Preaching the Good News: 3 Cities, 3 Totally Different Reactions from the People

Revival, riot and rejection. That’s the continuing pattern throughout Paul’s missionary journeys. In Acts 16, he and Silas were flogged and imprisoned, but God brought on an earthquake to release them. That event won over the jailer and his whole family. If you missed that one, check it out here.

In Acts 17, which is one of my favorite chapters (and I’ll tell you why at the end), we find Paul and Silas heading to Thessalonica, then Berea and finally Paul goes by himself to Athens. What’s interesting is the different reactions in each city. Let’s dig in….

Acts 17

Ruins of the agora in Thessalonica, (CC BY 2.5)

Paul and Silas then traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people. He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.” Some of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women.

But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.”

The people of the city, as well as the city council, were thrown into turmoil by these reports. So the officials forced Jason and the other believers to post bond, and then they released them.

Here we have Jews who were jealous of the success of Paul’s ministry. So much so, that they went and dragged a guy named Jason and other believers in front of the city council. Now, this area was part of the Roman Empire. Hence, they said they were guilty of treason for professing allegiance to King Jesus rather than Caesar. Continuing….

Paul and Silas in Berea

10 That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. 12 As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.

13 But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. 14 The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15 Those escorting Paul went with him all the way to Athens; then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him.

I love the Bereans! Here we have people who were “open-minded” and eager to hear the Good News. One thing here though, they searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. We need to do that every day! We go to church, we watch or listen to messages online, on the radio and on TV. They seem to speak with authority. However, is what they’re teaching the truth?

The only way for you to be certain, is to STUDY THE BIBLE daily! Don’t just read it — study it! Go through it slowly. It’s how God talks to you! At the bottom, I have links to free Bible apps that will make it easy for you to study the bible every day. It also helps to have the Holy Spirit in your heart to help you discern (tell the difference) from false teachings and the truth. Let’s go on…

Paul Preaches in Athens

Ruins of the Agora in Athens, (CC BY 2.0)
Ruins of the Agora in Athens, (CC BY 2.0)

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. 17 He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square (forum to the Romans, in Greek, the agora) to all who happened to be there.

18 He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. When he told them about Jesus and his resurrection, they said, “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up?” Others said, “He seems to be preaching about some foreign gods.”

19 Then they took him to the high council of the city. “Come and tell us about this new teaching,” they said. 20 “You are saying some rather strange things, and we want to know what it’s all about.” 21 (It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.)

22 So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.

24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.

27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.

30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.” 33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them, 34 but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Acts 17 NLT

Paul got to them. He was telling them that the man-made idols and gods they worshiped were useless. All idolatry is useless.

It’s tough to be told that what you grew up believing all your life is false, wrong and all inventions of greedy and prideful men. You trusted your teachers, priests, bishops and even popes. Little did you know they were all lies.

Growing up Catholic

I mentioned that this was one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament. When I was doing research for my novel, I hit a roadblock. I couldn’t wrap my brain around on how the first Christians were able to convince the Gentiles, the pagans, of the need for a savior. They had no sense of right or wrong. Life revolved around man-made gods and doing what one pleased. There was a god for every natural occurrence in the world. (Read: So Many gods) The Jews were taught the meaning of atonement and they brought sacrifices to the temple to atone for their sins. When Paul says that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah who came to take away their sins once and for all, some got it and some didn’t.

Paul wrote in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians…

15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?

17 You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.

2 Corinthians 2:15-17 NLT

That’s all well and good, but it didn’t help me with my dilemma on how to reach pagans. Until I read Acts 17. That was an ah-ha moment for me and I was able to get down to writing the book.

Who Do You Relate to in this Story?

Is it…

  • Jason and his friends in Thessalonica who believed, and their faith held even while facing the council?
  • The jealous, angry Jews who were closed-minded and perishing?
  • The Bereans who were open-minded and eager to hear the Good News, yet they studied the scriptures to be sure it was the truth that they were hearing? (I pray that you’re open-minded!)
  • The Greek philosophers who thought they knew everything and Paul got to them, yet they didn’t want to hear more? (Is Pride Holding You Back?)
  • The Greeks who’s curiosity was piqued and joined Paul and believed?

In any rate…

We are all infected with the virus called “death”. The Good News is that there is a Remedy and that’s Jesus Christ!

If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, feel His Shalom — a peace that surpasses all understanding, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…

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Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

4 thoughts on “Preaching the Good News: 3 Cities, 3 Totally Different Reactions from the People”

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