Acts 17:30

Acts 17:24-31 (see also Luke 10:30Matthew 25:41)
“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; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” 

​Question: For what purpose and to what end, does God command “all people everywhere” to repent?

Answer: Salvation. But Calvinism says that this is just God’s revealed will, as opposed to His secret will, meaning that God commands one thing while desiring the opposite.

​Question: What does “that they would seek God...and find Him” imply?

Answer: God, for His part, is willing that all become saved. He paid the ultimate cost sending His Son to Calvary and witnessing His suffering on the cross.

Having to defer to a “secret will” is what many find troubling about Calvinism.

​Question: Who are the “children of God”?

Answer: There are the children of God by creation through Adam. (Acts 17:28-29) There are the children of God by adoption through new birth. (Romans 8:14-17)

​Question: If Calvinism is the Gospel, then why 
didn’t Paul preach the Gospel? Why did he, instead, 
preach an Arminian message about everyone being 
the children of God, and that God loves everyone, 
and God wants everyone to repent because He is 
going to judge everyone someday through His Son 
whom He has raised from the dead? What kind of 
“watered-down” version of the Gospel is that, if 
Calvinism is the true Gospel?

Answer: That’s not a watered-down version of the 
Gospel. That is the Gospel, and it’s anti-Calvinistic 
since it eliminates the exclusivity of salvation. You 
can’t play the game of “all people” merely means 
 “groups” and “never individuals,” or else God is 
merely saying that He has fixed a day in which to 
judge groups, and not individuals, and that He has 
furnished proof merely to groups and not individuals. 
(You should take this principle and filter it back into 
1st Timothy 2:4.)

Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon: I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. (A Defense of Calvinism, emphasis mine)

So did the apostle Paul, at Acts 17:24-31, fail to truly preach Christ and Him crucified?

Charles Spurgeon: I do not come into this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter. I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, You are mine, and you shall be mine. I claim you for myself.’ My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will. (Spurgeons Sermons, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “If we are not ashamed of the gospel, we must confess what is there plainly declared. God, by His eternal goodwill, which has no cause outside itself, destined those whom He pleased to salvation, rejecting the rest; those whom He dignified by gratuitous adoption He illumined by His Spirit, so that they receive the life offered in Christ, while others voluntarily disbelieve, so that they remain in darkness destitute of the light of faith.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.58, emphasis mine)

​Question: Does not being ashamed of the Gospel mean not being ashamed of Calvinism?

Answer: Why is it that, in the places where we are told not to be ashamed of the Gospel, there is no mention of the elements of Calvinism?

Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

2nd Timothy 1:8: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.

​Question: So what is the Gospel?

Answer: The Gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1st Corinthians 15:1-11), in whom there is life by believing in His name. (John 20:31)

1st Corinthians 15:1-11: “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Galatians 1:6-9: “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

The “different gospel” referred to at Galatians 1:6-9 was a Gospel which denied the grace of Christ, and embraced salvation by obedience to the Law. Given that what Paul preached was the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and labeled as “the Gospel,” and, by way of comparison, given what John Calvin taught, which was Theistic Fatalism, and labeled as “the Gospel,” surely the possibility exists, therefore, that Paul and Calvin had two distinctly different concepts of what the Gospel was.

Calvinist, Colin of Good Night Safe Home: “I take the line that Calvinism is the Gospel in its fullest expression, and that is how Spurgeon viewed it, especially seeing his other views on John Wesley and Arminians in general which were quite gracious. I do not think that the Evangelical alternatives deny the gospel, but I do think that they dilute it.” (ExaminingCalvinism, emphasis mine)

Do you believe that Paul preached a diluted Gospel at 1st Corinthians 15:1-11?

Colin adds: “When I preach the gospel (in the open air and through the printed page etc.,) I keep to the basics such as you have in 1 Corinthians 15 rather than go into the specific details of Romans 8-9 etc., It is in the details of the gospel that I think Calvinism gives the fuller expression, rather than the alternative from the other school within the Evangelical fold. To say (as some do) ‘Elected because I selected’ makes me think that God wept with with gratitude that someone deigned to pick Him to be their God.” (ExaminingCalvinism, emphasis mine)

Elected because I selected” is the Calvinist perspective of the Arminian teaching that God the Father has chosen Christians for salvation, and Calvinists are free to their perspectives, just as Arminians do the same. However, the problem that I have is that these purported “details of the gospel,” as alleged by Calvinists, do not appear to have been as unpacked by the apostles, as they have been by the Calvinists, and thats perhaps the most serious issue of all. In other words, there is a serious disconnect between the zealousness of the Calvinists for Calvinism, and the zealousness of the apostles to meticulously spell it out in they way that Calvinists believe and teach. Simply read a theology book by a Calvinist, and then compare that with the New Testament, and the problem should be plainly evident. However, Calvinists absolutely insist that Calvinism is blanketed across each chapter of the New Testament, but my protest is that this is only the case if the Calvinist reads Calvinism into every place where he claims that he is getting it out of.

​Question: Who is “they” of verse 27?

Answer: It would seem to have to be everyone, because Paul is speaking in the broad sense of all mankind, subject to the appointed times and boundaries of human habitation. Paul adds that all mankind is generally “His children” which does not seem to match the two-class society of mankind, taught by Calvinism, in terms of the elect and non-elect. A person explanation would be that all mankind are God’s children, and among God’s children are the saved and the lost, and God has provided a Savior, Jesus, so that whosoever will may come and receive forgiveness.

Paul’s sermon at Acts 17 mentions nothing about “the depravity of man,” but instead indicates that God expects us seek, grope and find Him. Of course, I do acknowledge the depravity of man, and the fallen nature, but based upon Paul’s sermon, God does not seem to think that the depravity of man necessarily equates to a Calvinist doctrine of Total Inability, or prevents people from repentance, or prevents people from seeking and finding Him, especially since God indicated that He is “not far from each one of us.” Paul placed all of mankind under the collective umbrella of “His children” and if God wants people to repent, then it’s implicit that God would welcome such repentance, but if, as Calvinism teaches, that there is a Limited Atonement (whereby Jesus didn’t die for all), then the calling to repentance would be a calling to a non-Atonement for the alleged non-elect. So the mere fact of the universal calling to repentance implies that all men have to have a Savior, Jesus, who will welcome repentance, and return it with forgiveness through His blood. Thus, an Unlimited Atonement seems inevitable from Paul’s sermon. Really, Paul’s sermon does significant damage to TULIP Calvinism, which is probably why it’s rare to ever see a Calvinist theologian quote from it.

​Question: If God determined where each person would be born, does that mean that God loves some people less, for having determined that they would be born into a time & place in which they would be less likely to receive the Gospel?

Answer: First of all, God does not accept blame for the fact the some may not have heard the Gospel, but places the blame back upon His servants. Compare with Ezekiel 33:7-11. Second, the fact that some have received less grace than others, does become a factor in Judgment. Compare with Luke 12:48. However, notice that Paul’s point of God’s determinations, in that they were not for the purpose of keeping people out of the kingdom of God, but for getting people into the kingdom of God. So I interpret Paul’s point as an expression of how the “unknown God” is also their God and everyone else’s God too, in which everyone is His “children.” Paul adds that the God that he is describing (who had determined the times and locations of their birth) was for the purpose of coming to know Him. Normally I would find this unusual, since if I was born in North Korea in the year 2014, it would be hard to get saved, vs. being born in the USA, and yet, Bibles are being smuggled into that country, while many teenagers in the USA hear and reject the gospel that is otherwise so readily available. Nevertheless, Paul explains the divine expectation, that people would find and grope for Him, since God has placed Himself within their reach, as being near, in terms of being “not far.” So I interpret this to mean that God has intentionally made Himself accessible, and wants to be sought after. This is reflective of God’s personality, as He loves them as “children” and desires that the Athenians would discover Him in a saving relationship.

Yes, as I believe that Paul was correct to say so, at Acts 17:28-29. The point in Hosea was to reflect the condition of Israel, in terms of how Israel had left God. It was not meant to imply that God did not want them anymore. Quite the contrary. In fact, God did this very thing with Hosea, because He wanted Israel to turn back to Him.

Here is a Blog discussion on this point.