You are who God says that you are!
In this post, we’ll discover not only who we are, but how the Bible can help you find out who you truly are, as a person. Next week, we will look at what more we can become after discovering our true “selves” in Christ.
The Scripture that I’m using as our foundation is Acts 17: 22-34. Read it on your own, and you’ll learn so much.
In the following lines, I’ll begin first by giving you some context about the time, in which the story took place.
That way you’ll understand that the idea of identity (“who am I?”) is an existential question that people have dealt with from the very beginning.
It’s not something teenagers struggle with, but it’s something we all want clarity about, as individuals or as organizations (including the Church).
Here’s the context in which this Scripture was written
Acts 17 describes Paul’s second missionary journey. In total, historians believe that Paul made three trips.
Here’s the map that shows the places Paul is believed to have visited during his second missionary journey.
Click below to look at all the maps about the places where Paul went on his missionary journeys.
On his first journey, Barnabas went with him in all the places. Then, due to some disagreement, Barnabas would choose to set out with Mark (Acts 15: 39) while Paul would partner with Silas for the second and third trips.
Another person who joined Paul after Barnabas had left him is Timothy.
Acts 18 through 20 describe the final trip Paul made.
The map above shows Paul’s third missionary journey from Antioch to Corinth. The one below is about his return to Jerusalem.
Paul is waiting for Silas and Timothy in Athens.
While waiting for Silas and Timothy Paul has time to join Jews in their synagogue in Athens. These are devout persons.
Based on this Scripture, there is no indication of any Christian presence in the area.
Paul also went to the marketplace (verse 17). There were Epicurean (Ep-i-cu-rean) and Stoic philosophers. At this place, some mock Paul. But, others find his teaching very interesting. And, they are the ones who invite him to the the Areopagus (Ar-e-op-a-gus). Read Acts 17: 19.
They want to learn more about Paul’s teaching, which they consider to be new. It’s about the good news about Jesus and the resurrection (see verse 18).
Of course, at the time Paul was in Athens, there was probably no one talking about Jesus Christ, His death, and resurrection.
Who were the Epicureans?
The Epicurean philosophers were all about living modestly and gaining knowledge of all things. They believed that by doing so, one would be able to achieve the highest pleasure in life.
When one achieves this state of tranquility, they are then able to experience freedom from fear and the absence of any bodily pain.
What Epicureanism was all about is that knowledge of how life and the world work combined with a modest lifestyle could give you real Peace and Healing.
Keep in mind that this movement is older than Christianity (about 300 BC). So, what Paul is talking about, based on Acts 17, is new to the inhabitants of Athens.
Epicureanism, as a movement, would die out later with the Romans invading much of the world. But, it would be brought back in our human culture (western society) in the enlightenment age: 18th and 19th centuries.
What about the Stoic philosophers, mentioned in the text?
Stoicism is also Greek philosophy, which would become prevalent about the same time with Epicureanism, 300 BC. But, it would die out around the 4th century AD (in our Christian era).
Stoic philosophy believed in the fact that when one understands the rules of natural order, they can be able to live a good life. Stoicism was about personal ethics.
According to Stoicism, to experience happiness, one has to accept the moment as it presents itself. You would be able to do it only by avoiding to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain.
You also achieve that through the understanding of the world around you while also doing your part in nature. In Stoicism, personal ethics was very crucial. You do it by treating others fairly and justly.
As you can tell, the people in Athens, even though not yet Christians, they had a sense of morality. Their morality comes out of Greek philosophy: Epicureanism and Stoicism.
It came out of self-righteousness and personal ethics. These two are grounded in the knowledge of the world and nature.
Their desire to have Paul talk about his new teaching was not for the sake of becoming Christians. It was to enrich their knowledge, which will, in turn, help their ethics, materialism, and self-righteousness.
Let me point also that where they want Paul to talk about his teaching is known as the Aeropagus.
What was Areopagus?
In Greek, the word has two parts that mean: “Ares” and “Rock.” Ares, according to Greek Mythology, is the god of war. One legend says that the Greek gods tried Ares in this place.
Another legend believes that it is a place where people were tried in the past.
Paul now stands before all people present in the Areopagus, like a stadium.
As he speaks, he does not repudiate the people’s practice of religion. But, he points them out to the right way to do it.
Sometimes we don’t get what we want. That’s not because of how bad we may think we are. But, it’s because we don’t do it the right way.
That’s what Paul is precisely going to help the people in Athens do.
First, he appreciates their religious spirit. Read verses 22 and 23. “You are incredibly religious in every way” (see verse 22). Here you hear the idea of practice (spiritual disciplines).
Next, he will point out that he has seen an altar with a sign saying “to an unknown god” (verse 23). In this verse, you look at the style and the purpose why you practice spiritual disciplines.
In other words, it’s as if Paul is asking the following questions:
- “Why do you do what you do?” “And, for what purpose?”
- “What do you get out of what you do?”
Also, he’s calling the people’s attention to the fact that “who they are” should not come out of what they do.
They think they know, but honestly, they don’t. It’s not their knowledge that will guarantee complete peace, joy, and happiness.
Paul also tells them that what they’re doing isn’t wrong in itself. And, he’s here to talk to them about the unknown god, a sign with the saying on their altars.
So, in verses 24 through 28, Paul presents to the people the God they worshiped but had no idea of Him before.
- First, God made the world and everything in it. See verse 24.
- Second, God is the Lord of heaven and earth. Read verses 25-28.
There are lots of things he has said about God as the Lord of heaven and earth based on verses 25 through 28.
- God does not live in shrines made by humans. God’s dwelling place is the human heart (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).
- God does not need anything. It is about the completeness of God.
- God dives to mortals life and breath and all things (verse 25).
- God made all nations from one ancestor (verse 26).
- God made all countries to inhabit the whole earth.
- God is the One who determines the times of all humans’ existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live (verse 27). God placed them where they are now and allows them to search for God and find God.
Based on the above Paul now explains to his audience that it is in GOD:
- We live.
- We move.
- We have our being.
More importantly, he adds saying: “For we are indeed his (God’s) offspring.”
How then do you find out about who you are, based on Acts 17?
There are two ways to go about, based on today’s text.
The Epicurean or stoic model.
This model consists of using your knowledge, thought and observation to do it.
According to Paul, this is not complete and the best way to discovering all about who you are.
You find your true “self” in GOD.
The second and best approach to discover who you are is what Paul presents to the people in Athens. That’s what I would like you and me to embrace as the best model to re-discover ourselves.
You’re religious just like any other human being, no matter where they live and what they believe.
Change the sign on your altar in your life.
This altar is all about the fact that every human being has some set of beliefs. Some people refer to it as a belief system. We build it up over the time.
Your belief system is what shapes your spirituality, personality, and character. It guides and defines your way of life.
So the question is “what sign do you have on your altar?” Is it like that of the people in Athens, which said: “to an unknown god?”
Everything you look for is here and now. And, you find it in God. Changing the sign on your altar implies changing the core of yourself.
Remember that you can’t do it on your own. The reason is that this change is a personal and inner transformation. God is the only One Person who can help you with that. He does it through Jesus Christ.
Who You Are, according to Paul, should come from GOD
First, in GOD You live.
Living implies that we have similar functions and physiological structures to a lot of other living creatures out there. The only difference is that there is more to life than just being a living creature.
In God, we are active, blessed and experience God’s Kingdom. Not only are we able to have families, but through Christ, we have life-giving power.
Second, in GOD You move.
The ability to move has to do with growth. In God, you grow to become who God intended you to be in life. That also means, no matter what stages you go through in life, God will always make you grow as a child of God.
In other words, through you, people will feel the sense of calling to act and serve.
Third, in GOD You have your being.
To have a being means that you exist. It also stands for the reality that you are someone. In other words, your life is about something.
You have your being in God is that you are a living reality. There’s some reason why you’re here on earth. There is something about you, which may not yet be as real as you wish.
But, the truth of the matter is that you are someone, and you find your being (existence and the reality of who you are) in God alone.
Last, You are God’s Offspring.
- Being God’s offspring means that you are of God’s kind. In other words, your true “self” derives from who God is.
- God shapes your belief system and core values.
- You belong to God’s Race and family. You see people and the world around you as God would see them. You are a member of a community of Believers who resource, equip, hold you accountable and send you out as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Bringing it together
Because you believe in Jesus Christ and have received Him into your life as your personal Lord and Savior, God says that you are a child of God. What that means is so well explained in the video below, which I found online.