Paul Preaches Christ in Thessalonica: Acts 17:1-9.
Paul and Silas traveled westward and came to Thessalonica. It was the capital of the province of Macedonia. Paul followed missionary strategy in evangelistic outreach to establish Churches in important cities. In Thessalonica, Paul found a synagogue of the Jews. For three Sabbaths, Paul reasoned with them about Jesus Christ. He used the Old Testament scriptures to prove that Jesus is their Messiah and preached that it was necessary for Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead (17:3). "Jesus’ crucifixion was no accident, it was according to the foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23; Isaiah 53; Luke 24:25-26). There was no other way we could be saved (Mark 14:36). The righteous had to suffer for the unrighteous, so that he might bring them to God (1 Pet 3:18). Some of the God fearing Greeks, Jews and few prominent women believed in Christ. But unbelieving Jews opposed the gospel. They form a mob and attacked the house of Jason. When they failed to find Paul and Silas, they brought Jason and other believers before the authorities. They were accused of “Turning the world upside down and claiming to have another king, Jesus” (17:7). At that time king was a common Greek designation for the Roman emperor. Rome was tolerant of many things but not against rebellion of the emperor. “The turning the world upside down” is a reference to the impact of the gospel they preached. Paul lived and ministered with eternity in mind (Acts 20:24). When a person is prepared to die for Christ, he is able to live for the gospel. The officials forced Jason to post bond and let them go. In the mean time, Paul and Silas slipped away at night unto Berea. Throughout the book of Acts, Paul faces persecution and opposition. Serving Christ is costly. Hindrance is an opportunity for God to work.
Paul and Silas in Berea: Acts 17:10-15.
After the riot in Thessalonica, Paul and companions moved to Berea. They they preached the gospel of Christ in the Jewish synagogue. They were more open minded than people of Thessalonica to receive the gospel. Paul spent more time in Berea because they received the Word with all eagerness. They examined the scripture daily to see if these things were so. The method of evangelism among Jews focused on the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ. Many of them believed in Christ. The numerical growth was the proof of the power of the gospel message. The Bereans set an example for us by examining the scriptures to make sure it is true. They knew that the teaching that is not consistent with the Bible is not from God and should be rejected. Paul had to leave Berea when Jews stirred up opposition to his work. The believers sent Paul to Athens while Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea. Paul instructed them to join him in Athens as soon as possible. Pray that our walk with God would be marked with similar love for the Word of God.
Paul Preaches in Athens: Acts 17:17-34.
Paul used every opportunities to present the gospel. The gospel has not change, though Paul's presentation of it begins a different form than usual in Athens. Paul used the Greek culture to build the bridge to people to present the gospel (17:23-24; 30-31). Proclaiming the gospel takes a variety of forms in the book of Acts. Paul usually reasoned with people from the scriptures. Paul’s initial plan in Athens was to wait for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. Athens was world’s most intellectual center and known for its university. Paul was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw in the city. He went to the synagogue and reason with Jews. He also spoke daily in the public square and market place. He was invited to explain his message on the Mars Hill among Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. Epicurean philosophy of life was of pleasure and freedom from fear of death. “Eat, drink and be merry” was their motto of life. It was founded in 300 B.C by Epicurus. On the other hand, Stoic believed in the brotherhood of all men and held high moral principles of self-denial. It was founded by Zeno around 300 B.C. Paul began his message by saying that they are religious in every way. Paul found an alter with the inscription “to the unknown god”. Paul said that the God who was unknown to them is the creator, provider, the governor, Savior and judge of the world (17:24-27). God does not dwell in the temples made with human hands and He is not far from us. Paul did not quote from the Old Testament here. Referring two Greek poets he said “We are the offspring of God, implying we are all creatures of God and responsible to Him. God overlooks past ignorance but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent. The resurrection of Christ is the main theme of Paul’s message. To these philosophers, Paul seemed to be babbler, one who picks ideas from here and there and put them together. Every time we share the gospel there will be a response. Some laugh in contempt and others believe. Among those who believed Dionysius was a member of the Greek council and a woman named Damaris. God is gracious to reach each culture even those who embrace idolatry. Pray that God may use you to spread the good news of Christ to those who never heard the gospel.