14. TO THESSALONICA AND BEROEA
Paul and party now journeyed westward (Paul’s First Missionary Tour) to the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia, and finally to *Thessalonica (Acts 17:1).
ACTS 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.
The statement that there was a Jewish synagogue at the latter place implies that there were none at the other cities; this probably explains why they did not stop there.
At Thessalonica Paul followed his usual custom of preaching Christ in the synagogue. This he did for 3 successive Sabbaths, with the resultant conversion of some Jews, “of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few” (vs 2–4).
17:2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
17:3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.”
17:4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.
It would seem that Paul followed his trade of tent-making in the intervals between the Sabbaths (see Acts 18:3; 1 Th 2:9; 2 Th 3:8).
1 Thessalonians 2:9 For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.
But now a situation began to develop, the general pattern of which Paul was quite familiar with by this time.
Certain of the unbelieving Jews, jealous of the success of Paul, threw the city into an uproar by stirring up a mob against him and his companions.
This mob attacked the house of a certain Jason, where Paul and his friends had been staying. Failing to find them there, they dragged Jason and some other believers to the city authorities, accusing them of disturbing the peace and of setting up Jesus as a rival king to Caesar (Acts 17:5–7)
17:5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.
17:6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.
17:7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.”
17:8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these
Accusations disturbed the citizens and rulers of Thessalonica. Consequently, Jason and the others were required to pay “security,” probably as a guarantee that they would keep the peace, and then were released (v 9),
17:9 So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
The tense situation demanded that Paul and Silas leave the city. They traveled by night to Beroea (v 10).
Verse 10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.
Arriving at *Beroea, Paul once again resorted to the synagogue, where he preached the gospel to the Jews.
Beroeans proved to be “more noble than those in Thessalonica,” in that they were willing to receive the gospel after verifying it from the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).
17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
Consequently, a large group, including an unspecified number of Greek women, became Christians (v 12).
17:12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.
Meanwhile, word had gone back to Thessalonica of the work of Paul in Beroea, and so, not content with having expelled him from their own city, the Thessalonian Jews determined to drive him from Beroea also.
Going to the city, they stirred up the populace against Paul. The believers immediately placed the apostle aboard a ship bound for *Athens (Paul’s First Missionary Tour), to which he sailed, accompanied by some Beroean Christians. Silas and Timothy, however, remained at Beroea (vs 13–15).
17:13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds.
17:14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there.
17:15 So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.
It would appear from Acts that Paul had probably not intended to preach in *Athens (Paul’s First Missionary Tour) but had planned merely to await the coming of his co-workers.
However, there is no mention in Acts of Silas and Timothy joining Paul in that city, although 1 Th 3:1–5 suggests that Timothy did go to Athens, but was almost immediately sent by Paul to the church at Thessalonica.
1 Thesalonians 3:1 Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone,
3:2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith,
3:3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.
3:4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.
3:5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.
In any case the sight of the many idols in Athens provoked him to action. According to one ancient report there were more than 3,000 statues there in Paul’s day, the greater number of which were linked with pagan worship.
Paul began to preach in the synagogue and in the market place, or agora . He gained the attention of certain Greek philosophers who, wishing to know more of his teachings, took him to the *Areopagus (Acts 17:16–22), or Mars’ Hill, in the civic center of the city .
Acts 17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.
17:17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.
17:18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.
17:19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak?
17:20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.”
17:21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
17:22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;
17:23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:
17:24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.
17:25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.
17:26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,
17:27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;
17:28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’
17:29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.
17:30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,
17:31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Paul’s address, a portion of which appears in vs 22–31, was masterfully adapted to the thinking of his pagan listeners, but was successful only in causing them to mock him (v 32).
ACTS 17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.“
He succeeded, however, in winning converts in that city (v 34).
17:33 So Paul departed from among them.
17:34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
Next time: CORINTH