Paul preaches on Mars’ Hill to the Athenian philosophers.
Acts 17: 21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)
“Why are a few members, who somewhat resemble the ancient Athenians, so eager to hear some new doubt or criticism? (See Acts 17:21.) Just as some weak members slip across a state line to gamble, a few go out of their way to have their doubts titillated. Instead of nourishing their faith, they are gambling ‘offshore’ with their fragile faith. To the question ‘Will ye also go away?’ these few would reply, ‘Oh, no, we merely want a weekend pass to go to a casino for critics or a clubhouse for cloakholders.’ Such easily diverted members are not disciples but fair-weather followers.” (Neal A Maxwell,Ensign, November 1988, pp. 32-33.)
Acts 17: 22 ¶Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
‘This language was perfectly respectful, notwithstanding his heart had been deeply affected by their idolatry. Everything about this discourse is calm, grave, cool, argumentative. Paul understood the character of his auditors, and did not commence his discourse by denouncing them, nor did he suppose that they would be convinced by mere dogmatical assertion. No happier instance can be found of cool, collected argumentation than is furnished in this discourse.’ (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)
Acts 17:23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
“This sermon of Paul’s was preached some nineteen hundred years ago, but it has its application to us. Truly, the intervening years have brought great changes in some things, notably in the fields of science and industry; but with respect to the subject of Paul’s sermon, the world today is in about the same status as it was then, for God to many is still an ‘unknown God,’ and therefore, ignorantly worshipped. Perhaps he is not thought of as being ‘like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device’; yet superstition and idolatry, in some forms, are still the order of the day. Some deny the very existence of God; others define him as ‘cosmic energy,’ as though he might be a current of electricity. He has been spoken of as ‘the first great cause,’ and as the ‘universal consciousness.’ God would not be described in such vague terms if men had the knowledge of him possessed by Paul.
“There are some people in the world today, however, as there were in Paul’s day, who know that God is their father and that he is not far from them. If they were to speak on the subject, they would tell you that of all their possessions, this knowledge is the most precious. From it, they obtain power to resist temptation, courage in times of danger, companionship in hours of loneliness, and comfort in sorrow. This knowledge of God gives them faith and hope that tomorrow will be better than today. It is an anchor to their souls which gives purpose to life, though all men and things around them be in confusion and chaos.” (Marion G Romney, “God Is Not Far from Us,”Ensign, Aug. 1976, 2)
Acts 17:24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
‘Inseparable with the idea of a Divine Personal Being is the acceptance of Him as the Creator of the world. True Christianity does not look upon the universe as the result of mere interaction of matter and motion, of law and force, but, on the contrary, it regards all creation as the product of a Divine Intelligence “who made the world and all things therein”’ (David O McKay, General Conference, April 1944)
Acts 17:25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
‘And hath made of one blood – All the families of mankind are descended from one origin or stock. However different their complexion, features, or language, yet they are derived from a common parent.’ (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)
Acts 17: 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
‘Feel after him’ – has the sense of ‘groping in the dark’.
Acts 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.
“Before the world was created, we all lived as the spirit children of our Heavenly Father. Through a natural process of inheritance we received in embryo the traits and attributes of our Heavenly Father. We are His spirit children. Some of what our Eternal Father is, we have inherited. What he has become we may become.” (M Russell Ballard, Our Search for Happiness: An Invitation to Understand The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 70.)
Acts 17: 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Winked at = overlooked
Acts 17:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
‘The day of judgment is fixed by God in his eternal purposes, and is sure and certain, and will come, though it is not known by men or angels; and this is a reason why God will have the doctrine of repentance everywhere published, both to Jews and Gentiles, since all must come to judgment: and the day for it is appointed by him.’ (Gill’s Exposition of the Bible)
Acts 17:32 ¶And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
33 So Paul departed from among them.
“When men heard that young Joseph Smith was claiming God had manifested Himself to the boy, they mocked him and turned away from him, just as in the Christian era wise and able men in Athens turned away from a singular man ministering in their midst. Yet the fact remains that Paul, in that earlier experience, was the only man in that great city of learning who knew that a person may pass through the portals of death and live. He was the only man in Athens who could clearly delineate the difference between the formality of idolatry and the heartfelt worship of the only true and living God.” (Howard W Hunter, “The Sixth Day of April, 1830,” Ensign,May 1991, 63)