Text: Acts 17:1-10
Christ into the City, Part 4: Thessalonica
Big Idea: When we bring the good news of Christ into the city, success often comes hand in hand with hostility.
I. SUCCESS can be expected when Christ is shared clearly with open-minded people. 1-4
A. The content of our faith: the good news of Jesus Christ 1-3
1 Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”
1. Paul reasoned from a common source with the Jews: the Scriptures
a. Scriptures taught that the coming Messiah would have to suffer (cf. Isa 53, Psalm 22:1, etc.)
b. Scriptures taught that the coming Messiah would have to rise from the dead. (cf. Psalm 16:10 For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.)
2. Paul asserted that this very same Jesus that he preached was indeed THE Messiah predicted in the Jewish Scriptures
B. Many, diverse people were converted to faith in Jesus 4a
4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.
1. They were persuaded by Paul’s logic and reason = The belief (“persuasion”) that Jesus is one’s Messiah; one’s Savior from sin is in itself the essence of saving faith. Note: this was not an emotion-based faith, or one of religious performance. It is simply the state of being personally convinced of the nature and trustworthiness of the Word of God concerning His Son, Jesus Christ.
2. They joined themselves to Paul (!) = The allegiances of those who believed in Christ Jesus were suddenly changed, and they gladly declared their loyalty and friendship with the person who had brought them the wonderful good news that saved them–Paul.
“them” = the Jews of the synagogue
“God-fearing Greeks” = Greek citizens who worshiped in the synagogue, but had not formally joined the Jewish religion, which would have required adherence to the Mosaic Law, including circumcision, kosher diet, etc.
“a number of the leading women” = It is a challenge to describe the degree of power and authority exercised by these particular women in Thessalonica. The loss of such worshipers would have to have been perceived as a terrible blow to the health and popularity of the synagogue in Thessalonica.
FF Bruce: “If Macedonia produced perhaps the most competent group of men the world had yet seen, the women were in all respects the men’s counterparts; they played a large part in affairs, received envoys and obtained concessions for them from their husbands, built temples, founded cities, engaged mercenaries, commanded armies, held fortresses, and acted on occasion as regents or even co-rulers.”
II. The success of our faith often provokes HOSTILITY from those who reject it 5-10
A. As with the synagogue leaders, Jealousy is often the motivator when believers are persecuted 5a
5 But the Jews, becoming jealous = They felt that Paul’s success was their loss, as many prominent attenders and members allied themselves to the gospel, and Paul, rather than the synagogue.
1. They hired trouble-makers…
and taking along some wicked men from the market place, = these were troublemakers who routinely loitered around the marketplace, and were available for hire to harass political opponents.
2. They gathered a mob…
formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. = the mob sought to impose its own discipline on Paul, but not finding him there, the crowds settled for Jason, and decided to drag him before the civil leaders of the city.
C. Misrepresentation… 6-9
6 When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; 7 and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. = To accuse someone of “turning the world upside down” was to accuse them of sedition—a particularly relevant and dangerous accusation at that particular time, just a couple years after Claudius had expelled the Jews from Rome over the (allegedly) seditious activities of a “Chrestus.” While Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica was overtly concerned with preaching and teaching of the imminent return of Jesus Christ to the earth, it was NOT a politically driven one of attack on the government, or Caesar.
D. Marginalization: Financial mistreatment removal from the public square, expulsion from the city
9 And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them. 10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, = levying a bond on Jason and others to insure that Paul would soon leave town, the city-rulers imposed an arbitrary, expedient decision to keep the peace of their city. The result? Paul could no longer teach or lead the Thessalonian church, and the precedent was set that this new (apparently) Jewish sect that worshiped the crucified Jew from Nazareth did NOT receive the blessings of the local government!
CONCLUSION: So, what does this passage have to say about Grace Bible Church today, in Portland, Oregon, 2013?
In the same way that the gospel of Jesus came to Thessalonica 2,000 years ago, and comes to a city today…
1. We should not be surprised when people believe the gospel—they will, by the grace of God!
2. We should not be shocked or devastated when people are hostile to the gospel—and some will be hostile to it!
3. We must boldly and clearly share the gospel if we expect to see people accept the gospel—and they will accept it!