June 5th Acts, 17
1: Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, 3: Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. 4: And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. 5: But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6: And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; 7: Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. 8: And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. 9: And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. 10: And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11: These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12: Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. 13: But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. 14: And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. 15: And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed. 16: Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. 17: Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. 18: Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. 19: And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? 20: For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. 21: (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) 22: Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23: For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. 24: God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25: Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26: And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27: That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. 29: Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. 30: And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. 32: And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. 33: So Paul departed from among them. 34: Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
The missionary party move on. Amphipolis and Apollonia were very small so they moved on to Thessalonica. This was a large city with an important port. Paul continued to do his work in the Jewish Synagogue reasoning from the scriptures. proving that Christ need to suffer and rise again and that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Some Jews believed the Gospel and many Gentiles believed as well and a significant number of important women in the city. The Jews however gathered a rabble on very disreputable characters to cause a riot. They assaulted the house of Jason intending to capture the apostles but they only found Jason and a few brethren, so they brought them to the city rulers. And they uttered the famous words, they have turned the world upside down. They also accused Jason of breaking Roman law by saying that Jesus is King. The same old accusation that Jesus faced. Paul and Silas left in the night to travel to Berea. The Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonicains in that they searched the scriptures to see if what they were saying was true. And of course what they found was that it was right. Because of this many believed. Jews, Greeks and important Greek women. When news arrived that the Apostles had been welcomed at Berea the Jews of Thessalonica came to cause trouble. So Paul and Silas left but Timothy stayed behind to help the new believers. The brethren took Paul to Athens and returned with a message for Silas and Timothy to meet him as soon as possible. While Paul was there in Athens he was amazed and spirutualy disgusted at the proliferation of the idolatry. So he disputed in the Synagogue with the Jews and Prosylites. And in the public arena of the market place he met with them daily. Eventually the greek philsophers discovered Paul and so they invited him to address the greeks at the Areapagas. Pauls message is more of a lecture than a sermon in which he demolished the idolatry of the greek world giving a simple and powerful outline of true theology. Paul took as his starting point a rather comical altar which was dedicated to the unknown god. This unknown God he wanted to introduce to them. When the gospel is presented to gentiles God is always referred to as the God of Heaven and Paul does so here. He describes the God of heaven as the creator and because he is the creator men to not sustain him but he sustains men. He cannot be contained by temples nor can he be worshipped by mans hands as though he needs men. It is men that need him. Next he destroys racialism by declaring that all men are of one blood and last he destroys fatalism because it is God that determines the times appointed and the rise and fall of the empires of men. This is an example of turning the thinking of men upside down. And why does God do all this? So that men might seek God and find him inspite of their darkness. Paul quotes their poets who describe God as a living being and not made of precious metal or stone made by art or technology. Then Paul comes to his application. The time when you knew nothing God overlooked it But NOW God commandeth all men everywhere to repent. The Jews must return unto the Lord and Gentiles must turn from their idolatry. Why is that Paul? Because he has appointed a day of judgment and he has appointed the judge – the man that he has raised from the dead. Its interesting that in this speech he does not mention sin, righteousness, the cross or faith in Christ. The judgment of God by the man raised from the dead is his key point. It is what we might call pre-evangelism. He lays the foundation for the Gospel by first levelling the ground. The Greeks when they heard of resurrection from the dead were amazed and laughed. They only had thoughts of mortal life. Resurrection and the afterlife were not even considered and that is why the greeks were obsessed with health, money, food and sex. It is all that they could see – they were short sighted. We learn that without revelation from god men can see so little. Some wished to hear Paul again, others believed and but most laughed.