I spent a large part of today preparing to teach my second grade Sunday School class this coming Sunday. It is the first meeting of the new year. It is hard to believe that it is already 2017. I am excited to teach the New Testament this semester. We are starting midway through Acts. Last year, we went through the entire Bible in one year. It was a neat 3,000 foot view of the Bible, learning that it is all about Jesus. This week, we are going to examine Acts 17:1-15.
I. Paul presents Christ in the Scriptures
The Apostle Paul was on his second missionary journey, being led by the Holy Spirit. He had just been in Philippi and planted a church there with two families. Lidia accepted Christ and then had Paul share with her entire household. After being thrown in prison for casting out a demon from a fortune telling slave girl, Paul shared with the head jailer and he accepted Christ. Then, the head jailer took Paul to his own home and his entire household accepted Christ. Now, Paul is in Thessalonica.
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.”
Paul had a plan while he was on his mission. Being led by the Holy Spirit to make disciples involves planning and working according to that plan. When Paul entered a new city, he always looked for fellow Jews. In Philippi, there were not enough Jewish men to have a synagogue so the few Jews who were there were meeting to pray by the river. Paul found them and did Bible study with them from the Old Testament. In Thessalonica, there were plenty of Jews and they met on the Sabbath in a synagogue. Paul found them and for three straight Saturdays, Paul met with them and did Bible study, explaining the Scriptures.
We will take a look at the people’s response in a moment. After leaving Thessalonica, Paul found himself in Berea.
10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.
Once again, Paul follows his same plan, finding a synagogue and meeting with the Jews, teaching Jesus Christ from the Scriptures. This is a great plan for discipleship. Find people who are searching for God. Meet them where they are. Study the Scriptures with them, presenting Christ from the Scriptures. This is a fulfillment of the Great Commission given to all followers of Jesus Christ. Do you meet with people on a regular basis to explain Christ from the Scriptures? Do you plan ways to meet people in your own culture and teach them the Word of God?
II. People’s reaction to the Gospel
There are two reactions mentioned in Acts 17. In 17 years of ministry, I have seen many responses but these two are common.
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.
Some of the people who were present in the synagogue over that three week period of studying the Scriptures came to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. There were Jews who accepted Christ as well as Gentiles who were searching for God. Paul’s job was to present Christ in the Scriptures and then the Holy Spirit convinced them of the Truth. This is the reaction that we want to see. It is not the only reaction but it is a reaction. In order for this reaction to take place, people need to come face to face with Christ through the Scriptures. Now, let’s turn our attention to the second reaction.
5 But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, 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.
As we see in the Scriptures, the Word of God rebukes us which means that He shows us where we are wrong in our thinking, our beliefs, and our actions. Our sin nature does not like to be rebuked and usually protests. They could not refute the message so they attacked the messenger. This is what Jesus told His disciples would happen when we proclaim the Gospel. The leaders were jealous of Paul and wanted to stop him so they stirred up a riot and blamed it on Paul. This is a negative reaction that we must realize will happen. Paul does not lose heart. He continues to proclaim Christ in the Scriptures. It gets so bad that Paul has to flee to Berea. In Berea, he follows his same plan and teaches in the synagogue. The reaction is very positive.
11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
12 Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.
Paul ended up meeting with the Bereans on a daily basis. These people received the Word of God with great eagerness. Many among them believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, both Jews and Gentiles. The jealous Jews from Thessalonica found out about the Bereans and Paul’s work among them. They traveled to Berea and stirred the people up once again to oppress the messenger since they could not refute the message that Paul proclaimed from the Scriptures. Paul fled Berea and went to Athens to share the Gospel with the people there. Persecution existed to stop the furtherance of the Gospel and it ended up being the fuel that spread the Gospel. God promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him. We see this clearly in the life of Paul on his second missionary journey.
III. Genuine discipleship in action
In the Great Commission, Jesus told His disciples to disciple others by proclaiming the Gospel and then teaching the new disciples to study, understand, and apply the Word of God. In Acts 2, the disciples carry out this command perfectly. Once people accepted the Gospel, they met with the disciples daily to study the Scriptures and to pray together. In Acts 17, we see the believers in Berea meeting together daily to examine the Scriptures. Paul was carrying out the Great Commission by making disciples everywhere he went. As a result, churches were formed and established and those churches began to make more disciples and plant other churches. Even when Paul was not present with the believers, he continued to encourage them to grow in their faith by studying the Scriptures. He wrote letters to these churches to continue teaching them to observe the Word of God so that they could understand and apply. It worked. One of the churches planted by Paul, the church in Ephesus, went on to plant 6 other churches that we know of in the Scriptures. The Thessalonians who had come to Christ spread the message of the Gospel to all of Asia Minor by repeating the process of making disciples. Are you a genuine disciple of Christ? Do you meet with other believers to study, understand, and apply the Scriptures? Are you and the people with whom you meet working together to make more disciples?
May the Lord help us be like the Bereans, examining the Scriptures daily so that we can understand and apply them in the process of making more disciples!