Acts 17

Some Of Them Were Persuaded 

Paul suffers insult and imprisonment in Philippi before he travels to Thessalonica which was the most populous city in that region. Paul follows his usual pattern by going to the local synagogues first. Paul spends three Sabbaths reasoning with the Jews of the city from the Scriptures. Paul explains the suffering of Christ and then proves that it was necessary for salvation. He concludes his proclamation with the resurrection from the dead as proof that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. The response was mixed as some were persuaded including Jews, Greeks, God-fearers, and some leading women. However, some of the Jews were jealous, and they enlisted the assistance of some wicked men who helped form a mob and set the entire city in an uproar. The crowd went to the home of Jason in search of Paul and Silas, but when they could not find them, they attacked the house and dragged Jason and some of the men with him in front of the city authorities. They wanted to get the attention of these city leaders, so they accused the men of turning the world upside down and opposing Caesar with the implication that they were leading some sort of rebellion against Rome. The city was disturbed to the point that these elders felt as if they had to act so they took money as a guarantee that Paul and Silas would leave town.

More Noble

During the night, Paul and Silas were sent away to Berea. They went to the Jewish synagogue and preached Christ. The Jews in Berea were more open-minded than the group in Thessalonica, and they eagerly received the word and searched the Scriptures every day to see if the message Paul proclaimed was accurate. Many of the people in Berea believed but the Jews in Thessalonica heard that Paul and Silas continued to proclaim their message in Berea as well, they made their way into the city and began to agitate the people and incited a riot. The brothers did not want a repeat of the events that took place in Thessalonica, so they sent Paul to the coast while Silas and Timothy stayed behind. The men who escorted Paul took him as far as Athens which was more than three hundred miles away. Paul instructs these men to send Silas and Timothy to him as soon as possible. They received the directive and returned to Berea. 

In Every Way, You Are Very Religious

Paul is alone for the first time in his missionary ministry. He is in Athens, the center of Greek culture. Paul knew of Athens but seeing this massive city, so full of idols left him constantly irritated. He could not wait for his friends and allow such idolatry to continue. He began to reason with those in the synagogue and anyone in the marketplace who would listen. Epicurean and Stoic philosophers interacted with Paul upon hearing about Jesus and the resurrection. Some philosophers dismissed Paul as a babbler while others believed he was speaking of lesser deities. They brought him to the Areopagus, a place where philosophy and religion were discussed and where a court was held and invited him to address the crowd. They declared that they wanted to understand what these things meant and Luke tells us that the people entertained themselves by telling and listening to new things. Paul begins his oration by establishing a rapport with his audience. He mentions what he has observed in their fair city, namely that they were religious, but he makes reference to what he found on one of the altars which acknowledged an unknown god. Paul states that his desire is to proclaim what was unknown to them and asserts what will serve as the foundation for the gospel. God is the ultimate cause and reality of all things; he is the creator and delights in himself with no need for temples and idols. God gave everything life, placed them geographically, and determined their epoch. Paul drops a philosophical bombshell when he declares that God is transcendent and imminent at the same time. He contextualizes the sermon and draws from their own literature, offering quotes from their poets to support these truths. Paul moves to the logical conclusion of his preaching. Man cannot make God because God made man and therefore only God can offer salvation. Paul finishes his sermon by calling for repentance and faith. God commands all people everywhere to repent or face judgment. Faith in Jesus, who was raised from the dead to offer hope and assurance of these things, is essential for there is no salvation or hope in idols. When faced with the demands of the gospel, some mocked, some wanted to delay a response, and some believed. The gospel is offensive to some, confusing to others, and the power of God unto salvation for those who believe. 

Things To Consider:

  • Why must we reason from the Scriptures?
  • Why do people struggle with Christ's suffering?
  • Is Christ's suffering just? Why or why not?
  • Do you think Paul struggled with loneliness while he waited for his friends? Why or why not?
  • Is your heart moved by the things you see around you in your city? Why or why not?
  • What do you encounter daily in your city that "provokes" you?
  • Are you regularly proclaiming the gospel? If not why? If so, is it proving effective? Why or why not?
  • Do you have a carefully thought out answer for the hope that you have in Jesus contextualized for the world around you?
  • How should knowing that God has placed you where he wants you impact our lives?
  • Are you encouraged or frightened to know that God is not far away? Why?
  • How do we balance love and truth in our gospel presentation since it requires that we call people to repentance?
  • How should we view the way people respond to the gospel? Why?