Hello, Athens! (Acts 17)

Scripture reading – Acts 17

Today’s Scripture reading follows Paul’s ministry in Philippi, and what some might describe as a “hullabaloo” (i.e. uproar, tumult, clamor) that was created after he and Silas were falsely accused of teaching “customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans” (16:21). Those men were thereafter beaten and jailed (16:22-24). The next day they were set free and departed from Philippi (16:39-40), traveling “through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica” (17:1).

Acts 17 – Paul and Silas’ ministry in three prominent cities of the first century: Thessalonica (17:1-13), Berea (17:10-14), and Athens (17:15-34).

Notice that it was Paul’s custom to go into a city, and on the Sabbath enter into a synagogue, and boldly declare Jesus as the Messiah (i.e. the Anointed One) and Savior (17:1-3). Time and space prevent me from an in-depth study of Paul’s ministry in those cities; however, I trust my amplification of some key verses will be a blessing.

The city of Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-13)

Acts 17:1-3Now when they [Paul and Silas] had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2 And Paul, as his manner was [i.e. as was his custom or habit], went in unto them [the Jews in the synagogue at Thessalonica], and three sabbath days reasoned [disputed; preached; conversed] with them out of  [from] the scriptures [i.e. The Old Testament Scriptures], 3  Opening [explaining; setting forth] and alleging [setting forth], that Christ must needs [ought; should] have suffered [experienced pain], and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach [declare; proclaim] unto you, is Christ [the Messiah].

The response of some was to believe; however, the response of many was to reject Jesus Christ and oppose witnesses.

Acts 17:5-7But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy [jealous over Paul’s success], took unto them certain lewd [evil; wicked] fellows of the baser sort [vulgar; good for nothing], and gathered a company [crowd], and set all the city on an uproar [tumult; disturbance], and assaulted [rushing at] the house of Jason [a man who was a Christian], and sought to bring them [Paul and Silas] out to the people [for the purpose of publicly accusing and attacking]. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned [made an uproar] the world upside down [made an uproar] are come hither also; 7Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary [oppose; against] to the decrees [laws; ordinances] of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

The city of Berea (Acts 17:10-14)

Acts 17:11 – These [the people of Berea] were more noble [i.e. noble minded] than those in Thessalonica, in that they received [accepted] the word with all readiness of mind [eagerly; joyfully], and searched [examined; investigated] the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

The city of Athens (Acts 17:15-34)

Known for both its scholarship and idolatry, Paul journeyed to Athens and seeing the idols of that ancient city in every place, he boldly declared Jesus Christ in both the synagogue and public places.

Acts 17:16-17 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit [soul; inward man] was stirred [provoked] in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry [i.e. was full of idols]. 17  Therefore disputed he [reasoned; preached; teach public twin ] in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons [religious; reverent], and in the market [i.e. The town square; public thoroughfare] daily with them that met with him [that he chance to meet].

Acts 17:20-22For thou bringest certain strange things [surprising; shocking] to our ears: we would know [understand; desire to know] therefore what these things mean. 21  (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) 22 Then Paul stood [standing] in the midst [center; lit. he seized the opportunity] of Mars’ hill [a hill in Athens; a meeting  place], and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things [everything] ye are too superstitious [religious ;i.e. fearing the gods of idols ].

Acts 17:29-31Forasmuch then as we are the offspring [family; people] of God, we ought not to think [suppose; regard] that the Godhead is like [similar; i.e. the nature of God] unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven [scratch; etched; sculpted] by art and man’s device [thought or imagination].30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at [overlooked;  do not punish]; but now commandeth [ declares] all men every where to repent [change of mind accompanied by sorrow]: 31  Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge [condemn] the worldin righteousness [justice] by that man whom he hath ordained [i.e. Jesus Christ]; whereof he [God] hath given assurance unto all men, in that he [God] hath raised him [Jesus Christ] from the dead.

We might imagine the shock to the pride and feelings of those men of Athens who, in the words of the Scripture, did nothing more than want to “tell, or to hear some new thing” (17:21). Here was a man who boldly declared what they knew in their hearts, that the God of creation and heaven (17:29a) is nothing like the idols they had sculpted with their own hands and imaginations (17:29b). Paul warned, God would no longer overlook their willful ignorance, and was commanding “all men every where to repent” (17:30).

Like in our own day, many mocked and rejected the Gospel (17:32a), some desired to hear more (17:32b), and there were some who believed (17:34).

What about you? What do you believe? Is your heart ready for God’s judgment? (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith