Acts 17 Commentary Verse 3

Let’s move on to verse 3 to see what else Paul was doing while he visited this synagogue in Thessalonica for three sabbath days.

Acts 17:3 AV 1873

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.


So, Paul was “opening  (διἀνοίγω) … that Christ must needs have suffered” What does that look like?

This word is used elsewhere regarding the two disciples who walked with Jesus to Emmaus after he was raised from the dead. These men had their eyes opened (Luke 24:31). They recalled that Jesus had opened Scripture to them which made their hearts burn (Luke 24:32).

Then you recall that when those two men gathered with the rest of the disciples in Jerusalem, Jesus opened the understanding of them all so that they could understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).

Now, typically when this word is used, it’s God himself who is doing the opening. But in this one case in the New Testament, God is using a man – the Apostle Paul – to open the scriptures to these Jews in the synagogue.

And this reality that it is God himself who is behind Paul’s verbal witness would indicate that these Thessalonian Jews in the synagogue actually got the message that Paul was presenting. It wasn’t oblique. Paul wasn’t confusing them. These Jews were brought to understand the message plainly.


And then Paul was also “alleging (παρατίθημι) that Christ must needs have suffered.”

This is the only time (out of 19 uses) where this word is translated as “allege” in the KJV. Elsewhere it’s translated as set or set before (7), commit (4), commend (3), put forth (2), set before (2).

Paul is then setting his message before these Jews with the expectation that they would receive it.

So, we’ve heard that Paul is verbally communicating a message with persuasion and God’s own working behind it.

Now, let’s look at Paul’s message itself. What is Paul reasoning about and opening and alleging in the synagogue?

Necessities Concerning the Christ

Paul asserts that the Old Testament makes two claims concerning the Christ.

In fact, the Old Testament portrayed these two realities as absolute necessities. That’s what that phrase “must needs” indicates.

According to Paul, the Old Testament leaves no room for argument concerning the following two facts. They are settled.

Suffering Christ

So, first, the Christ “must needs” have suffered.

Do you believe that? Do you really believe that the Old Testament presents the suffering of the Messiah as an absolute necessity?

Well, where would you go to find such claims?

Let me just walk us through a few of the many texts of Scripture that, taken all together, make the claim that the Messiah needed to suffer.

•     Back in Genesis 3:15 it was foretold that the seed of the serpent would bruise the heel of the seed of the woman – the Messiah.

•     The Messiah would be rejected by his close friend (Psalm 41.9).

•     He would be rejected by the builders (Psalm 118.22-23).

•     He would be the suffering servant (Isaiah 53:3).

•     He would be rejected for 30 shekels (Zechariah 11.12-13).

•     He would be forsaken by God and his murderers would divide his clothing (Psalm 22.1,18).

•     God’s sword would be turned against him (Zechariah 13:7).

•     Yet, even though he would be forsaken by God, he still committed his spirit into God’s hands (Psalm 31:5).

•     The Jews will look on him whom they’ve pierced (Zechariah 12:10).

•     He was cursed for us (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).

•     The Gentiles and Jews took counsel together against the Lord and his Anointed (Psalm 2:2).

These are several of the many texts in the Old Testament that declare it to be a necessity that the Christ would suffer.

And it’s not only Paul that made this point. Jesus himself also claimed that the Old Testament portrayed it as a necessity for the Messiah to suffer (Luke 24:26,46).

Peter also made this same assertion, as well (Acts 3:18).

Jews – even of today – tend to view the idea of a suffering Messiah as a stumblingblock or an offense (1 Corinthians 1:23). It’s actually something that on a human level keeps them from receiving Jesus as their Messiah. And yet, if they read their Old Testament with eyes of faith they would see that this was part of God’s plan all along.

Rising Christ

Well, the second reality that Paul wanted these Jews in Thessalonica to be persuaded of was that the Old Testament portrayed it as a necessity that the Messiah rise again.

Just as sure as it was that the Messiah would suffer – and suffer to the point of death – he would just as surely rise again.

•     The Christ would not be left in the grave or experience decay (Psalm 16:10).

•     He would sit at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1).

•     He would ascend on high (Psalm 68:18).

And more passages could be brought in as evidence of this requirement of the Messiah – that he would rise from the dead.

The Identity of the Messiah

Well, Paul established that the Old Testament presented it as being a necessity that the Messiah would suffer and rise again.

So, the question would turn to the identity of this one. Who is this suffering and rising Messiah?

Paul’s answer – it is none other than Jesus of Nazareth.

There are over two hundred verses in the New Testament in which the words “Jesus” and “Christ” appear together. Every single book of the New Testament makes this claim.


And as you know, “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name – like you have a first name and a last name. His last name just happens to be “Christ” – no. That’s not how that works.

It’s a title for a God-ordained office or position. Jesus fills the office of Messiah.

To discover just what it means that Jesus is the Christ, let’s allow the people of Jesus’ day to define that term.

•     Matthew identified the Christ as the son of both David and Abraham, hearkening back to promises that God made with those men concerning their “seed” – their ultimate descendant (Matthew 1:1).

•     When the wise men came to worship the child Jesus, they were seeking the King of the Jews. In response to that inquiry, King Herod asked the Jewish religious experts of his day – not where the King of the Jews was to be born – but rather where the Christ was to be born (Matthew 2:1-6).

•     In that same passage, those religious experts pointed Herod to Micah 5:2 which speaks of a governor who would rule God’s people Israel. So, the Christ is the King of the Jews.

•     The angels who proclaimed Jesus’ birth announced that the Christ would be the savior (Luke 2:11). He would deliver his people from their sin.

•     According to the High Priest Caiaphas who served as a judge in one of the Jewish trials of Jesus, the Christ was the Son of God (Matthew 26:63).

•     The unbelieving Jews who watched Jesus’ crucifixion made the claim that the Christ was “the chosen [elect] of God.” (Luke 23:35).

•     The Samaritan woman at the well fully expected that the Christ would be able to tell all things (John 4:25). He would be omniscient.

•     In terms the origin of the Christ, the Jews of Jesus’ day seem to have had some conflicting thoughts. Some of them thought that no one would know where the Christ was from (John 7:27). But they were quite sure it wasn’t from Galilee (John 7:41). And they ultimately knew that he would come from Bethlehem (John 7:42). They also seemed to expect that Christ would do miracles (John 7:31).

Jesus is the Messiah

So, let’s put it all together. The Messiah would suffer and die. He would rise again. He would be David’s son and Abraham’s son. He would be the Son of God, God’s chosen one. He would perform miracles. His origin would be unknown in some ways and yet he would be born in Bethlehem. He would know everything and deliver his people from their sin.

Who else would fulfill all of these prophecies – and more – than Jesus of Nazareth?

And so, that’s exactly the conclusion that Paul led these Jews to – that this Jesus whom Paul preached unto them is Christ.

Let’s Preach It!

And that should be our heartbeat as well.

We can follow in the footsteps of Paul the Apostle in our community. With God’s help we can see God advancing his gospel through us as we serve him without quitting. And as we do this we go forward with the biblical message of a suffering and rising Messiah.

So, in this message we’ve seen the messengers and the message of the gospel. And next time, Lord-willing, we’ll see the two very different responses that people have to this message, as we finish this section in Acts before we move on into the book of 1 Thessalonians itself.

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