Acts 17:1-15 (AD 49)
Few three-week trips have been as impactful as Paul’s to Thessalonica. Then again, most trips don’t end in a riot.
Think what sin was doing in the minds of the Jesus-hating people in the city. Paul spoke to Jews, gave them the news that the Jewish Messiah had come in response to the promises made by the God of the Jews, which meant enormous blessing for…the Jews.
The problem was that more Gentiles were being saved by God – thousands of them. Because of that, rich Greeks no longer poured so much money into the solely Jewish synagogues, but likely helped the churches too. From other historical sources we know it’s that patronage – i.e. money, that caused some of the jealousy. A jealousy made worse because some people left the synagogue to attend the new house church.
The jealousy resulted in more sin:
- Hatred (v.5 & 13)
- Violence (v.5-6)
- Inciting others to hatred and violence (v.5 & 13)
- Lying (to the city officials) (v.7)
Unfortunately the city officials were as clueless as they were spineless, took no interest in the truth but were “thrown into turmoil” (v.8) along with the rest of the city.
The impact of truth on sinful minds has always been limited. You may have heard the saying, ‘The truth will out,’ meaning, ‘it’s OK, justice will be done in this situation.’ Unfortunately, that’s frequently shown to be delusional. Justice is very often not done there and then. The guilty go free and the innocent are punished. So we fight injustice, particularly where we see the vulnerable and underprivileged suffering because of it. But we also know that only when Christ comes again will justice be done to everyone, everywhere.
The angry unbelievers in Thessalonica (I’m sure there were plenty of un-angry ones too) allowed their brains to be dictated to by their feelings. They felt jealous, so they decided they must be jealous.
We are, every day, tempted to respond in just the same way as that to God’s Word. To allow our first response, our emotions, to dictate our beliefs. It’s the arrogance of ‘going with your gut’ rather than going with thought, prayer, and submission to God’s wisdom. That was what the Bereans did (v.11-12). Confronted with the great Paul they thanked him for his words and then checked out what he was saying against the Old Testament. And Paul respected them for it.
Before you listen to a sermon or read a Bible passage, pray for understanding.
Be “eager” (v.11) to learn, grow and be challenged.
While you’re listening to a sermon, have your Bible open.
When a preacher makes a point, check it from the Bible.
When a preacher makes a point and doesn’t try to prove it from the Bible, check it even more.
Then, through knowledge and faith, and not through blind acceptance, you may believe what you hear (v.12).
Be noble, be Berean.