Acts 17:1-15 (web)
2nd Missionary Journey
vs 2 Paul's chosen pattern of evangelism was to first reason with the Jews in the synagogue. He had not abandoned this pattern when in chapter 13 in Antioch Pisidia he turned to the Gentiles. For there he had said, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." But he was just referring to that particular city. In each city he would continue to first contact the Jews.
We notice also that it says he "reasoned" with them out of the scriptures. He did not simply present propositions in a take it or leave it fashion. Nor did he get on his soap box and preach at them but rather carried on a dialogue. He did use the scriptures - the Old Testament - which was already accepted by the Jews as the Word of God. But from them tried to show the Jews that Jesus fit the profile of Christ as he was revealed in the scriptures. Preaching the gospel doesn't simply involved the transfer of information. It involves convincing people. The Spirit directs us as to how we might best convince the particular individuals we are dealing with. Thus the gospel may be presented slightly differently to different people. And furthermore we should allow feedback so as to understand where people are at in their thinking so as to clarify the message and deal with any hinderances and objections they may have.
But Christians are often uncomfortable with dialogue, as most are rather incompetent with handling the scriptures. Many Christians have simply taken up the role of stupid sheep, not seriously studying the Bible for themselves but simply rely on the dogma they are fed from sermons preached at them. Not reasoning for themselves, they are rather incapable of reasoning with others. To such people I say "Grow up and take on the responsibilities characteristic of the mature Christian life."
vs 3 Isaiah 53 is perhaps the most explicit passage affirming the purpose of the Messiah being to suffer and die for the sake of become a sacrifice of atonement. And it was from that scripture that Philip led the Ethiopian Eunuch to Christ in Acts 8. Both Peter and Paul mention Ps 16 to affirm Christ death and resurrection as well. There is also the prophecy of Genesis 3:15. And there are many allegorical affirmations such as the sacrifice of Isaac and the blood sacrifices under the Mosaic Law along with other prophecies.
vs 4 The "some" he refers to are Jews. But the main body of those who responded were Gentiles. Interesting to note the both here and in Berea in vs 12 he mentions the chief women, or "honorable women" as if in a separate category. We remember in Antioch Pisidia he also mentioned of devout and honorable women. But in that case they were hostile to him. Thus I think that such titles don't refer to their character but rather to their position in society. In the case of Thessalonica and Berea such women responded well. But the fact that in all these cases he mentions them separately indicates that women could hold positions of great influence. This comes as no surprise as some of the gods among the Greek and Roman religions were female. The Greek society may have been much more egalitarian than some today realize.
vs 5 War can make strange bed fellows. The unbelieving Jews would no doubt reckon themselves among the religious elite. Yet in their hatred of Christians they align themselves with the baser sort of violent Gentile, provoking them to anger against the Christians. We saw this previously where the Jews, normally reckoning the Romans enemies, aligned themselves with the Romans against Christ. "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed." Ps 2:2
vs 6 Here we see the antiChristians testifying that in fact the apostles "have turned the world upside down." Although no doubt speaking by way of hyperbole, yet this indicates that the message has had a visible effect everywhere. Of course by "the world", they are referring to the Roman Empire alone. Although the gospel may have spread beyond that by now to the east. But the "upside down" indicates that people were receiving the gospel not simply as an interesting idea, but rather people were applying the gospel to life and it was having an effect on whole societies. People's lifestyles were changing. The status quo was being offset. Yet some today accept the gospel with the contingency of "as long as it doesn't affect my chosen lifestyle". If it doesn't affect your lifestyle, then you haven't received it. If your world has not been turned upside down, then you're viewing the gospel from the wrong perspective.
vs 7 Here we see the primary charge against the gospel from a civil point of view - that it is treasonous. Yet it is not really treasonous in that it does affirm Caesar as king, but Jesus as king of kings, one of whom happens to be Caesar. For "everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God."Rom 13:1
vs 11 In principle we could apply this idea of the Bereans being more honorable to the Thessalonians in their reaction to the Word as applicable to people in general. But in fact in this case it is referring specifically to the Jewish Bereans. For the Gentiles in Thessalonica in fact did generally respond well as did those in Berea. The Jews were more reasonable here in honestly investigating Paul's claims. Yet the verse also advocates skepticism. The gospel was not meant to be taken on blind faith, like the messages preached by other religions. The gospel is reasonable and fair-minded skeptics will come to the conclusion that it is correct. Not that they are on their own in doing so. For the Holy Spirit is involved in this whole process of leading others to Christ. But often he works through people's reasoning.
vs 13 The enemies of the gospel just couldn't leave Paul alone. Rejecting the truth they had developed an irrational hatred for the messengers and violence and slander were their only recourse. Yet no doubt such enemies reckoned themselves morally superior.
vs 15 Paul went on to Athens - the center of Greek thought and
philosophy - to do battle with those reckoned the world's philosophical