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THE MISSION IN THESSALONICA AND BEREA

Acts 17:1-17:15
Key Verse: 17:2-3

THE MISSION IN THESSALONICA AND BEREA

Acts 17:1-15

Key Verse: 17:2-3

“…he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,’ he said.”

In the previous lesson we learned how Paul and his mission coworkers pioneered Philippi. Especially we could see how God worked in three different individuals for their salvation through the gospel servants’ preaching, spiritual fighting, sutffering with joy and thanks, and prompt and clear message of salvation. May we keep in our hearts the peculiar promise, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” until all the members in each household is saved (16:31). Today’s passage is about Paul’s pioneering work in Thessalonica and Berea. Particularly Luke wrote about Paul’s proving and proclamation of Christ in Thessalonica and Bereans’ excellent attitude toward the message they heard and the Scriptures. Let’s think about these two points.

First, Paul’s reasoning from the Scriptures (1-10). This part is Paul’s mission in Thessalonica. Look at verse 1. “When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.” Here we see that Luke did not join. Paul, Silas and Timothy went to Thessalonica. Paul and Silas had suffered and been insulted in Philippi, but with the help of God they came to Thessalonica to do his mission (1 Th 2:2). Thessalonica was 100 miles (160 km) from Philippi and the capital of the province of Macedonia. It was a harbor town, and a flourishing commercial centre, and was proud of having been made a free city in 42 B.C. And different from Philippi there was a Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica.

Look at verses 2 and 3. “As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.” Here we see the words, “reasoned” “explaining” and “proving.” Usually people think that these words are used in the field of science, not in religion. However, Christianity can be reasoned, explained and proved from the Scriptures. It appeals to pure human logic. It can make perfect sense to human minds which have been created in the image of God. Each Christian is to be a theologian who can reason, explain and prove the authenticity of Christianity, which is all about Christ.

What was the main point of Paul’s reasoning, explaining and proving? It was Christ’s suffering and resurrection: the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.” This was quite different from the Jews’ idea of the Christ, the glorious Christ with no suffering, even no death. We remember what Jesus taught to his disciples while on earth. Before his death on the cross he said to them again and again that he had to suffer many things and be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Lk 9:22, 34; 18:32-33). And after his resurrection, on the day Jesus rose again he appeared to the two disciples who were going to Emmaus in despair after his crucifixion. Jesus said to them, “…how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, the risen Jesus explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Lk 24:25-27). “Christ had to suffer and die and rise from the dead.” This is the key point of the Scriptures and the essence of Christianity.

He had to suffer and die for man’s sin. In everyone’s life there are many problems.. But in time past and present, man’s fundamental problem is sin. The beginning of sin seems to be small but it devours one’s life. As we know, sin came into this world through one man, but at Noah’s time the whole world was affected by sin. It has been so in history.

Because of man’s sin, even nature groans in pain (Ge 4:12; Ro 8:20). Nowadays we hear about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (also called Pacific Trash Vortex). Plastic trash and ocean debris float along ocean currents and accumulate in collections called "garbage patches.” They form trash Island in the Pacific Ocean. This happens in other oceans as well. Environmentalists say that the Trash Vortex affects climate change. We are also surprised to hear about and see the flood in Alberta, the worst one in history of the province. The nature seems to say, “Because of you guys, mankind, I am very troubled and abnormal.” Godly men and women are distressed to hear about the US Supreme Court’s decision that supports same-sex marriage. People try to ignore or do away with man’s sin problem but it can never be done. Sin persists in man. The damages by flood can be restored. And it is said that it will take 500 years to completely remove the influence of the harmful rays caused by the Japanese nuclear plant spillover. But sin and its damage can never be removed by human effort; sin makes men plunge into eternal punishment. But God, in his great mercy, provided the way to solve man’s sin problem by sending his Son Jesus to die one the cross for the sin of mankind. He prepared this way for several thousand years. Those who come to the cross of Jesus humbly recognizing their sins and believing that Jesus died for them can receive forgiveness of sins and thus sin problem is solved before God. In the cross of Jesus there is the solution for man’s sin. So John 1:29 says, “Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Jesus died and rose again. The resurrection of Jesus is truly amazing. His resurrection confirmed his atoning death for our sins. All men died and will die, but Jesus rose again from the dead. He defeated the power of death and triumphed over the evilness of man and more fundamentally over all evil power, that is, the power of Satan. Through his resurrection we have a living hope of the kingdom of God. His resurrection is the sure sign of Christ’s kingdom coming on this earth. In Revelation 11:15 an angel said in a loud voice, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.”

And then Paul said in verse 3. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” It means Jesus who suffered and died for man’s sin and rose from the dead is the Christ. We cannot fathom the meaning of Christ fully. Yet, we can think of it more here. Christ is in Hebrew Messiah, meaning “Anointed One.” In the Old Testament, priests, prophets and kings were anointed. They were all the shadow of Jesus. The reality is found in Jesus (Col 2:17). He is the Priest, who offered his own life to God shedding his own blood for our sins. So he is our Savioir. He is the Prophet. According to Hebrews 1:1-2, in the past God spoke through the prophets, but in these last days he spoke by his Son. He sustains all things by his powerful word. So Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mt 24:35; Mk 13:31; Lk 21:33). Human words and laws, even those of Supreme Court will disappear in the matter of time as Caesar’s decrees were gone, but Jesus’ words never. Jesus said unambiguously in Matthew 19:4-5, confirming the words of Genesis 2:24-25, “…at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is Jesus’ simple yet profound teaching about marriage and family. His words stand as long as human life is going on in this world. And Jesus is King of king and Lord of lords through his resurrection. Jesus is the Christ and Jesus Christ is the Lord (Ph 2:11). At that time most people thought the Roman Emperor Caesar was the lord, but that was a sheer deception. Jesus Christ was the Lord at that time and is the Lord now and forevermore. He reigns. When we look at the world, the power of visible human authorities looks great and it is hard for us to see the power of Jesus’ reigning. But 1 John 4:4 says, “…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” So we can overcome the world. He is the Lord over my life, our nation and the world and the Lord will accomplish his purpose. When we say, “Jesus is the Christ”, it contains all these meanings. God wants us to keep this confession and live by it and proclaim the message confidently and boldly to the world.

At Paul’s preaching some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. But there was a strong opposition with the crowd and the city officials being thrown in turmoil. We should always know that the world is hostile to Jesus and the professing Christians.

Second, Bereans’ examining the Scriptures (10-15). Look at verse 10. “As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.” God protected Paul and Silas from the turmoil in Thessalonica, and they were brought to Berea. Berea was a fifty-mile journey in a south-westerly direction from Thessalonica. The missionaries again went first to the Jewish synagogue, in order to share with its members the good news of Jesus.

It is noticeable that before talking about how Paul did his mission in Berea, Luke wrote about the excellence of the Bereans. Look at verse 11. “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” What does it mean that the Bereans were of more noble characters than Thessalonians? In the first part Luke mentioned some bad characters in Thessalonica, whom the jealous Jews had rounded up from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot there against Paul and Silas. It seemed that Thessalonians were far from of noble characters. But Luke was talking about the believing Thessalonians not the unbelieving Jews there. And when we say of people who are of noble character, we tend to think that they are nice and kind to other people. However, it is likely that Luke used the word “noble” for those who have a good attitude toward the word of God. He wrote Jesus’ words about a good heart soil in Luke 8:15, “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” When we read 1 Thessalonians, the believers in Thessalonica had really a good attitude toward the word of God. Paul thanked God that they received the word of God as it actually was, the word of God, not as the word of men (1 Thessa. 2:13). And when Luke wrote that the Bereans were of more noble characters than the Thessalonians, the reason was this, “for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” What an attitude!

Let’s think about Bereans’ attitude toward the word of God! Firstly, they received the message, the word (in ESV, NASB), with great eagerness. Enthusiastic people accomplish something in the world. People with great eagerness, that is great enthusiasm, are in some way great. Some people make money with great eagerness. That is not bad but good if they use the money in a right way. Also, some students study with great eagerness to get A+. That’s also recommendable as they do so with a good purpose of life. Yet, those who receive the word of God with great eagerness are really great and beautiful in God’s sight.

Surprisingly, the Bereans went further. They examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” In today’s passage we see the words, “reason”, “explaining”, “proving” and here “examine.” The word “examine” is usually used in experiment in a scientific field or in CSI (Crime Sin Investigation), not CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). Here Luke wrote that the Bereans examined the Scriptures. They were not satisfied with hearing and receiving the message. They examined the Scriptures every day to see if what the messenger said was true. They wanted to make sure that what the messenger said was indeed the word of God. It was their confirmation of the word of God they heard based on the Scriptures. They did this every day. They were excellent Bible students. In this way they must have developed their own personal Bible study until the Scriptures became their own. Those who study the Scriptures with great eagerness and thoroughness and develop personal understanding of the whole Scriptures are truly great.

If people hold the Bible as the standard of life, how wonderful that life will be. The words of the Bible must be opened and studied thoroughly and obeyed carefully. We need to form biblical view of life and of the world. Then all the blessings God promised will come to those who deal with the Bible in such a way. However, when the words of the Bible are looked down on and neglected and disregarded, life is too hard to handle. People can go farther and farther away from God. A Psalmist prayed, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word” and “open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Ps 119:37,18). The holy Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:15-16). When we examine the Scriptures, we can find treasures in life, more precious than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (Ps 119:72). We can have truly joy and hope in life and God will use us preciously in our generation.

Then how did God work in Berea? Look at verse 12. “Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” What a fruit!

When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. The Jews in Thessalonica were enthusiastic and persistent to fight against God to their great loss. But God protected Paul. The brothers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. The men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible. God’s work was going on according to his plan despite Satan’s hindrance.

In this study we thank God for Jesus who suffered and died for man’s sins and rose again from death, and thus is the Christ. Jesus Christ is the Lord. May we grow deeper in our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord through studying the Scriptures with great eagerness and thoroughness so that we can live with that faith and overcome the world, and serve the Lord in our generation.

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