Varied Responses to the Gospel

MEMORY VERSE: “They received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” —Acts 17:11

ACTS 17:1-5, 8-18

AT THE opening of today’s lesson we find Paul in Thessalonica. There was a synagogue of the Jews there and, as was his custom, Paul went into this synagogue where he had the opportunity to witness to his Jewish brethren.

Bearing witness to the Jews that Jesus was the foretold Messiah was not an easy task in Paul’s day, nor has it ever been so. To the Jews the foretold Messiah [Christ in the Greek] was one who would liberate the Jewish people from their bondage to the Romans, and who in every way would benefit their nation, causing his influence, and the nation’s influence, to spread throughout the world.

But in asserting to the Jews that Jesus was their Messiah he could present no such facts as these concerning him, for actually he was crucified by his enemies. So Paul’s message was “that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead.” The Scriptures had told that the Messiah must indeed suffer and die as the world’s Redeemer, but the Jews did not know this, so the fact that up to this point their Messiah had fulfilled prophecy was not a convincing argument to them.

However, some did believe, and associated themselves with Paul and Silas. Apparently Paul was carrying on his ministry outside of the synagogue, for the record is that there was a great multitude of devout Greeks and many prominent women of the city who also believed.

Paul’s success stirred up the unbelieving Jews and they were “moved wilt, envy.” These “took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company and set all the city in an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.” The general public (and the rulers of the city) became troubled by this, and the result was that the brethren “sent away Paul and Silas by night into Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews”

Paul found the Jews in the synagogue at Berea “more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Because they searched the Scriptures and found that Paul was telling them the truth, “many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few”

“But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the Word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.” Again the brethren sent Paul away before he became too involved in the controversy, “but Silas and Timotheus [Timothy] abode there still.” Escorts were sent with Paul and these directed him to Athens. Before returning to the brethren, these escorts were given a commandment to carry back to Silas and Timothy—to come to him with all speed.

While waiting in Athens for Silas and Timothy to join him, Paul’s “spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” There apparently was a colony of Jews in Athens, for there was a synagogue there, and in this synagogue Paul disputed with the Jews, and with the devout persons. He also bore witness to the truth in the market daily with them that met with him.

Although not assigned as a part of the lesson, these circumstances led to Paul’s experience on Mars’ Hill, where he bore witness to the Greek philosophers. These philosophers claimed that Paul was a “setter forth of strange Gods: because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection.” Heathen religions have no place for this doctrine of the resurrection for the simple reason that according to heathen philosophies no one really dies.

Our memory verse says that those in the synagogue in Berea “received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” This is the proper attitude for all who really believe the Bible. When they find that the Bible supports what is being presented to them, they receive it with gladness, because they realize that it really comes to them from the Word of God.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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