Church Planting In Thessalonica
Book of Acts Chapter 17
Last week when we left the apostle Paul there had been a great salvation in the house of the jailer. Paul had caused problems with the local government when he had informed them that he also was a Roman citizen who had been treated improperly.
But they had still requested that he leave the city of Philippi and before leaving Paul stopped by the house of Lydia to comfort the church that was beginning in her house.
And, the Holy Spirit continued to open doors in what we now call Europe.
We should always be aware that when we are following the Lord there will be problems along the way.
Listen to these words of Jesus:
Luk 12:51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
It had not been easy being beaten and mistreated by the government of Philippi but there had been a great salvation and many lost souls receive the gift of God, which is eternal life with Him in Heaven.
The lessons we learn today can be best realized if we study the parable of the sower in Matthew chapter 13.
God told Jeremiah that men must break up the fallow ground and not plant in the thorns in order to reap a harvest. This also holds true when planting the seed of the “gospel”!
It is the condition of the soil that determines the bounty of the harvest.
There may be many sowers but they all should plant the same message which is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Show map of Paul’s second journey.
*****Act 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
Act 17:2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
This chapter will describe Paul’s ministry in three cities and how some of those people responded to the Word of God.
As we study the missionary trips of the Apostle Paul we should have a better understanding of how to support the missions of today’s church.
It was 100 miles from Philippi to Thessalonica and Thessalonica was the capitol city of Macedonia.
As we study the Apostle Paul we learned that he was one of the most effective witnesses for the Lord who’s ever lived. So we can and should learn from his manner of witnessing.
It was typical for Paul to reason with the lost out of the Scriptures.
This is more than just reading or quoting particular verses in the Bible!
In the days of Nehemiah we find this Scripture:
Neh 8:8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, [and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading].
The apostle Paul used a similar method to reach the lost of Europe.
The apostle Paul later wrote to us some of the methods he used:
To the Colossians:
Col 4:6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
To witness “with grace” would be to use words that “attracted” rather than “repel” a person.
And to be seasoned with salt would be making the Word of God pleasant to the taste and also not to corrupt God’s Word.
2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
To be a good witness we have to study God’s Word. We also have to rightly divide the truth of the Gospel. This would be to treat it honestly and in a straightforward manner.
As disciples we should teach no other doctrine so there would be no confusion. Leave that to Bible scholars so that it no way we would corrupt the Word of God.
To a sower of seed this would be like plowing a straight furrow and placing the seed at the required interval!
1Pe 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
If we have not sanctified the Lord within our own hearts, we will never be a good witness. And if we have not studied the Word of God then we will never be ready to give an answer to every man that may ask.
We may not have to know the answer to every question but we should know where the answers are located!
We should also notice that Paul reasoned with these people on at least three separate occasions, so we should not expect good results every time we witness and most times there will not be any results.
We must remember what God says:
1Co 3:7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; “but God that giveth the increase”.
We can only be the sower of the seed. We can only be the fisherman who cast the line and hook or the net.
*****Act 17:3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
When the Apostle Paul went into the synagogues we must remember he did not have to convince these people of the Scriptures.
Most all of them already believed the Old Testament Scriptures!
The apostle Paul had to take those same Scriptures and preached Jesus!
These Jews already believed in creation as it was written in the book of Genesis. Sadly not many today accept creation as it is written in the Bible.
So the apostle Paul had to preach Jesus as the promised Messiah which means He was the Christ child they had been looking for to come!
Whenever possible this is the message we need to give to those lost world!
But in many cases today we will also have to present “Creation” as the truth of the Bible, which it is.
And we must do this as we present the “Gospel” in many cases, just as Paul.
If our belief is not based on “Creation” as the entire truth as it is written in the Book of Genesis then we will fail to be a good witness!
And if our belief is not based on Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah then we will also fail to be a good witness!
We notice as we study the Apostle Paul that he used both methods depending on those he was witnessing to.
*****Act 17:4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.
We find that some of the Jews believed.
Many of the Greek proselyte also believed.
And there was a great multitude of the devout women of the city who were openly friendly to the Word of God.
These could include women who were proselyte of Judaism, and Gentiles, and Jewish wives of Gentiles and Gentile wives of practicing Jews.
*****Act 17:5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.
Again we see the success of Paul of leading many to the Lord Jesus Christ, stirred up trouble in the Jewish community.
These Jews did not like what they heard from Paul and they brought in a gang of roughnecks to create a commotion against him. They also stirred up the whole city against these missionaries. But once this crowd was gathered that were unable to find the apostle Paul so they assaulted the house of Jason. It is the house of Jason where they had been staying during this time.
*****Act 17:6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
Act 17:7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
They brought Jason out onto the ruling government of the city. But they made their charges against Paul and Silas accusing them of “turning the world upside down”.
Jesus Christ came into this world to turn it upside down.
It’s a shame when a small group of people can stir up the government who is supposed to be for all people.
We find that today in America as a small group of gays, a small group of atheists, try to spread their influence over the entire population of America.
Christians are commanded by God to witness but it is God Himself that has control of the results.
These enemies of the Lord, also said that Paul and Silas were proclaiming Jesus to be a rival king to Claudius Caesar which was also a lie.
Jesus will one day rule as King on this entire earth. This is prophesied but not during the “Church Age”!
*****Act 17:8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.
Act 17:9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
At least in this case the government took control of this mob and dispersed it and secured Jason and those with him to safety.
It was “the riot itself” that would bring the powers of Rome into the city, not one man housing a few missionaries.
So they released Jason and those with him.
*****Act 17:10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
It is very probable that Paul and Silas were in real danger in Thessalonica.
They escaped in the darkness of night, but we know that persecution continued to those that believed the “Gospel”.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:
1Th 2:14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: [for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews]:
Paul went to Berea which is about 50 miles from Thessalonica.
*****Act 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
In Berea the people listened to the Preaching of the “Gospel” with an open mind! They did not criticize the Word of God but instead searched the scriptures themselves to verify what Paul was preaching.
In fact they met daily to seek the truth of the of the Bible.
This is what we call Bible study and we all need to be involved in Bible study!
We are taught the truth here at Gethsemane but in our own best interest we cannot rely on the preaching to be our only source. We must study ourselves, seeking the truth of the “Gospel”!
There are still those that preach a false message!
*****Act 17:12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
“Therefore” the results were that many of the Bereans believed and were saved!
Jewish women mainly had household duties and had little say in the synagogues but we find that these Greek women had a place outside the home in society and held a high rank.
Many of these men and women came from what we would call the upper class in Berea.
And there were a great many that believed so things were going good in Berea.
We must never forget that “we present the most powerful life-changing force in the world” when we preach Jesus Christ.
*****Act 17:13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.
All was going well again until Satan brought his followers to hinder the spread of the “Gospel”.
These are wicked men who had no allegiance to any law but their own! Societies of this world are filled with these sort of evil men, even in America and even more so.
Remember what God says:
2Ti 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
The Bible teaches us that Satan has his own missionaries:
2Co 11:13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
2Co 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
2Co 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
These are just more signs that Jesus is coming to get His Bride very soon!
*****Act 17:14 And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.
It is easy to see that the apostle Paul was the target of these evil men.
But the Church outwitted the enemy and took Paul and put him on a ship bound for Athens.
But Silas and Timothy stayed to help grow the church.
*****Act 17:15 And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.
It was only after Paul had arrived safely in Athens that word was sent to Silas and Timothy to join him there.
Athens was the most celebrated city of Greece. Athens was the central place of Greek literature and art, and philosophy. But Athens was also the seat of false worship for the entire Greek nation!
“There was a saying in Rome at that time, that it was easier to find a god in Athens than it was to find a real man”.
The apostle Paul noticed all these things as he waited for the rest of his group to join him.
*****Act 17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
Athens may have been the cultural center of the world but we should always realize see that culture does not bring wisdom.
The name Athens comes from the Greek goddess Athena who was worshipped as the goddess of wisdom.
But the Bible says:
Ecc 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
There is no goddess of wisdom though there still those that think so!
The Apostle Paul was not led to Athens to see these wondrous sights and to be a tourist.
Paul was sent by the Holy Spirit to seek the “souls of the lost”!
The real religion of Athens was the worship of art and amusement!
Athens was a city that had no morals!
Even the Jews had got caught up in the idolatry of this city and none opposed the Apostle Paul as they had in the other cities.
*****Act 17:17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
Therefore the Apostle Paul preached throughout the city.
That word “disputed” would mean that Paul reasoned with these people and had discussions with them about the gospel of the Lord Jesus.
The Apostle Paul found a great mixture of people here in Athens.
He found Jews who were not worshipping as they should.
He found devout persons which were probably proselytes who were trying to worship in the Jewish way.
And he found those at the marketplace who were caught up in the immoral practices and the idolatry of the city of Athens.
The marketplace was not only a place were provisions were sold, but it was also a great place for philosophers to gather and engage the public in discussion.
*****Act 17:18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
The definition of philosophy is: “the love of human wisdom”!
I believe it can be said that humans have no wisdom until they know God!
Most of the world would dispute this saying but the Bible says:
Pro 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
Psa 19:9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
Psa 19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Are there smart people in the world, sure.
But being smart and having an education does not by itself make us wise!
Wisdom is taking the knowledge that we have and the understanding that we have, and making sound judgments while avoiding evils but attempting good things.
1Co 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
1Co 3:20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
God says the wisdom of this world is foolishness!
Like all philosophers of that day the Epicureans and the Stoicks had an evolutionary worldview!
The Epicureans were essentially atheists like the modern Darwinist!
The Stoics were pantheist much like the New Age evolutionist movement of our day!
Both of these groups believed in an infinitely old universe and both rejected the concept of an Omnipotent Creator.
They used astrology, spiritualism, associated with many gods and goddesses, who they identified as persons controlling nature, and the natural systems of this Earth.
They would strongly oppose biblical creationist and therefore Christianity!
Jesus would not be considered to them as the only true God!
*****Act 17:19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
Act 17:20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
Act 17:21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)
Having never heard the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ it was still some new thing to them and they wanted to hear this “new age” concept that was unknown to them.
This world is always trying to find some “New Age” philosophy to rule in their lives but God teaches us with these words:
Jer 6:16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the “old paths”, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
And just as these in the Book of Jeremiah, the Old Path was rejected for the New Age movement which brought failure to the nation of Israel.
*****Act 17:22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
Mars Hill is the same as Areopagus.
This hill which was near the Acropolis was used as a gathering place to evaluate your religious views or some new immoral philosophies.
“Ares” was the Greek God of war, corresponding to “Mars” who was the Roman God of war.
These “Athenians” worshipped the great number of gods and goddesses.
So what was religious to the Greeks was actually superstitious to the apostle Paul!
It is a sad note that these people attributed the forces of nature to some imaginary god!
This is why the Bible teaches us that the education of man is foolishness in the eyes of God.
It is only when we understand and accept Creation as explained in the book of Genesis, that we can actually understand the forces of nature in this world we live in.
*****Act 17:23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
There are too many reports that are known that say, “there was actually altar to an unknown God in first century Greece!
But it has also been shown that “many polytheistic cultures do retain a dim remembrance of a high God”, who was much greater and much more powerful than those they worship that day.
They just refuse and reject this truth!
Let’s remember what Jesus told that Samaritan woman at the well:
Joh 4:22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
Joh 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
Joh 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
There was a desire for these Greeks to seek out God, that they knew nothing about and who was the true God.
Jesus brought the knowledge of God to the Samaritan woman.
The Apostle Peter brought the knowledge of God to Cornelius who was a Roman.
The Apostle Paul was now bringing the knowledge of the true God to those in Greece.
And many a missionary are sent to bring the knowledge of God to the uttermost parts of this Earth even today!
That is what a Christian is to do, to bring the knowledge of the Triune God to the world. It is this God who then must bring conviction and results.
*****Act 17:24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
Paul said this is the God that I bring to you today, the Creator of all the Earth!
Paul said, the city of Athens may be filled with many beautiful temples, many monuments, and many images, but the true God is the Lord of Heaven and Earth and He will not ever dwell in anything made by the hands of man.
Skip to verse 28:
*****Act 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
The Apostle Paul said, it is the God of Creation that sustains the life of every person.
The same God of Creation even sustains those who do not believe that He exists.
But He is certainly not very far from each and every one of us!
Col 1:17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
*****Act 17:29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.
The Apostle Paul says that since we are all the offspring of God, then we cannot believe that our Creator can be man-made.
The God of Heaven and Earth has revealed Himself as, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
This is to Tri-Une God!
And He can never be represented by any image or any model which man can make either with his hands, or in his mind.
God has given us His model “of the Godhead” in His Creation!
Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
And God says there is no excuse for not seeing these things!
*****Act 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Act 17:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. Act 17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
God has revealed Himself not only in His creation but also in the Virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the death of, the burial of, and the resurrection of Jesus.
Is this God who created all men who can then be the “only” Judge of His creation.
Paul points out that the founders and the leaders of all the religions and all other philosophies eventually die BUT the Lord Jesus Christ is alive today!
His tomb is empty.
He has a resurrected body.
And He has ascended back to the Father in Heaven.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is a fact!
It was witnessed by more than 500 people!
And there are many in fallible proofs!
And just as most of the world does today these people mocked at the truth!
There are many today that believe in the Creator, but they reject that He is also the Redeemer!
*****Act 17:33 So Paul departed from among them.
Act 17:34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
God does not send us out to dispute with those that we witness to in this the world!
Our job is to teach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and in doing this we sometimes have to teach Creation just as it is written in the Book of Genesis.
But no matter which way we start with, we must always to go to the Cross.
And there will always be some who believe!
These that believe are the only reason that God has not returned to take us home.
When is the Lord going to return to take us home?
As soon as that last soul that God already knows about is saved!