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Funerals have a way of stopping you in your tracks and making you think about what really matters in life. That’s why Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 7:2 that “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting.” Karen and I recently attended a funeral of a dear friend who went home to be with the Lord after wasting away for six months with stomach cancer. The elder officiating at the ceremony made the point that Steve’s life was characterized by loving his wife Connie. Everybody could tell that he cherished his wife. His four children were there to testify that they had learned lessons from observing how their Dad treated their Mom.

What would someone say about you or me? What would be a summary statement that would best describe the impact of our life on others? What could someone write on your tombstone. There are always the lighthearted comments, like “I told you I was really sick.” But let’s be serious and reflective for a minute. How has our value system shown itself in our words and deeds? As I thought about this for my own life, I certainly see that there is a lot of room for growth in the area of loving and cherishing my wife. In fact, she was poking at me just the other day for being so inattentive that I did not even recognize that she had lopped a couple of inches off her hair. She was right … I have to confess – some things just don’t register with me … but they should.

But I was encouraged when I came to this passage for this morning which addresses the issue of our ultimate value system. There are certainly many areas where I need to grow and set a better example. But when it comes to passion for truth, I have a pretty good track record. That is not to say that I am right all of the time, but I have a hunger to learn what God has said, to see that implemented in my life and to teach those truths accurately and fully to others.

2 Tim.2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

I can say that by God’s grace I have invested my adult life in trying to faithfully carry out that charge. Our passage this morning presents a tale of two cities – Paul’s missionary outreach to Thessalonica and to Berea. As always, he meets with a variety of responses to the presentation of the gospel message – some positive, but the majority negative. It is instructive to see the contrast in the way Luke records what took place in these two cities.




Presentation of the Gospel / Responses to the Gospel / Pressure to Move On to the Next City


A. (:1-3) Presentation of the Gospel — Missionary Mindset – Aggressive Arrival in Town — Preaching Christ from the Scriptures in the Synagogue

1. Have a Strategic Plan and Work Your Plan

“Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths”

Coming from Philippi – beaten and imprisoned – but vindicated and victorious; does not take any time off but continues on with his mission

100 mile journey by the Egnatian Way – south westerly direction

Kent: Apparently nightly stops were made at Amphipolis (thirty-three miles from Philippi), Apollonia (thirty miles from Amphipolis) until they reached Thessalonica (thirty-seven miles from Apollonia).

Wiersbe: Paul knew that Thessalonica was a strategic city for the work of the Lord. Not only was it the capital of Macedonia, but it was also a center for business, rivaled only by Corinth. It was located on several important trade routes, and it boasted an excellent harbor. . . Paul labored at his tent making trade (Acts 18:3; 1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:7-10) . . .

Working hard day and night; received a couple of monetary gifts from saints in Philippi

2. Combine the Best of Human Reason with the Power and Sufficiency of the Scriptures

“reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence”

sounds like Paul would have been an outstanding debater; Christians don’t check their minds at the door; must use all of our reasoning power after the pattern of the resurrected Christ on the road to Emmaus – Luke 24:19-27

a. “reasoned” – dialectic approach rather than a sermon; question and answer and discussion approach

Zeisler: Why is it helpful to observe that Paul reasoned from the Scriptures? This is telling us something about the power of the Bible. I have been in settings where the Bible is used to bludgeon, where it is shouted, where its message is intended to descend on people like a heavy weight in order to bring about some kind of change in their behavior, regardless of whether they understood it, believed anything different, or knew any more than they had known before. I have also been in settings that are mostly about an emotional stirring, where language is used in a way that bring tears to everyone’s eyes. But once people leave, they can’t remember what was said, and nothing has been learned. What Paul was doing in this synagogue reminds us that the Bible’s power is ultimately the power to persuade us, to open our minds to understand what we didn’t understand before. We become aware of truth in such a way that truth itself changes us. Paul reasoned, talked with people, listened to questions, and answered objections, expecting that the God of the Bible would take the words of the Bible and change people’s interior life by them.

b. “explaining” – opening the Scriptures (the writings) to them and expounding the meaning; making it plain and understandable

c. “giving evidence” – proving, alleging; lay down alongside; prove by giving evidence; establish evidence to show that something is true

Cole: Paul reasoned with the Jews from the Scriptures (17:2). The word “reasoned” indicates a dialogue, where Paul presented the truth and then responded to questions or challenges from the congregation. He explained and gave evidence “that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead” (17:3). “Explained” means to open. Luke used the same word of God opening the eyes of the men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:31). “Giving evidence” literally means “to place before or alongside.” Paul would take one Scripture and place it alongside another Scripture to support and prove his point.

Stott: It was inevitable in Jewish evangelism that the Old Testament Scriptures should be both the textbook and the court of appeal. What is impressive is that neither speaker nor hearers used Scripture in a superficial, unintelligent or proof-texting way. On the contrary, Paul “argued” out of the Scriptures and the Bereans “examined” them to see if his arguments were cogent. And we may be sure that Paul welcomed and encouraged these thoughtful responses. He believed in doctrine (his message had theological content), but not in indoctrination (tyrannical instruction demanding uncritical acceptance). As Bengel wrote about verse 11, “a characteristic of the true religion is that it suffers itself to be examined into, and its claims to be so decided upon.”

3. Stay Focused on the Death and Resurrection of Christ

“that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead,”

4. Call People to a Personal Response to the Person of Jesus Christ

“and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’”

B. (:4-8) Mixed Response – Agitated Controversy — Some Positive but Most Negative

1. (:4) Some Positive

“And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.”

Not just presenting content but trying to persuade people of the truth

1 Thess. 1:5 “for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction”

Many positive references to the church at Thessalonica in the epistles – but also mentions the context of affliction and persecution from the jealous Jews

Jew Aristarchus believed (Col. 4:10)

God- fearing Greek Secundus (Acts 20:4)

Deffinbaugh: leading women, which may mean that they belonged to the upper class in the town; alternatively the phrase can mean ‘wives of the leading men’

2. (:5-8) Most Negative – Driven by Jealousy and Instigating an Emotional Mob Mentality

Emphasis: Jealousy for the Security of Man’s Traditions —

“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 coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And they stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things.”

Where does this deep-rooted jealousy come from? [Matt. 15 – Jesus condemns their tradition; cf. Fiddler on the Roof]

– Desire to hold on to their traditions and resist any change – especially one that would elevate Gentiles to equal standing with the Jews – nationalistic pride and prejudice

– Resented growing popularity of Paul and his fellow missionaries and their new Christian way

– Money implications – people switching allegiance from supporting synagogue structure with its leaders – who liked their salaries and perks; what’s in it for me?

– Ultimately motivated by their father the devil who was fighting against the advance of the gospel – should have been people of the Word – John 5:39

Blaiklock: The lewd fellows of the baser sort {KJV} are literally, ‘bad men from among the market people’, the labourers, no doubt, and humbler trade-associates of the Jewish commercial houses. Mt. xx. 3 pictures those who stood ‘idle in the market-place’ awaiting work. The desperate have often become the tools and dupes of the evil. So they were at Thessalonica.

Radical False Charges:

– They have upset the world – what an impact these few missionary leaders had; everywhere they went they created much more than just a buzz

– They are revolutionaries in the political realm – advocating allegiance to a different king and a different set of standards

Deffinbaugh: Turned . . . upside down is anastatosantes. The verb means ‘to stir up, excite, unsettle.’ In the New Testament it occurs only here, in 21:38, and in Galatians 5:12.

World today needs to be turned upside down; shake people out of their materialistic complacency; change the focus from the temporal to the eternal

Stott: the kingship of Jesus has unavoidable political implications since, as his loyal subjects, we must refuse to give to any ruler or ideology the supreme homage and total obedience which are due to him alone.

Wiersbe: Paul hoped that the salvation of the Gentiles would “provoke” the Jews into studying the Scriptures and discovering their promised Messiah (Rom. 11:13-14), but in this case, it only provoked them into persecuting the infant church.

C. (:9-10a) Pressure to Move On to the Next City – Accelerated Departure

“And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them. And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea;”

Constable: The city officials could not find the missionaries to bring them to trial. Consequently they made Jason and his friends pay a bond guaranteeing that Paul would cause no further trouble but leave town. If trouble continued, Jason would lose his money. If it did not, he would receive it back. Paul did leave town and wrote to the Thessalonians that Satan hindered his return (1 Thess. 2:18). His inability to return may have been the result of this tactic of his enemies. The Christians, however, carried on admirably, for which Paul thanked God (1 Thess. 1:7-10; 2:14-16).

50 mile journey


A. (:10b) Presentation of the Gospel — Missionary Mindset – Aggressive Arrival in Town — Preaching Christ from the Scriptures in the Synagogue

“ and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.”

Deffinbaugh: Luke seems to want us to view Berea in contrast to Thessalonica, rather than in terms of comparison. One contrast is to be seen in the size of these two places. Thessalonica was a large, major city; Berea, so far as we can tell, was a small, “sleepy town,” an “out of the way place” (see footnote 12 on Berea). Another contrast is that while Amphipolis and Apollonia seem to have had no synagogue, this town did. And finally, Luke draws out the contrast between the “more noble-mindedness” of the Jews in Berea than those in Thessalonica.

B. (:11-13) Mixed Response – Agitated Controversy — Some Positive but Most Negative

1. (:11-12) Some Positive – More Noble-Minded and Investigative – Driven by Truth

Emphasis: Passion for the Truth of God’s Word —

“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. Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.”

“noble-minded” — Open-minded; without prejudice; only NT usage – interested in searching out truth

– takes enthusiasm and interest

– takes diligence and effort to do the study on daily basis

– takes careful judgment and discernment

Putting a priority on the truth

2. (:13) Most Negative – Gullible and Easily Manipulated

“But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there likewise, agitating and stirring up the crowds.”

Look at how the media today manipulates the crowds against Christianity

C. (:14-15) Pressure to Move On to the Next City – Accelerated Departure

“And then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. Now those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.”

Constable: The text is not clear if Paul took a ship to Athens or travelled there by land. Perhaps his pursuers did not know either. It seems that Paul’s escorts took him to the sea to give the impression that they intended to put him on a ship, but then they accompanied him to Athens by land. In any case he reached Athens safely and sent instructions back with the Berean brethren who had accompanied him that Silas and Timothy should join him soon.


Barclay: Look at the courage of Paul. He had been imprisoned in Philippi; he had left Thessalonica in peril of his life, under cover of darkness; and once again in Beroea he had had to flee for his life. Most men would have abandoned a struggle which seemed bound to end in arrest and death. When David Livingstone was asked where he was prepared to go, he answered, “I am prepared to go anywhere, so long as it is forward.” The idea of turning back never occurred to Paul either.

Do you really care that God has spoken in His Word? Does truth float your boat?

Or are you more concerned that nothing impact the comfort and pleasures of your earthly life?

Do you want your life to be transformed to be more like the Lord Jesus; or do you want to reshape Jesus into an idol of your own making so that He thinks like you and acts like you and does not convict you of sin and a need for change in your life?

Are you more concerned with protecting the traditions of man’s wisdom and an earthly oriented value system or are you like the noble minded ones in Berea that will go to any length to search out God’s truth and act upon it? What will God write as the inscription on your tombstone when it comes to that final day of accountability? Do you really have a passion for the truth of God’s Word?