Every Sunday our church recites in unison our affirmation of faith—a series of declarations as to who God is and the mission of our church as part of His kingdom. Many congregations share in this tradition by reading The Apostle’s or Nicene Creed. The intent of this practice is to express collective agreement and commitment to the basic tenets of Christian faith. In the past as I recited our affirmation I was not fully aware of its significance for me personally. However, as I study the Apostles’ writings during this Eastertide season, I have discovered its application for me in my spiritual formation. My favorite declaration is found at the beginning of our affirmation. “We believe in God, Who is the absolute source of life from whom all creation derives its meaning and reality.” It is this meaning and reality I’d like to discuss today.
The Apostle Paul understood the importance of knowing the source of one’s meaning. Jesus shared Paul’s meaning with him on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:6). This would serve to guide him through many trials and difficulties finally landing him at the court of Rome. The philosophers of Athens, on the other hand, fancied themselves as great thinkers and orators, spending their day debating over the latest doctrines, beliefs, and suppositions. They were less impressed with Paul’s credentials, describing him as a “babbler setting forth a strange god because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection” (v. 18). Unfortunately this group placed the meaning of life on intelligence and the ability to answer difficult questions. In spite of their intellect, they didn’t know the name of THE UNKNOWN GOD on whose altar they inscribed this title; they did this in response to local superstition. However, Paul personally knew THE UNKNOWN GOD. It was that same god who “made the world and all things therein” (v. 24).
Paul introduced the scoffers to the reality of God as the Sovereign Creator of the universe. God created everything they were familiar with. God was over all things—living and inanimate and it is in Him alone that “they lived and moved and have their being” (v. 28). Paul knew that Creator God was “the source of life not gods of “gold, or silver, or stone” (v. 29). The men of Athens foolishly erected altars to dead gods but the God of Heaven and Earth resurrected the Living Savior. Paul closes his oration to the Athenians by calling them to repentance (v. 30) in realization that they would ultimately face a time of righteous judgment by “that man” whom God has ordained (Jesus). This final reality was authenticated by the Christ’s resurrection (v. 31).
How does Paul’s teaching to Athenians speak to believers today? Believer’s reality and meaning must be grounded in God. That reality began in the Garden of Eden. Created in God’s image, our purpose and destiny is tied to our identity in Him through Christ (Col. 3:3). This reality was sidetracked by sin and replaced with Satan’s counterfeit that placed self on the throne where only Christ was to be seated and exalted. Because of Jesus’ atoning work on the Cross, our sins were forgiven and we are now reconciled back to God (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). When we affirm our faith, we acknowledge that we have died to our old sin nature (Gal. 5:24) and walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). We no longer follow the worldview—its influence was negated by the Blood. Our meaning and reality is now realigned with God (2 Cor. 5:15). “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a).