark; He has given us a testimony of Himself in nature.
In Acts 17, Paul entered Athens, the intellectual center of the empire where the greatest philosophers had debated for centuries. Present were two schools of philosophy – Epicureans and Stoics. The Epicureans were followers of one Epicurus (342 BC) a materialist who believed all that exists is material or physical, and thus, there was no life after death. The Stoics believed in an impersonal god. In defending the faith against these false philosophies, where did Paul go? Paul said, “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” (Acts 17:24). He argues that God is the origin of the universe and not originated by man. Some stoics in earlier generations had taught there was one creator, but the many shrines in Athens to various gods showed the present generation had not embraced this concept. Paul, versed in their writings, then said your own poets have acknowledged this. There are a couple of Greek poets Paul could have referenced. Cleanthes, a stoic who lived from 331 to 233 BC, wrote, “O God most glorious, called by many a name, we are thy children, we alone of all.” About 270 BC, Aratus said essentially the same thing.
The Bible does not go into a great deal of detail to prove that God exists; nature shows it to be the case (Psalm 19:1-4). There is no excuse for a man to say that he does not believe in God (Romans 1:20; Psalm 14). Romans 1:18-32 is a passage that highlights the pleasures of sin as a major motivation for people denying God’s existence. In describing the sinfulness of the Gentiles, Paul wrote that the judgment of God is revealed from heaven (Romans 1:18). Repeated efforts have been made to remove any mention of God from the public sector. Man cannot be comfortable with sin if he acknowledges God; he must cast God out of his mind to pursue his lusts. The moral foundations of our society are under attack today. People question the most foundational truths and involve themselves in some of the grossest immorality because they do not fear the wrath of God whose existence they doubt. Paul preached the Gospel to Gentiles, who did not even know the true God. Thus, we must reaffirm very basic foundations with many of our evangelistic contacts. Even people who claim to believe in God and in the Bible must be reminded to acknowledge God or else their convictions can wane. Sometimes Christians are afraid to even talk to those who do not believe in God and the Bible. There is sufficient proof for God’s existence. Arm yourself with it and do not hide your light under a bushel (Matthew 5:15).