Acts 17:5-15

Sunday Morning Bible Study

June 7, 1998

Announce: Leadership class


After having been humiliated, beaten, and then run out of town in Philippi, Paul and his outreach team have landed in Thessalonica. Thessalonica was the most important city of the area, being the capital of all Macedonia. It had a Jewish synagogue, and Paul began his ministry by preaching there first, where quite a few people came to the Lord.

:5-9 Trouble in Thessalonica

:5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy,

which believed not Ė or, literally, "were un-persuaded". A couple of weeks ago we mentioned that when Paul shared in the synagogue, some of the Jews were "persuaded" (King James, "believed").

moved with envy Ė zeloo Ė to burn with zeal; to boil with envy, hatred, anger

Keep in mind that with the persecution thatís going to hit, it all starts here. Youíre going to hear lots of different arguments being put forth by these people, but the bottom line is envy. This is just what happened to Paul in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:44-45).


The danger of envy.

Itís sad, but sometimes this even happens in the church.

It seems that sometimes when God is working in a particular church, that other churches will start being critical, looking to find excuses why this church is growing, and theirs isnít.

I had a brother share with me a few weeks ago how at one point in his life he was going to a particular denominational church in West Covina, and was invited by a friend to visit his church. When he showed up at what was then Calvary Chapel of West Covina (now Calvary Chapel Golden Springs), he was blown away by how God was working in such unconventional ways. There were so many people coming to know the Lord that every three weeks, more people became Christians than were in his own church. And there came a time when the pastor of his church preached on the evils of Calvary Chapel.

From those that are envious, youíll hear things like, "they must water down the gospel", or "theyíre just appealing to the flesh", or "we believe in quality, not quantity". Donít misunderstand me. Sometimes this is indeed the case. But sometimes I get a little concerned when I start hearing some of these things coming from Calvary Chapels. I know Iím on sensitive ground here, but if people are truly coming to know the Lord, shouldnít we be excited? I know that some people are critical of churches like Saddleback Community Church, that have exploded in recent years. But when I hear that of their 5,000 members, that 4,000 came to know Christ through the ministry at Saddleback, Iím pretty excited. It doesnít mean we have to copy their methods or style, but we should rejoice that the gospel is being preached.

Paul said,

(Phil 1:15-18 NLT) Some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. {16} They preach because they love me, for they know the Lord brought me here to defend the Good News. {17} Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. {18} But whether or not their motives are pure, the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.

:5 took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort

or, literally, "wicked men of the market"

You have to wonder about a "religious" personís value system when they resort to this kind of thing.

:5 and assaulted the house of Jason,

Jason Ė apparently, Jason was Paulís host.

:6 they drew Jason

drew Ė suro Ė to draw, drag; of one before the judge, to prison, to punishment

:6 that have turned the world upside down

the world Ė oikoumene Ė the inhabited earth

turned Ö upside down Ė anastatoo Ė to stir up, excite, unsettle

NIV Ė caused trouble all over the world; NAS Ė upset the world

Considering that Thessalonica is only the second city in Europe to hear the gospel, this is a bit of an exaggeration. But in a way, itís quite a compliment too. What does the world say about us?

:7 these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar

do Ė prasso Ė to exercise, practice, to be busy with. Itís a present tense, a continuous practicing.

contrary Ė apenanti Ė over against, opposite; in opposition to

decrees Ė dogma Ė doctrine, decree, ordinance; itís used of certain decrees of the apostles relative to right living, but here, itís "Caesarís decrees for right living".

Paul was charged with "continually practicing the opposite of Caesarís decrees for right living".

In a way, this is totally bogus. There was nothing political about Paulís message. But in a way, itís true. They were preaching about another king. In a way, you could say that these men were willing to live opposite from the decrees of the world. They were willing to "go against the grain".


Go against the grain.

The world is on a fast track downhill. Some of us like to play with the things of the world, and itís kind of like riding a cool roller coaster. Thereís lots of thrills, ups and downs, lots of fun. But while weíre having so much fun, we donít realize that weíre headed for a gigantic drop, from which thereís not coming back up.

Movies - The summer movie season is always lots of fun, going to see the latest block busters. But Iím concerned where the movies are heading. Iím concerned when this yearís top movie romanticized premarital sex, contained nudity, and though it was over three hours long, it has grossed over a billion dollars. Iím concerned when Iíve heard of young girls who have seen the movie three or four times. Am I old fashioned? Am I legalistic? What if your daughter, sister, son, or brother became so enamored with somebody that they become involved and then thereís a pregnancy? Is it a big deal now? I like the movies as much as the next guy. I hate it when I want to take my family to the movies, and thereís nothing showing thatís clean and decent. But I need to go against the grain.

Music Ö ? I was going to talk for a moment about the top music of today, and the contents of the lyrics. But when I logged onto the Internet to search for the stuff, the first site I clicked on was blocked by my Internet service, Integrity Online, indicating that there was something I shouldnít be looking at on it. The first site! The amount of bad stuff on the Internet thatís open to anyone with a computer and a modem is incredible. If the Internet doesnít get regulated anytime soon, I believe our country is headed for a great disaster. It doesnít even have to be any direct judgment by God. Our families will self-destruct as men go off into their fantasy worlds, and then leave their wives in search of fulfillment. If youíre connected to the Internet, and havenít done anything to protect yourself or your family, please do it before itís too late. Go against the grain.

Violence - A few weeks ago, another teenager went berserk, killing his parents, then going to school and spraying bullets at the lunch crowd, killing at least two students and wounding 17 others. The young man was known for stuffing firecrackers down gopher holes, setting off firecrackers in catsí mouths, and making pipe bombs. His parents knew he had problems, had him in counseling, and had him taking Prozac. And they took other steps too. When he was caught throwing rocks at cars from an overpass, and toilet papering a house with friends, his parents took away his guns. Even though his parents were against guns, they had given in to their sonís constant badgering and finally bought him a .22 rifle, followed by more and more guns. When he told a friend, "If I ever get really mad, Iíd go and hit the cafeteria with my .22, I have lots more rounds for my .22 than my 9, and Iíll save one for myself", his friend just shrugged it off and said, "Sure". Springfield Schools Superintendent Jamon Kent said Friday, "Teachers considered him an average, everyday kid. If we detained every student who said Iím going to kill someone, we would have a large number of students detained." So does this mean itís okay for kids to be thinking theyíre going to kill people? This shouldnít be normal for us. Go against the grain.

Any old dead fish can swim down stream. It takes a live one to swim upstream.

:7 saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

This is the whole point. There is another king.


Follow the other King.

Is Jesus just somebody you talk to on Sundays? Or is He the Lord of your entire life?

Someone has said, "If Jesus isnít Lord of all your life, then Heís not Lord at all".

:9 taken security of Jason

The rulers most likely made a demand of Jason that he see that Paul leave town and not return. The money was probably like a bond that would be returned if Paul left.

Note: Church history tells us that the church started with Paulís three week visit lasted some eight hundred years.

:10-15 The Bereans

:10 unto Berea

Berea is about 50 miles west of Thessalonica, on the eastern slopes of the Olympus mountain range. It is one of the oldest towns in the world, with a history dating back to the 6th century BC. Today, there is still a city there, called Veroia (or, Veria), with a population of around 50,000 people. Since much of the modern city has been continually occupied, much of the ancient city has been destroyed, and yet one of the areas where the ancient city is still intact is the "Jewish quarters". There are 48 Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches in Veria, some of them dating back to the 11th century, which is amazing considering a hundred years ago, there were only 6,000 people living there (Robertson).

One of the interesting things I came across was a picture of a "Medusa head" that originally was mounted on the northeast gate of the outer wall around the city, as a kind of warning against would be attackers. It dates back to the 2nd century BC, which means that Paul probably saw it on his way into the city.

Web resources Ė

Archeological Museum of Veroia Ė

Veria, Byzantine City Ė

:10 who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.

You kind of get the idea that these guys are hooked on ministry.

In Philippi they were publicly humiliated, stripped naked, beaten with rods, and then thrown into a stinking prison.

In Thessalonica, after what seems to be only three weeks of ministry, another city is thrown into turmoil, and they escape with their lives in the middle of the night.

And now, as soon as they arrive in Berea, they go straight to the synagogue of the Jews to begin preaching.


Donít stop.

Itís easy to get discouraged and want to quit. But Paul just moved on to the next city and kept going.

: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.

more noble Ė eugenes Ė well born, of a noble family; noble minded; this is a "comparative" version (eugenesteroi) , meaning not just "well born" but "more well born".

readiness of mind Ė prothumia Ė zeal, spirit, eagerness; inclination, readiness of mind, "rushing forward"

searched Ė anakrino Ė examine or judge; to investigate, scrutinize, to sift up and down, make careful and exact research as in legal processes.


Be a Berean.

Thereís a couple of qualities that made these Bereans to be more "noble" than the folks in Thessalonica.

1) Hunger for the word. ("readiness of mind")

The Bereans had an eagerness when it came to the Word of God. They couldnít wait to open their Bibles. They brought their Bibles to church. They took notes. They talked about the Bible. They were excited about hearing what God would have for them.

(Psa 119:103 KJV) How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

2) Base it on the Scriptures. ("searched the scriptures")

The Bereans made their decisions of what was right and wrong based on the Scriptures.

Godís Word is what we need to stay on track:

2 Tim 3:16-17 (NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Itís by staying grounded in the Word of God that we keep from being blown around by every new teaching that comes by:

Eph 4:14-15 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; {15} But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Godís Word is the light to show us which path to take:

(Psa 119:105 KJV) Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

3) Daily in the Word.

The last distinguishing characteristic of the Bereans was that they didnít get into the Word just once a week, but EVERY day!

Weíve often seen the parallel between staying in the Word on a daily basis, and how God fed the Israelites with manna in the wilderness. When the people complained about their lack of food, God gave a frost each morning that would leave a crusty thing the people called manna.

Exo 16:16-21 This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. {17} And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. {18} And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. {19} And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. {20} Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. {21} And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.

Parallels Ė

Everyone had to collect their own manna. You couldnít have somebody else collect it for you. If you donít collect it, you donít eat. Only you can receive what God wants to give to you.

Only fresh manna was edible. If you tried to live off of yesterdayís manna, you got to eat worms.

Bereans spend time each day in Godís Word. Go for the fresh manna.

(Deu 8:3 KJV) And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

:12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.

honourable Ė euschemon Ė of elegant figure, influential, wealthy, respectable

not a few Ė in other words, there were a lot of converts in Berea.

Lesson #1:

Godís Word bears fruit.

The result of them searching the Scriptures was that many believed.

One of the men from Berea joins Paulís team in Acts 20:4, accompanying him to Jerusalem.

One church historian recorded that Timon, one of the first seven deacons of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 6:5) became a bishop at Berea, and another church historian records that later Onesimus, the servant of Philemon, also was a bishop at Berea. In the 5th century, there is record of a Lucas being the bishop at Berea, and there is evidence of an active church even in the ninth century. How they faired during the rule of the Moslem Ottoman Empire I donít know.

But even today, there are 48 Byzantine churches, many of them hundreds of years old, in "Veria" (modern Berea), yet a hundred years ago, there were only 6,000 people living there (Robertson).

It seems to me the church flourished. And I wonder if it wasnít because of the good foundation they had from the start.

Lesson #2:

Keep sowing seeds.

Not everyone you share the gospel with is going to respond positively.

Some are going to respond like the "unpersuaded" Jews of Thessalonica, but some are going to respond like the Bereans.

Just because you donít always get a positive response, doesnít mean thereís something wrong with what youíre sharing.

Jesus told a parable of the sower and the seed (Mat. 13), and in His story, only ľ of the seed landed on good soil, producing good fruit!

:13 the Jews of Thessalonica Ö stirred up the people

stirred up Ė saleuo Ė a motion produced by winds, storms, to agitate or shake; to shake down, agitate the mind, to disturb one. The word has been used before in Acts when the earthquake in Philippi occurred, and the prison was "shaken" (Acts 16:26).

These Jews from Thessalonica come in and "shake up" the people of Berea.

:14 the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea

They got word out that they were going to put Paul on a ship probably to throw off these Thessalonian Jews who have been after Paul. But instead they sent him by land to Athens. These are pretty sharp people!

It seems that Paul is the one that draws all the attention. Heís the one with all the "negative publicity". If heís out of the city, things can quiet down a bit so Silas and Timothy can continue to minister to the people.

:15 And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens

Apparently, the church in Berea was concerned for Paulís life, and rather than just sending him off by himself, they sent an escort to take him to Athens.

:15 Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed

Athens is about 200 miles to the south of Berea.

Even if they were to make 30 miles a day, it would take a good week to get to Athens. This means that Silas and Timothy would have a couple more weeks with the folks in Berea before being called to join Paul.

Apparently, Silas and Timothy arrived in Athens, only to be immediately sent back into Macedonia, specifically we know Timothy was sent to Thessalonica (1Th.3:1-2)

Timothy and Silas will rejoin Paul when he gets to Corinth, after having stayed awhile in Athens. (Acts 18:5)