Knowing the story
Acts 17:23 “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”
This is an incredible verse if you know the background history. Paul was one of those who did. This story is recorded in history dating the 3rd century AD.
In the 6th century BC Athens was hit with a destructive plague and none of their gods could do anything about it.
Wisdom was sought and it was decided to send for Epimenides, a philosopher and a religious man who lived in Crete.
When he arrived he found a plethora of gods and goddesses but believed that there must be another God undiscovered that could help the city.
He said that if they let a hundred sheep roam free in the city and the sheep that lay down on the ground be separated for sacrifice then this would heal the city. That’s what happened and the sheep was slaughtered and within a week the city was plague-free. Where the sheep lay down an altar was erected to the Unknown God.
Paul knew this story, he would later quote the philosopher himself.
Here he was in the first century facing the Athenians. How does Paul start?
He focuses them on their history by talking of this unknown God. Instantly they would know the ancient story of how this unknown God has already entered their city. He is not a foreign God but their God who has already come to them in their story.
Today you may be with someone who isn’t a Christian. In their life it could be that God has already been working with them. In their eyes they might simply see him as Creator God. But this is where you start, with what they have experienced and believed.
Know your stories, maybe even the history, that’s the key to successful mission.