Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Acts Studies|
Chs. 17 & 18
Chapters 17 & 18
Chapter: Acts 17
Passage: Acts 17:1-9
A. Find Out:
1. Where did Paul go next and what did he do? v.1,2
2. What was he seeking to do? v.3
3. With what effect? v.4
4. But who reacted how? v.5
5. With what did they charge Jason? v.7
6. Yet what was the outcome? v.9
Again the apostles move on and again when they come to Thessalonica, the capital of the province of Macedonia , they go straight to the synagogue. Their strategy is still the same: go to a large town where there will be plenty of people with religious interest (Jews), meet with them (in the synagogue) and seek to build on their knowledge and interest to show them that Jesus is the answer to all their questions.
Note that Paul used the Scriptures but it was with a people who accepted and knew the Scriptures. He also “reasoned” with them, he could apply the Scriptures. He sought to show that the Old Testament clearly indicated that the Christ would come to suffer, die and be raised from the dead and this has been fulfilled in Jesus. So successful was he in doing this that a number of Jews and Gentiles believed.
It is at this point that again it seems to go wrong. A number of those who refuse to believe then stir up opposition to them. Jesus had prophesied that opposition would come and wherever Paul had success then opposition followed. It is not something that we in the West are used to and when opposition does come we are surprised. It is perhaps an indication that we are not as effective as Paul was, that the enemy often has little cause to rise up against us.
1. Go to those who show some interest and share more about Jesus.
2. When God blesses it, be ready for the enemy to try to come back.
A. Find Out:
1. When did the apostles leave to go where? v.10a
2. What did they do when they got there? v.10b
3. How was the message received? v.11
4. With what result? v.12
5. Yet what happened? v.13
6. What happened to the apostolic team? v.14,15
There are certain similarities and some differences here. First the apostolic strategy is still the same: go to the place where there will be religious interest and preach Jesus there in a way they can receive. Again the Jews here knew the Scriptures so Paul used the Scriptures and his listeners avidly read through them to check what he was saying. They were on familiar ground. Again a good number of Jews and Gentiles believed and the church was established. The difference here seems to be that these people seemed more eager to search the Scriptures, and more willing to respond to the truth.
The next thing is that word gets back to the previous town and some of the zealous Jews come from there to stir up trouble for Paul here. The church response here seems slightly different, for it is the newly formed church that quickly sends Paul on. He is the one who is attracting the Jews' opposition so he goes while Silas and Timothy stay on, presumably to carry on teaching and encouraging the church. In every case Paul moves on so that the sharing of the Gospel is then taken from being a one man ministry to a personal sharing by every member of the local church. It thus becomes much harder for the enemy to focus a counter-attack on the many!
1. Learn the strategy: look for those who already show signs of interest.
2. We must encourage Gospel sharing by all, not by just one leader.
A. Find Out:
1. How did Athens affect Paul, and why? v.16
2. In what two places did he seek to evangelise? v.17
3. What did some philosophers say about him and why? v.18
4. Where did they take him & what did they ask? v.19,20
5. What did the town spend its time doing? v.21
In Athens we find Paul using a different strategy to all that we have seen before. Previously he had purely worked out of the synagogue, and yes he does do that here, but he also speaks directly into the market place in Athens . Why? He sees the city is full of idols and realises that this whole people (Gentiles) are semi-religious and that he can approach them wherever they are. They have indicated that they are interested in spiritual things, as deceived as they are, and he can therefore approach people in the most public place and expect to get a hearing because of the nature of the city.
As he does this he finds a difficulty: his message appears as just one message among many in the “market place of ideas”. These people are not only semi-religious, they almost take pride in thinking new thoughts. The difficulty with that is that they never settle on one set of ideas but will hop from new idea to new idea.
This is an entirely different culture to anything he has encountered yet. While there, he is taken to the Areopagus, where the city council or court usually met, a place to make decisions or discuss policy. Again the door is being opened to him to address large numbers of leading people.
1. Different cultures require different approaches for the same Gospel.
2. The Gospel stands up to any other system of thinking in the world as it is
God's wisdom for salvation, and as such is perfect.
A. Find Out:
1. What did Paul say about the people of Athens ? v.22
2. Why was he able to say this? v.23a
3. Who was he going to tell them about? v.23b
4. How did he describe God? v.24,25
5. What had God done and why? v.26,27
6. What does he conclude about us? v.28
So far in the past, Paul has preached the Gospel based on the Old Testament scriptures. Because he was starting with Jewish believers or Jewish converts he started from that with which they were familiar. Here in Athens he is in a completely different culture, but again he looks for some religious sign in their culture and works from that. He has seen idols all over the city dedicated to their various Greek “gods”, even one to “An Unknown God”, almost as if the Greeks wanted to cover themselves in case they had missed any “god”.
Very well, says Paul, I can tell you about this unknown God. He is unlike any of your other gods, He is the very one who made this entire world, and set it out in such an orderly fashion that men would wonder about it and seek Him out. You owe your entire being and existence to him, even as some of your poets have described.
The nature of Paul's approach should teach us something: we need to start where the people are. For those who have knowledge of the Bible, start with that. Those who have no knowledge of the Bible, look for their spiritual interest and start from there. Everyone has some, because that's how God has made us. Listen for it.
1. The delivery of the Gospel should meet people where they are.
2. The Gospel meets the need of people, whatever class, colour or culture,
it is for them!
A. Find Out:
1. How shouldn't we view the divine Being? v.29
2. What does God now require? v.30
3. How will God judge the world and on what basis? v.31a
4. How has God proved that? v.31b
5. What two responses did Paul get? v.32
6. What was the overall result? v.34
Starting from their religious inclinations, Paul tells his listeners about the sort of God they have called the “Unknown god” and says He is far greater than any man made representation (idol). So far, he continues, God has put up with our ignorance but now He has made the way so clear that He calls us to turn away from our old, wrong ideas and come to Him on the basis of the way He has ordained. He will bring justice, i.e. will punish all wrongs, but has provided One who will take our punishment if we will allow it (else we take it ourselves), and He has shown proof of that by raising Jesus from the dead after he had taken our punishment on the Cross.
It is only when he gets to this last bit that he encounters rejection by a number of his listeners. They were happy to chew over any new philosophical idea, but talk of death on the Cross and then resurrection of the dead, left them spluttering. This did not seem logical to them and so they rejected it. As Paul later said to the Corinthians, this just seems foolishness to the self-centred, so-called intellectual Greek mind. It is only the “dying” person who recognises their need who will grasp the straw of the Cross and embrace it. Self-centred man will scoff at it, but that should not stop us preaching it!
1. The Cross is foolishness to the wise of this world.
2. The Cross is salvation to the one who is crying out for it.
A. Find Out:
1. Who did Paul encounter in Corinth ? v.2
2. Why did he stay with them? v.3
3. What did he do every Sabbath? v.4
4. What did he subsequently do when the others arrived? v.5
5. Yet what happened? v.6a
6. So what was Paul's response? v.6b
Paul moves on from Athens to the even larger town of Corinth , known for its commerce and its immorality. On his arrival he appears to encounter a Jew who has the same trade as him (for Rabbis such as Paul would have had a trade) and so goes and stays with him. We aren't told at this point whether Aquila and Priscilla are Christians, but they certainly become Christians later, possibly through Paul. While staying with them, working with them, he would go to the synagogue each Sabbath and argue the Gospel.
This situation was only changed when Silas and Timothy arrived with financial support from the churches in Macedonia and this enabled Paul to spend more time preaching the Gospel and less time working. However, his preaching upset the Jews to such a degree that they strongly opposed him and in such a measure that he eventually released himself from any responsibility to them. As we watch Paul's ministry we see this happened again and again. He sought to go to his fellow countrymen but eventually after they had clearly rejected him, he left them and went to the Gentiles only.
1. Christian leadership needs financial support to enable it to be whole
hearted in giving itself to the ministry. Do we give to it?
2. Go to those nearest to you first, and if they reject you, then go to those
further away, but keep on going
A. Find Out:
1. So what did Paul do? v.7
2. Who believed the message? v.8
3. How did the Lord speak to Paul? v.9a
4. What instruction did He give Paul? v.9b
5. What encouragement did He give him? v.10
6. So what did Paul do? v.11
So far in Paul's travels we have seen a familiar order of events: Paul preaches the Gospel, people believe, the Jews rise up in opposition, persecution follows and the apostles retreat and move on. This time the Lord has other plans, for Corinth is a large city.
The Jewish opposition has just come again and Paul has left the synagogue, but continues preaching in a house next door. Despite the general rejection by the Jews a number of them including the synagogue leader become believers. The church in Corinth grows rapidly, a real encouragement.
Yet Paul must have been wondering about moving on, fearful of the opposition, for the Lord speaks to him in a vision, telling him not to be afraid. Keep going, comes the word of the Lord, I'm with you to protect you, because there are many in this big city who are mine. The Lord knew there were many there who were yet to become Christians.
Remember we said this city was known for its commerce and its immorality. With our natural eyes we might have thought it was a hard place for the Gospel, yet the Lord knows that there are many hungry and responsive people there who will receive the Gospel if Paul will only keep on bringing it. We need to hear the Lord!
1. We should not go on outward appearances of a place.
2. The Lord knows if people will be responsive. We need to hear Him.
A. Find Out:
1. How did the enemy attack? v.12
2. With what did they charge Paul? v.13
3. What did the proconsul say a reasonable charge would be? v.14
4. But what did he decide? v.15
5. What did he do? v.16
6. What did the Jews do in their anger? v.17
Some time during Paul's year and a half stay in Corinth , the enemy came against him in the form of the religious Jews, who had already been upset by him (v.6), but who now sought to bring a legal case against him. If they could have the court rule against him it would, once and for ever, shut him up.
In that light, it was a very serious case. They maintained that the way Paul advocated worship violated the law. Now Roman law permitted the Jewish religion, and the proconsul, even before Paul could speak, rules that the dispute was merely one of interpretation of beliefs within their own religion, and that was outside the jurisdiction of the court. The court was there to preside over criminal disputes, not religious ones, and so he stopped them in their tracks and would hear no more of the matter. In other words the court legitimised the Christian faith and declared its beliefs outside the jurisdiction of the courts of Rome . The decision allows the Gospel to proceed without fear of further legal action.
At this the crowd turn on the synagogue ruler who was a believer and supporter of Paul and beat him. Why him and not Paul? It may be simply that he was one of the first to come out of the court and caught the brunt of the Jewish crowd's anger
1. The enemy will seek to attack through various means.
2. We need not be ashamed of the Gospel truth.
A. Find Out:
1. Who went with Paul when he left? v.18a
2. What did he do before he moved on? v.18b
3. What first happened at Ephesus ? v.19a
4. But what did Paul do there? v.19b
5. What was asked of him but what did he answer? 20,21
6. When did he then do? v.22
Having received opposition there in Corinth , Paul stays on, unlike his leaving many of the previous places he had been to, because he had had the word from the Lord (v.9,10). Why he cuts his hair after having made a vow we are not told; we simply have to assume that the Lord led him at some point to make a commitment that was signified by growing his hair long, or having it cut short. Having done this he leaves together with Priscilla and Aquila and sails back to the Asia mainland, arriving at Ephesus where the couple find their own house (see v.26) and Paul goes off to the synagogue.
There again his stay is quite different from previous places. Yes, he goes to the synagogue and reasons with the Jews but this time:
From Ephesus he sails to Caesarea, goes up to the church at Jerusalem (almost certainly), presumably to report on this last trip, and then makes his way home to Antioch to report back to the home church. It has been a long second journey and he has much to tell.
1. Christian ministry can take us far and wide and can be lonely and tiring.
Such ministers need much support.
2. Such ministry needs a welcoming home base to support them.
In this second group of 9 studies we have seen Paul:
As Paul continued on with this missionary trip, we have now seen him in some of the larger cities getting a mixed reception. In Thessalonica being opposed by the Jews, in Athens receiving a lukewarm reception from the philosophers of that city, and in Corinth again being rejected by the Jews. Yet in the last of those cities, the Lord told him to keep on, so there he stayed for some time despite opposition. It was not always easy but they persevered with the Gospel!
1. Take the Gospel to those who are interested.
2. When rejected, move on to the next interested people.
3. When the Lord blesses, the enemy will try to come back.
4. The Cross is foolishness to the wise but salvation for the seeker.
5. The Lord knows where seeking people are.
Ask the Lord to release faith in you to go and find “interested” people and not be put off by those who are not interested.
PART 3 : Third Journey, Part 1
In this next Part watch carefully for where Paul goes next and what happens there. Watch for the similarities and differences in the light of where he has been already.