Lesson 39: Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey (Continued)

Acts 16:35-17:21

Paul and Silas were still in jail at Philippi. They were released for a time by the earthquake. The jailer had a sudden change of heart. He became a Christian, along with others of his household. They were baptized in the wee hours of the morning. The jailer fed Paul and Silas, before they went back to their cells. O.K. it's coming daylight. Let's read verse 35-40 Act 16:35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the Serjeants, saying, Let those men go. Act 16:36 And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.
Act 16:37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.
Act 16:38 And the Serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.
Act 16:39 And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city. Act 16:40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.
O.K. let those men go! Apparently the magistrates thought if they released these men early in the morning, they would head for the hills and clear the town, glad to be released. But, they underestimated these men. What if Paul and Silas had sneaked out of town! What precedent would have been set for the nature? What would it have taught those young converts at Philippi? Those magistrates were acting as though they were entitled to be overbearing. I am assuming the officials were unaware what had happened during the night The jailer was anxious to release Paul and Silas. But, these preachers still had not made their point, citizens. Paul and Silas knew, it was time to make the point; while we've got their attention. Tell those magistrates to come down and let us out themselves. Can you imagine how that message grabbed those magistrates? Especially, when they latched on to that Roman citizen bit? It put the shoe on the other foot. They feared, verse 38 says. They were not snapping their fingers, giving commands and disregarding these citizens any longer. The tune had changed. Notice in verse 39, they "besought them" and "desired them to depart out of the city." You see, Paul and Silas didn't try to get even with them; they tried to teach them. And actually those magistrates deserved to know that. At a later time Paul wrote to the brethren at Rome: Rom 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. So, undoubtedly the magistrates found these two preachers very reasonable people. So, Paul and Silas left town at their request; BUT not before they visited those young converts called brethren in verse 40. That must have been another emotional scene as they departed Philippi. And, did you notice Luke (our writer) lapses back into the third person..."they"..."when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed." It would appear that Luke and Timothy stayed at Philippi. And what a comfort that must have been to the new converts, Lydia, the Jailer, their households and possibly others. How many weeks Paul and Silas stayed at Philippi, we don't know. BUT, as they left town, another young church (babes in Christ) was left behind. And. henceforth we know very little about this church. We must say good-bye to Lydia AND the Philippian Jailer. They are not mentioned again. Paul did write a letter to this church later that has been preserved. I speak of the book of Philippians (the eleventh book in the N.T.). Sometimes referred to as a prison epistle. Not because of Paul's jail experience at Philippi but because Paul was in prison at Rome when he wrote that letter. It is one of the most affectionate letters in the New Testament., written six or eight years after the time we are now discussing. We are introduced to another member of the Philippian church through that letter. A man by the name of Epaphroditus, who hazarded his life, traveled more than seven hundred miles over and sea to bring Paul a gift. Epaphroditus caught a serious disease at Rome and almost died there, but eventually recovered, and Paul sent the Philippian letter (by his hand) back to this congregation. It would seem that this congregation developed a reputation for supporting Paul. In ch.4 of that letter. Paul told the Philippians (verse 15) "No church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in


 

Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity." In n Cor.8:2-3. Paul mentioned this again and said in their deep poverty they gave beyond their power to give. It would seem the future members of this church became very dedicated. Bishops and deacons are mentioned in ch.l, verse 1, of that letter...i.e. elders were appointed. And, Paul expressed a strong desire to visit them again. In that letter, he promised to send Timothy shortly. I suggest that you take the time (at the end of this lesson) to read the book of Philippians. while you have it in perspective. O.K. the last verse in Acts 16 said Paul and Silas "departed" from Philippi as requested by the public officials of that city. Thus, Philippi was the first city of Europe to receive the gospel by the lips of an apostle. Let's read 17:1-4. Act 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: Act 17:2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Act 17:3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
Act 17:4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.

Thessalonica is city # 28 on your map; something like 100 miles west of Philippi. There was a synagogue in Thessalonica in contrast to Philippi. And, this may have had a lot to do in selecting Thessalonica over other places. Paul liked those synagogues! It was a good starting place. He reasoned with them three Sabbath Days. How? Out of the scriptures (verse 2) Informed Jews knew enough about the Old Testament that Paul could right on through and bring them right on DOWN to Christ, AND into Christ, if they were honest and good hearts. That was the hitch! Some were, some were not. He reasoned by "opening and alleging", i.e. Paul made it plain and they couldn't answer his arguments. Surely, there were MORE Jews around a synagogue than Greeks; i.e. proselyted Gentiles and prospective proselytes. But, the Jews were more biased, the Gentiles were more prone to reason. Thus, more Gentiles than Jews obeyed by attending to those things Paul taught. A few Jews, many Greeks and a lot of women. Chief women must have been those of high social and educational rank. What did Paul teach? Notice verse 3! Christ must needs have suffered, i.e. that's what the OLD TESTAMENT taught. It would be interesting to listen to Paul's sermon. He must have used Isaiah 53rd chapter and other prophecies. Perhaps these Jews never thought of the Messiah in terms of suffering, in terms of weakness, in terms of bearing our sins and iniquities. Crucifixion was thought of in association with scandal. So, Paul had to teach them what the Old Testament really taught. They needed to see that Jesus Christ fulfilled these prophecies. That He arose from the dead, to die no more. That He is now reigning on God's throne. Those that believed that and attended, as Lydia did, to those things (repentance, confession and baptism) became New Testament Christians. Many did! More Greeks than Jews, many women! This seems to be a replay of Antioch in Pisidia other places Paul went. It generally didn't take that long, until some resistance movement began to develop among the Jews. Let's read verse 5-9. "But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; Whom Jason hath, received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go." Sound familiar? As a matter of Paul had been tough this business so many times, he was learning how to handle it. That stoning at Lystra, the beating at Philippi, the stocks and jail, had no doubt caused Paul to reflect upon Jesus' words: I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Matt. 10:16) .So, Paul and Silas outwitted them this time. They could see it brewing: it came from their own brethren, not like the heathens they bumped up against at Philippi. Who was Jason? Isn't it great to have a Christian friend you can trust? Jason must have been the Lydia of Thessalonica. "Whom Jason hath received" (verse 7). Some months later, when Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, he said: Timothy and Luke and Jason salute you (Rom. 16:21). Real Christian friends are not easily forgotten. Did you notice how the news had traveled in verse 6? "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also." In a left-handed sort of way, that was a real complement to Paul and his associates. Of course, they had some help from the home office, upstairs. God's word was having it's effect. Remember, there are two kinds of hearts; good and honest hearts (Luke 8:15) and some have hardened hearts (Mark 3:5). God knoweth the hearts (Acts 15:8). But, hearts can change! It happened to the Philippian jailer. Nobody knew better than Paul, how easy it was to be honestly mistaken. They assaulted the house of Jason. Did you notice their tactics? How would you define: "certain lewd fellows of the baser sort". Did you ever meet any of those? When they couldnt find Paul and Silas, they decided to take it out on Jason and "certain" other brethren. Into the market place they went. Notice the accusation! They teach another king, Jesus. Where have you heard that? This trouble the rulers (public officials), they knew it was a plot! Yet they didn't want some rumor of treason to filter into Rome and back lash on them. But, you see Jason was not the one teaching this and they had not heard these other "certain brethren" teach it either. And, of course, Paul did not teach Jesus as a king in the sense they implied it. Jason had received them. That, probably means they had seen Paul and Silas in Jason's house. Isnt it amazing, how unscrupulous people can pervert anything when it will help them accomplish what they want? The officials could see that, so they let these men go. Let's read verse 10-12: Act 17:10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.

Act 17:11 These were 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. Act 17:12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. The brethren at Thessalonica helped Paul and Silas get out of town under the cover of darkness. Paul decided to leave in consideration of Jason's safety. Not his own! Berea is city # 29, on the map. And this city had a synagogue. The people were more honorable. They had "readiness of mind"...i.e. they were willing to listen and check the references. When Paul preached, they searched to see if these things were true. They worked on it, searching the scriptures daily. Isn't that a beautiful picture? Truth will win out every time with God and honest hearts. But look out for those "lewd fellows of the baser sort"! Bulldozers with a mission to destroy. Hero's of the wrecking crew! Shoot now and ask questions later! But the Bereans were NOT that kind of people. They were more noble than those in Thessalonica. So what would you expect? Many believed. (Verse 12). The church was planted. The Holy Spirit was dwelling in many people. They were born of the water and they were born of the spirit. Children of God. The temple of God. I Cor. 3:16. A habitation of God through the spirit...Eph.2:22. Three churches were now in Europe! Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea. And apparently these preachers had not been in Europe more than 60 days. Let's read more. VERSES 13-14-15:
Act 17:13 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.
Act 17:14 And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. Act 17:15 And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed. Uh! Oh! Here we go again! The Jews of Thessalonica came thither also stirred up the people. Did you notice Timothy caught up with Paul and Silas at Berea. The brethren sent Paul away! Paul was apparently the spokesman and therefore the center of attention to those lewd fellows of the baser sort. The escape from Thessalonica by night had undoubtedly worked so well and smooth, the brethren at Berea must have tried about the same thing in interest of peace and safety. There is no indication they went by night, but the Berean brethren were able to confidently say "Paul is gone!" This was the easiest way to silence the resistance movement and still keep the peace. It IS a shame it had to happen that way, but it serves as a lesson to us. When someone is bent on mischief, disarm them or defuse them, if you can. It is foolish to bring on a direct confrontation when no good can come from it. It is better to be defrauded a little, than by your presence to bring on blood shed. This was NOT compromising the word, at Berea. It was just common sense, Silas and Timothy stayed, undoubtedly by keeping a low profile. They were able to teach and train some of the congregational leaders and give some stability to this new congregation. Naturally, there was some risk to their personal safety, but they were willing to take that risk. It would be interesting to know where and who Luke was working with; but Luke and the Holy Spirit did not see fit to tell us. I sense, he was either laboring at Philippi or Thessalonica at that time. Paul wound up at Athens, city # 30. Athens was in Achaia, another Roman province. Whereas; Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea was in Macedonia. But notice in verse 15, when those assisting brethren left Paul, Paul instructed them ("commanded" them it says), to send Silas and Timothy to meet him quickly. Now take just a moment here, reflect on Paul's mental state. He had been driven out of the last three towns where he tried to work. Now, here he was in Athens waiting for his helpers to come to him. Athens was an intellectual center. That was were all the wealthy Romans sent their sons to finish their education. Athens was large city built around a called the Acropolis, meaning "the upper city." This flat-topped hill called Mars' Hill was about 200 feet high. At that time the Acropolis was covered with temples and was the religious center of the city. Athens is said to have the bluest skies of any place in the world. And, that must have been about the way Paul felt, all alone in a large pagan city. Someone has said there were more idols and monuments in Athens (the center of philosophy, education and learning) than men. Yet, ignorance and stupidity were displayed in every epithet. There is nothing more disgusting than sophisticated people, stuck up in themselves, believing themselves to be educated and refined, claiming to be brighter than the sun; and in total ignorance about God and the state of His creation, lost in darkness, doomed to a devil's hell and too capricious, too erratic and too arrogant to know it. It's Satan's tool of deceitfulness. It's the way he evangelizes the world of the lost. But, even here, Paul tried, to teach and preach Jesus. Let's read verse 16-21: Act 17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Act 17:17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
Act 17:18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
Act 17:19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
Act 17:20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. Act 17:21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)

This air of sophistication naturally exhibited itself in the synagogue, also. Everything turned out to be a dispute as verse 17 put it. Then in verse 18, the champions of philosophy "encountered him. "What will this babbler say?" In Strong's Concordance, it says the Greek word for "babbler" means seed-picker, like a crow or a loafer or gossiper. Alexander Campbell, in his translation of Acts renders the word: "Chatterer" and says in the footnote: "one uttering scraps on any subject." Thus, I sense it was NOT a very complimentary term. Let's see what kind of propaganda this pea-picking country hick is peddling, that's the thought. So, Paul was invited to address the upper crust of the learning lovers. That's what the word philosophy means: LOVE LEARNING. And, I might add; there is a place for philosophy. Just as there is a place for science. It must be true science: it must be honest Philosophy. It's the distortion factor that makes it harmful and destroys its usefulness. Paul told Timothy: "avoid profane and vain babbling, and oppositions of science falsely so called..." (I Tim. 6:20). O.K. Paul was invited to speak in the Areopagus by the Stoics and the Epicureans." But, we're due a break. Let's take it! We'll meet at the Areopagus in lesson # 40. Don't forget to read Philippians! The whole book is only 104 verses.

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