HIS SERVANTS' MINISTRY
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The Book of ACTS
THEME: The second missionary journey of Paul continued (Paul in Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens)
In this chapter we continue with Paul on his second missionary journey. In chapter 16 we saw as he crossed over into Europe. That crossing brought the Gospel to the ancestors of many of us. God chooses the weak things of this world just to let the world know that it is all because of His sovereign grace and not because of merit. We thank Him for sending the Gospel over into Europe.
Paul went first to Philippi where he received some shoddy treatment. Yet, a church was born in that town. When we study the letter to that church, we will find that it was closer to the apostle Paul than any other church or any other group of believers.
Now Paul continues his journey. He goes to Thessalonica and Berea, still traveling westward into Macedonia, then south to Athens. Thessalonica will be his next significant stop for missionary activity.
Paul's Ministry In Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9)
Acts 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: (KJV)
Paul always used the synagogue as a springboard to get into a city or a community. This would bring him to the devout Jews of the city, and some of those Jews would believe. NEVER did all of them believe, but some of them did. In fact, most of them would reject him, and this would push him to the Gentiles. Then some of the Gentiles believed. This is how a church would come into existence, a local church composed of Jews and Gentiles.
Amphipolis was also called "Nine Ways," which suggests its importance both strategically and commercially. Most cities are built on the pattern of a square, but this was like a roundhouse, and the wall around it was round. It was an important station on the Via Egnatia, a Roman road which was the prominent road through that area. It was 500 miles from the Hellespont to Dyrrhachium on the Ariatic by this road. This would be the highway that the Roman army would use. This was the route the traders would travel. And now there are some missionaries on this road going to Thessalonica. Apollonia was another town on this same Egnatian Road.
Thessalonica was 38 miles west of Apollonia on the Egnatian Road. It was inland but it was a seaport because three rivers flowed into the sea from there. It was a prominent city of that day, another Roman colony. Cassander rebuilt it in about 315 B.C. and it is thought that he named it after Thessalonica, the stepsister of Alexander the Great. There are some warm springs there and the earlier name of the town was Therma or Therme. Cassander was one of the generals of Alexander the Great, and he took over the rule of that area after the death of Alexander. But, at the time of Paul, the city was a Roman colony.
Acts 17:2-3 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. (KJV)
Paul followed his usual way of first preaching in the synagogue. He was there only three Sabbaths, which means that he could not have been there more than a month. In that short time he did his missionary work. Believers came to Christ, a local church was organized, and Paul taught them. In that short time he taught them all the great doctrines of Scripture, including the doctrine of the Rapture of the church. We know this from his First letter to the Thessalonians which was the first Epistle that Paul wrote. Paul had quite a ministry there in one month's time!
Opening and alleging . . . that is, from the Old Testament Scriptures . . . that Christ must needs have suffered. He preached the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, showing that this was necessary, as set forth in the Old Testament. You will not find any message in the Book of Acts either by Peter or by Paul that the Resurrection is not the heart of the message.
That is the problem with today's churches! The Resurrection just is not seem to be the heart of the message. What they talk about today is the Cross . . . even in fundamental circles. But, friend, we have a living Christ today. JESUS LIVES! He WAS resurrected! There IS a Man in glory but the church has lost sight of Him. The Lord Jesus Christ is at God's right hand right now! That is very important. His resurrection on the third day is very important!
So . . . How are YOU related to this? That was Paul's great theme in the Galatian epistle. Christ died and He rose again! Do you know the living Christ?
Today there is conservatism and liberalism in the church . . . but neither group is getting through to Him. Why not? Because every Sunday should be "Resurrection Day." Sad to say, that just isn't so. Pastors do not emphasize the Resurrection and neither do the seminaries that put out new pastors.
Notice their reception of Him.
Acts 17:4 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. (KJV)
Some of them believed. That is always the way it is when you give out the Word of God. Some of them believe. And some of them will NOT believe. The minority will believe; the majority will not believe (Mat.7:13-14).
When Luke says "of the chief women not a few," he is using his usual understatement and means that a large number of prominent women came to the Lord. How wonderful!
Acts 17:5 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. (KJV)
So sad! We also have many "lewd fellows of the baser sort" in our churches today.
Acts 17:6 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; (KJV)
When Luke said that these men were turning the world upside down, that is exactly what he meant. When Christianity penetrated that old Roman Empire it was a revolution. It had a tremendous effect.
Today the revolution is in the wrong direction. It's too bad we can't have a great revolution of turning back to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the Word of God. Our country is a country filled with hypocrisy, pretending to be a Christian nation. We want to think that our leaders are Christian, that all the politicians are Christians, that everyone is a Christian . . . but my friend, that is NOT so! America is one of the most pagan nations this world has ever known. Christianity today is a pretense! We need to see this and we need to get back to the Word of God and to the living Christ.
Acts 17:7-9 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. (KJV)
Remember . . . this was a Roman colony, and was operated according to Caesar's dictates. "They had taken security of Jason" means that he had to make bond.
Paul's Ministry At Berea (Acts 17:10-14)
Acts 17:10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. (KJV)
You would think that all this would dampen Paul's enthusiasm and would slow him down. It did NOT slow him down. He is still going strong! He goes to Berea, which is a town down closer to the coast.
Acts 17:11 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. (KJV)
These people were reasonable, they wanted to know the Truth! So . . . they searched the Scriptures, to find out if what they were hearing was the Truth! WHY don't people today do that? Naive, Biblically ignorant congregations simply believe every "damnable heresy" (2 Pet.2:1) that greedy pastors and evangelists spout from the pulpits. The Chrismatic chaos and evil Word-Faith garbage shall put multitudes into an eternal Hell because people are NOT like the Bereans and will NOT check out what they hear or read! Beware people! Your eternal destination is at stake! Will you spend eternity in the "smoking" or "non-smoking" section? YOUR decision! http://www.lastdaysprophecy.org/L_D_f_d_charismatics.htm . . . http://www.judgmentcoming.org/j_c_cults_pentecostals_charismatics_exposed.htm
See our article on why you should stay away from the damnable Word-Faith: www.worldlychaos.org/w_c_word_faith_reasons_to_reject.1.htm
Paul started a church in Berea. We hear very little about that church. It is interesting that the strongest churches arose where the persecution was the greatest. One of the main troubles today is that the church is not being persecuted. The so-called Christian today just takes the church for granted! It wasn't that way in the first century.
Acts 17:12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. (KJV)
Again, Luke again with his diminutive "not a few." When he says, "Not a few," he means it was a multitude.
Acts 17:13-14 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. (KJV)
Paul continues on his way alone, without the other members of his team.
Paul's Ministry At Athens (Acts 17:15-34)
Acts 17:15 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. (KJV)
Paul goes to Athens. He will wait for Silas and Timothy there. He probably told them to go back to check on the believers in Thessalonica and see how the church is progressing there, and check on the believers in Berea; then to join him in Athens.
Acts 17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. (KJV)
Athens was the cultural center of the world at that time. And this city filled with idolatry.
Acts 17:17 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. (KJV)
Therefore disputed he . . . or reasoned with them, the devout persons. Those worshipping God after the manner of the Jews. They were Jewish proselytes, who had renounced idolatry, but who had not been fully admitted to the privileges of the Jews (Acts 8:2; 10:2).
And in the market . . . it was not only the place where provisions were sold, but was also a place of great public gathering. This is where the philosophers frequently engaged in public discussion.
Acts 17:18 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. (KJV)
Athens was distinguished, among all the cities of Greece and the world, for the cultivation of refined philosophy (1 Cor.1:22). Of the Epicureans . . . they denied that the world was created by God, and that the gods exercised any care or providence over human affairs, and also the immortality of the soul.
It was against these positions of the sect, Paul directed his main argument, in proving that the world was created and governed by God. One of the distinguishing doctrines of Epicurus was, that pleasure was the summum bonum, or chief good. It is certain that they embraced the doctrine that voluptuousness and the pleasures of sense were to be practiced without restraint. Sounds like today!
The Epicureans believed that you go the limit, and in that way you could overcome the flesh. They thought that you should give the flesh all that it wants. If it wants liquor, drink all you can hold. Concerning sex, the Epicureans could really join in the "new morality," which was nothing new for them. By contrast, the Stoics believed that the body should be held under control.
Philosophers of both groups come to Paul to hear what he has to say. Paul has been doing a lot of talking and they call him a "babbler." His subject is something new to them. Jesus and the idea of resurrection are to them "strange gods."
Acts 17:19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? (KJV)
The Areopagus is a very strange formation of rock on top of which the Parthenon and the buildings connected with it stand. The city was completely given over to idolatry. The Areopagus is up from the market place of the city and Paul is brought there to speak.
See what these Greek philosophers say to him, "May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest is?" They want to know more about it. They are worse off than the Galatians or the people in Philippi and Thessalonica. Why? Because they THINK they know something. The very hardest people in the world to reach with the Word of God and the Gospel are church members because they think they the Gospel is for the man on skid row and for some of their friends. Some church members are hateful, mean and evil, but they cannot see that they really need a Saviour, not only to save them from sin, but also to make their lives acceptable before God.
Acts 17:20-21 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.) (KJV)
In this same way America is going to seed today. These talk shows . . . everyone is trying to come up with something new. Each one is trying to say something to gain attention. Athens was like this. Talk, talk, talk! They just talked, propounding new theories and new ideas . . . like today's churches!
Some say that Paul failed on Mars' Hill. I disagree. I believe that was one of the greatest messages that Paul ever preached.
Acts 17:22 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. (KJV)
Paul begins his message quite formally, "Ye men of Athens." Then he says, "I perceive... ye are too superstitious." The word superstitious is completely inadequate to say what Paul really means. He is saying that he thinks they are in all things too religious. Those in Athens very religious . . . Athens was filled with idols to multiple gods. There was no end to the "gods" of the Athenians and the Greeks. There were small gods small and big gods . . . they had a god for almost everything, like Egypt. Paul said they were too religious, they had far too many "gods."
You have heard people say: "Those people have their own religion." But I am here to tell you that only TRUE Christianity will ever get a person to Heaven! ONLY Jesus has the key to Heaven's gate! John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (KJV) . . .
You either BELIEVE Him or spend eternity in Hell! YOUR choice!
In Athens Paul did not go to a synagogue. There was none in Athens.
Acts 17:23 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. (KJV)
I . . . . beheld your devotions . . . Paul saw their objects of worship. He saw their altars and their idols and their heathen temples. That beautiful temple called the Parthenon was a temple built to Athena, the virgin goddess of the Athenians. There were idols everywhere! Paul said, I saw all of this, and in the middle of all the the idols I found an altar inscribed to the unknown god.
Now an altar to an unknown god could mean that the Athenians were broad-minded. They didn't want to leave anyone out. If someone had come to Athens and said, "Why don't you have an altar to my god?" they would have answered, "Well, this one is really to your god." That way any stranger could come to worship at the altar to the unknown god, believing it was built for his god.
Did that mean that they knew there was a God Whom they did not know? Many pagans realize that behind their idolatry is a living and true God. They know nothing about Him, and they do not know how to approach Him. Maybe this was the case with the Athenians. I do not know.
Paul uses this as starts his message. He says he wants to talk to them about this "unknown God." He wants to tell them about the God they do not know. Remember, the Athenians thought they knew everything. Paul begins to talk to them about the God they do not know. Who is He? Well, first of all, He is the God of Creation.
Acts 17:24 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; (KJV)
God has made very clear all the way through the Old Testament, that He did not live in one geographical spot. Solomon acknowledged this in his prayer at the dedication of the temple: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?" (1Kings 8:27). The men in the Old Testament KNEW that God the Creator, the living God, could not live in a building that had been made by man. Man lives in a Universe made by God!
Acts 17:25 Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; (KJV)
Paul tells them, "God doesn't need anything from you. God is the One Who gives! He gives you life. He gives you your breath. He gave you the sun, the moon, and the stars. He gave you all things."
The Athenians worshiped the sun. They said that Apollo dragged his chariot across the sky every day. Paul says that the sun is something that God made, and it was a gift for them. The Creator is the living God. He is the One who has given you everything.
Acts 17:26 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; (KJV)
God has made from one every nation of mankind. God has made humanity. This is not talking about brotherhood. The only brotherhood which Scripture knows is the brotherhood of those who are in Christ Jesus. There is a brotherhood of sin. We all are sinners. Paul's statement that God "hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation" is fascinating.
Not only is He the God who created the Universe and Who created human beings, but God also put put nations in certain places. It is interesting that the thing that has produced the wars of the past is that nations do not want to stay where they belong; they want where someone else is. That has been the main cause for every war that has ever been fought.
Acts 17:27 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: (KJV)
All nations, though living in different regions and climates, have thus the opportunity of becoming acquainted with God. Rom. 1:19-20 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (KJV)
The fact that the nations did not learn the character of the true God, shows their great stupidity and wickedness. The design of Paul in this was, without a doubt, to reprove the idolatry of the Athenians. Idolatry is folly and wickedness; since it IS possible to find out the existence of the one True God from His works. That is what Paul is trying to get across to those that day.
Acts 17:28 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. (KJV)
Paul does not call them sons of God but the offspring of God. He is referring to Creation and the relationship to God through Creation. Paul is NOT saying that everything is God, like some cults today. He says that in God we live and move and have our being but that God is beyond this created Universe.
Paul quotes to them from their own poets. One of the poets he quoted was Arastus who lived about 270 B.C. He was a Stoic from Cilicia. He began a poem with an invocation to Zeus in which he said that "we too are his offspring." Cleanthes was another poet who lived about 300 B.C. He also wrote a hymn to Zeus and speaks of the fact that "we are his offspring." Paul means, of course, that we are God's creatures.
Acts 17:29 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. (KJV)
Paul is saying that we should NOT be idolaters. He has shown God to be the Creator. Now he will present Him as the Redeemer.
Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: (KJV)
There was a time when God shut His eyes to paganism. But, now Light (JESUS) has come into the world (John 1:4, 9; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5). God asks men everywhere to turn to Him. Light creates responsibility. Now God is commanding all men everywhere to repent.
Paul has presented God as the Creator in His past work. He shows God as the Redeemer in His present work. Now he will show God as the Judge in His future work.
Acts 17:31 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. (KJV)
When God judges, it will ALWAYS be right. Judgment will be through the Judge who has nail-pierced Hands, the One who has been raised from the dead. Paul always presents the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a declaration to ALL men. It is by this that God assures all men there will be a judgment.
Acts 17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. (KJV)
Why did they mock? Because Platonism denied the resurrection of the dead. Platonism denied physical resurrection. When you hear people today talking about a spiritual resurrection but denying the physical resurrection, you are hearing Platonic philosophy rather than TRUE Biblical teaching. Paul taught the physical resurrection from the dead. So when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked.
Acts 17:33 So Paul departed from among them. (KJV)
Some critics say that Paul failed at Athens. He did NOT! There will always be those who mock at the TRUE Gospel (2 Cor.11:4). But there will also be those who do believe and are saved!
Acts 17:34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (KJV)
There was quite an group of converts in the city of Athens. When Paul went to a place and preached the Gospel, he had converts. Paul did NOT fail. He was successful! Wherever the TRUE Word of God is preached, there will be those who will listen and believe. God's Word will NOT return unto Him void!
Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (KJV)
Book of Acts
Ch.1 . . Ch.2 . . Ch.3 . . Ch.4 . . Ch.5 . . Ch.6 . . Ch.7 . . Ch.8 . . Ch.9 . . Ch.10 . . Ch.11 . . Ch.12 . . Ch.13 . . Ch.14 . . Ch.15 . . Ch.16 . . Ch.17 . . Ch.18 . . Ch.19 . . Ch.20 . . Ch.21 . . Ch.22 . . Ch.23 . . Ch.24 . . Ch.25 . . Ch.26 . . Ch.27 . . Ch.28