Summary: When God’s Word is communicated, the state of your mind can greatly affect how your heart receives what God is saying. We have the first part in a discussion from Acts 17 on the ways the Bible is communicated and received.
Chapter 17 gives us three glimpses at how people process the Word of God. Isn’t contrast great? Medical science uses contrast to find anomalies in the body, and here we use contrast to see the different approaches people take to the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’ll look at the first two today, and the final one next time.
Thessalonica is 100 miles from Philippi. Paul passes through two other cities to get there in part because this city of 200,000 was the capital of the region and a key to spreading the gospel into Europe. What Paul didn’t know was what kind of reception he would get. Philippi had so few Jews that Paul had to meet some women at a prayer meeting down by the river. Thessalonica was large enough with enough Jewish male head of households to have its own synagogue.
2 – 3
Paul’s message was simple, the Messiah had to suffer and Jesus is the Messiah. He made his argument from the Scriptures, not just by reading passages but to explain what they meant. One scholar explains it like breaking open the rind of a fruit to reveal the kernel inside.
The word “reasoned” is from the Greek verb dielexato which is an active verb meaning “select, distinguish, revolve in the mind, interchange of ideas, teach in question and answer format, or to speak about something to stimulate the mind.”
This wasn’t a lecture but a dialogue. Paul wanted the Thessalonicans to think.
So how do you approach the teaching of the Scriptures? It’s quite possible, and many do, simply allow the Word to just wash right over you and never sink in. You never make it your own. You never take it, wrestle with it, consider it, let it impact how you think.
Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Yet we can resist. Jesus said over the over “let him who has an ear to hear.” How are your spiritual ears in relation to the Word of God?
First, Paul argued that the Messiah must suffer. This was not a common belief among the Jews. They believed in a political Messiah that would throw off Rome’s stranglehold and bring Israel back to international prominence. Being victimized by Rome and dying was not in the plan. They didn’t see that the Messiah’s real mission was to suffer and die for our sins.
Secondly, he declares that the Messiah that suffered is Jesus. Luke doesn’t go into detail of Paul’s preaching because he’s already done that, but focuses on the reaction, both good and bad.
Notice that only “some” believe. The reception is really lukewarm among the Jews. Again, though, among the God fearing Gentiles, there is great acceptance. Also note that Luke focuses on “leading women” who respond (which would have been the wives of leading citizens of the city). Do you notice a pattern here? In chapter 16 it was a woman who formed the backbone of the Philippians’ church, here “leading women” come to Christ, and in verse 12 “women of high standing” are noted for coming to Christ.
This becomes significant because women were just as welcome in this faith as men. Paul will later write to the Galatians:
Galatians 3:28 here is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Also among this group was probably a Jew named Jason. Not everyone is happy about this, though, especially the Jews.
5 – 9
I love this “wicked men of the rabble.” The idea was they went down to the city market and found people who had nothing to do. We might call them “bums”. They weren’t interested in conversing or thinking, they wanted one thing, and that was to get people who were just waiting to cause trouble to create a nuisance so they could blame it on Paul. There really is such a thing as the professional protestor (though I’m not sure about the professional part). They just look for a cause to protest, even if they have strong feelings about it and sometimes don’t even know what they are protesting.
They whip this crowd up and go to Jason’s house looking for Paul. Apparently they just break down the doors and barge in. They don’t find Paul there so Jason will do as a scapegoat.
They claim Paul and his companions were causing an uproar, when it was they who were behind it all! The city officials would have been keenly aware of trouble involving the Jews after Emperor Claudius’ decree that all Jews leave Rome in A.D. 49-50.