All of Christ for All of Life
Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone

24 October 2020 – Acts 17:1-15

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed. – Acts 17:1–15 (ESV)

Eckhard Schnabel writes:

While Jews and Gentiles, ordinary people and members of the elite, are being converted in the cities in which Paul preaches, the reaction to the gospel is always mixed. Sometimes only a few Jews come to faith in Jesus as Messiah; sometimes many Jews become believers, although it is never all Jews who accept the gospel as God’s truth confirmed by the Scriptures. Sometimes only a few Greeks believe; sometimes a larger number of Greeks believe, although it is never all Gentiles in a city who come to faith. The mixed response is not due to the more or less successful application of a specific methods of evangelism, but to the unpredictability of the hardness of the listeners’ hearts.

In Thessalonica and Berea the mixed reaction was not faith on the one hand and indifference on the other, but conversions of some listeners and opposition by others – just as in Paul’s earlier missionary ministry in Damascus, Jerusalem, Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, Iconium, and Philippi. In Thessalonica and Berea certain Jews remained unconvinced by Paul’s message and organized the opposition against Paul, succeeding in starting riots and legal maneuvers to force him to leave, with other believers fearing for his safety. The opposition can come from Paul’s coreligionists, and it can come from civic and political authorities and institutions. The charges against the missionaries may be grounded in reality to some degree – Paul’s proclamation of Jesus as Messiah and of His kingdom can be construed as presenting a rival to the emperor in Rome and of his demands for loyalty – or they may be exaggerated and extreme, drawing on stereotypes.

These charges were effective for Paul’s enemies and harmful for missionaries and for the church. But a gospel proclamation that is never offensive is, perhaps, never authentic. In churches in the Western world, where greed is part and parcel of the inner workings of [our] societies, it may be impolitic to emphasize Paul’s insistence that greed amounts to idolatry because it contradicts the character of God, the love of Jesus Christ, and the new life of those who have committed themselves to Jesus Christ.

MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 76
Q. 76. Which is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.