Paul, Silas and Timothy continuing their missionary journeys. Spread the good news of the gospel.
At this point, on the run from Philippi, went through some smaller towns, Luke writes more of Thessalonica – capital of the province of Macedonia – biggest and most prosperous city – pop. 200,000
In Luke’s day, this was an important link between the rich interior and sea trade routes. Paul sees this as a strategic place to preach the gospel (he won’t have to preach in every town – the believers themselves will spread the word in the neighboring towns).
1 Thessalonians 1:5 – Your faith in God has become known everywhere (they evangelized the other towns).
Paul’s strategy was to teach in the largest cities of the Roman world – Corinth, Ephesus, etc, many sea ports on busy trade routes – word would carry fast.
As was Paul’s custom, he went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews for 3 Sabbaths. This was a wonderful teaching opportunity for Paul – the devout would gather to read and interpret the Scriptures (OT), and hope for the Messiah. Paul taught that Jesus was the Messiah – the one they were waiting for.
The 3 Sabbaths was just a portion of a larger campaign in Thessalonica.
1 Thess. (Laboring night and day, we taught you the word of God)
Paul was also a tent-maker – to help support himself. Sometimes churches supported him, but other times he labored and supported himself.
Later, after the first 3 Sabbaths – people started believing – success! After the first 3, he likely wasn’t allowed to teach anymore. So, as his custom was he likely went to the Gentiles next. His first converts were likely pagans and idol worshipers.
1 Thess 1:9 – they declare what manner of entry we have to you and how you turned from idols to serve the living and true God.
This is in contrast to Paul’s experience in the synagogues – background in theology and God study. In synagogues, he opened the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit enlightened them, and he taught Jesus was the Messiah and MUST rise from the dead.
He reasons, persuades, IF they would be persuaded. Many Jews would not believe that the Messiah must suffer – “he must be a glorious king and conqueror!”
There was a belief among some Jews that ONE Messiah must suffer, and the OTHER Messiah would conquer. They failed to realize that Jesus was the same one – suffered in his first coming, conquering in his second coming.
v.4 – Some were persuaded, many devout Greeks, etc.
v.5 – Unbelieving Jews grew envious! That church is stealing members from OUR church! So, they acted in a hostile manner toward Paul and his group. So, they got some low-lifes to stir up trouble, riot, and attacked Jason (a convert)’s house.
They didn’t find Paul, so they dragged Jason out and accused him. “They caused trouble ALL OVER the WHOLE world!!!” Jason harbored them, and this is in opposition to the decrees of Caesar that there is another king – Jesus – pah!
That kind of thing COULD result in execution – and the Thessalonica leaders were likely aware of the trouble that had recently taken place in Rome.
There was continuous tumult when Claudius rules – edict of 49-50 – sought to exile ALL the Jews from Rome.
So, these Jews are obviously playing on the fear of similar riots taking place in that city. They also put a political twist on it “another king” – not literally, but technically. The Jews were just trying to put a political slant on this so that they would have more leverage.
The leaders are thrown into confusion, they don’t want riots – like in Rome – but they likely also see through the plot of the Jews (probably recognize the trouble-makers, and the “leaders” Paul and Silas aren’t anywhere to be seen).
So, they gave a moderate punishment – just made them post bond. Paul and Silas should leave, and not come back during the term of those magistrates.
After that, at night, the disciples hurry Paul out to Berea. Hasty and humiliating departure.
Damascus, Jerusalem, …, Listra (Acts 9-13)
Takes Paul 3 days to reach the town.
Berea is an “out-of-the-way” place, no real politic significance.
But this time, when teaching, he receives an unusually warm reception. They were of noble character, they received the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Double checking the minister’s preaching)
Many Jews in Berea believed the gospel. The converted Gentiles were prominent, high-class, not rabble. But guess what? Those same Jews from before, came back, stirring up crowds in a different city. Awesome.
So, Paul headed out to the coast. He ended up in Athens. Silas and Timothy remain in Berea – Paul gives instructions that they should rejoin him ASAP.
Paul 1 Thess 3:1 – Therefore, when we could no longer endure it (absence, lack of communication), we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and send Timothy, our brother, minister, believer, to establish and encourage you concerning your faith. (Remember Timothy is a half-Jew).
Important to read 1, 2 Thess along with this portion of Acts in order to see Paul’s love and concern for the Thessalonians.
The thing that got him in trouble was the idea that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise from the dead. That Jesus, a “common criminal” was crucified in an ugly way – was supposed to be their Messiah, was a scandal to the Jews.
Remember Paul WAS of that same mindset before he MET Jesus.
So, what were some Scriptures that Paul used as he reasoned with the synagogue?
“This Jesus is the Christ.”
Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 – prophecies about the death. Psalm 22, predicts numerous SEPARATE elements – written 1000 years earlier
22:16 – hands and feet pierced
John 20:25 – Jesus has appeared, explaining to Thomas about the Messiah – hands and feet – holes and imprints
Ps.22:17, 34:20 – his bones will not be broken
Usually, someone’s bones would be broken (legs) to speed up his death
John 19:32-33 – soldiers broke ALL the legs EXCEPT Jesus’ – hmmm… curious
Numbers 9:12 – Passover, leave none of it until morning, nor break a bone of it
Prophecy, and foreshadowing of Jesus
Because of the death of the lamb (Lamb of God) God’s judgment would pass over those who believed
Ps. 22:18 – they would cast lots for his clothes
Matt. 27:5 – when they crucified him, they divided his garments, casting lots
Isa.53 – CLASSIC Messianic prophecy – the suffering servant – details his death for his people
Isa. 53:3 – despised and rejected by men, we hid our faces from Him
Luke 13:34 – Jesus, laments the fact that he was not well received – “Oh, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets, how often I wanted to gather your children together, but you wouldn’t have it. Your house is desolate and you won’t see me again until the second coming.”
Isa. 53:5-9: He was wounded, pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our sins, the punishment of ours fell on his and by his stripes we are healed.
He is the substitute for us, he bore our sin, our punishment so that we could be forgiven
Paul “He made Jesus, who knew no sin, to BE sin, so that when God sees us he sees us IN Jesus – we are included in him”
The Messiah will be silent in front of his accusers.
Isa 53 – “Like a lamb led to slaughter, and a sheep that is silent before is shearers, he didn’t utter a sound
1 Peter – While being reviled, he did not revile, while suffered, he uttered no threat, but TRUSTED himself to the one who judges justly.
Ps. “You will not abandon me to the grave or allow your Holy One to see decay”
In Peter’s first sermon, he boldly (quite a transition from his earlier timidity) proclaimed that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Acts 2
Acts 16:10 – referencing “Holy One = no corruption” – Paul
Isa 53:10 – Lord was pleased to crush him, putting himself to grief,…prolong his days, see his offspring (resurrection)
Hebrews 12:2 – why go through the suffering? “Who for the JOY set before him, despising the shame, set down at the right hand of God.” He is continuing His ministry as our great High Priest. The resurrection makes ALL the difference between a mere martyr dying for a cause and the God man, dying for his people’s eternal life.
Have we accepted Jesus as the Messiah?
Illustration: Ediborough? in Scotland – many windows display art paintings attracting the eye of people passing by. Gazed extensively at a crucifixion picture – he hadn’t thought thoughts like that in a VERY long time, but the artist’s portrayal brought back the long forgotten truths.
Suddenly, he became aware of a small boy by his side
Boy “That’s Jesus, they nailed him with thorns, killed him, he was good, died for us, that’s his mother, looking at what they did to him…Died for our sins, buried him yonder.”
Man – it was too real, turned away.
Boy followed him, “I forgot to tell you!! He ROSE AGAIN!”
Maybe you haven’t come to know that REAL hope, maybe some things in life have rendered that hope vain. But the gospel is good news for everyone, backsliders, sinners, devout holy men.
St. Paul’s Cathedral was built on a site of an earlier cathedral that was burned in the great fire of London
As the architect wandered among the debris, he found a stone that said in Latin “I will rise again.”
If we fail, God gives us the opportunity to rise again.