Before you think I’ve made this title up, let me point you to Paul’s proclamation of “The Unknown God” where this bold statement is made: 

“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 hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring” (Acts 17:24-28). 

Paul is debating a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at the meeting of the Areopagus in Athens. His argument is simple: you have your gods but they are infinitely inferior to the one true God! We see that this God is the creator of the universe, is not bound by space and time, gives all men life, determines the nations, their times, and their locations, is worthy of being sought after, and controls all lives, activities and even our very being. And this God is closer than we think and avails Himself and His power to us. 

To those who truly follow after Christ this is our God. We are subservient to Him and acknowledge His transcendent greatness and splendor. We recognize all of these supreme attributes therefore we reckon that He is worthy to have us surrender all of who and what we are to Him. This is what motivates us to serve Him. Yet, this scripture (in an apparent contradiction to other passages) indicates that we as humans are incapable of such servitude. Paul, I think, was laughing when he said, “as if He needed anything”. In other words, this God needs us? Yeah, right! What can finite and frail humans do for Him? The answer is nothing! Because He is both self-sufficient and all-sufficient. 

But we see numerous scriptural admonitions to serve God (Psalm 100:2, Romans 12:11; 16:18). So what does this mean? I believe that it means that He must be served in the right way. This means that any human effort in the natural and of the flesh is of no value to God. Yet we often want to substitute our religious, man-induced works for Holy Spirit wrought power. Paul says to the Galatian church, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (3:3). With this in mind, absorb these verses: 

  • “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10).   
  • “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).   
  • I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done…” (Romans 15:18). 

So we see that God-honoring service is where God serves Himself through us. We are but the instruments of His self-sufficient power. So how can this be? This is where God the Holy Spirit is the power behind all service. I believe this is what Paul was getting at when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). And this is why Peter says, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11). 

So we see that faith, surrender, and yielding to the Holy Spirit  is the way we are to serve God. By getting our “human effort” out of His way, dying to self and the flesh, and asking Him to serve Himself we see that he is honored and glorified by His own all-sufficient power. Let us not try to serve God with our human strength and wisdom. Let us die to self-effort, live to Him, and beg God to release His Holy Spirit power in and through us. Thus we can serve God in the right way – not with “human hands” but through His own omnipotence.