Acts Chapter 17
Paul Preaches Christ in Thessalonica:
(Read 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 that it was necessary for Christ to die and to rise from the dead (Acts 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 Peter 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 attack 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'' (Acts 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 has no problem living for the gospel. The officials forced Jason to post bond and let them go. In the meantime, Paul and Silas slipped away at night unto Berea. Throughout the book of Acts, Paul faces persecution and opposition. Serving Christ is costly. God can use hindrance as an opportunity to work in powerful ways.
Paul and Silas in Berea:
(Read Acts 17:10-15)
After the riot in Thessalonica, Paul and companions moved to Berea. There 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. They knew that they could trust the written Word of God and use it to evaluate other's teaching. The same is true for us today. Our teaching should be consistent with the written Scripture. We should not shun to declare all counsel of God (Acts 20:27). The plain truth is the main truth. Someone said, "If it is new, it is not true". 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 of the church was the proof of the power of the gospel message. The Bereans set an example for us by examining the scriptures daily 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:
(Read Acts 17:17-34)
Paul used every opportunity to present the gospel. The gospel has not changed, but Paul's presentation of the gospel was different than usual in Athens. Paul used Greek culture to build the bridge to the people of Athens (Acts 17:23-24; 30-31). He called on them to turn from sin and trust in Christ. Proclaiming the gospel takes a variety of forms in the book of Acts. Paul usually reasoned with people from the scriptures in the synagogue. Paul’s initial plan in Athens was to wait for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. Athens was the 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 reasoned with Jews. He also spoke daily in the public square and marketplace. He was invited to explain his message on the Mars Hill among Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. Epicurean philosophy focused on the pleasure and freedom of life. “Eat, drink and be merry” was their motto of life. They did not believe in life after death and lived only for pleasure. 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. They believed that God existed in every material object and tried to live at peace with others. It was founded by Zeno around 300 B.C. Paul showed them how their philosophies come short of true knowledge of God.
How to Share the Gospel with others.
Paul began his message by saying that they are religious in every way. Paul found an altar with the inscription “to the unknown god”. Paul said that the God who was unknown to them is the personal Supreme being. He is the creator, provider, the governor, Savior, and judge of the world (Acts 17:24-27). God does not dwell in the temples made with human hands and He is not far from them. His purpose behind creation was to draw people to himself. He is not far from us and makes it easy to know him personally. God is also the all-powerful creator. He made all people from one man, Adam. Paul did not quote the Old Testament scriptures 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 Athenian philosophers, Paul seemed to be a babbler, one who picks ideas from here and there and puts them together. Every time we share the gospel there will be different responses. Some laugh in contempt, some believe, and others procrastinate. 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. Pray that God would use your church to share the gospel that saves sinners.