Christian Basic Training by Charles Buntin

Lesson 1b

The Only True God

Acts 17:22-23

(Jn 17:1-3)


Introductory Thoughts

* A lot of people these days seem to think that the subtitle for this chapter: "There Is Only One True God," is a narrow-minded and bigoted statement.

* Many people love the idea that all "gods" really represent the "real" God, whoever he (or she) may be, and that everyone with any hint of a religious belief is really "heading the same way, but on a different path."

* People who have absolute beliefs are seen by many others as bad, bigoted, mean, etc.

* The modern spirit of the age says that all religions are equally valid, that all "gods" are really the same, and that the only really wrong faith is absolute faith.

* I personally believe this Zeitgeist, this spirit, is a literal spirit, and he is an evil one--"the prince of the power of the air." Why do I think this? Because this belief that any 'god' is OK, and that anything goes in religion is a false teaching from the pits of Hell itself--if the "spirit of the age" is right, then Jehovah God is a liar, and Jesus is a charlatan.--but the zeitgeist of our day is wrong. If the Bible teaches anything, it teaches that there is only One True God, and He is Lord of the universe.


The Immediate Context of the Passage: Acts 17:16-21. Paul the apostle has journeyed to Athens, Greece, and he is awaiting the arrival of the rest of his mission band before resuming his mission trip. While in Athens , Paul does a little sightseeing, and he is distressed, stirred up, by the great idolatry he sees there. Being Paul the Apostle, he cannot keep his mouth shut, so he begins having theological discussions in the synagogues with Jews and with believing gentiles, and in the marketplace with anyone who will listen. This unusual man, Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, attracts the attention of philosophers from two of the major branches of pagan philosophy, the Epicureans and the Stoics.


Student exercise--look up the answers to these two questions in a regular dictionary or encyclopedia, and then look them up in a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia.

*What is an Epicurean?

* What is a Stoic?

They called Paul a babbler, which in the Greek is spermologos,

* Seed-picker, a slang term which meant he was a bum who taught unorganized philosophy not worthy of belief. They had not heard of the theology that Paul taught, so they were curious--and they summoned him to the Areopagus.

* The Areopagus was an institution in Athens which had the authority to pronounce judgement on all philosophical and intellectual matters. The great minds of Greek philosophy and learning belonged to the court of the Areopagus, and they occupied their time, as the Bible says, by debating and discussing philosophies: Acts 17:21 " (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)."


So, the immediate context of this passage of scripture is this:

* The Apostle Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, God's special messenger to the pagan world, has been summoned before the court of the Areopagus, the center of pagan learning and thought.

* Paul has been stirred up by the gross idolatry of the city of Athens, and he has been speaking out against this idolatry.

* Paul has therefore come to tell the greatest pagan thinkers and philosophers in the world about the true nature of the God of the universe.


* The Buntin definition of "pagan":

--Any lost person, no matter what their religious affiliation--

This offends some people, but there are only two kinds of people in the world, saved and lost, and I really believe paganism is simply the real religion of lost men and women. Paganism is just the natural religion of the natural man.

In this first part of his brief sermon to the pagan thinkers, Paul says:

Acts 17:22 ...." Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

Acts 17:23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.:


1. Acts 17:22 ...."Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious."

--- Pagans are religious-- In the spiritual warfare that has raged since the fall of man, the chief opposition to the worship of the true God has not come from atheists and secularists--it has come from worshippers of false Gods, or from those who profess to worship the true God, but in reality are worshipping a 'god' of their own imaginations.

a. Worshippers of false Gods

(1) The Egyptians--oppressed the people of God in bondage.

(2) The Babylonians -- The planned execution of the "Hebrew Children", the three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (their real names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Dan 1:7). (See Daniel Chapter 3)

(3) The followers of Diana in Ephesus (See Acts 19:24-35) A tremendous Christian revival among the pagans in Ephesus was actually interfering with the business of those men who made idol images--they were in the religion business--and they raised a riot against the Christians.

b. Those who profess to worship the true God, but in reality are worshipping a 'god' of their own imaginations.

Jude 1:11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core..

(1) The way of Cain--(See Genesis 4:1-25, Heb 11:4, 1 Jn 3:12, and Jude 1:11--Without going into great detail, as you study the references above, it becomes obvious that Cain killed Abel--the first murder--because he was jealous of Abel's relationship with God. Cain did not want to worship in God's way, which we know from many scriptures is blood sacrifice. Cain wanted to have his own religion on his terms--and he resented Abel for following God's way.

(a) The way of Cain -- Works

(b) The way of Cain -- "my way..."

(c) The way of Cain -- bloodless

(d) The way of Cain -- jealous of the true Way of God's people

1 John 3:12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous.


(2) The error of Balaam--Gifted of God to prophesy, but neither saved nor obedient to God. He perverted the gift of God for worldly gain.

(a) Balaam was a true prophet, but he was not saved

**He had a personal vision of The Angel of the Lord—a Theopany

Num 22:31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face..

** He spoke the Word of God faithfully, even though he wanted not to

** Balaam made a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah

Num 24:17 I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.

Num 24:18 And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.

Num 24:19 Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city."

(b) Balaam engineered the undermining of Israel by sexual immorality--he was "tolerant" in sexual matters

(3) Korah--challenged the leadership and calling of Moses, but was in reality challenging the leadership and Truth of God...Numbers 16

(4) The Pharisees--

Mark 7:6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

Mark 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

For doctrine, they held the traditions of men higher than the teachings of the scriptures.


a) God hates religious tradition

(b) Tradition gives deceased generations of men more authority than the Word of God has.



** Throughout history, in the Bible and since Bible times, the opponents of the Truth have usually had this in common--they worshipped false "gods" who were not even pale reflections of the reality of God Almighty.

**The 20th century American church is shot through with worship of the "god" of the imagination.....

-If you imagine God is less He is, you worship a false "god".

-If you imagine that God has changed His mind about sin, you worship a false "god"

-If you call evil "good," and good, "evil", you worship a false "god"

-If you believe that the Word of God is not 100% true, you worship a false "god"

-If you believe there is any other possible way of salvation than by faith in Christ alone, you worship a false "god."

-If you believe your works have any part in your salvation, you worship a false "god"


2. The characteristics of false Gods: (See verse list at end of lesson)

a. False "gods" are created by their own worshippers, and the false "gods" are created in the images of those worshippers.

(1) They want a God who is just like them

Psa 50:21 These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.

(2) This does not even make logical sense, as the LORD points out to Isaiah in this excerpt:

(look up the entire passage from Is 44:9-20, it is an eye-opener).

Isa 44:9, Isa 44:19 And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?

Isa 44:20 He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?

What 'god' is any good, if it is something that I or any other man has made? Is this not the height of lunacy? False Gods are man-made, vain, empty things.

b. False Gods are not Almighty, Sovereign, Eternal, Immutable, etc.--The 'gods' of the pagan world were by legend, claimed to be powerful and great, but even the pagan legends of their false deities fall far short of the power and majesty of Jehovah. The reality of idols is:

(1) They are blind, deaf, dumb -- De 4:28

(2) They are helpless -- Jer 10:5

The 'gods' of the pagans are mere shadows of the imaginations of their creators, and they are utterly helpless.

(3) ** The flip side of this is: If you claim to be worshipping the God of the Bible, but your version of Him is far less than Who and What He is, you may be worshipping a false God!!!

(a) If you reject the sovereignty and divine providence of God--If you refuse to acknowledge that God is in control, if your conception of God is less than the Holy, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Immutable, Eternal, Wrathful and Loving God who proclaims Himself in the Bible,

You might be a pagan!

(b) If you concoct some liberal wimpy version of Jesus--

You might be a pagan!

(c) If you think God has changed His rules on sin and on how men and women should live

You might be a pagan!

(d) If you don't believe the Word of God is true, inerrant, and infallible

Chances are, you are a pagan!

(e) If you think your works and actions have any bearing whatsoever in your salvation....

You most definitely are a pagan!

(f) If you would rather seek after external, emotional religious experiences than to be fed on Biblical Truth

Paganism is the dominating factor in your life!

(g) If you are pro-choice on abortion, or if you support gay liberation, or if you think Christians should shut up and stay out of the great social issues of our day--

Paganism is your religion!

(h) If you are so religiously old-fashioned that you can’t open up to minister to people in need because they don’t dress like you do, or drive the same kind of car you drive,

Pagan might be your name!

(i) Or, if you a hard-hearted old Christian who would not welcome a black or Mexican family into your fellowship, or who wants to have your way just to have your way, or who would rather fight about little idiocies than build a great church which will minister to people’s needs,

There might be a stone idol in your closet!

This study will continue on Paganism in Lesson 1c

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