Acts 17:1-21 From Thessalonica, to Berea, to Athens



In Paul's travels we pretty much see a repeat performance in each city. Wherever the gospel goes, it brings with it both redemption and troubles. This is the way it has always been. The kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness have not fellowship with one another.

But Paul has his instructions; "To the Jew first and also to the Greek (Gentiles)." To keep the studies from being cumbersome with extra detail, I will continue to give a brief synopsis on his travels. Questions are also included to help as aids in discussion. There are seven questions in this study. (Q1, Q2, etc.)

This is Acts032 - Acts 17:1-21 From Thessalonica, to Berea, to Athens

Vss1-10 -- Synopsis on Thessalonica ---

It appears there was no synagogue in Amphipolis or in Apollonia. In Thessalonica, Paul, Silas, and Timothy minister for three Sabbaths at the synagogue, giving evidence from the Scriptures that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Paul says, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." The result is a turning to the Lord by some of the Jews and a large number Greeks. Thus the beginning of the Church in Thessalonica. History tells us that Salvanus (Silas) was the first bishop (pastor) of this Church. (Paul's letters to the Thessalonian believers are generally dated about 51 a.d.)

The pattern continues. There is jealousy among the unbelieving Jews and a mob action is created. Unable to locate Paul, they drag Jason, Paul's host, along with other believers before the city authorities. Notice the double charge: "These men who have upset the world have come here also." And, "They all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus."

According to Roman law it was a serious offense to declare anyone a king who was not put in place by Caesar. This was the legal reason Pilate could have Jesus crucified under Roman law. Remember what was said; "If you release this Man [Jesus], you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar."

Q1: Is there any place in Scripture where Jesus actually acknowledges Himself to be a king?

Q2: Is there any place in Scripture where Jesus is acknowledged by others to be the King of Israel?

The authorities receive a pledge (satisfaction) from Jason and they are released. The rulers likely recognize the cause of the disturbance.

Continue on to Berea....

Vss10-15: Synopsis on Berea --- An interesting statement is made about the Jewish people in Berea. It says, "Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men."

The Greek word for 'noble minded' is 'eugenes' (yoog-en-ace). It speaks of being well born, of a noble race, or of an important person. Its accompanying meaning is open-mindedness. This synagogue was just opposite that in Thessalonica. In Thessalonica the Jews were filled with pride. In Berea we find an eagerness to hear Paul, and to explore the sacred Scriptures. Again a great many believers are added to the church. The harvest continues.

Q3: What was the one thing that showed the Bereans to be noble hearted? (Feel free to expound.)

Q4: Without drawing from or quoting other references, can any member provide from his own knowledge, three Old Testament Scriptures that could be used to show Jesus is Messiah? (Show the reference and explain the connection.)

The pattern again. It says, "But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there."

Note: People often wonder what Paul's thorn in the flesh was. Here we see it in action. Wherever Paul went, there were unbelieving Jewish opponents who came behind him to attempt to destroy his work. The Lord answered Paul's prayers by saying, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." (Cf. 2Co12:9)

Q5: We hear a lot about positive confessions today. While proper confessions are always in order, what was it that Paul said he would rather boast (glory) in?

Let's continue to Athens. Here we will spend a little more time as we prepare to make our way to Mar's Hill. (Paul's sermon on Mar's Hill will be covered in our next study.)

Vs15: "Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left."

.... Paul is in Athens by himself. He sends word for Silas and Timothy to hasten quickly. The work there is great. Here we see what Jesus meant, when he said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." (Matt9:37)

Vs16: "Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols."

.... Athens is steeped both in idolatry and in philosophy. It had a strong connection with such ancient philosophers as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. One ancient writer said it was easier to find a god in Athens than to find a man. As Paul looks on, he is irritated (paroxuno) in his spirit. The Greek used for Paul's feelings speak of an exasperation that he can hardly be contained.

Q6: Is there any place in Scripture that would suggest there is a place for spiritual anger to rise up within a believer? (Explain.)

Vs17: "So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present."

.... Paul can not stand idly by. He reasons with the Jews on their days of assembly, but he is in the market place every day. The apostle was like a voice crying out in the darkness of idolatry. This issue brings to mind a personal experience that I want to share.

Personal testimony: (1961) "My ship was in port. It was night, and I was walking the streets of San Diego. Loneliness and unhappiness were my traveling companions. Then I begin to hear voices singing. On a corner was a Salvation Army band. Young people were singing songs about Jesus and His love. Their faces were radiant. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I was drawn back to childhood, and the songs we sang in church. That scene play a part in my turning to the Lord. It became imprinted in my inward parts. But it would also become part of my future ministry"

When Betty and I lived in a military town, I would take my guitar, a group of singers, and we would head for the bar district. Off the back of a flatbed truck we sang and worshiped the Lord. Then we would pass out tracts to the soldiers. Yes, I did get spit at, but I also saw a number of these young GIs turn to the Lord. The point is that just one small voice speaking into darkness counts for the Lord. You can be sure that Paul's ministry in the market places touched the lives of many, just as the Salvation Army voices reached into the heart of a wayward lad.

Vss18,19: "And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, 'What would this idle babbler wish to say?' Others, 'He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,' -- because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, 'May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming?'"

.... The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were actually rivals. It is enough to say that the Epicureans were atheists. They held to no future life, and that our present life was to be lived in all sorts of pleasures. The Stoics were just the opposite. They were rigid in their philosophy. They believed that the world was governed by fate, that happiness could only be found in virtue, and that a good man had complete rule over all his passions. But their belief in one god is sometimes likened to pantheism, or, God is everything. Both groups were eager to tare Paul apart. After all they were filled with the wisdom of the age.

.... "They took him and brought him to the Areopagus." 'Epi ton Areion Pagon' means the 'unto the Hill of Mars.' This was where the court met to determine if any new teaching was to be held lawful. This was not a court of judgment but rather of examination. The Athenians were a refined people. They prided themselves in the 'wisdoms' and 'arts.'

Note: Mars was the war god of the Romans. I'm afraid my last name reveals more that I would like to have revealed. Seems somewhere in my far distant past I had some pagan ancestors. Martin means 'of Mars.' Of course the name is found in just about every culture, including Jewish, Irish, English, Scottish, Spanish, Italian, so forth. So what gives? Guess we were all pagans at one time. : )

Vss20,21: "For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean. (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)"

.... The emphasis is on "new." The Athenians would quickly tire of the old, and constantly looked for something new to stimulate their thinking. Some unstable Christian movements can get caught up in this same kind of thing. These movements are built on excitement. When one thing gets old, a newer doctrine has to be introduced to keep the movement going. But is this what God wants?

This is not so with the truth of the gospel. The old, old, story is forever new. It is fresh every morning. It never loses its power. And when it finds its resting place in our hearts, the chase for new things is over. When a person truly finds Jesus, he or she has found what life is all about.

Q7: Are there any Scriptures both the Old Testament and the New Testament that can place the Wisdom of God and Jesus together? (Feel free to elaborate.)

The study will conclude at this point. (We'll have a closer examination on the Areopagus in our next study.)


This study was originally part of a series on the book of Acts given to members of Hebraic Foundations from July 10, 2002 through January 19, 2003. They were written by Pastor Buddy Martin, a former United Pentecostal Church minister, who founded Christian Challenge International. Writings are the copyright of Buddy Martin and reprinted on this site by permission.


Page added October 22, 2004

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