Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Acts 17:1-15

From Philippi, Paul, Silas and Timothy traveled 100 miles to Thessalonica. Apparently Luke stayed in Philippi. Many believe that this was his hometown. Plus, Luke goes back to using "they" instead of "we." Thessalonica, unlike Philippi, had a Jewish synagogue. Therefore, Paul went there first. On three consecutive Sabbaths Paul had the opportunity to share the Scriptures with the Jews, "explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead" (Acts 17:3).

This is a good opportunity to look at what Paul did during the rest of his time in a city. For example, how did he support himself? We learn in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 that he and Silas practiced the tentmaking trade so as not to be a burden on the new church that was forming. We also learn in Philippians 4:16 that the new church in Philippi took up an offering for Paul and the others and sent it to them while they were in Thessalonica. Apparently they were the only church who did this for Paul.

This is the second city where Paul soon after wrote a letter to the church there. If you will remember, Paul wrote his letter to the churches in Galatia around a year after returning to Antioch. Paul wrote his letter to the church in Thessalonica while he was in Corinth. Not only do we get to read the narrative account of their time in Thessalonica (in Acts), but we also have two letters in which we see Paul's love for these people. We also get to see their problems and what Paul had to say to them.

As Paul taught in the synagogue, many Jews, as well as Greeks, "were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas" (Acts 17:4). As I read this today, I asked, "What does it mean that they joined?" What did this look like? We learn that just like in other cities, this new church met in homes. In this case, they met at Jason's house. During these times at Jason's house, Paul apparently did a lot of teaching. He was there for at least three weeks, and then it appears that he later sent Timothy back to be with them. In a short amount of time, the gospel truly transformed this young church. Before Paul had spoken to them, they knew nothing of Jesus. Now, just a year or so later, he encourages them, saying that "not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere" (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

During those three weeks in Thessalonica, many Jews and Greeks believed, but many Jews were also jealous. They had heard of what Paul had been doing in other cities. Now "these men who have turned the world upside down have come here also" (Acts 17:6)! They stirred up a mob and attacked Jason's house. Because of this, they ended up having to leave Thessalonica and traveled fifty miles southwest to Berea.

As before, they went first to the synagogue, but Luke makes a big distinction between the Jews here and the Jews in Thessalonica: "they were more noble; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:11). They didn't let their emotions get the best of them. They no doubt were just as confused as other Jews who were for the first time hearing that their fellow Jews in Jerusalem had murdered the Messiah, but they went to the Scriptures to see if Paul was speaking truth. When they learned for themselves that he was, many of them believed.

Soon, though, the Jews from Thessalonica came to Berea and stirred up the crowds. Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea, but they all thought it best that Paul should leave. Some of the brothers from Berea took Paul 200 miles away to Athens.

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