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)
The Jewish opposition rustles up a crowd, presumably of Gentiles, to deal with the “trouble” that Paul and Silas were causing in their city. For some reason, the mob couldn’t get their hands on Paul and Silas. So, these brand-new believers get dragged before the city authorities. How would you like to have that happen just a few weeks after you came to believe in Jesus Christ?
What was the formal complaint? “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also!” And the charge gets more specific: “They are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Let me unpack that just a bit for you. Paul, after all, was a law-abiding citizen. He wasn’t running around inciting civil revolution or breaking Caesar’s laws. So what exactly were they accusing him of? It turns out that the word translated “decrees” is δογμάτων from which we get the term “dogma.” Paul wasn’t a lawless person breaking all of the individual laws of the empire. In fact, he was quite scrupulous in carrying them out. Nevertheless, Paul had laid the ax to the most basic claims that Caesar had made.
Caesar claimed to be the Savior and Lord of the Roman Empire. Paul was declaring that Christ, and Christ alone, was the only Savior and Lord of the entire world.
This is a good thing for us to remind ourselves of 7 days before a major election. “If Jesus Christ is Lord, then Caesar isn’t.” And, as you all know, “Jesus is Lord!”
It turns out the Caesars of this world, whether those who want to rule nations or those who simply want to be absolutely sovereign over their own lives – don’t like this very much. You may have noticed that Paul wasn’t warmly welcomed in every place that he preached the gospel.
Perhaps life has changed a great deal since then. As an Archbishop of Canterbury once said: “Everywhere the Apostle Paul went, there was either a riot or a revival. While everywhere that I go they serve tea.”
Things seem to have changed a great deal, but perhaps it isn’t our times that have changed. Perhaps what has changed is that it has been quite some time since an Archbishop of Canterbury proclaimed that because “Jesus is Lord, Caesar isn’t” or, “Because Jesus is Lord, every carpenter, every lawyer, every school teacher, and yes – every Prime Minister needs to bow the knee to King Jesus in every area of their lives.”
Think of the popular pro-choice saying, at least it is popular in America: “A woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body.” Naturally, those who are pro-life point out that the child is not the woman’s body – and so the debate goes on. … Yet, there is another fundamental problem with the assertion that any person has a right to do whatever they want with their own bodies: It’s not true. Jesus is Lord. And because Jesus is Lord, none of us, whether male of female – whether young or old – have an unlimited right to do whatever we want with our own bodies.
It turns out that ancient Romans weren’t the only people who were unhappy with that message. Modern Americans aren’t all that happy with it either.
Yet, if we are faithful – we will proclaim that Jesus is Lord. Therefore, if we are faithful, opposition will come!
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 78
Q. 78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name.