Through the Bible in One Year

Day 221

Acts 17:1-15

We have just seen Paul and Silas receive the harshest treatment that one could possibly receive at the hands of the authorities.  But that did not stop them from continuing on with their God given mission and that is what we are going to see today, as we see Paul and Silas in two more Greek cities: Thessaloncia and Berea.

When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.

But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.—17:1-9

Paul reasoned in the synagogue at Thessaloncia for three consecutive Sabbaths, teaching that Jesus is the Christ.  In his letter called 1 Thessalonians, he suggests the stay in that area was longer (1 Thessalonians 2:9), to the three weeks may have been how long he was welcome in the synagogue.  The converts came from Greek God-fearers and prominent women of the city.  But out of jealousy, some Jews apparently hired some street criminals to attack the team.  Jason was evidently one of the converts mentioned in Acts 17:4.  The charge against the missionaries was different from the one in Philippi.  Here it was sedition, the declaration of another king.  In the western empire, Romans historically detested the idea of a king, but in the east, “king” was the basic term for Caesar, and so the charge was grace indeed.  The security bond extracted from Jason and the others was likely a guarantee Paul would leave the city quietly.

As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.—17:10-15

The missionaries agreed to be sent off, though it was not so much an act of personal safety as it was an act of protection for the believers in Thessalonica.  In God’s providence, the departure from Thessalonica led to a new and fruitful field of service.  Berea, located 25 miles inland from the major road, was probably chosen for its isolation.  The Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonians not simply because they converted but because they searched the Scriptures for the truth.  As a consequence of their search, many believed.  The Jews from Thessalonica soon found Paul and the others and created a riot.  Paul was escorted to the coast, and it is unclear whether he traveled to Athens by sea or land.  And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as we see Paul in Athens.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Ezra 10, 1 Corinthians 6, Psalm 31:9-18 and Proverbs 21:3

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