Summary Acts 17:
Paul next went to Thessalonica where as was his custom he preached in the Jewish synagogue, explaining and proving Jesus Christ using the scriptures. Some were persuaded and joined him, as well as some Greeks. But the Jews were jealous, so they rounded up some ruffians and started a riot in the city. They went to Jason’s house where Paul and Silas were staying, and not finding them there, arrested Jason and some others instead.
That night, Paul and Silas left and went to Berea where they preached in the Jewish synagogue as well. The Bereans were of more noble character and compared what Paul was saying with the scriptures. They were eager to know God more so and many were converted as well. But the angry Jews from Thessalonica trailed Paul and stirred up trouble in Berea as well. So the brothers sent Paul away to Athens.
In Athens, Paul was met with idols everywhere and met harsh resistance with the intellectual culture of the Athenians as he preached in the synagogue and the market places. He got into a dispute with a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers and was dragged off to the Areopagus (council) to make his case.
Paul told them about what they referred to as “the unknown god” who was the One, True God. God who made everything in the world, who does not need anything from mankind, who controls nations and time, who is near to us, who commands people everywhere to repent for one day they will be judged, and who had given proof by raising Jesus from the dead.
Upon hearing the raising from the dead (something the Greeks balked at: they were big on the spirit living on but believed the body to be merely a physical medium), Paul was cut off but invited to speak again. Only a few were converted.
BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 17, Day 4: Acts 17
9) Personal Question. My answer: How some people were eager to learn about God and others could care less. Sometimes it’s just our stubborn mindset that is hindering us.
10) Personal Question. My answer: I like how Pauls points out that they are worshipping an unknown god, that is probably the One, True God. Deep in all of us is a desire to know God, yet some are lost and don’t know what that urging is. There is hope for these people, searching for a god. Paul lays out the facts about God; that’s all we have to do. God does the rest.
11) Personal Question. My answer: If you love people and shine God’s light, as well as give credit to God and live as God calls us to live, these people in our lives will hopefully want what you have and convert.
Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 17, Day 4: Acts 17
This whole day is a personal day. I think it’s been a while since we’ve had this. This lesson so far, when I compare it to last time (and, yes, I’m going to keep comparing it because I’m insanely curious how BSF has changed in less than a decade), the questions were all about the passage.
I joined BSF because I was tired of attending women’s bible studies where all the women did was bemoan their lives, talk bad about their husbands, and ignore the passage entirely. In my group this year, it has digressed to this often. The questions here are so general that I think a new believer wouldn’t learn anything. The beauty of BSF in the past was that it guided us to learn what God was trying to teach us by telling us what was happening in the passage. Here, the word “you” is used six times. I’m tired of everything in this world being about me. I don’t like the “me” culture we live in. Anyone else?
Please do read my End Notes for a thorough discussion of the passage, and not of my thoughts on the matter.
End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 17, Day 4: Acts 17
Thessalonica was an important port city, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) and a three-day walk from Philippi. Modern Thessalonika is still a large, thriving city.
Paul uses the Scriptures, explains them, demonstrates how Christ died for us, and talks about who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Some believed.
When Paul was in Thessalonica, he received financial support from the Christians in Philippi (Philippians 4:15-16).
Jason was a Christian in Thessalonica whose house seems to have been a center for the church.
Other versions say “men who have turned the world upside-down” instead of caused trouble. This more effectively reflects what Christ had done and continues to do for those who know him.
No one wanted to defy Caesar and bring Rome’s wrath upon them. This further stirred up people since no one wanted Roman soldiers to come and restore order. So Jason had to post the bond even though he did not start the riot.
Paul and Silas left Thessalonica quickly, not wanting to bring more persecution on the Christians there or to jeopardize Jason’s security deposit.
Paul only spent a few weeks in Thessalonica (Acts 17:2) and it seems he wished he could have taught them more. He decided to teach them more in a written letter, and many believe that 1 Thessalonians was his first letter written to a congregation.
Here, the people were ready to receive God and had open hearts. The Bereans heard the teaching of the most famous apostle and theologian of the early church, and the human author of at least 13 New Testament books. Yet, they searched the Scriptures when Paul taught, to see if his teaching was truly Biblical. They would not accept Paul’s teaching without checking for themselves, so they could know if these things were so. So must we.
The same had happened at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:45, 50), at Iconium (Acts 14:2, 5), at Lystra (Acts 14:19) and at Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-8) This was the fifth city Paul was run out of by an angry mob, stirred up by envious Jewish leaders.
Silas and Timothy remained there, because Paul wanted to leave them behind to teach and take care of the new Christians in Berea.
The sense is that Paul would have preferred to wait until Timothy and Silas came from Berea before he began ministry in Athens. But when he saw that the city was given over to idols, he was compelled to preach the gospel immediately.
Athens was one of the most glorious and important cities in the world. But when Paul toured Athens, he was only depressed by the magnitude of the idolatry he saw all around.
The idea behind given over to idols (kateidolos) is really under idols, or swamped by idols. Paul saw the beauty of Athens, having the best that Greek sculptors and architects could offer; but all that beauty did not honor God, so it did not impress him at all.
Paul faced a challenging audience in Athens. It was a cultured, educated city that was proud of its history. It was an intellectual center, much like Oxford or Cambridge. Paul spoke to a city perhaps different than any other city he had preached in. It was the intellectual and religious capital of Greece.
- The Epicureans pursued pleasure as the chief purpose in life, and valued most of all the pleasure of a peaceful life, free from pain, disturbing passions and superstitious fears (including the fear of death). They did not deny the existence of gods, but believed that they had nothing to do with man. Based upon the teachings of Epicurus in 307 BC.
- The Stoics were pantheists who put great emphasis on moral sincerity and a high sense of duty. They cultivated a spirit of proud dignity, and believed that suicide was better than a life lived with less dignity.
- The Stoics believed that everything was god, and god was in everything. So they believed that all things, good or evil, were from “god,” and so nothing should be resisted, and they believed there was no particular direction or destiny for mankind. Based on the teachings of Zeno of Citium in the early third-century BC.
It was the novelty of Paul’s message that earned him the invitation to the Areopagus. These ancient Greeks loved a constant and always changing stream of news and information.
The Areopagus means “the Rock of Ares” in Greek and is also known as Mars’ Hill. It was originally a court of appeal for criminal and civil cases in the times of the Greeks. It was also where the council of elders met, similar to the Roman Senate. Later, in Roman times, it was a philosophical council that oversaw religion and morals.
The Unknown God of the Romans covered any god that may have been neglected. Paul wanted to reveal the identity of the Unknown God as the One, True God.
In explaining God to them, Paul started at the beginning. This is a good lesson for us when we are explaining who God is to people.
The two quotations Paul used from Greek poets are attributed respectively to Epimenides the Cretan [600 B.C.] (who Paul quotes again in Titus 1:12) and Aratus [310 B.C.]. Paul quoted them because these specific words reflected a Biblical truth, and by using them he could build a bridge to his pagan audience.
Paul went from knowing who God is (our Creator), to who we are (His offspring), to our responsibility before Him (to understand Him and worship Him in truth), to our accountability if we dishonor Him (judgment).
Paul boldly confronted the wrong ideas the Athenians had about God, and confronted them with the reality of coming judgment.
His first mention of Jesus presented Jesus as a righteous judge.none of the Christian life made sense without the triumph of Jesus’ resurrection.
The Greeks were fond of the idea of the immortality of the soul, but not of the idea of the resurrection of the body. Paul converted some. That was all that mattered.