Acts 17 Paul Continues Preaching in Macedonia
Summary

After leaving Philippi in Macedonia, the evangelists went to Thessalonica. He taught for three weeks in the synagogue. Some Jews and many Greeks and prominent women believed. The Jews objected and created an uproar in the city. They charged the Christians with acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar. Paul and Barnabas left and went to Berea where they preached to fair-minded people. When the Jews again stirred up the crowds, Paul went on to Athens leaving Silas and Timothy at Berea. In Athens Paul confronted the philosophers and idolaters. He spoke of the nature of the true God and presented the gospel message concerning resurrection from the dead. A few joined him in believing in Jesus..

Paul and Silas in Thessalonica

17Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

Question 1

What specific message did Paul preach in the synagogue at Thessalonica?

Paul and Silas in Berea

10The brothers[1] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

Question 2

In what ways were the Jews in the synagogue of Berea more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica?

Paul in Athens

16Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Question 3

What did the philosophers in Athens think about Paul’s preaching at first?

Paul Addresses the Areopagus

22So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[2] 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[3]

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[4]

Question 4

Who was the “Unknown God”?

Question 5

How did Paul describe God to the Athenians?

29Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33So Paul went out from their midst. 34But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

People
  • Paul, Silas and Timothy
  • Preachers

  • Jason
  • Resident of Thessalonica who served as host to the evangelists

  • Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens
  • Dionysius and Damaris – believers in Athens
Places
  • Amphipolis
  • A district capital in Macedonia 33 miles SSW of Philippi

  • Apollonia
  • 27 miles SSW of Amphipolis

  • Thessalonica
  • 35 miles west of Apollonia

  • Berea
  • 45 miles WSW of Thessalonica

  • Athens
  • capital of Attica in Achaia, 195 miles SSE of Berea

Paul and Silas in Thessalonica

17Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

Acts 17:1

Thessalonica was the seat of the proconsul. It was a senatorial province with a population of between 20,000 and 100,000. It was called “the mother of all Macedonia.”

Paul and Silas in Berea

10The brothers[1] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

Acts 17:10

Berea was located off the Via Egnatia, the main road south to Achaia. Berea is Veria today.


Acts 17:11

The Jews (not the brethren) in Berea were more fair-minded than the Jews in Thessalonica.

Paul in Athens

16Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Acts 17:16

The magnificent Archaeological Museum of Athens houses many artifacts from this period.


Acts 17:18

Epicureans followed the teachings of Epicurus (341-270 BC). Thought gods were removed from life on earth, thus not to be feared; what is good is pleasurable; evil is defined as pain.


Acts 17:18

Stoics followed Zeno (340-265 BC). Their name came from “stoa,” a place where Zeno taught.

They were pantheists. They believed in self-discipline, self-sufficiency, and obedience. Good and evil were associated with moral and ethical responsibility and self-denial.


Acts 17:18

The word “babbler” referred to birds that pick up seeds; thus a scavenger for scraps.


Acts 17:19

The Areopagus was the “Hill of Ares” (Greek), or “Mars Hill” (Latin). A council met there to try crimes and regulate city life, education morality, and foreign cults and philosophical teaching. It was on the lower side of the Acropolis, a hill on which the Parthenon was prominent.


Acts 17:20

This language does not imply that Paul was on trial but he was interrogated.

Paul Addresses the Areopagus

22So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[2] 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[3]

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[4]

Acts 17:22

Apparently the philosophers had gathered to hear Paul.


Acts 17:27

God is beyond the world (not limited by restraints of physical existence); but He has chosen to provide for man and have relationship with all human beings in Christ (not far from us).


Acts 17:28

In the true God: “we live” (we exist through his sustained providence); “move” ( choose to do things through His providentially provided opportunities); and “have our being” (are who we are).

29Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Acts 17:31

Our confidence in the gospel rests on Christ’s having been raised from the dead.

32Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33So Paul went out from their midst. 34But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Perspectives

The mark of fair-mindedness is searching the Scriptures to determine if what one hears is true.

The living, spiritual God is very different in substantive ways from physical, man-made idols.

The assurance of the gospel lies in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.