Can you name a way that God evaluates believers? Listen to this lesson to learn that God is looking for faithfulness. All believers in the Church Age have a spiritual gift which is designed to function in the local church, in our homes, and in the workplace. Find out how the Apostle Paul saw his ministry and how he first took the gospel to the Jews in the synagogues. See that he met hostility many times which led to riots and danger and suffering. Understand the role of persuasion in presenting the gospel. As we live our lives in the devil’s world, see that it demands spiritual courage as we learn the Word and walk by the Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 2:1–2
1 Thessalonians Lesson #024
October 29, 2015
“Father, it’s a great privilege we have to come together before Your Throne of Grace and to ask Your guidance and direction on our time fellowshipping together in the study of Your Word, focusing on what You have revealed to us. We know that it has been revealed to us through the agency of God the Holy Spirit and the human authors to teach us, to challenge us, to rebuke us in areas of wrong thinking and to put us on the correct paths of righteousness.
Father, we pray that You would open our eyes to the truth of Your Word and challenge us with what we study today. Father, we also continue to pray for our nation. We pray for godly leaders, leaders who understand and know Your Word and who will have the courage of their convictions to step out and to lead us, both in terms of local politics, as well as in state and federal politics.
We are desperately in need of insightful leaders who have the boldness, who have the courage to take a stand and to lead us out of the morass that we’ve been in as a result of years of secular humanism, years of relative moralism, and years of rejection of Your Word. The only hope we have as a nation is through Your grace changing things and turning us around.
Father, we pray that You would help us to focus and think through what we are studying in this class. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re continuing our study in 1 Thessalonians and we are now in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2. In the first chapter we focused on a number of things but primarily we took time to focus on the spiritual skills that have been given to us in the pages of Scripture.
These ten spiritual skills are basically a summary of the different ways God has provided for every believer in the Church Age to live and to surmount problems and challenges and difficulties that we have in this life. The greatest challenges we have are still fighting the three basic enemies that are set forth in Scripture.
The first is the devil, Satan. Satan is, as Hal Lindsey put it in the title of his book, alive and well on planet earth. 1 Peter 5 says that “he goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”. He is the archenemy of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ and of every single believer walking on the face of this earth.
Satan’s thinking, the kind of thinking that energized his rebellion against God, focuses on two things. It focuses on his own pride, his own arrogance, his own self-will, asserting it over against the self-will of God. On the other hand, it also focuses on his antagonism against God. If you like alliteration, it’s arrogance and antagonism.
The thought systems that are built upon arrogance and antagonism are the primary thought systems of the world: human philosophies, human religions, whether they’re secular atheism or involved in the high ritual of Roman Catholic theology that is divorced from the Scripture or whether it’s involved in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, or Mormonism.
These are all systems of thought based on number one, arrogance. They emphasize human ability to somehow solve problems, to solve the basic problem of sin in the life and to somehow impress God with their basic goodness. They’re grounded on arrogance and also grounded on antagonism that is antagonism to the Word of God and antagonism to the truth of Scripture.
Every one of these systems either overtly or covertly rejects the Scripture and the sixty-six books of the Bible as the Word of God. That’s thirty-nine Old Testament books and twenty-seven New Testament books. They either overtly reject that or covertly reject it. You often have cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and several others who come along and say, “Well we think that’s the Bible, but we’ve got a newer version. We’ve got a corrected version and a better version.”
They always, say “yes, but”. With that “but” they sacrifice and they minimize and they show disrespect for the Word of God. This is the environment in which Christians live and exercise. This is where we have our lives. We’re living in these systems of thought.
The Bible describes all of these various systems of thought that are grounded upon arrogance and antagonism as the world system. There are many different manifestations of the world system. You have manifestations in the world system in these religions I’ve just mentioned but also in philosophies.
You have all kinds of philosophies now after thousands of years of human intellectual activity. Basically we summarize them as rationalistic philosophies that think that the human mind is capable of understanding all of the breadth and width and complexity of the universe.
We have those who reject rationalism and put their emphasis on forms of empiricism and think that the human mind is capable of correctly interpreting all data. We also have those that think that neither rationalism nor empiricism provides an answer but the answer is found in just our own intuitive ability. That’s called mysticism. It says that somehow we can get in touch with the heartbeat of an impersonal universe.
Religions all flow out of those kinds of ideas, as do world philosophies. Christians, as the Lord Jesus Christ said, are in the world. That is, we are called to minister within this framework of the cosmic system. Various cultures have been produced, whether you’re talking about the culture of India that’s produced from the religious system of Hinduism or whether you’re talking about the cultures in other Asian countries that are the result of Buddhism or whether you’re talking about African cultures based upon spiritism, animism, and other forms of polytheism. All of these different cultures have religious foundations and the cultures are a result of that.
You had the same kinds of things in the biblical world, the ancient world. You had all kinds of different philosophical systems as well as religious systems and it was into that milieu that the Apostle Paul and his companions took the Word of God, the absolute truth of the living God of the Bible. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who is called “I Am”, who has no beginning and no ending. This is the God, whose gospel, whose good news, they took to the world.
That immediately engendered a confrontation of truth against error, taking the good news of Jesus Christ into the world.
But there’s a third enemy. That third enemy the Bible calls the flesh. That’s a reference to our sin nature, which is basically oriented towards arrogance. That’s the core value of the sin nature. It’s me first. It’s all about me. It’s arrogance. It’s I am. It’s what I want. That drives the nature of every single human being.
This causes us to gravitate immediately toward areas of our comfort zone where we are also dominated by fear. Fear was the very first emotion that was expressed about the fall of Adam and Eve. Every day in the Garden of Eden the Bible says God held a Bible class for them, instructing them about this magnificent creation which He has provided for the human race. So every day God came to talk with Adam and Eve.
One day He came and He couldn’t find them. They were hiding. Of course, God knew exactly where they were. He said, “Where are you?” The reason He asked the question wasn’t to discover something He didn’t know, but to point out that they were not where they were supposed to be.
Something had changed. They were hiding from God. Adam said, “Well, we heard the sound of Your voice in the Garden and we hid because we were afraid.”
Fear is the counterpart emotion to our own arrogance. Though we’re setting ourselves up to be the ultimate be-all and end-all of the universe, it scares us to death. Because of sin we have a profound vulnerability, which we seek to cover up. We seek to camouflage it as we suppress the truth in unrighteousness, as Paul says in Romans, chapter one.
As we face these three enemies, we as Christians have been given the responsibility to go out and have a ministry in the world. The world is going to be hostile to us and the corollary reaction from our sin nature is fear. We don’t want to be in a position where hostile people opppose us, hostile forces who are arrayed against us. We’re afraid of all the threats that may come with that, all of the ways in which they seek to take away our security, take away our jobs, take away our homes, take away our lives, and take away our health, perhaps.
We see this currently today in areas of the Middle East who are coming under the control of ISIS and this radical Islamic force as they are persecuting, killing, and torturing Christians. They are destroying anything that is reminiscent of Christianity.
If you’re going to stand for Christianity, it may put your very life in jeopardy, just as it did those nine students at Roseburg, Oregon who were gunned down maliciously by this shooter who asked everyone to identify what their religious belief was. If they said they are Christians he shot them in the head.
This just shows that when you take a stand as a Christian you are taking a stand against the powerful forces of darkness, the forces of Satan, the forces of the fallen angels, and all of those who are allied with them. Those who are allied with them under the guise of good works as well as those who are allied with Satan more overtly as they oppose any and all religion.
This is the kind of world that every Christian goes into. We’ve been protected from that in this country for the last 300–400 years, ever since the founding of this country and the first colonists came. They came to establish an area that would be free of government persecution, free of government opposition to the gospel, where people could believe what they wanted to believe without fear of anyone interfering with their religious convictions and their religious practice in the marketplace, in the public marketplace.
Today we see example after example after example where Christians are being pushed into a corner, pushed into a closet. They’re being attacked. They’re being assaulted. They’re being brought into court, simply by putting forth their religious beliefs.
This is happening in the United States of America.
So Paul is operating in that kind of environment. That’s really a backdrop to understand some of the very personal things that he communicates to the Thessalonians in this epistle.
In 1 Thessalonians we find one of the more personal epistles that Paul writes. In it we get a window into his soul and by application it helps us to understand some of the spiritual challenges that every one of us face.
We learn five things when we look at Scripture and we think about what Paul is talking about at the very beginning as he talks about his own ministry. Number one, we’re reminded that every single believer has a ministry. Every one of us has a ministry from the second that we are saved, when we are baptized by God the Holy Spirit and indwelt by God the Holy Spirit and God the Holy Spirit gives each and every one of us a spiritual gift.
Whether you know what your spiritual gift is or not, you are called upon by the Lord Jesus Christ to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ to a place that in your maturation you will begin to serve the body of Christ, serve the Lord Jesus Christ in the body of Christ in order to be part of that maturation process that takes place within a local church.
Every believer has a ministry because every believer has at least one spiritual gift. It may be a more public gift, like the gift of evangelist or a gift of pastor-teacher. It may be a more private gift like someone who has the gift of faith. That may be manifest in prayer, in someone who has the gift of giving, and that’s manifested in privacy. Others are more public.
Then there are those that fall someone in between like people who have the gift of encouragement. Then there’s the gift of administration. Sometimes those are visible and sometimes they’re not.
The second thing we see in terms of ministry is that every believer is expected to grow, to mature in Christ, so they can use that spiritual gift. It doesn't come fully formed and functional at the instant that we’re saved. It has to be developed and it develops only as we take in the Word of God under the teaching ministry of the Spirit of God and then it is God the Holy Spirit who matures us. Then we express our maturation through these spiritually enhanced gifts.
The third thing we note is the role of the pastor-teacher. Just like the role in the early church of the apostle and the prophets, the role of the pastor-teacher and the evangelist is to equip with the saints to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11–12).
The pastor’s role is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. It’s the everyday believer sitting in the pews that carries out the work of the ministry. Some of you have gifts of mercy and you are the ones who should be going to the hospitals. You’re the ones who should be visiting families during the time of loss, the time when someone has died. You are the ones who when someone is going through a crisis, your gift of mercy is to be used at that time. That’s not necessarily a publicly known gift.
That’s one of the ways that is expressed. If you have the gift of giving, again, that is developed as you come to understand what is involved in the gift of giving so you can order your life so that you can give in the support of ministries and of the local church.
So the role of the pastor-teacher is to equip the saints through teaching the Word of God so that we can grow by the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a result we can properly exercise our ministry.
The fourth point is that the goal of ministry has nothing to do with numbers. I remember in a church I pastored many years ago that I had a constant friction with the board of elders. It was an elder church but it wasn’t necessarily an elder-ruled church. It was more of an elder-led church but we always took every major decision before the congregation so it was kind of a blend.
Three of the four elders in the church, or five elders if you counted me, were businessmen. They were entrepreneurs. There’s something about an entrepreneur that’s distinctive. They’re extremely independent. They believed that any and all obstacles could be overcome just through the practice of sound business principles.
While there’s a certain business dimension to the local church, it’s not run like a business. You can’t sit down at the beginning of each fiscal year and establish certain quantifiable measurable goals in terms of how many people will come, how much money will come in. You can’t quantify the ministry in that way. That’s where these guys were coming from. That was their worldview from the culture they operated five or six days a week in terms of their business.
They would always want me to create some kind of business plan and write out goals and objectives. I would say, “The only thing we can do with any kind of goal, if it’s a measurable goal, it has to be achievable. We have to be able to reach that. You can sit down all day long year after year and say you want to have a growth of ten percent in the church.”
There are churches who do that. These are church-growth type of churches. They’re not focused on letting the Lord build the church. They’re focused on their own techniques. You have to remember that Jesus said He would build His church. He said that in Matthew to Peter. In Matthew 16 He said, “On this rock I will build My church.” Then in John 21 he told Peter, “You feed the sheep.”
We’ve done this so-called backwards now. No one is feeding the sheep but we have a lot of pastors trying to do Jesus’ job of building the church. You can’t do that. The Apostle Paul does give us one measurable, quantifiable standard. He does give us one metric for evaluating our success in ministry. That’s in 1 Corinthians 4:2 because Christians are all considered stewards.
We’ve been given something. We’ve been given time. We’ve been given money. We’ve been given a spiritual gift. So we are stewards of that which God has given us. Paul says, “It is required of stewards that one be found faithful.”
The criteria for a pastor, an evangelist, and for the everyday person sitting in the pew are, “Are you faithful to God? Are you faithful to the gift that God has given you? Are you pursuing spiritual growth? Is that the highest priority in your life, your relationship with God? Is God going to look at your life, evaluate it, and ask if you’ve been a faithful believer?” That doesn’t mean you don’t fail.
Remember, King David failed and he failed miserably, but God said he was a man after His own heart. We all sin; we all have sin natures and we will fail many times. God just looks for a heart that is focused on Him. You compare David with some of the other kings of Judah. Their heart wasn’t for God. They failed many times in the same way David did, but their bottom line wasn’t, “I want to please God. I blew it but I want to please God.”
David’s bottom line was, “I keep blowing it but I want to please God. That’s what really drives me.” God understood that was the motivation of his soul. That means David was faithful even though he committed all of those sins. He was basically judged, evaluated by God as being faithful.
Are we faithful to the Word of God? As a pastor I have to ask myself, “Am I faithful to the education that God provided for me? Am I faithful in my continuing to improve upon my skills in the original languages? Am I continuing to read and understand things theologically and understand the Scripture? Am I faithful in carrying out that mission that God gave me to equip the saints for the work of ministry?”
If you’re on the other side of the pulpit then your objective is to learn the Word and apply the Word, to get involved in various areas of service in the body of Christ. Some are going to be areas that you’re not quite so fond of and others may be areas where you really excel. I am reminded of a circumstance, a situation, where someone told me, “I’d love to help. Just what do you need and I will do it.” At that particular time we were looking for some folks to volunteer here to help transcribing so I said, “We’re looking for transcribers.” Later on I found out that this individual said their heart just stopped. That was the last thing they wanted to do because it was just the kind of tedious work that drove them absolutely nuts.
That’s fine, but other people know that’s the way they can exercise their gift of service. God has shaped them in a way that was exactly what they wanted to do. Not everyone can do every different area of service within a local church. Not everyone can be a teacher. Not everyone can get up in the pulpit and do a fabulous job expounding the Word of God, but a lot of folks can do a pretty decent job of it just because they apply themselves.
Remember that we’re to teach one another. We’re to admonish one another. We’re to pray for one another. All of these things are part of our stewardship. The one evaluation point that God has, His one metric is, “Are you faithful to the Word of God? Are you faithful to your service to Me? Are you faithful to the way I have gifted you?”
Those points are critical to understand ministry. Then the fifth thing I want to point out by way of introduction is in 1 Thessalonians 2:2 we get an insight into Paul’s role of equipping the saints as that pushed him up against the opposition from Satan and the world system/Satan and the cosmic system.
Every one of us has a ministry. If you’re a mother, if you’re a father, if you’re a husband, if you’re a wife, if you’re a grandparent, you have a ministry within your family. You have opportunities within your family to teach the Word of God. You’re supposed to. You have opportunities within your family to emulate the Christian life to your children and to be part of that particular ministry.
When we talk about Paul’s ministry and we’ll get some insight into it here, it applies to each and every one of us. In 1 Thessalonians 2:1–2 we have what appears to be one sentence in the original Greek. Let me just read it to you and we’ll start breaking it down.
He begins by saying, “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.”
Now let just stop a minute and just look at what he’s saying. In the New King James Version they broke this into two sentences. It’s actually a compound sentence in the Greek that is connected by an adversative conjunction. That’s if you grew up on Sesame Street, you remember Conjunction Junction. You have words that join things and words that separate things. The word “but” separates things but it’s still joining two things that are somewhat contrastive between verse one and verse two.
Verse one is an independent clause and verse two is an independent clause.
The thing he’s saying in verse one is about our coming to you that it was not in vain. It wasn’t a meaningless ministry. It was short. Paul may have only been there as short as five or six weeks. We don’t know. It probably was not more than three or four months. It was a very short time but it was an extremely productive time. Ultimately production in ministry has to do with the work of God the Holy Spirit and not our work. We are just instruments that God the Holy Spirit uses.
The first thing he’s saying is that when we came to you, it wasn’t meaningless but he goes on to say but we were bold. Even after what we had gone through in Philippi, we were bold to speak the gospel to you. These are the two thoughts he’s developing here. First of all, our coming to you wasn’t meaningless and second; we were bold to proclaim the gospel to you when we came.
Let’s just break this down a little bit. He starts off saying, “For you yourselves know [something].” It’s important to know that in the Greek the verb here OIDA is a second person plural meaning y’all. When he says this he doesn’t have to say “yourselves”. He doesn’t have to add that, that’s sort of embedded within the form of the Greek verb. When you start adding a second person plural reflexive pronoun in there that is intensifying this.
He’s really making a point of this. He’s saying, “You know this. You were there. You were witnesses. You understood what went on and you watched as we ministered to you. You, yourselves, know this.” He uses a Greek word OIDA. There are two primary words for knowing in Greek. GINOSKO has the idea of coming to know something. OIDA emphasizes that this is something that has become reflexive, almost intuitive knowledge within you. That’s what he’s appealing to here when he uses the word OIDA.
He’s saying, “You know this. You know this instinctively because you were there and you watched what went on. You know that our coming to you was not meaningless. It was not in vain.”
Let’s just review a little bit about what happened when Paul came to Thessalonica. Here’s a map showing the area of Greece. In the ancient world, the area basically south of this line was Macedonia. In Greek it’s MAKEDONIA. The area south of there was Achaia. When Paul came over on his second missionary journey, he came by ship from Troas and landed at the port at Neapolis. The first place that he went was Philippi.
There he faced a tremendous amount of opposition as well and was even put in prison. Then when he left Philippi, he went down to Via Egnatia here. That’s the yellow line and he went through Apollonia and Tiryns and he ends up over here at Thessalonica. So this is where Thessalonica is located. It was a major port in the ancient world and it was right on the Via Egnatia, the axis of commerce. All the east-west traffic coming out of Europe and then headed over to Asia and headed to Europe, all of those caravans went through Thessalonica, as well as Philippi.
This is a major trade route. Commerce is very important but it brings a lot of different people together. When we see these areas where there was a lot of commerce we also discover that there was a large Jewish presence. It has a large business community and this would attract the Jews to that particular area. You had a group of Jews at Philippi. You also have a synagogue here in Thessalonica.
We’re told in Acts 17:2 that when Paul came his custom, his normal operating procedure, was to go to a synagogue. He would start with the Jews. That was his principle, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. Now, why in the world would he start with the synagogue? He would start with the Jews first of all for a theological reason. It was the Jewish people that God had called to Himself to be the group through whom the Messiah would come, to be the ethnic group through whom Scriptures would be revealed and the group that would be the custodian of Scripture.
The Messiah came to the Jew. Jesus was a Jew. Jesus was a Jewish Messiah. Because they were the custodians of Scripture in the synagogue, they studied Scripture. There was already a frame of reference among these Jews as to who the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was. There should also have been a framework for understanding Messianic prophecy, the promises and the prophecies in the Old Testament that God would send a deliverer to Israel who would not only deliver them from their sins but would pay the penalty for sins for the whole world. As Isaiah 53 states, it would be through Him that many would be justified, would be declared righteous.
Now the pagans, the non-Jews, the Gentiles in the area wouldn’t have any frame of reference and this is what Paul ran into later on in Athens. He was trying to find a way to communicate to the pagans who didn’t have any knowledge of the Old Testament or the God of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. So he had to find a different starting point.
We find that in some of the other places where Paul went. When there was a Jewish community, he would start there and bring them the good news that the Messiah had come, that the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament had been fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
He would begin there, knowing that there would be a percentage of Jews there who would respond to the gospel. There were probably Jews there that were already Old Testament believers in the Old Testament sense, still looking for the Messiah. They would easily transfer over to become Christians and to trust in the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. So he would begin with a following of Jewish-background believers.
There would also be in the synagogue a group of proselytes, Gentiles who in various degrees were seeking God. Some would just be viewed as God-seekers, sort of like Cornelius over in Acts 10 and 11 and others who had actually gone through the process of conversion to Judaism. These God-fearers, these God-seekers among the Gentiles would be prepared. They would be open to responding to the gospel.
So Paul went to the synagogues and this was pretty standard for his ministry each place he went. He would go to the synagogue. Then we are told that for three consecutive Sabbaths he reasoned with them from the Scriptures. Notice he doesn’t argue theologically. He starts with the Scripture.
He takes them to the Old Testament. He takes them to the Torah and he explains to them who Jesus is, Jesus of Nazareth, and shows how He fulfills the promises and the prophecies from the Old Testament.
The main verb that is used here is the verb reason, which is the Greek word DIALEGOMAI and it is where we get our English word dialogue. It means to discuss something. It may even mean to debate or to argue vociferously back and forth over a point, to dispute, to discuss, to consider, to reason, to argue, all of these are covered by the word DIALEGOMAI.
But he reasoned from the Scripture. His starting point isn’t some abstract, philosophical principle about the existence of God because he’s talking to Jews. They already accept putatively the fact that the Bible, the Torah is the Word of God. So he would reason with them from the Scripture. Look at these other examples here in Acts.
In Acts 17:17 he’s reasoning with the Jews in Berea and with the Gentile worshippers in the marketplace daily. That’s at Berea. In Acts 18:4 he reasoned in the synagogue in Corinth as well as in Ephesus. He went to the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. This is his standard procedure.
Now when he’s reasoning with them how is he reasoning with them? The Scripture doesn’t leave us to just guess as to how he does it. This is further explained in the next verse. Acts 17:3. The verb DIALEGOMAI is further modified or explained by two participles that we find at the beginning of verse 3, explaining and demonstrating. This is what he would do. This explains the content of his dialogue, the content of his discussion, the content of his debate with the Jews in the synagogue.
He first of all explained things. This is the Greek word DIANOIGO, which means to open something up, to unlock something, at times. What was he opening? He was opening up the Scripture to explain what the Scripture said the Messiah would come and do. The Messiah was to suffer and rise again.
He’s also demonstrating something, PARATITHEMI, which means to set something before or to commend something or to set something out.
So what is he doing? He’s going through the Old Testament Scripture. He’s opening up the Scripture. He’s explaining what it means and he’s setting forth the basic things that the Old Testament said would characterize the Messiah, things like the Messiah would be born of a virgin. Things such as the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. The Messiah was to suffer.
Where would Paul go to teach that? He would go to Isaiah, chapter 53 in order to teach there the suffering Messiah as well as Psalm 22 and other passages in the Old Testament. He’s following the same pattern that Jesus used after the resurrection when He sort of veiled His appearance before a couple of disciples who were on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, about a forty-five minute walk.
They didn’t realize who that was and they were all downcast and discouraged and depressed because Jesus had been crucified. He was buried and they had believed in Him and now they were confused. They were depressed and discouraged and just couldn’t believe what had happened. They didn’t know what to do.
Jesus came up and without revealing who He was, He just began to talk to them about the Scriptures, the Old Testament scriptures, the Torah, the Law, the Nevi’im (the prophets), and the Ketuvim (the writings).
This is what it refers to in Luke 24:27, “And beginning at Moses [the Torah] and all the prophets [the Nevi’im], He expounded to them all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” There’s a trend among evangelical scholars today to minimize Old Testament prophecy. You even have some professors at some of your favorite seminaries, not Chafer Seminary, of course, but Dallas Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Denver Seminary, and a number of others who believe that “Well, there might be one Old Testament Messianic prophecy, maybe two, but we know for sure probably Psalm 110:1 is the only real Messianic prophecy.”
Jesus wouldn’t agree with that. If that were the only Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament, then Jesus would have had a short conversation on the road to Emmaus. That would have taken all of thirty seconds and He would have moved on down the road. But this is a forty-five minute discussion and He’s going through all of the Messianic prophecies, in Moses [the Torah] and in the Nevi’im [former prophets such as Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and kings as well as the latter prophets which include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve].
It doesn’t mention the writings here. Psalms 110 was probably talked about but the emphasis is on the Torah and the prophets. In Luke 24:44 Jesus said, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses [the Torah] and the Prophets [the Nevi’im] and the Psalms [because that was the first book in the Ketuvim] concerning Me.” Jesus is giving them Christology 101, the Messiah in the Old Testament and they understand it.
The emphasis that Paul had in Acts 17 was to show that the Messiah should suffer and die. This was his standard procedure whenever he would go someplace, he would always focus on that. We’re reminded that this would become a problem when he was in the synagogue because in 1 Corinthians 1:23 he said that the Cross was a stumbling block to the Jews. That was always something difficult for them to get past, was that the Messiah would come and suffer.
It was very clearly there in passages like Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and numerous others, that He would be crucified. This was made clear.
There are always going to be two responses whenever we are talking about the Scripture. We’re going to have a response that is receptive and positive to the Scripture or we’re going to have a response that’s negative and hostile.
That degree of negativity and hostility may be overcome through time as we talk about the Scripture. I’ve had situations like that where I witnessed to someone. They didn’t want to hear it. They were antagonistic to it. They were unresponsive but God the Holy Spirit took what I said and took His Word and He used that to convince and convict them of the truth of Scripture. That might take a year, two, three, five, ten, twenty, and even thirty years for that to work itself out.
God uses His Word. Think about the Apostle Paul. Thirty seconds before Jesus Christ appeared to Paul on his way to Damascus, it said he was going to arrest, imprison, and execute Christians, those who had trusted in Jesus as Messiah. Fifteen seconds before Jesus appeared to Paul you would have said, “There’s no way in this life that that radical Christian-hating Pharisee is going to ever convert to Christianity.”
You would be convinced. You would take bets that he was going to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire because of his hostility to the gospel. Yet, what happened? The Lord appeared to him and he responded in faith and he trusted in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. So just because someone may appear negative today, may be hostile today, don’t think that they’re the enemy, don’t write them off, don’t do anything. Continue to pray; continue to talk about the gospel when and if you have the opportunity.
The positive response is what Luke emphasizes first in Acts 17:4 is that some of them were persuaded. Now persuasion is something that comes as a result of your positive decision as you hear evidence at each point when someone presents something. “The Messiah was born of a virgin.” You hear the evidence for the virgin birth and you are positive, you want to be persuaded, so you’re persuaded and then you believe it.
Then you go to the next stage, “He was born in Bethlehem.” What’s the evidence? You are willing to be persuaded. The evidence persuades you and then you believe it. There’s a correlation between persuasion and belief.
Then you may reach something and you say, “No, I just can’t quite believe that He fed 5,000 people with just two fishes and five loaves. Ah, that just stretches my credulity.” At that point you’re thinking, “I don’t have enough evidence.” Then you think about it a while and then later on, you’re persuaded.
Persuasion is what we do as believers, giving people the evidence for the hope that is in us. That’s called apologetics—APOLOGIA, which means that we have to understand and control the data and the information in Scripture and be able to present a rational, logical case for our hope that Jesus is the promised and prophesied Messiah.
Some of them were persuaded. Then Luke says a great multitude, a huge number, of the devout Greeks [the proselytes] and not a few of the living women … Notice he singles out the women and the Gentiles. What’s interesting here is that in Judaism at that time the men were all on one side of the synagogue with a wall between them and women were all on the other side. What’s happening here is that the Gentiles and the women are responding.
A lot of the Jewish men are not responding for various reasons. We don’t know what the reasons were. Some of them could have had their authority threatened. They could have felt like they knew the Scripture better than this upstart former Pharisee from Israel so they weren’t being persuaded.
What Luke points out primarily is a great multitude of the Gentiles and not a few [an idiom meaning there were quite a few] leading women joined Paul and Silas. Then in verse 5 we read, “But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious ...” They were reacting. This is what you will often find in a hostile reaction is that it immediately deteriorates into a mental attitude sin of anger, resentment, and if we’re right that the core emotional sin of the sin nature is fear, then they got an inferiority complex and they’re fearful they’re wrong.
They’re fearful their prestige will be gone and they’ll be challenged. When people fear they start striking out in anger, resentment, bitterness, hostility toward others. They defame people. They will slander people. They will gossip about people. All of these things are just the consequence of their reaction, not to you, but their reaction to the truth of the gospel.
So we see those who were positive were persuaded. Those who were not positive were not persuaded. Instead they became envious.
Then they entered into a conspiracy. We see this today. We hear all these things from a complicit media about anytime that a Christian says something, they react. Not long ago, Dr. Ben Carson, who is running for president, was asked if he would support a Muslim for president. The media just couldn’t understand his answer. His answer was a personal answer, not a legal opinion. His personal answer was “No. A Muslim is supposed to give his devotion to sharia law. Sharia law is in contradiction to the stipulations of the Constitution of the United States. You can’t swear to defend the Constitution of the United States and be loyal to sharia law at the same time.”
That violates a logical principle called the law of non-contradiction. You can’t swear allegiance to contradictory things at the same time. What happened was the media, out of their hostility to Christians and to conservatives, began to slander and malign and attack Dr. Carson. Whenever he went on a show after that, that’s what they went after. They tried to get him to back off of what he had said and to change his mind. Very calmly and very rationally he held his line.
This is what happens. So these Jews go out and they’re not willing to say, “You have your view. We have our view. We’ll agree to disagree.” There’s a spiritual conflict here. As long as you’re in the devil’s world, believing the devil’s doctrines, you’re going to be one of the devil’s disciples. Just like Paul before he was saved, these religious leaders were just as hostile to Paul as he had been before he was saved.
So they go out and they look to some real scumbags down around the marketplace, some people who are criminals, some people who are guilty of fraud and hoaxes, and violence and they get them together and they pay them off to start a riot. They want them to gather a mob against these Christians who were apparently meeting in a home of a man by the name of Jason.
Jason isn’t a Jewish name so this is probably one of the Gentiles. They surrounded the house and they began to chant and yell. Remember they don’t have electric lights so they probably had torches. This was probably a mob scene that threatened the very life of Paul and his companions so he understood.
We read in 1 Thessalonians 2:1 that their coming was not in vain. It produced results. There were a huge multitude of Gentiles, a number of leading women, and some Jews that trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior.
This is indicated in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 at the end of this section as Paul summarizes it. He says, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” Their coming was not in vain. It wasn’t meaningless.
Paul talks about what had happened prior to this before he came to Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians 2:2 he says, “But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.”
This wasn’t a unique or a distinct situation. It was very definitely a pattern for Paul in Philippi where they were also mobbed and arrested. Their Roman citizenship wasn’t even sought after. They were beaten with rods, one of three times that Paul says they were beaten with rods. He was also whipped by the Jews, forty lashes less one, on a number of occasions. This is all described in 1 Corinthians, chapter 11.
We see that this is what happened. In Acts 16:22–24, it talks about the reaction after the mob came. They were taken before the city magistrates and we’re told that, “The multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.”
This was in Philippi. “And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”
This is one of the kinds of things that can happen when you run into the buzz saw that is Satan’s world system. It demands physical courage. It demands moral courage and for the believer, it demands spiritual courage. That’s where we will begin next time, looking at what the Bible teaches about courage, the doctrine of spiritual courage.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to reflect on the Word. We recognize that each of us is in the world, though we’re not of the world and that we are protected by the Lord Jesus Christ who watches over us and He’s given us the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and to encourage us and to embolden us even in the midst of hostility.
We have to learn to trust Your Word. We have to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. So Father, we pray that as a result of our study in the Word today we might come to understand more how we are to emulate the Apostle Paul and his compatriots as they faced the hostility of the devil’s world and went into the vortex of the angelic conflict, a place where we all can have tremendous peace and stability because the vortex doesn’t touch us; we are protected by the wall of fire.
Our mission is to be faithful in presenting the Word of God, the gospel of Christ to the world around us. We pray that you might give us the courage to do that in Christ’s name. Amen.”