Some people like to remind themselves, “He’s God and I’m not.” In essence, this describes the attribute of God known as independence. When we say that God is independent, we mean that He is self-existent. He is a living being—not a philosophical concept or an impersonal force—distinct from all that He has created. He does not depend upon anyone or anything for His existence.
The apostle Paul emphasized this important truth when he debated the philosophers in Athens. Their ideas had been shaped by a culture where popular views of God were both widely diverse and changing. Traditionally, the Greeks and Romans had worshiped deities that were more powerful than humans but also deeply flawed. In Paul’s day a more philosophical and impersonal view of God was prevalent. Many had become so disillusioned that they embraced agnosticism. Others turned to superstition and mysticism for the answers to life’s basic questions.
In this context, much like the one we live in today, Paul made the bold declaration in Acts 17:23: “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” The God that Paul proclaimed was the independent, self- existent God of the Bible, Lord over all that He has created. He does not live in temples and does not depend upon His creatures for anything (Acts 17:24–25). This doesn’t mean that He is aloof or distant from His creation. He is distinct from all that has been created—but is deeply interested in us. He has ordered our lives in the hope that we will “seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).
Why Theology Matters
The religious pluralism and spiritual confusion of our day is much like that of Paul’s. If Paul was not intimidated by these views, we should not be either. There are many people today who are hungering to reach out and find the One who is greater than all the so-called gods and philosophies of our age. They do not need a God who is merely bigger than their problems, they need One who is greater than all of creation—who also became flesh and has drawn near in the person of Jesus Christ.
FOR FURTHER READING
To learn more about the religious world of Paul’s day, see The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament by James S. Jeffers (InterVarsity Press).