Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.

—Acts 17:25

The problem of why God created the universe still troubles thinking men; but if we cannot know why, we can at least know that He did not bring His worlds into being to meet some unfulfilled need in Himself, as a man might build a house to shelter him against the winter cold or plant a field of corn to provide him with necessary food. The word necessary is wholly foreign to God….

To admit the existence of a need in God is to admit incompleteness in the divine Being. Need is a creature-word and cannot be spoken of the Creator. God has a voluntary relation to everything He has made, but He has no necessary relation to anything outside of Himself. His interest in His creatures arises from His sovereign good pleasure, not from any need those creatures can supply nor from any completeness they can bring to Him who is complete in Himself….

So lofty is our opinion of ourselves that we find it quite easy, not to say enjoyable, to believe that we are necessary to God. But the truth is that God is not greater for our being, nor would He be less if we did not exist. That we do exist is altogether of God’s free determination, not by our desert nor by divine necessity. KOH052-053

Lord, You don’t need me, yet You love me and choose me to be Your child. I don’t deserve it, but I accept and thank You for Your gracious gift of life and love. Amen. [1]


neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; (17:25)

Paul points out the absurdity of imagining that God, the creator and ruler of the universe, should need to be served by human hands, as though He needed anything. Job 22:2–3 asks, “Can a vigorous man be of use to God…. Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you are righteous, or profit if you make your ways perfect?” God declares to Israel:

I shall take no young bull out of your house, nor male goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all it contains. (Ps. 50:9–12)

Far from needing anything from men, God gives to all life and breath and all things. Psalm 104:14–15 reads:

[God] causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man’s heart glad, so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart.

To the Romans Paul wrote, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). He commanded Timothy to “instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above,” notes James, “coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow” (James 1:17).

Nor does God give only to His children. Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God blesses all men, even the most hardened sinners, with the benefits of common grace.[2]

24–25 The substance of Paul’s Athenian address concerns the nature of God and the responsibility of people to God. Contrary to all pantheistic and polytheistic notions, God is the one, Paul says, who has created the world and everything in it: he is “the Lord of heaven and earth” (v. 24; cf. Ge 14:19, 22). He does not live in temples “built by hands” (en cheiropoiētois); nor is he dependent for his existence on anything he has created. Rather, he is the source of life and breath and everything else that humanity possesses (v. 25). Earlier in the fifth century BC, Euripides asked, “What house built by craftsmen could enclose the form divine within enfolding walls?” (Fragments 968); and in the first century BC, Cicero (Verr. 2.5.187) considered the image of Ceres worshiped in Sicily worthy of honor because it was not made with hands but had fallen from the sky. While Paul’s argument can be paralleled at some points by the higher paganism of the day, its content is decidedly biblical (cf. 1 Ki 8:27; Isa 66:1–2) and its forms of expression are Jewish as well as Greek (cf. Isa 2:18; 19:1; 31:7 [LXX]; Sib. Or. 4.8–12; Ac 7:41, 48; Heb 8:2; 9:24 on the pejorative use of “built with hands” for idols and temples).[3]

17:24, 25 Missionaries tell us that the best place to begin in teaching pagans about God is the account of creation. This is exactly where Paul began with the people of Athens. He introduced God as the One who made the world and everything in it. As he looked around on the numerous idol temples nearby, the apostle reminded his hearers that the true God does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He dependent on the service of men’s hands. In idol temples, the priests often bring food and other “necessities” to their gods. But the true God does not need anything from man, because He is the source of life, breath, and all things.[4]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1994). Acts (p. 326). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Longenecker, R. N. (2007). Acts. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 983). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1638). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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