I’m on the road, folks. I don’t want to short change you, but how about we keep this simple, because this is one of the most simple chapters to outline in three parts, and those parts being the three cities that Paul and his team preach to:
See? You remember those three towns and you’re well on your way to memorizing a chapter of the bible.
When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica…
Paul and his companions. Who are Paul’s companions? Silas and Timothy, who will be mentioned specifically as we keep reading. These three amigos are traveling through the coastal towns hugging the Aegean Sea heading west to Macedonia.
…where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days…
So, you see, depending on which day he arrived and which day he left on, speaking three times, on three Sabbaths, could be done in barely 2 weeks or it might have taken 3 weeks; point being, this young church is only going to have Paul’s direction for less than a month.
And with such little time for learning about Jesus and becoming a congregation, they probably disappeared soon after Paul fled, right?
Let’s take a quick look at the letter Paul would write them just a few months later, beginning with 1 Thessalonians 1:1
Paul, Silas, and Timothy,
Following along? Most people believe that 1 Thessalonians is the first of Paul’s letters; making it the oldest book in the bible. And it makes sense, right? He went from Thessalonica, to Berea, also a short stay; and Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea while Paul went on to Athens for a brief period of time. While he was in Athens he sent word for Timothy to go back to Thessalonica. Later, when Tim and Silas joined Paul in Corinth, and Tim reported about the young church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote this letter:
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
If we were to keep reading in the following brief chapters of 1 Thessalonians, we’d see Paul talking about how the Thessalonians knew about the treatment he received in Philippi. They knew because he, or Silas and Timothy, told them.
Paul: “It’s so good to be with you. We have a great group of brothers and sisters in Philippi, but it’s a pretty rough town, otherwise.”
Timothy: “Rough town!? They beat you with rods and threw you in jail. Look at their backs–”
Silas: “Timmy, that’s enough. But it sure does seem nice here in Thessalonica, folks!”
…he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.
5 But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city…
Silas: “Hey, Paul, starting to seem a lot like Philippi around here, huh?”
They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here…
Upside down the world needs shaking, rattle the cages there’s chains that need breaking… our theme verse.
7 …and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea.
So it’s not hard to imagine when the persecution began in Thessalonica everyone urged him to leave.
Young Church: “We’ve got this brother. Go! We love you, but go!”
On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
Right after this, Paul will leave for Corinth. Eventually, Silas and Timothy will join him. Paul would later write to the Corinthians that when he preached to them it was not with excellent speech; he only preached Christ crucified. I’ve heard most to my life, that he said that as a result of how he preached in Athens. After his careful reasoning there, he decided to keep it simpler in Corinth. Perhaps.
But Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill is one of the most famous sermons ever given and still serves today as an example of trying to open hearts with a reasonable gospel; for the gospel is reasonable enough on its own, when compared with the polytheistic superstition of ancient Athens it is indeed a light shining in a dark place.
Father in heaven,
Help us as we present our musical based on the book of Acts, to be so clear and inspiring that even hearts that have always been closed to your word will open to the story of Jesus and turn to you.
And please father heal the sick among us:
Our set designer Glenn has a bad staff infection and is working his heart our for the show. Please let the heat not be unbearable and help him to get over the infection. We are so thankful for him.
And please let Lisa get well. She’s now fighting the pneumonia I brought into the house. Besides the misery she’s endured from her back going out, to shingles, and now this; Father please intervene and make her well.
In Jesus name,