Bible Topics In The Christian Library

Acts 17:1- "Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 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.""

A. "Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia"
1. The word "they" suggests that Paul left Luke, and possibly Timothy, behind in Philippi to continue the work. Luke rejoins them in, or at least in mentioned with Paul, at Acts 20:5-6.
B. "they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews."
1. THESSALONICA (Thehs suh loh ni' kuh) The name of modern Thessaloniki, given to the city about 315 B.C. by Cassander, a general of Alexander the Great. He founded the city in that year, naming it after his wife who was the daughter of Philip II and half sister of Alexander. Located on the Thermaic Gulf (Gulf of Salonika) with an excellent harbor--and at the termination of a major trade route from the Danube--it became, with Corinth, one of the two most important commercial centers in Greece. In the Roman period, it retained its Greek cultural orientation and functioned as the capital of Macedonia after 146 B.C. See Macedonia.
When the apostle Paul visited the city, it was larger than Philippi which reflected a predominantly Roman culture. Thessalonica was a free city, having no Roman garrison within its walls and maintaining the privilege of minting its own coins. Like Corinth, it had a cosmopolitan population due to the commercial prowess of the city. The recent discovery of a marble inscription, written partly in Greek and partly in a Samaritan form of Hebrew and Aramaic, testifies to the presence of Samaritans in Thessalonica. The Book of Acts testifies to the presence of a Jewish synagogue there (17:1).
2. Thessalonica was about 100 miles southwest of Philippi. It was a commercial center, thus would be a magnet for Jews who engaged in commerce. And having a synagogue guaranteed that there would be a number of Gentile "God fearers" present.
C. "Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures..."
1. Paul's usual practice was to attend the local Jewish synagogue where he would have the opportunity to preach Christ to an audience hungry for a messiah. Because Thessalonica was a free city, it retained a sufficient population of Jews.
2. Paul began in the Old Testament scriptures to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, that he was prophesied by them to suffer on the cross and rise again.
3. Even though we are not told here, we know that Paul's ministry in Thessalonica included the confirmation of his message by miraculous means. See 1 Thessalonians 1:5.
Acts 17:4-5 "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. 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."
A. "And some of them were persuaded..."
1. His preaching had a positive effect on many, especially on the Gentile "God fearers."
2. They "joined Paul and Silas", i.e. obeyed the Gospel.
3. The overwhelming majority of the converts seemed to come from the Gentiles. See 1 Thessalonians 1:9.
4. Paul and Silas' message seemed to have the least effect on those whom had the greatest spiritual blessings, the Jews.
B. "But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace.."
1. Among these, no doubt, were many of the leaders of the synagogue who were jealous of Paul and Silas' success among the Gentiles. It is a common thing among preachers for there to be some jealousy on the part of some preachers toward one who is having some success in his ministry.
2. They knew they could not legally persuade a court that Paul and Silas had done anything wrong. They therefore chose to stir up a mob against them.
3. Knowing that Paul and Silas stayed at the house of Jason, the mob went there in hopes of dragging out the two missionaries for much the same treatment that they suffered in Philippi.
Acts 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. 7- ""Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king; Jesus."" 8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. 9- So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. 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."
A. "But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city"
1. When they arrived at the house of Jason they found Paul and Silas gone. They proceeded to grab their host and drag him to the magistrates of the city.
2. Thessalonica was a free city under the direct administration of local officials, although it was the residence of the Roman procounsel of the region.
3. The word politarch is found nowhere else in Greek literature. However, it has been found inscribed on an arch found in Thessalonica and kept in the great British Museum.
B. "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. ..."
1. The gist of the accusation was two fold-
a. They had disturbed the peace - "turned the world upside"
b. They had preached that there is another king - Jesus.
2. Both accusations were technically true but high dubius.
a. As to the first it was the backlash of Paul's enemies that caused the stir. Paul and his company never encourage brethren to react violently. Christians were always peaceable.
b. As to the second the unbelieving Jews were giving lipservice to looking for the Messiah, their king. Paul and his friends never preached that Christians were supposed to not obey the Roman authority. See Romans 13:1-7.
C. "And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things."
1. The officials were concerned about the accusations, lest word of them would reach authorities and endanger their prilileged status.
2. It is quite possible that Paul and Silas would have received a similar beating here as Philippi if they had be at Jason's home at the time. But there was really no charge against Jason which would stand up to legal scrutiny.
3. The magistrates made Jason put up a "peacebond" to guarantee future tranquility and then released him.
D. "Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews."
1. Since Paul did not desire to be a burden or a source of danger to his brethren, he moved on to Berea.
a. This is not to say that Paul ceased being concerned for the welfare of the Thessalonian church. Exactly the opposite. 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 tells us that he was still with them in heart and ernestly desired to see them. In fact, he was so concerned that he stayed alone in Athens for a time and sent Timothy back to check on them (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
2. Berea - (Bih ree' uh) Place name meaning, "place of many waters." City in Macedonia to which Paul escaped after the Jews of Thessalonica rioted (Acts 17:10). The Jews searched the Scriptures as Paul preached, and many believed. Jews came from Thessalonica and forced Paul out, and so he continued his second missionary journey. A traveling companion on the last leg of his third journey was Sopater of Berea (Acts 20:4). Berea was not situated on the major highways. Surrounded by springs in the plain below Mount Bermion, it was 45 miles west of Thessalonica. It is modern Verria.
3. It must have been a hard journey for Paul and his little company. Even though it was on a good Roman, it was not the better travelled Via Egnatia, and it was still at night when they set out. It was over forty miles from Thessalonica to Berea. Travel was very dangerous, especially at night. Travel was usually unheard of at night, this was probably the reason why the brethren sent him away them. His enemeies would not suspect that he would leave then. They, like Paul, trusted that the Lord would protect him in his continuing work. Berea was an out of the way place. It was likely here that Paul hoped to be able to stay for awhile, maybe the Winter, as they worked their way down to Athens.
Acts 17:11-12 "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. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men."
A. "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica"
1. The Jews in the Berean synagogue was more open minded to the preaching of the gospel. They did not immediately turn against Paul, but looked to the Old Testament books to see if what Paul was preaching was true.
2. They were not prepared to immediately reject Paul's claim, but to test it. This is an attitude that we should all possess.
B. "in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."
1. In each point which the went to the Word and confirmed, they accepted. This shows an amazing lack of prejudice and a desire to be pleasing to God.
2. There was daily teaching by Paul and daily study by his hearers.
3. Jesus says that an honest search of the Scriptures will show to the student that he is the Messiah. See John 5:39.
C. "Therefore many of them believed...."
1. Paul's labor began to bear fruit. Many of them, the faithful Jews, became Christians as a result of searching the Scriptures.
2. Many of the Gentiles of the city, either through the teaching in the Synagogue or later in teaching at an open-air Greek market, obeyed the truth as well.
3. The church in Berea soon became a strong and growing one.
Acts 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. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. 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."
A. "But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea..."
1. One commentator says that Paul probably stayed through most of the winter in Berea preaching. News travelled slower in those days than in ours. With the time of year, with diminished travel, it is likely that word of Paul's evangelistic work did not not arrive in Thessalonica until late in the winter.
2. As good as it was to the Thessalonian brethren, it was infuriating to the Jewish enemies of Paul who stirred up the trouble in Thessalonica.
3. Immediately they set out to cause the same problem in Berea as they did in Thessalonica. Even in Berea there would be enough shiftless ones to stir into a mob.
4. The brethren, fearing for Paul, sent him by boat to Athens. Silas and Timothy stayed, however, and continued the profitable Berean. It is probable that Paul stirred up special hatred on the part of the Jews for him personally because he had been such a rabid enemy of Christianity who now was preaching it. He would be looked upon as a traitor by many.
B. "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"
1. Upon arriving in Athens, Paul sent word back by his boat, for Silas and Timothy to come as fast as they could to Athens to join him in the work.
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 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."
A. "Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him..."
1. While Paul awaited Silas and Timothy he continued his work of evangelism alone. It is likely that he saw idolatrous shrines on the road coming into Athens. This stirred his souls with digust toward the false idols and love for the souls who were being misled.
B. Paul had two primary fields in Athens, as well as other cities where he journeyed.
1. He would preach in the synagogues, where there would be Jews present who believed in the God of the Bible.
2. He would often preach in the marketplace, which was a public meetingplace for discussions of politics, religion, and philosophy. This was where the Stoics and Epicureans came into contact with him. 
Acts 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."
A. "Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him."
1. These were two of the major philosophies of the day, which competed for the spiritual allegiance of the ordinary man.
2. Epicurean philosophy centered on the search for happiness. Pleasure is the beginning and fulfillment of a happy life. It advocated the worship of the gods, even though it taught that the gods were not really concerned with everyday life. It taught that man should not be concerned with the hearafter but be solely concerned with everyday pleasure and happiness. It was founded in Athens by Epicurus, who was born in 314 B.C. It was one of the major religious beliefs that competed with Christianity in the first century.
3. Stoicism, on the other hand, downplayed the physical. They held that the highest good could be found in a complete selfdiscipline amounting to the denial of the natural and necessary desires of man. This often degenerated into self-degenradation. It's greatest disciple was the emperor Marcus Aurelius, who would carry out a great persecution of Christian a century later. It was another of the great philosophies which competed with Christianity.
B. And some said, "What does this babbler want to say?...."
1. There seemed to be a divided opinion of Paul among the philosophers in Athens.
2. Some dismissed him as a babbler, i.e. in the greek "a seed-picker (as the crow), i.e. (fig.) a sponger, loafer (spec. a gossip or trifler in talk):--babbler."
3. Others had listened to him enough to recognize that he spoke a new religion. Paul talked about the resurrection from the dead, which was unique among the current major religions of the day.
Acts 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? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean." 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."
A. "And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying..."
1. They literally grabbed him and pushed him to the place where there were regular religious discussion taking place.
2. AREOPAGUS (ehr ih ahp' uh guhs) The site of Paul's speech to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers of Athens (Acts 17:19). It was a rocky hill about 370 feet high, not far from the Acropolis and the Agora (marketplace) in Athens, Greece. The word also was used to refer to the council that originally met on this hill. The name probably was derived from Ares, the Greek name for the god of war known to the Romans as Mars.
3. The KJV uses "Mars Hill" in verse 22.
B. It was a curiosity that motivated these philosophers.
1. Athens was noted for it's philosophical pursuits.
2. There were idlers who did nothing but sit around and discuss the various religions and philosophies of the day. The only problem was that it made little difference in their lives.
Paul's Sermon on Mar's Hill


Acts 17:22-23 "Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 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:"

A. Paul compliments them.
1. He says that they are very religious. KJV rendering here is mistaken .
2. Literally "very demon fearing." ASV renders it thus. McGarvey goes into detail to explain how the ancient Greco-Roman world diefied good or prominent men after death and worshipped them. They would then be referred to as demons. Not in the Christian sense as wicked helpers of Satan.
3. Whichever the rendering, it is certain that the Athenians took it as a compliment.
B. Paul refers to the UNKNOWN GOD.
1. This shows both the piety and pitiable nature of polytheism. It was very zealous and spiritual in seeking to worship all gods. But it was also sad because the worshipper would never know if he had worship all the gods that existed and had control over him. This shows the groping of the ancient mind for the great unknown.
2. Paul says that this " unknown god" was in reality the one true God. It is he whom Paul will explain to them. They had been ignorantly worshipping Him.
I. Creator of all. 24-26

Acts 17:24-26 ""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. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 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,"

A. Made all things
1. He is the creator of the Universe.
2. In shorthand is Genesis 1-3. He created the universe. It tells us that He created ex nihilo, i.e. out of nothing.
B. Lord of heaven and earth
1. He is not subject to any other being, being the only true God. He is not god of the sea, or furtility, or war, but of all.
C. Dwells not in any one place.
1. Because he is God of All He is too great to dwell in any single building. The Old Testament, although it speaks extensively of the Lord's temple, never suggest that it was the sold dwelling place of Jehovah. It was where Jehovah's visible manifestation would join with his people.
D. Not served by men's hands
1. This God was not a man to be made a likeness of and bowed down to.
2. See John 4:27.
E. The maker of nations
1. All men, regardless of race, are "one blood." They are all descended from a single common ancestor. The Bible tells us that Eve is the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20). It is remarkable that recently science "discovered" that all men originated from one source, one man. They place him in Africa long before the Bible record, but it is amazing that Science, even with its' trapping of evolution, bears out what the Bible has said all the time, that mankind all sprang from one source.
2. The New Testament is clear in stating that there is no real differences between men. This was remarkable in the ancient world. But today we know that we are all the same "under the skin." Spiritually, the New Testament has set aside any racial or national distinctions. See Galatians 3:26-28.
11. Within reach of all. 27-29.

Acts 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; 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. 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."

1. In Him we live, move and have our being
2. We are His offs ring or creation
3. Cast away then t ese idols and worship the true God
111. Gives salvation to all. 30-31.

Acts 17:30-31 ""Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 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.""

1. The days of ignorance are over
2. Men now should repent and turn to Christ
3. This to be done in lieu of the final judgment

Copyright 1999 by Grady Scott may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

Top of Page