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.
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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.