Acts 17:28 MEANING

Acts 17:28
(28) For in him we live, and move, and have our being.--Better, we live, and are moved, and are. Each of the verbs used has a definite philosophical significance. The first points to our animal life; the second--from which is derived the Greek word used by ethical writers for passions, such as fear, love, hate, and the like--not, as the English verb suggests, to man's power of bodily motion in space, but to our emotional nature; the third, to that which constitutes our true essential being, the intellect and will of man. What the words express is not merely the Omnipresence of the Deity; they tell us that the power for every act and sensation and thought comes from Him. They set forth what we may venture to call the true element of Pantheism, the sense of a "presence interposed," as in nature, "in the light of setting suns," so yet more in man. As a Latin poet had sung, whose works may have been known to the speaker, the hearers, and the historian:--

"Deum namque ire per omnes

Terras que tractusque maris, ccelumque profundum,

Hinc pecudes, armenta, viros, genus omne ferarum,

Quemque sibi tenues nascentem arcessere vitas,

Scilicet hinc reddi deinde ac resoluta referri,

Omnia; nec morti esse locum sed viva volare

Sideris in numerum atque alto succedere caelo."

["God permeates all lands, all tracts of sea,

And the vast heaven. From Him all flocks and herds,

And men, and creatures wild, draw, each apart,

Their subtle life. To Him they all return,

When once again set free. No place is found

For death, but all mount up once more on high

To join the stars in their high firmament."]

--Virg. Georg. iv. 221-225.

In the teaching of St. Paul, however, the personality of God is not merged, as in that of the Pantheist, in the thought of the great Soul of the World, but stands forth with awful distinctness in the character of King and Judge. Traces of like thoughts are found in the prophetic vision of a time when God shall be "all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28), the discords of the world's history harmonised in the eternal peace.

As certain also of your own poets have said.--The quotation has a special interest as being taken from a poet who was a countryman of St. Paul's. Aratus, probably of Tarsus (circ. B.C. 272), had written a didactic poem under the title of Phenomena, comprising the main facts of astronomical and meteorological science as then known. It opens with an invocation to Zeus, which contains the words that St. Paul quotes. Like words are found in a hymn to Zeus by Cleanthes (B.C. 300). Both passages are worth quoting:--

(1)"From Zeus begin; never let us leave

His name unloved. With Him, with Zeus, are filled

All paths we tread, and all the marts of men;

Filled, too, the sea, and every creek and bay;

And all in all things need we help of Zeus,

For we too are his offspring."

--Aratus, Phaenom. 1?5.

(2)"Most glorious of immortals, many-named,

Almighty and for ever, thee, O Zeus,

Sovran o'er Nature, guiding with thy hand

All things that are, we greet with praises. Thee

'Tis meet that mortals call with one accord,

For we thine offspring are, and we alone

Of all that live and move upon this earth,

Receive the gift of imitative speech."

--Cleanthes, Hymn to Zeus.

The fact of the quotation would at once quicken the attention of the hearers. They would feel that they had not to deal with an illiterate Jew, like the traders and exorcists who were so common in Greek cities, but with a man of culture like their own, acquainted with the thoughts of some at least of their great poets.

We are also his offspring.--We too often think of the quotation only as happily introduced at the time; but the fact that it was quoted shows that it had impressed itself, it may be, long years before, on St. Paul's memory. As a student at Tarsus it had, we may well believe, helped to teach him the meaning of the words of his own Scriptures: "I have nourished and brought up children" (Isaiah 1:2). The method of St. Paul's teaching is one from which modern preachers might well learn a lesson. He does not begin by telling men that they have thought too highly of themselves, that they are vile worms, creatures of the dust, children of the devil. The fault which he finds in them is that they have taken too low an estimate of their position. They too had forgotten that they were God's offspring, and had counted themselves, even as the unbelieving Jews had done (Acts 13:46) "unworthy of eternal life."

Verse 28. - Even for also, A.V. For in him, etc. This is the proof that we have not far to go to find God, Our very life and being, every movement we make as living persons, is a proof that God is near, nay, more than near, that he is with us and round about us, quickening us with his own life, upholding us by his own power, sustaining the being that we derive from him (comp. Psalm 139:7, etc.; Psalms 23:4). Certain even of your own poets; viz. Arstus of Tarsus (), who has the exact words quoted by St. Paul, and Cleanthes of Asses (), who has Ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν. As he had just defended himself from the imputation of introducing foreign gods by referring to an Athenian altar, so now, for the same purpose, he quotes one of their own Greek poets. (For the statement that man is the offspring of God, comp. Luke 3:38.)

17:22-31 Here we have a sermon to heathens, who worshipped false gods, and were without the true God in the world; and to them the scope of the discourse was different from what the apostle preached to the Jews. In the latter case, his business was to lead his hearers by prophecies and miracles to the knowledge of the Redeemer, and faith in him; in the former, it was to lead them, by the common works of providence, to know the Creator, and worship Him. The apostle spoke of an altar he had seen, with the inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. This fact is stated by many writers. After multiplying their idols to the utmost, some at Athens thought there was another god of whom they had no knowledge. And are there not many now called Christians, who are zealous in their devotions, yet the great object of their worship is to them an unknown God? Observe what glorious things Paul here says of that God whom he served, and would have them to serve. The Lord had long borne with idolatry, but the times of this ignorance were now ending, and by his servants he now commanded all men every where to repent of their idolatry. Each sect of the learned men would feel themselves powerfully affected by the apostle's discourse, which tended to show the emptiness or falsity of their doctrines.For in him we live, and move, and have our being,.... The natural life which men live is from God; and they are supported in it by him; and from him they have all the comforts and blessings of life; and all motions, whether external or internal, of body or of mind, are of God, and none of them are without the concourse of his providence, and strength assistance from him; though the disorder and irregularity of these motions, whereby they become sinful, are of themselves, or of the devil; and their being, and the maintenance of it, and continuance in it, are all owing to the power and providence of God.

As certain also of your own poets have said; the Syriac version reads in the singular number, "as a certain one of your wise men has said"; but all others read in the plural; and some have thought, that the apostle refers to what goes before, that being an Iambic verse of some of the poets, as well as to what follows, which is a citation from Aratus (x) and whom the apostle might have called his own, as he was his countryman; for Aratus was a native of Solis, a city of Cilicia, not far from Tarsus yea, some say (y) he was of Tarsus, where the apostle was born: but Aratus being an Heathen, and the apostle speaking to Heathens, calls him one of them; and the rather, that what is cited might be the more regarded by them: though the expression is also (z) said to be in an hymn to Jove, written by Cleanthes, who taught at Athens; and so the apostle addressing the Athenians, might, with greater propriety, say, "as certain of your own poets say": it is also said to be in Aratus the astronomer, and in the poet Homer; so that the plural number may well be used. Which is,

for we are also his offspring; the offspring of Jove, says Aratus; which the apostle applies to the true Jehovah, the Creator of all men, by whom, and after whose image, they are made, and so are truly his offspring; upon which the apostle argues as follows.

(x) In Phaenomenis, p. 1.((y) Vid. Fabricii Biblioth. Gr. l. 3. c. 18. p. 451. (z) Vid. Fabricii Biblioth. Gr. l. 3. c. 18. p. 453.

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