“For in him we live and move and have our being”…–Acts 17:28
This is a favorite and cherished scripture passage for many. I’ll bet that many of you have memorized it. Many of us sing this verse in our worship services. It vividly describes our life in Christ.
Do you know who originally wrote this verse? If you think that Paul was the original author of this quote, then you are in for a surprise. If you think that this verse was originally used in relation to our Lord, then you are in for an even bigger surprise!
Here’s the passage in context:
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[c]29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.
Now, you probably saw that Paul quoted the Greek poets saying, “We are his offspring”. BUT WAIT! When Paul said, “As some of your own poets have said”, he wasn’t just referring to the quote that followed…Paul was also referring to the quote that he had just spoken!!!
WHAT??? That’s right. “For in him we live and move and have our being” was a popular line from a Greek poem written around 600-700 B.C. by Epimenides. Click here at biblegateway.com to see for yourself. Paul knew exactly what he was doing. He was using the pop culture of his day to relate the message of Christ. But this wasn’t just any quote. It was a quote that was used specifically in worship unto the Greek God Zeus. Let me restate that. ORIGINALLY, this was a written pagan quote used for the purpose of worshiping the idol of Zeus. The poem it came from is called “Cretica”by Epimendes . In the poem, Minos addresses Zeus thus:
They fashioned a tomb for you, holy and high one,
Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies.
But you are not dead: you live and abide forever,
For in you we live and move and have our being.
Again, this verse had a pagan origin and was used to worship Zeus. Paul took a verse that he knew was originally and thoroughly pagan and he “christianized” it. Do I have a problem with this being “christianized? Not at all. Now, let me interrupt to say that I’ve deduced from some comments in the past, that people don’t actually read the whole post that I’ve written, so I’ll say it again…Not at all.
If you refuse to celebrate certain holidays because they had Pagan origins, then using that same logic, you must take your scissors and cut this passage out of every bible in your house! It too has a pagan origin! Since it was originally used in pagan worship then it must have demonic attachments! Oh shiver me timbers! The Demons have crawled out from under every rock and have made their way into the pages! Throw it out now along with those Sears & Roebuck artificial Christmas trees that you forgot were in your attic! While you are at it, you might as well cut out some of the Psalms too. If you thought that the Psalmist didn’t borrow poetry from earlier pagan cultures, then you are in for a rude awakening.
Here’s my advice to you: God takes the pagan things of this world and can work it for His purpose. God is not the creator of pagan worship, or evil (see: Would Our God Create Lucifer Knowing He Becomes Satan?); but He can turn things around and use them. Like Joseph said in Genesis, “What you meant for evil, God turned for good”. For all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Can some seemingly pagan things be “christianized”? Ask Paul…Can you eat meat sacrificied to idols? (As long as it doesn’t bother your conscience). If Paul can take a verse that was originally written for pagan worship and use it for God’s glory, then we shouldn’t have any problems taking a pagan-oriented holiday and turn it for the glory of God. Paul didn’t need to reconstruct the sentence and we don’t need to throw out the Christmas trees or Easter eggs. We can use them to tell the Gospel story.
Paul’s audience knew that this was a quote used in worship to Zeus. Up until that moment, it had never been used for any other purpose than to worship Zeus. With that in mind, so what if Egyptians and Druids once worshiped evergreens and brought them inside? Does it make me a pagan to bring a tree in my house during the Christmas season? I’m not worshiping the tree. It makes me think of Christ and His gift of eternal life. Did it make Paul a pagan to quote verses used to worship Zeus?
Here’s another point: We all need to be careful not to be too harsh and critical towards those who use things that once were related to the enemy. Are you listening? Ouch! I can hear the late Sister Patterson saying to me, “Brother Dan I’m gonna slap you for preaching the truth and stepping on my toes!” Well sister, that one hurt my toes too! Think about what Paul actually did and compare it to today: Paul using pagan verses to preach the Gospel then, would be like your preacher doing what today??? Would you be critical of the preacher’s methods? What may be sin for you, may not be sin for him. We are often resistant to change, and it is hard for us to adopt things that once seemed evil. We still have to test things, but we may find that the only evil is our own stiff attitude. Like poems, songs, Christmas trees, and Easter Eggs these “other things” may not be evil in themselves at all. I’m glad that Paul “christianized” what was once used for idolatry. I was once an infidel that was changed by Christ. Are you? I now have a new life, I am a new being in Him. “For in him we live and move and have our being”
related article: Menander and Paul