Macedonia and Greece

Acts 17:1 – 17:34

Having been encouraged by the brethren at Lydia’s, Paul along with Silas and Timothy departed Philippi for Thessalonica.

A. Thessalonica

1. Travel v.1

· approx. 30 miles between each location – Amphipolis -> Apollonia -> Thessalonica

· travel likely by horse – perhaps provided by brothers in Philippi; thought they would not have been physically able to walk those distances following their public beating

· city of 200,000 with many Jews as evidenced by the presence of a synagogue (Hendriksen)

2. preaching model vv.2-3

“according to custom” (v.2 & 10) – began with those closest in understanding to the Scriptures, the churched Jews. They would require the least by way of teaching and clarification to bring them to fully understand the identity and significance of Christ.

· appeal to reason – ????????? – “dialogued” with them

“to argue about differences of opinion” Louw-Nida
it was over a difference of opinion or thought, not feeling
could have included a Q&A time

· scriptural authority

reasoning was based on Scriptural evidence
perhaps a similar line of argument followed on the road to Emmaus

· exegesis and exposition – explained and gave evidence

showed that not only did the Messiah have to suffer, die and rise again but that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Promised One

3. Response v.4

· positive

1. “some” Jews

2. “a large number” of Greeks

3. “a number” of women

· negative v.5-9

4. envy/jealousy

5. turmoil

6. violence

B. Berea v.10

40-mile journey, much smaller town off the main road; still large enough Jewish population to warrant a synagogue

1. preaching model v.13

· It’s an argument from silence but there is nothing in the text to indicate Paul’s preaching model was different in Berea.

· The response of Jews from Thessalonica to Paul’s preaching in Berea was similar – they thought it necessary to make trouble in Berea as well.

2. Response v.12

· “many” Jews

· “not a few” Greeks

· prominent women as well as men

3. Rationale v.11

· “willingness to learn, to be open-minded, to be noble” Louw-Nida

· “welcomed the message with eagerness” HCSB

· personal Bible study

Their mindset was to attempt if possible to confirm from Scripture the truth of the apostles’ teaching

This text pretty well demolishes the idea that the church reserves the right to read and interpret Scripture rightly. It also places the responsibility to do that squarely in the lap of every believer.

C. Athens v.14

About 250 miles, 12 days if by land, 3 if by sea

1. Initial response v.15-16

· Immediate request for help – sent back with his escort

intended to wait for reinforcements

· overcome by oppressive idolatry – “city full of idols” NASB

A person could hardly take his position at any point in ancient Athens, where the eye did not range over temples, altars, and statues of the gods almost without number. Petronius says satirically, that it was easier to find a god at Athens than a man. Another ancient writer says that some of the streets were so crowded with those who sold idols, that it was almost impossible for one to make his way through them. Pausanias declares that Athens had more images than all the rest of Greece put together. Wetstein quotes Xenophon, Isocrates, Cicero, Livy, Strabo, Lucian, and others, as bearing the same testimony. Hackett

· compelled to move – ?????????? – paroxysm; exasperate, burn with anger

to be provoked or upset at someone or something involving severe emotional concern Louw-Nida

2. Strategy vv.17-31

· Jews and God-fearers first

preaching Jesus and the resurrection

Epicurean and Stoic philosophers

bridge from idolatrous culture to the true God

In this is the great skill of St. Paul as a preacher to men exhibited. He leads them from principles acknowledged by themselves, and conducts them to Christianity. When addressing an audience of Jews he made his starting point the Scriptures which they acknowledged, and the interpretation of those Scriptures which were current among them. When speaking to a Gentile audience, which knew nothing of the law and the prophets, he turns to the truth of natural religion, and to those fragments of truth which Polytheism had not entirely obliterated from the minds of men. in this he affords an example which it would be well if all preachers of the Gospel would imitate. W. Denton

meet them where they are in their understanding

Before the Epicureans, who taught that the world came into existence by chance, he points to God as its Maker. To the Stoics, who believed that God took no interest in the things passing upon earth, he speaks of Providence, of God’s daily, hourly care for mankind and he tells them that all are dependent upon Him for live, and motion, and being. In opposition to those, and they comprised every one of his hearers, hwo boasted that they stood apart from all the other tribes of mankind, he tells of their oneness, that all were th eworkmanship of one Maker. In the midst of a population largely composed of slaves the Apostle teaches the great truth that not only is God one, but that all are one in His sight, and that He has made of one blood all nations of men. W. Denton

meet them where they are in their way of thinking

a. intellectually

b. culturally

observation of numerous places of worship

the inscription on the altar

quotations from well-known Greek poets – Epimenides (600 BC) and Aratus (315-240 BC)

When Paul addressed the Council of the Areopagus, he faced an audience that differed from those in the synagogue worship services. Standing before the Athenian philosophers, he could not assume that they had any knowledge of the Scripture or of Jesus, who fulfilled the prophecies in Scripture. Paul had to begin his speech by teaching his audience the doctrines of God and creation. He continued his teaching with the doctrine of man, for man is God’s offspring. And he concluded his oration with the doctrines of judgment and the resurrection. Hendriksen

CAUTION: The bridge does not imply the presence of Gospel themes in the pagan culture. There may be points of contact that can be “sanctified” for use in pointing someone toward the Gospel. They should not be confused with “Gospel themes” nor should the Gospel message be compromised in any way to accommodate pagan sensibilities.

3. Results vv.32-34

· rejection

ridicule

indifference

· “some men”

· Dionysius the Areopagite

· Damaris and others

D. Application

Following Paul’s strategy here:

1. To plant a church, get a core group “up to speed” as quickly as possible

Whenever possible – don’t begin with the rank pagans

Start with those who have had some exposure to Scripture

2. Begin at the point of understanding

3. To a “foreign” audience, build a bridge if it legitimately works

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