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Bible Commentaries

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

Acts 17

 

 

Verses 1-10

Preaching in Thessalonica

Luke did not tell Theophilus why Paul passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia. He did explain that the next stop on this second missionary tour was Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. As was his habit, Paul went to the synagogue for three consecutive Sabbath days to reason with the Jews. The very idea of a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block to the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:23), but Paul argued from the prophets that such was precisely what God had foretold (Isaiah 53:1-12). He further established that God had planned and accomplished Jesus" resurrection from the dead and made Him King over His people (Acts 2:22-36; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The scriptural evidence was supported by the miracles worked by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

During Paul"s three weeks teaching in the synagogue, he and Silas worked with their own hands to support themselves (1 Thessalonians 2:9). Philippians 4:16 also tells us the apostle received support from the brethren in Philippi on at least two occasions. The combination of scriptural preaching, miracles and the apostle"s obvious commitment to reach the lost had its desired effect as some Jews, Greeks who worshipped God and prominent women from the community obeyed the gospel (Acts 17:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 1:9).

These events, somewhat naturally, moved the unbelieving Jews to jealousy. They enlisted the aid of some "vile fellows of the rabble" and stirred up a mob to go to Jason"s house and bring Paul and Silas out. When they could not find the two missionaries, the mob dragged Jason and some brethren before the rulers of the city. They accused Paul and Silas of being part of the number who turned the world upside down and teaching that Jesus was King. The rulers thought the matter serious enough to require security, perhaps like a property bond, of Jason and the others, warning them that it would be forfeited if any further disturbance occurred. Under these difficult conditions, Paul and Silas were sent away by night to Berea, some 60 miles away (Acts 17:5-10 a).


Verses 10-15

Preaching in Berea

Paul and Silas immediately entered the synagogue to teach. Rather than base their decisions on the traditional teachings of man, the Bereans carefully examined the word of God to determine the truthfulness of the teachings they heard. The result was that many Jews believed the gospel along with honorable Greek women and not a few men. Unfortunately, this once again stirred jealousy among the unbelieving Jews of Thessalonica who journeyed to Berea and stirred up the multitudes. Some brethren escorted Paul safely to the sea while Silas and Timothy continued at Berea. The brethren journeyed on to Athens with Paul and were asked by the apostle to send Silas and Timothy as soon as possible (Acts 17:10 b-15).


Verses 16-21

Paul and the Athenian Philosophers

While he waited, Paul apparently toured the city and discovered it was totally given over to idolatry. This provoked, or one might say angered, him. He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and devout Greeks of the city. He also discussed the gospel with those he met in the marketplace. This drew the attention of certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, some of whom decided they wanted what the "babbler" had to say, while others thought he was talking about foreign gods.

They did take hold of the apostle in a non-threatening way and brought him to the Areopagus, or Mars Hill, to present his new philosophy. Coffman notes that Mars was the mythical god of war. One story had it that he was tried on Mars Hill for the murder of one of Neptune"s sons. Interestingly, a messenger for the true Prince of Peace was placed in that spot so that curious philosophers might hear something new (Acts 17:16-21).


Verses 22-34

Paul"s Sermon on Mars Hill

The apostle began his sermon by noting that they were very religious, worshipping idols devoted to all types of gods, even an unknown God. Paul seized upon their recognition of their own potentially limited knowledge and began to tell them about the true God. Rather than there being a series of gods, each over some small element of the universe, there is one God who created and rules over all! The Creator is not confined to some building made by men, nor did He need men"s worship. In fact, Paul stated that all beings and all things are sustained by His power.

Paul further declared that the God of heaven had made all the various nationalities. He worked within them in precisely the way and at precisely the time He planned. The apostle to the Gentiles explained that this Divinely controlled ebb and flow of history was used by God to encourage men to seek him. Yet, the supreme God is always near since we live in him, move in him and depend upon him for our very existence. Paul noted that one of their own poets said men are God"s offspring, so God cannot be stone but must be alive just as his children are alive.

Paul then boldly stated that God would no longer overlook the ignorant worship of men. Instead, He demanded that they turn from their ignorance and serve him. Paul saw such repentance as especially important since a day of judgment had been set aside by the Divine Planner. In that day, the resurrected Lord will rightly judge all men, which fact is confirmed by his resurrection from the dead. While some of Paul"s listeners mocked his words, others wanted to hear more. A few actually were moved to obey the gospel (Acts 17:22-34).

 


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Bibliography Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Acts 17:4". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ghc/acts-17.html. 2014.

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