1 Thessalonians 1 Summary Verses 1-4

In the last two messages, we’ve explored the founding of the church in the ancient Greek city of Thessalonica.

And now finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for! We’re actually starting into the book of 1 Thessalonians itself.

And I anticipate picking up the pace in the remaining messages. But for this message we’re going to be exploring 1 Thessalonians 1:1-4. So, let’s read that together before we get into the details.

1 Thessalonians 1:1–4 AV 1873

1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; 4 knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.

Now, I feel the need to warn you that the beginning of this message is a lot of details and maps and background information – as you might expect from the first message studying through a book.

But when we get past the beginning of verse 1, I think that all of our hearts will be warmed with the message that God has for us there.

So – endure the first verse with me as we fill our minds with information about this book!

1 Thessalonians 1 Summary Verse 1

Because it’s in verse 1 that we see the common greeting that Paul gives in every one of his letters.

1 Thessalonians 1:1 AV 1873

1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is how ancient letters were formatted.

Our modern letters begin with the recipient and end with the author, typically. But in ancient Roman correspondence, the letter would begin first with the author and then the recipient and then some sort of greeting, that Paul customizes in order to include important theological realities.

Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus – Three Authors, One Writer

So, first, we’re given the authors of this letter – Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus.

Note that there are three authors given rather than one – even though Paul was probably the only one who physically wrote this letter.

And so, as we read through this letter, we need to keep in mind that although Paul is the one writing it, these two other brethren also share the sentiments that he’s communicating to this church.

And ultimately, because of the New Testament teaching that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16), it’s actually God himself who’s speaking through the pen of the apostle Paul. And not just to this one local church in ancient Thessalonica – but to all of his people throughout the ages.

Paul / Saul

So, the first author mentioned is Paul.

[S] For several chapters of Acts, Paul is known by his given name of Saul. But it was apparently during his first missionary journey with Barnabas that he began being called Paul (Acts 13:9).

[https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/Rembrandt_-_Apostle_Paul_-_WGA19120.jpg]

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rembrandt_-_Apostle_Paul_-_WGA19120.jpg]

And so, the two main names that we see throughout Acts chapters 13 and 14 and 15 are Paul and Barnabas. That is, until the end of Acts 15 where Paul and Barnabas part ways over a difference in one aspect of their philosophy of ministry (Acts 15:38).

Silas / Silvanus

And that’s where we see this man named Silas enter the picture (Acts 15:40). He’s referred to here in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 as Silvanus.

Apparently he’s like Paul who also went by “Saul” or Simon who also went by “Peter” or John/Mark – in that he has two names that he goes by. It could be that his Roman name is Silvanus and his Greek name is Silas or something like that, as well.

Now, just a little bit of background on Silas. Because the Thessalonian believers would have known the following about him as well.

We first see him mentioned in relation to the so-called Jerusalem Council that was convened over whether Gentile converts to Christ needed to be circumcised or not.

The church in Jerusalem ended up sending Silas with Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with their decision. Silas is described as one of the “chief men among the brethren” in Jerusalem (Acts 15:22). He was also a prophet (Act 15:32) and a preacher (2 Corinthians 1:19).

As Silas was ministering in Antioch, Paul decided to take him on Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:40). And on that journey, Silas was with Paul in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4).

And that’s at least what these believers would have known about this man named Silas.

Timothy

And then the last co-author of 1 Thessalonians is Timothy or Timotheus.

He’s listed as co-author with Paul of six of the New Testament epistles (2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1Philemon 1:1). And then of course we have an additional two letters in the New Testament where Timothy is not the co-author of the Apostle Paul – but rather he is the recipient of those letters (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2).

Timothy was picked up by the Apostle Paul and Silas almost immediately as they started Paul’s second missionary journey.

Now, Timothy was not mentioned in the record of the founding of this church is Thessalonica back in Acts 17. And yet, somehow these Thessalonian believers came to know him. And so, his name being mentioned wasn’t inappropriate. It’s not as if anyone in the church who received this letter would have said, “Who’s Timothy?!

[S] So, why was Timothy not mentioned in Acts 17?

I think what happened is that Timothy stayed behind in Philippi after Paul and Silas left there to visit Thessalonica. Then, once Paul and Silas had to leave Thessalonica, Timothy came behind them and ministered for a short while to those new believers in that city in Paul’s absence. And after that, all three of them ended up in Berea (Acts 17:14).

https://goo.gl/maps/eMuTZSimC1grkKtTA

And so, we have Paul and Silas and Timothy co-authoring this letter.

Where Was 1 Thessalonians Written?

Now, let’s talk about where this letter was likely written.

And to do this, we need to consider a brief timeline of the start of Paul’s second missionary journey.

[S] These three men – Paul, Silas, and Timothy – start where they find Timothy in Derbe/Lystra/Iconium (Acts 16:1).

https://goo.gl/maps/9fkrgvUYjxQJUmbY8

Then we’re told that they move on through various towns.

[S] They go through Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow them to go to Asia (Acts 16:6).

By the way, the Asia referenced in the New Testament is not what we think of as Asia. Today, when you talk about Asia you’re referring to the continent that contains China and Mongolia and Russia and Iran, etc. In Paul’s day, Asia was a relatively small area of southwestern modern-day Turkey that you can see from the map that Paul and Silas and Timothy skirt to the north.

And so this group goes through Mysia (Acts 16:7).

Then they arrive at Troas (Acts 16:8).  And it’s there where Paul gets the Macedonian call (Acts 16:9).

[S] So, these three men all go to the island of Samothrace, then to Neapolis (Acts 16:11), and then finally to Philippi (which is not on that map, but is just 10 miles west of Neapolis) (Acts 16:12).

It’s in Philippi where Paul casts out the demon from the servant girl. And then her masters apprehend only Paul and Silas – not Timothy (Acts 16:19). Only Paul and Silas end up in jail (Acts 16:25). And they apparently leave that city – just the two of them – Timothy stays behind.

Because next we see just Paul and Silas in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4).

[S] Then they’re run out of that city and they go to Berea (Acts 17:10). When the Thessalonian Jews discovered that Paul and Silas were in Berea, they came there too and ran them out again.

https://goo.gl/maps/fAU84mZwgBpiT74X7

After Timothy came to Berea, the Christians there send only Paul away to Athens, leaving Silas and Timothy in Berea (Acts 17:14). Paul sent a message for Silas and Timothy to meet him in Athens (Acts 17:15).

[S] And it seems that Silas and Timothy eventually came to Paul in Athens, but then they sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to see how the believers there were doing (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2).

1 Thessalonians 3:1–2 AV 1873

1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; 2 and sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:

[S] So, after Paul preaches in Athens he and probably Silas go to Corinth (Acts 18:1). And finally Timothy catches up with Paul and Silas in Corinth (Acts 18:5). And so, they were all there together in Corinth for a year and a half.

https://goo.gl/maps/tq9JGaWET3jfK6oDA

And the point of all this is that that’s the first time that all three men have plenty of time to write a letter to the church in Thessalonica.

And so, this is likely where Paul and Silas and Timothy wrote this letter to the church in that city where they were so unceremoniously kicked out.

This letter was written from Corinth in all likelihood.

When Was 1 Thessalonians Written?

Alright, so now let’s talk about when 1 Thessalonians was written. And thankfully this answer takes a lot less explanation.

[S] According to Acts 18:12 while Paul and Silas and Timothy were in Corinth for over a year, this man named Gallio was the deputy or the proconsul of Achaia.

Acts 18:12 AV 1873

12 And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucius_Junius_Gallio_Annaeanus

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1f/Delphes_Gallion.jpg

Archaeology tells us that Gallio was proconsul of Achaia from A.D. 51–52. This date is one of the firmly established dates in Acts. It’s established from what’s called the “Delphi Inscription” which was discovered in the late 1800s and is now housed in the French School of Archaeology in Athens, Greece. (W. Dittenberger, e.d., Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum 2.3 no. 8).

And so, it’s really likely that the letter of 1 Thessalonians is to be dated A.D. 51–52. This would make this book one of the earliest – if not the earliest – letter that Paul wrote that we have in the Bible.

So, to summarize what we’ve seen so far…

•     We have the authors of this letter – Paul, Silas, and Timothy.

•     We have the likely place this letter was written – Corinth.

•     We have a probable date range during which it was written – AD 51-52.

unto the church of the Thessalonians

And we’ve already pretty-much established this, but next we see the recipients of this letter.

It’s the church of the Thessalonians. And we saw how this church was started in Acts 17:1-9 already.

And it might be a few months or so after Paul and Silas left Thessalonica that they wrote this letter along with Timothy.

And amazingly the church still stands. Despite the persecution. Despite being deprived of their spiritual father and mentors – Paul and Silas. Jesus Christ has promised to build his church (Matthew 16:18) and that’s exactly what he did in Thessalonica. And he continued to build it – even in the absence of their human leadership and in the midst of persecution.

So, what does it take for a church to stand in this midst of such stress and turmoil? What has it taken for you to stand through all of the trials in your life?

Well, in the rest of verse 1, Paul gives us two two factors that are directly responsible for you and me and every genuine believer and every genuine church persevering to the end – despite hardships and trouble.

in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ

The first factor that causes us to stand is that we are in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.

in God

Believers are in God.

Later on in this letter we’ll hear Paul recall his difficult time in Philippi (1 Thessalonians 2:2). But despite the beatings and the persecution and the threat to his very life – he says that he was bold to speak the truth to these Thessalonians. And he says that his boldness was in God.

God was the source of Paul’s boldness. God is the source of any strength we might have in the midst of difficulties and struggles.

Further, regarding believers being in God… The Apostle John says in 1 John 4:15-16 that the one who confesses Jesus as the Son of God has God dwelling in him. God indwells you if you’re a believer. That’s why your life has changed since trusting Christ.

But even more amazing – and much harder to understand – is what he goes on to say there. Not only does the believer have God living in him – but if you’re a believer, you are actually living in God.

The church of the Thessalonians might reside in that ancient city of Thessalonica. But Paul doesn’t say, “to the church in Thessalonica.” That’s not their ultimate dwelling place. It’s not their final abode. Their final abode and yours is God. You spiritually dwell in him.

the Father

And he’s not only God to us. He’s also our Father.

And part of God’s fatherhood toward us that keeps us standing in the mist of trials and difficulties is the truth that’s revealed in Jude 1:1 where Jude there says that we are sanctified or progressively made holy by or in God the Father.

And because of that, trials actually are the means by which God does this sanctifying work. He doesn’t intend to destroy us by sending hard things into our lives. Our Father actually intends to make us more holy – more like his Son.

and in the Lord Jesus Christ

And so, it’s that Son to which Paul now turns our attention.

Believers are in God the Father. And we’re also in the Lord Jesus Christ.

[S] The New Testament relates to us that in the Lord:

•     We are no longer living dark lives (Ephesians 5:8).

•     Children are able to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20).

•     We find strength to withstand the devil (Ephesians 6:10-11).

•     We are empowered to truly serve others (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7).

•     We find true joy (Philippians 3:1).

•     We can be harmonious with our fellow believers (Philippians 4:2).

•     Wives find the ability to submit to their imperfect husband (Colossians 3:18).

•     And as Paul says later on in this letter, in the Lord alone are we able to stand fast (1 Thessalonians 3:8; Philippians 4:1).

[S] Furthermore, in Jesus:

•     We are redeemed from sin (Romans 3:24).

•     We are alive unto God (Romans 6:11).

•     We have the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).

•     We are no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1).

•     We are loved by God (Romans 8:39).

•     And we are able to love one another (1 Corinthians 16:24) because we are all one (Galatians 3:28).

•     You wouldn’t know it, but right now we are actually seated in heavenly places in Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).

•     And when the troubles of life start to overwhelm, God is able to keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7) through whom he supplies all of our needs (Philippians 4:19).

So, we are – as the Thessalonian believers were – helped to stand in the midst of all of our struggles and trials because we are in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace be unto you, and peace

And since we are in God and in Jesus, we have this grace and peace to help us to withstand the difficulties in life.

[S] Paul is both praying that God would give the Thessalonians grace as well as stating that they already have this grace.

•     It’s this grace that enables us to serve the Lord in the ways that he has called us to serve (Acts 14:26).

•     It’s this grace that saves and justifies us (Acts 15:11; Romans 3:24).

•     By grace we are able to stand (Romans 5:2).

•     This grace abounds in our lives even when we fall and sin (Romans 6:1).

•     And it’s actually this grace that guarantees that sin doesn’t ultimately have dominion over us (Romans 6:14).

•     It’s also this grace by which we have received whatever gifts we have to serve one another (Romans 12:6).

So, you can see how having this grace initially helps us to stand for the Lord when life is hard – like it was for the Thessalonians – and how believers need more and more of this grace from God.

[S] Very similarly, we both already have – and yet need still more of – this peace from God.

•     Jesus himself gives us his peace which then enables our hearts to not be troubled even in trials and hardships (John 14:27).

•     It’s in Christ that we have this peace – though in the world we have tribulation (John 16:33).

•     Three times after Jesus rose from the dead and met with his disciples this was his message to them – “peace to you all” (John 20:19,21,26).

•     We enjoy this peace because we were justified by faith in Jesus (Romans 5:1).

•     As we believe the God of hope, he fills us with this peace (Romans 15:13).

•     And as we refuse to be anxious – but instead trust the Lord with gratitude – his peace keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

•     Paul then ends this letter of 1 Thessalonians with a prayer for these believers that the God of peace would sanctify us in every way (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

God gives grace and God gives peace because we are in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ. These realities are what cause a church – and its individual believers – to stand in the midst of affliction and deprivation.

1 Thessalonians 1 Summary Verse 2

Now, this reality that God protects and strengthens his people in the ways that we have just rehearsed leads Paul to give thanks for these believers, starting in 1 Thessalonians 1:2.

And so, we’re now going to see in verses 2-4 three actions to prompt you to give thanks for fellow believers.

1 Thessalonians 1:2 AV 1873

2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

We give thanks to God

And we begin with the simple observation that it is right to give thanks for your fellow believers.

If you were honest with yourself, how much of your mindset concerning your fellow-believers could be characterized by thankfulness? In the past week, have you entertained thoughts of gratitude and thankfulness – simply for other genuine Christians?

On numerous occasions the Apostle Paul expressed a thankful heart for fellow believers (Acts 28:15; Romans 1:8; 16:4; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:3; Colossians 1:31 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2:13; Philemon 4) He thanked God even for the troubled Corinthian church! Because although they were very troubled, they were still genuine believers!

And if Paul says later in this letter, “in every thing give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) then you know that it’s God’s will that you be thankful for your fellow-believers.

And of course, the thanksgiving needs to be directed to God.

Because he’s the one who has done all of the “heavy lifting.” He has saved both your fellow-believers and you. He is the one worthy of our offerings of praise and thanks for the genuine work that he has done – both in your heart and in the hearts of other Christians.

And he wants this from you. He wants to receive thanks. This is his will concerning you.

always for you all

And then, this thanksgiving is to be marked by universals. Maybe you could describe it as “profuse” or “lavish.”

Paul gave thanks always for these believers.

Now, of course, he’s not claiming that there wasn’t a second in his life wherein he wasn’t verbally thanking God for these folks. But he is saying that constantly he was engaged in this behavior of thanking God for them. It was his heart’s attitude. It was his default mode.

He gave thanks always for them.

And then Paul gave thanks – he says – “for all of you.”

His thanksgiving is not exclusive. He doesn’t pick and choose whom he is going to be thankful for based on some contrived motivation. If someone was a genuine believer, Paul was going to thank God for that one.

So, does this characterize your attitude toward other believers?

Maybe you recognize that it doesn’t – that you really do not thank the Lord very much at all for your fellow-Christians.

If that’s the case, then Paul is going to lay out his own approach to doing this in order to be a model for you. He is going to give you three actions that prompted him to give thanks to God for genuine fellow-believers in Christ.

making mention of you in our prayers

The first of these actions is simply to pray for them – to make mention of them in your prayers.

The word mention refers to memory. So, the first step in being thankful to God for your fellow-believers is to simply remember them.

Later in this letter we’ll see Paul say that Timothy had visited the Thessalonians and then returned to Paul. And when Timothy returned, he was able to relate to Paul and Silas that the Thessalonians, “had good remembrance of [them] always, desiring greatly to see [them]” (1 Thessalonians 3:6). The Thessalonians had fond memories of Paul and Silas.

When we’re apart from one another throughout the week, you can make it a practice to remember your fellow-believers. That’s simple enough.

And you do this remembering as you actually pray to God. Because Paul and Silas and Timothy are remembering these Thessalonian believers in “in [their] prayers.

So, making mention of your fellow believers as you pray to the Lord is one actions that will prompt you to give thanks to God for them.

1 Thessalonians 1 Summary Verse 3

We see the second action to prompt thankfulness for your fellow believers in verse 3.

1 Thessalonians 1:3 AV 1873

3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

remembering

Again, we see the mental aspect involved in this process of thanking God for genuine Christians. Paul and Silas and Timothy were prompted to thank God for the Thessalonians as they were remembering – which is related to our word “mention” in the last verse.

And they are constantly engaged in this remembering. They’re doing it without ceasing.

And they are doing this remembering in the sight of God and our Father at the end of the verse. Again, they’re doing this in the realm of prayer.

So, what exactly are Paul and Silas and Timothy remembering about the Thessalonians? Three activities.

your work of faith

First, Paul remembered the Thessalonians’ work of faith.

[S] Now, often in the New Testament, faith and work are used as contrasting ways in which people seek to be saved.

•     Paul concludes in Romans 3:27-28 that you and I are justified – we’re declared righteous – by God on the basis of faith alone apart from the works of the law.

•     Paul recalled in Galatians 2:16 that there was a time he had to remind even the Apostle Peter that we are justified by faith apart from works of the law.

•     When we received the Spirit, it was by faith and not by the works of the law (Galatians 3:2).

•     When God has chosen to work miracles among his people, he does it through their faith rather than through the works of the law (Galatians 3:5).

•     When a person is saved, the foundation of that salvation is twofold – that person repents from dead works and has faith in God (Hebrews 6:1).

So, that’s all true. A person is not saved by works, but by faith in Christ.

[S] And yet, there is a work that is of faith.

•     In Revelation 2:19, Jesus commends the church in Thyatira for their works which are accompanied by their faith. These two concepts don’t have to be at odds with one another.

•     James says that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-24). If you say that you have faith but it’s not showing in your life that’s a serious problem.

•     Jesus wants our light to shine to other people so that they would see our good works and glorify God (Matthew 5:16).

[S] And that’s how the New Testament describes this kind of work – not the kind that’s an attempt to justify yourself with God. But that’s a response to your being justified. That kind of work is called “good.” It’s a good work – motivated by your faith.

•     Jesus Christ gave himself for us so that we would be engaged in these good works (Titus 2:14).

•     The Lord wants us constantly engaged in these good works which benefit others (Titus 3:8).

•     Engaging in this kind of work leads to fruitfulness in your life (Titus 3:14).

•     One purpose for us gathering together as we do as a church is to provoke one another unto these kinds of works (Hebrews 10:24).

And so, this is what Paul was remembering about these Thessalonian believers. They were engaged in deeds and actions that were motivated by their new faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Thessalonians were not trying to justify themselves through these works. Rather, they were engaged in these works because they had already been justified.

…Can you take a moment and think of one other believer in this assembly or elsewhere who is engaged in this kind of work? That’s what you ought to remember about that person. And that will motivate you to give thanks to God for that brother or sister.

and labour of love

Another action of the Thessalonians that fueled Paul’s thankfulness for them was that he remembered their labour of love.

•     Paul later in this letter reminds the Thessalonians of his own labor – by which he is referring to the fact that he literally physically worked when he was in Thessalonica so that he wouldn’t have to ask them to support him (1 Thessalonians 2:9).

•     Paul actually thought that this aspect of his ministry among them was so important that he reminded them again of his laboring with his hands in his second letter to this church (2 Thessalonians 3:8).

•     But he also uses this word in a metaphorical sense to speak of his spiritual labor among them (1 Thessalonians 3:5).

And so, I think that Paul is referring to both of these aspects in relation to the Thessalonian believers. They labored – both physically and spiritually.

And this labor was not motivated out of sheer duty. It wasn’t done grudgingly. It wasn’t executed with a desire for self-glorification.

The Thessalonians’ labor was motivated by their love.

•     This is how it works in families that are functioning according to God’s design. They labor for one another in love.

•     Some of you know what it’s like to have someone do something for you. And that action in itself might be very helpful to you. And yet, it was done in a way that indicates that the person is not doing it out of love.

•     As many of you know, I work in the Business Office at Maranatha. And we often have students come in with questions. And if we’re not thinking right, we can approach these questions as purely transactional. We take your money. We give you a receipt. We bid you farewell.

•     But that’s not the kind of approach we ought to take in ministry. And since life is ministry, it’s not the kind of approach we ought to take ever with anyone.

•     From the time we rise out of bed to the time we lay our head on our pillows, our labor needs to be motivated by genuine love.

This is the kind of labor that Paul remembered the Thessalonians being engaged in. And it caused his heart to well up with gratitude to God for these believers.

Again, I ask, can you think of anyone in this church or anywhere else who models this kind of labor that’s fueled by their love for others? Will you thank God for this person or these people?

and patience of hope

Then the third and last activity of these Thessalonian believers that prompted Paul to give thanks to God for them was their patience of hope.

Now, when you think of the English word patience you might get the idea of some hungry fellow waiting at the table a few minutes before lunch. But he’s not fussing. He’s not angry. He’s just calmly waiting patiently for his dear wife to bring him the delicious food that she made for him. He’s so patient.

You might get that idea! But that concept is actually described by another Greek word – not the one translated as patience in this passage.

[S] In this passage, this word refers to endurance or remaining under some pressure.

It’s what’s required of the athlete who has played his hardest for 90 minutes of a game and it’s just gone into overtime.

This endurance is something that you can’t purchase. It doesn’t come in a pill. Rather, the Bible describes how to obtain this character quality. And it’s not for the faint of heart.

•     We develop endurance as a result of tribulations or trials – difficult things (Romans 5:3).

•     We develop this endurance by waiting (Romans 8:25).

•     Endurance comes through affliction and suffering (2 Corinthians 1:6).

•     Paul says to this Thessalonian church in his second letter to them that this endurance comes through persecutions and tribulations (2 Thessalonians 1:4).

•     When your faith is tried – that’s when this attribute of endurance is worked in you (James 1:3).

•     When you think of this character quality, think of Job whose struggles are recorded for us in the Old Testament (James 5:11). Think of what he suffered. Think of how he suffered – not perfectly, not sinlessly, but he didn’t quit. He endured these hardships.

So, the difficult things you experience are all – no doubt – intended by God to work this quality in you.

But as you consider the list of realities that God puts into your life in order to work endurance in you, you might kind of despair.

•     Trials?

•     Waiting?

•     Affliction?

•     Suffering?

•     Persecutions?

•     Your faith being tested?

•     Job-like pain and anguish?

How can anyone actually endure these things?

[S] We can endure these things only because we have hope. We have confident expectation of good things to come for us. The Thessalonians’ patience or endurance was accompanied by hope.

In fact, endurance is the very path to hope. It works like this:

•     We glory in our trials – because we know that trials work endurance, and endurance works experience, and experience works hope in us (Romans 5:3-4).

•     God has given us the Old Testament with all of its examples and illustrations for us – at least in part – so that we would be comforted by what’s written in it and be encouraged to endure. And the ultimate goal of all of that is that we would have hope (Romans 15:4).

So, the Thessalonian believers had this endurance within them – an endurance brought about by their confident expectation – their hope – even and especially in the midst of their sufferings. And this caused Paul to give thanks to God for them.

…Can you identify anyone in this church who has been through sufferings? …If you can’t, you need to get to know us better.

In this assembly:

•     We have had people battle cancer and win for now.

•     We have dear folks with wayward children.

•     We have had surgeries.

•     We’ve suffered miscarriages.

•     There are unexplained illnesses.

•     We have some with strained relationships with family due to our trusting Christ.

•     We have experienced – mostly moderate forms of – persecution.

•     Some are honestly struggling with depression.

•     Some of us have lost spouses.

How do you see these people responding to these painful trials and afflictions? If they’re responding by enduring these hardships, then you and I owe God some thanks. Don’t we?

And how is it that these dear brethren are responding with endurance to the trials presented to them? We’ve mentioned that they have hope or confident expectation. But what is that hope founded upon?

in our Lord Jesus Christ

Our brethren – like the Thessalonian believers – have their confidence in Christ.

•     All believers have what Paul calls “the hope of glory” which is “Christ in [us]” (Colossians 1:27).

•     Paul identifies our hope to be none other than Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:1). He alone is our confidence.

•     His glorious future appearing is what Paul calls the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

•     It is Jesus who is our living hope (1 Peter 1:3) which is in us and makes such a difference in us that some might wonder what the source of that inner hope of yours is (1 Peter 3:15).

When you have cancer, When your job is hard, When you lose a loved one, When the Lord has not yet given you a spouse, When you are undergoing serious medical issues, When home life is not peaceful, When finances are impossibly tight…

We confidently await Christ. We await his helping us in this life. And we await his future coming for us.

So, this is yet another prompt to give thanks to God for genuine believers. As we pray for these folks and remember these activities of theirs, we are prompted to give thanks to God for his help with all of these things.

1 Thessalonians 1 Summary Verse 4

And the last reality that Paul mentions that causes him to give thanks for the Thessalonian believers is the evident fact that God had chosen them.

1 Thessalonians 1:4 AV 1873

4 knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.

Well, how exactly did Paul know that God had chosen the Thessalonian believers? …We’re going to have to discover that next time.

But for now, I would encourage us all to engage in these three actions through the rest of the week and let them prompt you to thank God for other genuine believers.

1.   Pray for them.

2.   As you do that, remember their work and labor and endurance.

3.   And look at their life to find evidences of their having been chosen by God.

And may all of that praying and remembering and knowing concerning your brethren lead you to give thanks to God for them.

Acts 17 Commentary Verses 4-9

We’ll be studying Acts 17:4-9 to end this section of Acts 17 where we’ve see the founding of the church in Thessalonica.

Let’s read the entirety of that section – Acts 17:1-9 and then get into the details.

Acts 17:1–9 AV 1873

1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:

2 and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

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.

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.

5 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.

6 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;

7 whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.

9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.

Now, just a reminder of what we saw in Acts 17:1-3 last time. Paul and Silas come from Philippi after having been beaten.

Here’s a map of the route they would have used – the Via Egnatia – to get from Philippi to Thessalonica.

https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/File:Via_Egnatia-en.jpg

Paul and Silas stayed probably just overnight in Amphipolis and Apollonia on the way to Thessalonica. Once they arrived at Thessalonica, they found a Jewish synagogue there and so they went in and preached the gospel for three Sabbath days.

Then there’s probably a little time that elapses between the discontinuation of their Sabbath preaching and what’s to follow in verse 4 and beyond.

So, last time we saw the messengers and the message of the gospel that God is advancing around the world.

And this time we will see the two responses to that gospel – reception and rejection.

Acts 17 Commentary Verse 4

So, first in Acts 17:4 we see the positive response to the gospel. God advances his gospel through saving some people who then instinctively gather with one another.

Acts 17:4 AV 1873

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.

Some of Them

So, the text says that some of them believed. Some of whom?

Well, the referent would be these Jews in the synagogue in Thessalonica that Paul and Silas visited for three Sabbath days.

We saw in verses 1-3 that Paul proclaimed to them that the Old Testament presented it as an absolute necessity for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead – and that this Messiah was none other than Jesus of Nazareth.

Believed

And the result of Paul’s ministry was that some of those Jews who heard believed.

Other words that the KJV uses to translate the word believed here include persuade (20), trust (9), confidence (8), and – interestingly – obey (7).

Jesus in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus asserted that if people have the Old Testament – like these Jews did – and they don’t believe what’s written in it, they won’t believe even if someone rises from the dead (Luke 16:31).

Well, some of these Jews in Thessalonica did apparently believe both the Old Testament and the message that Paul was preaching to them from that very book concerning the Christ and his rising from the dead.

And so, let me ask whether everyone here today has this internal convincing of Jesus being the Messiah who suffered and died for your sins – and who rose from the dead. Are you solidly convinced of that reality?

Some people trust in themselves – and oftentimes the corollary to that is that they tend to despise – or think little of / or look down upon – others (Luke 18:9).

Our full confidence needs to be in Jesus Christ – and not in ourselves or anything else. He alone is worthy of all of our trust.

And some of these Jews adopted that very mindset. They were persuaded and put their confidence in Jesus as their true Messiah and Savior.

Consorted with Paul and Silas

And as a result, these ones who were persuaded by Paul’s message consorted with Paul and Silas.

This word consort actually appears only one time in the New Testament. But it’s root has to do with the concept of an inheritance or a lot or a portion.

So then, these believing Jews threw in their lot with Paul and Silas. Or they took their share in the gospel of Christ together with Paul and Silas.

This was actually one of the stated purposes for which Jesus Christ saved and commissioned the Apostle Paul. Jesus’s purpose for Paul’s ministry was revealed to be as follows (Acts 26:18): “to open [people’s] eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

The right response to receiving the truth of the gospel – like some of these Jews did – is that we would be, “giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:” (Colossians 1:12).

We have a shared inheritance.

And in this life, if you’re one of two… or three… or maybe even more children to receive a shared inheritance, the tendency might be to become envious and covetous. Because there’s a limited resource and there are several of you that want it.

But that’s not how it works with this sharing together in spiritual things. The blessings are unlimited. Each of us can enjoy as much of our spiritual inheritance as we want and there will be no less available to the others.

And I think it’s this sense of being fellow-heirs of spiritual realities that causes believers in Christ Jesus to join together in the same location. Who wants to enjoy this new life in Christ alone?

I remember before I was married, I was in New York for a business trip and the company I was working for paid for my meals. And so I went to a fairly nice restaurant and sat down at a table, thinking that this was going to be really enjoyable… But as I sat there all by myself, it dawned on me that I didn’t have anyone to enjoy this with. The food was great. But what’s the use if you don’t have someone there to share in the food and the atmosphere and everything else with you?

And that’s how we can picture our spiritual inheritance. Who wants to enjoy this alone? Let’s gather together and enjoy Christ and his kingdom and his word and his service all together!

And this is what some of those Jews did. They consorted with Paul and Silas. They took their share and threw in their lot with the men that led them to Christ – and with one another.

A Great Multitude of the Devout Greeks

But it wasn’t just the Jews who took their share in the gospel of Christ. There were also a large number of these devout Greeks.

The term devout has reference to worship. These are Greek worshippers of the God of Israel. The KJV also calls them religious proselytes – ones who were not fully Jewish (they’re still identified as Greeks) but they kind of attached themselves to the religion of Scripture.

We’re given the names of a few of these folks throughout the New Testament. Lydia whom Paul and Silas met in Philippi is one such name (Acts 16:14). There’s also Justus from Corinth who is identified as one of these people (Acts 18:7).

But while these devout Greeks would have joined themselves to the religion of the Jews, they were not in a completely right relationship with the God that they sought to worship.

In fact, even Lydia had to have her heart opened by God to receive the message of the gospel (Acts 16:14). And in certain cities, these devout Greeks were unfortunately used by Paul’s opponents to run him out of town (Acts 13:50).

Some of these devout Greeks in Thessalonica would no doubt have been meeting in the synagogue. But surely with the great multitude that they’re described as, Paul would have met a number of these folks outside of the synagogue as well.

And it’s interesting that in 1 Thessalonians some of the things that Paul says and does-not-say would indicate that the church in Thessalonica ended up being made-up largely of these people, rather than the Jews.

For example, Paul reminds them in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 that they had turned from idols to serve God. This is much more likely to be said of a Gentile than of a Jew of those days. The Jews often gave in to idolatry before their exile in Babylon, but we don’t see much of that afterwards.

So, there were a few Jews who believed. There were a great number of devout Greeks.

Not a Few of the Chief Women

And then there were these chief women of the city of Thessalonica that believed the gospel.

These were apparently some of the wealthier, more well-to-do ladies of Thessalonica – and they reached that status by themselves. Either that – or perhaps they were the wives of the chief men of the city.

But whoever these women were exactly – there were not a few of them.

That phrase (not a few) really seems to be a favorite of Luke’s. He uses it to refer to a large commotion among soldiers (Acts 12:18), of an extended stay that Paul had with other believers (Acts 14:28), of the sharp disagreement that Paul and Barnabas had over John Mark (Acts 15:2), and of the hours-long riot that occured in Ephesus at the instigation of Demetrius the idol-maker whom Paul was putting out of business with his effective evangelism (Acts 19:23).

The phrase not a few is a form of understatement but in the negative. And it basically means something like, a sizeable amount.

So, there was a sizeable amount of these prominent women, a great number of devout Greeks, and a few Jews from the synagogue that all received Paul’s message of their suffering and rising Messiah. And they were persuaded to the point that they believed and gathered together.

Acts 17 Commentary Verse 5

But then you have the opposite response to the gospel starting in verse 5 and running to the end of the passage in verse 9.

And we’ll see in this section that God advances his gospel even through opposition. Verse 5:

Acts 17:5 AV 1873

5 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.

The Jews Which Believed Not

So, in contrast to those few Jews who did believe in verse 4, we now have the other Jews. And we’re going to see what they do instead of receiving their Messiah.

Moved with Envy

Their primary motive is envy. In fact, the English phrase moved with envy is one word in Greek and it’s intentionally placed at the beginning of this sentence.

Their rejection of Jesus was not a matter of principled careful study. They don’t raise any biblical objections to what Paul was saying. Their opposition was purely sourced in their jealousy or envy of the success of the message of Paul and Silas concerning Jesus.

These Jews repeated the mistake of their forefathers who sold the patriarch Joseph into Egypt because of this very emotion of jealous or envy (Acts 7:9).

It’s this emotion that leads people who are works-based in their approach to being accepted by God to try to make disciples (Galatians 4:17-18). It’s utterly unloving (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Certain Lewd Fellows of the Baser Sort

And in this case, the envy of these Jews is not directed at making disciples or selling anyone into slavery. Rather, their envy is now directed at causing a riot.

And you typically need a rather large group of individuals to start a riot. So, the Jews find this group that the KJV identifies as certain lewd fellows of the baser sort.

These are market people – those idle individuals who would have had nothing better to do than to congregate at the ancient agora or marketplace.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Roman_forum.jpg

And while we could assume that there were apparently some decent individuals who made this their practice, these ones were the wicked ones among those market folk.

So, the Jews take these wicked market people.

Gathered a Company

And with that group, they gather a company. This again is one Greek word that combines the word for crowd with the word make. They made a crowd – or in this context, they made a violent mob.

And it’s likely that this mob is gathering adherents as it goes along. The mob is formed… and then it keeps forming itself. It’s like a snowball rolling down a hill.

A study from the University of Leeds found that it takes only about 5 percent of a crowd to influence the group’s direction, with the other 95 percent following without even realizing what they are doing.”

And so, we see next where at least 5% of this Thessalonian crowd is headed…

Set all the City on an Uproar

The mob grows so large that is sets all the city on an uproar.

The verb tense would indicate that this was an ongoing thing. The larger the mob became the more of an uproar ensued and so the larger the mob became and so the greater the uproar and on and on.

What these folks are doing in setting the city in an uproar is the same word used to describe the weeping and wailing that would have accompanied an untimely death in the ancient near east.

It’s the action of a crowd that would gather to bewail the death of a young girl (Matthew 9:23; Mark 5:39) or the death of a young man (Acts 20:10).

The city of Thessalonica is pictured as if they are experiencing the turmoil of that kind of painful unexpected tragedy. And it’s all orchestrated by the Jews who were set on rejecting their Messiah.

Assaulted the House of Jason

And so, the Jews and the mob that they had formed assault the house of Jason.

This word assault is usually translated very benignly as come or come to or approach or come upon. The picture I get is that they approached and even surrounded Jason’s house.

And you might be wondering who this Jason is – which is totally understandable because we haven’t heard anything about this man up to this point.

His name appears one other place in the New Testament – in Romans 16:21 where Paul is conveying greetings to the Roman Christians from a number of individuals – one of whose name is Jason. Maybe that’s our Jason here in Acts 17:5 or maybe not.

There’s some thought that Jason was a Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua – like the name Jesus was. In which case, maybe he was one of those devout Greeks who trusted Christ. Or perhaps he was a Hellenistic Jew.

And later on in this text it becomes apparent that Jason is a believer. Because the unbelieving Jews accuse him of such and he doesn’t deny it.

Sought to Bring them Out

Well, ultimately the mob was not looking for Jason. They were only at Jason’s house because they thought that Paul and Silas would be there.

That’s what it means that they sought to bring them out. The them in that phrase is referring to Paul and Silas.

To The People

So, the mob wants to bring Paul and Silas out to the people – to the δῆμος. This would have been the public assembly in that city – maybe located at the agora/marketplace.

In another place in Acts, this assembly was where Herod gave his oration to the people of Tyre and Sidon (Acts 12:22). It’s also where a mob similar to what we see in this passage gathered to riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:30,33).

So, the Jews and their mob of ne’er-do-wells get the whole city of Thessalonica in a grieving panic and then seek Paul and Silas at Jason’s house to persecute them publicly.

Acts 17 Commentary Verse 6

But it turns out in verse 6 that the mob can’t find their intended targets.

Acts 17:6 AV 1873

6 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;

So, the mob can’t find Paul and Silas.

They drew Jason and Certain Brethren

And so, their rage turns to those who had gladly received Paul’s message of a suffering and rising Messiah. The mob now goes after Jason and some of the other believers.

And you get the idea that Jason and his fellow-believers were not all that willing to go with the mob. The mob had to draw them.

That’s what those who stoned Paul on his first missionary journey had to do to his lifeless body as they dragged him out of the city (Acts 14:19). It’s how Revelation relates to us the vision of the Dragon where his tail draws the stars out of heaven (Revelation 12:4). It’s how Peter dragged the net of fish to land (John 21:8), or how Paul himself before he was converted used to drag Christians away to persecution and imprisonment (Acts 8:3).

Jason and his fellow believers are being dragged from his home against their will.

Unto the Rulers of the City

And they’re brought to the rulers of the city. In Greek, the term is politarch – city ruler.

And this is one of many areas in which archeology has been able to shed light on the Bible and offer proof for its veracity – it’s truthfulness.

One of the earliest existing inscriptions to use the term “Politarch” was located on the Vardar Gate in Thessaloniki. The Gate was unfortunately destroyed in 1876 but the inscription, which dates to the 2nd Century AD [100s – 50 to 100 years after Paul’s visit], can now been seen in the British Museum in London.

According to author F. F. Bruce [Commentary on the Book of Acts, NIC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 314.] there seem to have been five locally elected magistrates in Thessalonica in Paul’s day. They were responsible for law enforcement. Legislature was in the hands of the local citizens, referred to as the dēmos, which we heard about in verse 5.

So, the mob brings Jason and the other believers to these Politarchs.

Crying

And the mob is impassioned. They are crying – and not in a mournful way. They are crying out their accusations against the believers.

There is no way to cry out without some level of earnestness and intensity. Think of John the Baptist and his being a voice crying out in the wilderness (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23). Or of Jesus crying out to his Father regarding his being forsaken on the cross (Mark 15:34). Or how we pray to the Father in our extreme needs (Luke 18:7). Or like the blind man who knew that Jesus could heal him – if he could only get Jesus to hear him (Luke 18:38).

The mob was earnestly and intensely communicating the following message in this verse and to the end of verse 7 to these city rulers.

These that Have Turned the World Upside Down

Paul and Silas are the ones being primarily accused with the term these, though Jason and the other believers are going to receive some accusations as well.

They are accused of turning the world upside down.

There was apparently an Egyptian that did something similar to this in Judea around this time as he led four thousand men out into the wilderness for some clandestine purpose (Acts 21:38). This is also the impact that can be wreaked on a church when it’s infiltrated by those who add works to faith for a person’s salvation and standing with God (Galatians 5:12).

And so, this mob is now accusing Paul and Silas (in absentia) and the rest of the Thessalonian believers they could find (in person) of revolting against and overthrowing – not just a city or a region like that Egyptian did – and not just a church like the moralists in Galatia did – but the entire world.

In other words, “wherever people are – that’s the very place that Paul and his gang are causing tumult and problems” – according to the mob, at least. “And now, these troublemakers are here in Thessalonica, too!”

And yet, we just have to kind of chuckle – because who is really causing the riot and tumult in Thessalonica? Was it really Paul and the rest? Or was it this wild mob?!

Acts 17 Commentary Verse 7

Well, the mob continues its baseless accusation against Paul and Silas in verse 7.

Acts 17:7 AV 1873

7 whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

Whom Jason hath Received

The mob apparently feels the need to explain why they are dragging Jason before the Politarchs if their real issue is with Paul and Silas – who, again, are not there.

Jason is accused of giving Paul and Silas a warm reception.

It’s like Martha’s welcoming of Jesus into her home (Luke 10:38). Or Zaccheus’s inviting Jesus to his home after he repented of his sin (Luke 19:6). Or Rahab’s warm welcome of the Israelite spies (James 2:25).

Jason received and warmly welcomed these men accused of world-wide sedition.

These All Do Contrary to the Decrees of Cesar

And as if it’s not enough to incite riots all over the world and harboring people who do the same, now the mob makes one more claim that they think will really get these believers in trouble.

The accusation has to do with the practice of these people. They do contrary to the decrees of Cesar.

This Cesar was either

•     Claudius (AD 41-54)

•     or, less likely, Nero (AD 54-68)

And so, what the believers are doing is allegedly against Cesar’s decrees.

We have record of one of Cesar’s decrees in Luke 2:1 where we’re told that Augustus – the Cesar at the time of Jesus’ birth from 27 BC to AD 14 – decreed that a census of all his people be taken for the purpose of taxation. That was a written and proclaimed commandment from the emperor of Rome.

And it was these all who were acting contrary to Cesar’s decrees and commands. That includes Paul and Silas and Jason and the other believers who go unnamed – which certainly would have included some from the group we read about in verse 4 – some Jews, numerous devout Greeks, and not a few prominent women.

And so, these believers are being accused of acting against Cesar’s written and proclaimed commands.

There is Another King, one Jesus

But here’s the most significant one of those commands that they’re violating – in the collective estimation of the mob, at least. And it’s that these Christians are saying that there is another king – and that king is none other than Jesus.

Is this accusation correct – that Jesus is king and that this is a threat to Cesar?

Well, in one way – it certainly is. Jesus is the King. He is the king of the Jews (Matthew 27:11,37; Luke 22:30; John 18:37; 19:19). He is the prince of the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5). He is even the king of Heaven (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Luke 23:42). This is part of his being the Messiah – the fact that he is King – of both the Jews and ultimately of all of God’s creation.

And yet, the mob is not getting this quite right. They knew enough about Paul’s message of Jesus that he preached in the synagogue that they knew these facts about Jesus – that he was indeed a king.

And yet the mob twists the facts in order to make it sound like the gospel is a threat to civil order. It’s not.

Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom was not from this world (John 18:36). And that if his kingdom was from this world – if it was right now intended to overthrow every other king and form of government – then Jesus’ servants would have been fighting for him. Servants of Jesus the King do not attempt to overthrow governments for the sake of supposedly setting up his kingdom on this earth. This is not what we’re called to do.

Jesus is the ultimate King. And he will some day rule on this earth (Revelation 11:15) from his throne in Jerusalem. But not yet.

And isn’t it interesting that the mob is unwittingly proclaiming a key aspect of Jesus’ person – of his kingship? God advances the good news of his Son – even through opposition.

So, there is indeed another king. And believers teach and live that way. But this is no threat to the current civil order – even under the rulership of wicked men.

Acts 17 Commentary Verse 8

Well, we see the impact that those accusations had on those who listened to the mob in verse 8.

Acts 17:8 AV 1873

8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.

They Troubled the People and the Rulers of the City

The response to the mob’s accusations is trouble.

Interestingly, Jesus has a way of provoking this emotional state in people.

When Herod heard from the wise men that Jesus the King was born, this was his response (Matthew 2:3). When his disciples saw him walk on the Sea of Galilee, this was their response (Matthew 14:26; Mark 6:50). After Jesus had died for our sins and risen again and appeared to his disciples, he had to ask them why this was their response to seeing him (Luke 24:38).

But not only did Jesus provoke this response in others. He himself experienced this emotion.

When he saw how people grieved over Lazarus’ death – a death he could have prevented, but intentionally chose not to – he was troubled (John 11:33). When Jesus was within a few hours of his suffering for our sin he was troubled (John 13:21).

And because Jesus himself experienced trouble like this, he’s able to comfort his disciples in our troubled state with encouragements to trust him (John 14:1) and by giving us his peace (John 14:27).

But for these people who were listening to the mob in Acts 17, they would not trust and would not receive Jesus’ peace. And therefore, all they could expect was this troubled condition in their souls.

These folks were troubled at the prospect of more riots from this mob that would then potentially call down Rome’s wrath upon their city. They were troubled that Rome might catch word that there’s a new king in town in Thessalonica and that Rom would have to come and “investigate.”

And it’s interesting that this message troubled the people because that’s the word for what the Jews and the market people formed – this mob. So, the mob is at the same time both leveling accusations against the believers… and also terrifying themselves with what they’re claiming. It’s like the kid at the camp fire frightening his friends by telling them scary stories that are so scary that he himself can’t sleep that night.

I think this also reminds us that it was really the Jews-who-refused-to-receive-their-Messiah who were the moving force behind this mob. The passage doesn’t say that the Jews were troubled – only the city rulers and the mob they formed were troubled. The Jews knew what they were doing.

Acts 17 Commentary Verse 9

Now, despite the inner turmoil experienced by numerous people in Thessalonica, the city rulers end up making a rather reasonable arrangement to end all of the strife in verse 9 to end our section.

Acts 17:9 AV 1873

9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.

When They Had Taken Security of Jason and of the Other

The security spoken of here is akin to our current practice of posting bail.

It’s similar to what Pilate did with the Jews. In order to satisfy the Jews, he released Barabbas but delivered Jesus to be scourged and crucified (Mark 15:15). And that contented them. That gave the Jews assurance that what they wanted to happen would indeed happen.

So, in Acts 17:9 there is some assurance given by Jason and the other believers that Paul and Silas won’t come around again and stir up trouble. It was probably some guarantee that Paul and Silas would never come back or that at least Jason would never house them again.

But surprisingly, that’s it. There’s no scourging or further punishment for these believers.

They Let Them Go

And the end of the story is mercifully anti-climactic as the city rulers let Jason and his fellow-believers go. They just release them.

Conclusion/Transition

Well, from there, Acts 17:10 goes on to state that the Thessalonian believers sent Paul and Silas away by night. And after that, Paul and Silas move on to Berea. And the Thessalonian Jews bring their traveling persecution act there as well. And on and on it goes…

But with such an inauspicious sending-off, Paul and Silas wanted to follow-up with this dear church in Thessalonica. If the Jews and their mob were so bold to persecute the Thessalonian believers when their leaders were there, what’s to say they wouldn’t do more of the same after they left? No matter how long Paul had been with them, these believers would need encouragement and comfort and even further instructions and help knowing how to process all of this in their new Christian lives. They might even need some corrections in old patterns of living that don’t fit their new life in Christ.

But the problem was that Paul and Silas couldn’t come back to Thessalonica – Jason had given assurance of that. And so in our day, if we can’t physically visit someone, we would send a text or an email or make a phone call. Or maybe we would even be so old-fashioned as to send a letter.

And so, that’s exactly what we see Paul and Silas doing in their letter that they sent to the church in Thessalonica that we know as 1 Thessalonians. And we’ll begin studying that directly next time.

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.

Opening

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.

Alleging

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.

Messiah/Christ

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.

Acts 17 Commentary Verse 2

Well, the mention of a Jewish synagogue can portend only one thing. And that is that Paul is going into that synagogue and telling these folks about Jesus – their Messiah!

Acts 17:2 AV 1873

2 and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

As His Manner Was

So, it was Paul’s manner or custom to go into any synagogue he could find and proclaim Jesus. He didn’t start with the Gentiles. He would start with the Jews.

This comports with Paul’s famous statement in Romans 1:16 – that the gospel is the power of God to save people from their sins. And in that verse he gives a kind of order in his philosophy of ministry. He says that this gospel is “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

Order of Operations

That was Paul’s order of operations.

It’s like in math where we have that acronym PEMDAS. Or maybe you remember the order of operations by a phrase like “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” That stands for Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. It’s an orderly system whereby you know which mathematical calculation to do first when you have an equation with multiple calculations to perform.

Well, Paul had his order of operations when it came to proclaiming the gospel. It was: Jews first. And also, Greeks.

And so, we see Paul and Silas going in to speak with those Jews in that synagogue – because those Jews were to be – by God’s design – the first in that community to hear the gospel of their Messiah.

Jesus’s Manner/Custom As Well

And Paul I think is simply following the example set by our Lord Jesus in visiting God’s chosen people the Jews first with the gospel message of their Messiah who came especially for them.

In fact, out of the 57 times that a synagogue is mentioned anywhere in the New Testament, a full 21 of those references are to Jesus doing something in one of these buildings.

In fact, even this word “manner” that describes Paul’s approach to ministry in this verse is used of Jesus as well to describe his common practice of typically visiting a synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16).

Three Sabbath Days in the Synagogue

Well, Paul and Silas were at that synagogue for three Sabbath Days. They went to the synagogue when it was in session which would have been our modern Saturday – the seventh day of the week.

And the concept of the Sabbath is closely tied to that of the synagogue in that in the New Testament we find this word used numerous times in the Gospels and in Acts – 66 times in those five books. But only twice does it appear outside of those books – once in 1 Corinthians and once in Colossians.

Well, Paul and Silas apparently visited this synagogue in Thessalonica for three weeks.

Now, let me just note something that we’re going to need to keep an eye on as we deal with the book of 1 Thessalonians in the coming weeks.

The fact that Paul and Silas entered the synagogue for three Sabbath days doesn’t necessarily mean that they were in Thessalonica for only three weeks. It does mean that they showed up that synagogue for three consecutive sabbath days. But they could possibly have been in the city for maybe a few months even.

In Thessalonica Longer

And there are at least three realities that could allow for their being in Thessalonica for longer than three weeks.

Silence

The first reason is an argument from silence, I suppose. But that piece of evidence would be the fact that we’re not explicitly told how long Paul and Silas were in the city between those three sabbath days of proclaiming the gospel and then the response of faith on the part of some (v 4) and further then the response of violent resistance on the part of others (vv 5-9).

In other words, there could be a chronological space of a few weeks or maybe months between verse 3 and verse 4 in this text.

So, that’s one reason to not hold too dogmatically to the idea that Paul and Silas were in Thessalonica only three weeks.

The Gifts from Philippi

Another reality that might support Paul and Silas being in Thessalonica longer than three weeks is a statement that Paul makes in Philippians 4:16. There he reminds those Philippian believers that they had sent him some provision for his need on more than one occasion. And he says that he received those multiple gifts while he was in this city of Thessalonica.

Philippians 4:16 AV 1873

16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

So, think about that. The believers in Philippi – the city that Paul and Silas had just recently left in order to come to Thessalonica – they sent a gift more than once to Paul while he was in Thessalonica.

How long would it have taken for one tranche of those gifts to come from Philippi to Thessalonica?

Well, the distance between those two cities is estimated at about 167 km – as you saw on that Google Map earlier. If a person walks on average 5 km/h (about 3 mph) then it would have been 33 hours of straight walking to get from one city to the other. People at this time in history may have walked up to 8 hours in one day. So, you have at least four days of straight walking to get from Philippi to Thessalonica.

So, it’s possible that one gift came four days there, a night of rest in between, and then four days back. And then at least one more gift came four days there – one night of rest – and then four days back. That total journey for those two gifts would have taken over two weeks.

And so, while it’s technically possible that the Philippians sent Paul at least two gifts within the span of three weeks, I see it as more likely that a gift came toward the beginning of Paul’s time in Thessalonica. And then another one came a bit later. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be scrunched into a three-week period of time.

The Breadth of Theological Teaching

The third consideration that seems to indicate that Paul was in the city of Thessalonica longer than he was in the synagogue of Thessalonica (3 Sabbaths) is the depth of theological knowledge that apparently the Thessalonian believers had, as is alluded to especially in the book of 2 Thessalonians.

In that book, Paul says that he addressed the believers in Thessalonica concerning the coming of the Anti-Christ while Paul was with them. That’s a rather deep discussion to have with converts who have been saved a mere three weeks or less. Really, it’s probably not what you would think to discuss with a new believer in the first few weeks of his being saved.

But then Paul even indicates that the Thessalonians knew what is restraining that Anti-Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:6). I think that today the average Christian would have no idea what is restraining the Anti-Christ from being revealed. Even the most studied and intelligent and devoted Christian these days would be able to supply options for exactly what Paul is talking about in that passage after years of study. But to be dogmatic about any one position on that is probably more than most would feel comfortable with.

2 Thessalonians 2:6 NET

6 And so you know what holds him back, so that he will be revealed in his own time.

But somehow in three weeks Paul and Silas could instruct these believers in the basics of personal holiness – which we see in 1 Thessalonians – all the way up through the really complex matters of eschatology in both 1 and 2 Thessalonians?

Three Weeks?

My point is that – of course – anything is possible with God and if he enabled Paul and Silas to have a tremendously effective ministry with the Thessalonians, he could have done it in three short weeks.

But it’s not a necessity from the text that Paul and Silas were there in Thessalonica for only three weeks. They were in the synagogue only three weeks, but they could have been and likely were in the city a bit longer. I’m not talking about years – but maybe months.

God is advancing the gospel through the biblical message

Well, what was Paul doing those three Sabbaths among the Jews?

That’s where we get to the second way that God is advancing his gospel  in this world. God is advancing the gospel through his biblical message.

We see that at the end of verse 2 and also in verse 3.

Reasoned

At the end of verse 2 we see Paul’s method.

Paul reasoned with the Jews for three Sabbaths. That word is also translated by the KJV in other passages as dispute (6), preach (2), and speak (1).

Paul is speaking with the aim and intent of persuading these Jews of his message.

Out of the Scriptures

Then we see Paul’s material. He reasons with the Jews out of the Scriptures.

So, what were the scriptures for Paul and his first century Jewish audience?

Jesus explicitly identified the following as “Scripture”:

•     Psalms (Matthew 21:42)

•     The book of Exodus (Matthew 22:29)

•     The Old Testament Prophets, and especially those that foretold of the Messiah’s suffering (Matthew 26:54-56)

•     The book of Isaiah (Luke 4:21)

•     And everything from Moses (Genesis) through to all the prophets (Luke 24:27). So, from Genesis to Malachi for those with an English Bible or from Genesis to 2 Chronicles for those with a Hebrew Bible – Jesus affirmed it all as Scripture.

So, what Paul is using here in the synagogue in Thessalonica would have been the entire Old Testament.

Paul is attempting to verbally persuade these Jews from his and their shared Old Testament.

Back to Acts 17 Commentary Verses 1-3.

Acts 17 Commentary Verse 1

We begin in verse 1 where we see God advancing his gospel using messengers.

Acts 17:1 AV 1873

1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:

A Brief Overview of Luke-Acts

Now, we’re just jumping right into the book of Acts in the 17th chapter. But as you know there is a lot of material that preceded this moment.

Gospel of Luke

The book of Acts is the second book penned by Luke. And Luke starts this book by addressing a man named Theophilus. He mentions a “former treatise” – a previous writing – that he wrote to this man in which he told him “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). And that former treatise, of course, is the book that we know as the Gospel of Luke.

The Church in Jerusalem

And so, the book of Acts picks right up where the Gospel of Luke left off. And the first 7 chapters of Acts are centered in the city of Jerusalem.

Jesus Christ commissions his people to proclaim the good news about him (Acts 1:4–8) and then he ascends to heaven (Acts 1:9).

After that, Peter and the other apostles in Jerusalem proclaim the gospel in that city.

The Church Scattered

Then in Acts 7 Stephen suffers a martyr’s death and as a result the church is scattered from Jerusalem to all sorts of geographical locations. It’s also at Stephen’s martyrdom that we meet this man named Saul who is agreeing to the persecution (Acts 8:1).

Saul’s Conversion & First Missionary Journey

But amazingly, Saul is converted to Christ in Acts 9 and begins to preach this Christ (Acts 9:20) whom he once persecuted.

Eventually Saul ends up in the church in Antioch. And it’s from there that he and Barnabas are sent on what we call their First Missionary Journey starting in Acts 13.

The Second Missionary Journey

That journey ends and so then Paul starts his Second Missionary Journey toward the end of Acts 15. It’s on that second journey of his where he receives what we call the Macedonian Vision (Acts 16:9) where during the night a man from Macedonia appears to him and tells him to come and help them. And so, Paul and his crew decide to go there and proclaim the gospel in Macedonia – which is in modern-day Greece.

Philippi

Well, the first stop of Paul and his company is in the Macedonian city of Philippi. It’s there that Paul and Silas see some success of the gospel. Some people trust Christ as a result of their ministry.

But then there’s an uproar in the city after Paul casts a demon out of a slave girl (Acts 16:18). Her owners then bring Paul and Silas to be beaten by the city officials and thrown into jail (Acts 16:19–24).

But later that night, the Lord miraculously causes all the doors to open in that prison and all the chains to fall off of the prisoners (Acts 16:26). That results in the conversion of the Philippian jailer and his family (Acts 16:27–34).

At the end of that episode, Paul and Silas are set free and urged by the local government to leave (Acts 16:35–40).

And that’s where we come to our text in Acts 17:1-9.

Amphipolis and Apollonia

So far then, we have the ancient city of Philippi in our minds in terms of where Paul and Silas have been up to this point.

But now in Acts 17:1 we’re introduced in passing to these two cities named Amphipolis and Apollonia. And of course ultimately Paul and Silas are on their way to Thessalonica.

So, we have these three cities to consider. So, I’d like us to get a visual of the geography and the layout of the area under discussion. So, let’s start out with a wide view of the area we’re talking about.

You can see Italy on the west and Turkey on the east. And then modern-day Greece is right in the center. Athens is to the south of the area we’re dealing with.

Now, let’s zoom in. Philippi – which is spelled a little differently these days – is on the northeast side of the map. And Thessalonica is on the southwest – labeled as “Ancient Agora Square” in this map. And in between those two cities you have Amfipoli (Amphipolis) and Apollonia. You can see that Thessalonica is on what is called the Thermaic Gulf.

And just kind of as a funny side note, you can see the city of “Drama” to the north of Philippi. And of course, the Apostle Paul and his crew experienced a lot of drama in this area of the world.

Distance and Travel

But more closely related to this message, it’s also interesting that Google Maps suggests it should take under two and a half hours to traverse from Philippi to Thessalonica. Because in Paul’s day it would have taken days to get from one city to the other on foot. But we’ll talk about the time potentially involved later in this message.

Now, the journey between these two cities would have been shorter on horseback. And that’s
 the mode of transportation that some people think that Paul and Silas would have used because of their weak physical condition after being beaten in Philippi.

But whatever the case, it would have been a much longer journey for Paul than it would be for someone today with a motorized vehicle.

Via Egnatia

One thing that would have been true of Paul’s day is still true today concerning travel in this area. And that is that Paul and Silas would have used a road to get from one city to another. And that’s because there was a Roman Road called the Via Egnatia that connected these four cities and beyond.

Thessalonica, Finally

Well, Paul and Silas eventually make their way from Philippi through Amphipolis through Apollonia and to Thessalonica.

A Synagogue of the Jews

And unlike Philippi, in Thessalonica they find a Jewish synagogue.

They say that at least 10 Jewish men would have been needed in order to start a synagogue in a city. The idea there is that each man is giving ten percent of his income in order to support the ministry.

A synagogue would be the equivalent of our church building. These gathering spots are mentioned numerous times in the New Testament gospels. But after that, we really don’t hear much about them – with just one mention in James and two references in the book of Revelation. In this book of Acts there are 19 mentions of this type of building.

Now, you can probably recall that there was no Jewish synagogue in Philippi. Paul and Silas had to find the few religious folks in that city by the river where they were praying (Acts 16:13).

Amphipolis and Apollonia – I suppose – could have had a synagogue. But we hear nothing about it.

But now in Thessalonica there is a synagogue, which would indicate a relatively sizeable Jewish presence (at least 10 Jewish men). The strength of their opposition to Paul later on in this text also would argue for a decent amount of Jews in this city.

Back to Acts 17 Commentary Verses 1-3.

Acts 17:1 Amphipolis and Apollonia

So far then, we have the ancient city of Philippi in our minds in terms of where Paul and Silas have been up to this point.

But now in Acts 17:1 we’re introduced in passing to these two cities named Amphipolis and Apollonia. And of course ultimately Paul and Silas are on their way to Thessalonica.

So, we have these three cities to consider. So, I’d like us to get a visual of the geography and the layout of the area under discussion. So, let’s start out with a wide view of the area we’re talking about.

You can see Italy on the west and Turkey on the east. And then modern-day Greece is right in the center. Athens is to the south of the area we’re dealing with.

Now, let’s zoom in. Philippi – which is spelled a little differently these days – is on the northeast side of the map. And Thessalonica is on the southwest – labeled as “Ancient Agora Square” in this map. And in between those two cities you have Amfipoli (Amphipolis) and Apollonia. You can see that Thessalonica is on what is called the Thermaic Gulf.

And just kind of as a funny side note, you can see the city of “Drama” to the north of Philippi. And of course, the Apostle Paul and his crew experienced a lot of drama in this area of the world.

Back to Acts 17 Commentary Verses 1-3.

Acts 17 Commentary Verses 1-3

We’re going to be embarking on a teaching series through the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians.

And so, I hope it’s not a disappointment to any of you that we’re going to be starting in a completely different book for the first two messages in this series. The plan for this message and the next one is to work through Acts chapter 17 and verses 1 through 9.

And really, there’s no reason to be disappointed because it’s in Acts 17:1-9 where we see the founding of the church in the ancient Greek city of Thessalonica by the Apostle Paul and his helper Silas.

I think that getting a handle on how this church was founded will be helpful as we work through the book of 1 Thessalonians in the weeks to come.

So, let’s turn to Acts 17 and read verses 1-9. Acts 17:1-9

Acts 17:1–9 AV 1873

1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:

2 and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

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.

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.

5 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.

6 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;

7 whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.

9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.

So, what we see here in Acts 17:1-9 is God advancing the gospel. And we’re going to see four means by which God is advancing the gospel.

•     In verses 1 and 2 we see the messengers of that gospel

•     In verses 2 and 3 we see the message of the gospel.

•     In verse 4 we see a positive reception of the gospel.

•     And in verses 5-9 we’ll see the negative reaction to the gospel.

That’s what lies ahead of us in this portion of Scripture. But for this message we’ll be focused only on verses 1-3. So, let’s look at the details.

Acts 17 Commentary Verse 1

We begin in verse 1 where we see God advancing his gospel using messengers.

Acts 17:1 AV 1873

1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:

A Brief Overview of Luke-Acts

Now, we’re just jumping right into the book of Acts in the 17th chapter. But as you know there is a lot of material that preceded this moment.

Gospel of Luke

The book of Acts is the second book penned by Luke. And Luke starts this book by addressing a man named Theophilus. He mentions a “former treatise” – a previous writing – that he wrote to this man in which he told him “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). And that former treatise, of course, is the book that we know as the Gospel of Luke.

The Church in Jerusalem

And so, the book of Acts picks right up where the Gospel of Luke left off. And the first 7 chapters of Acts are centered in the city of Jerusalem.

Jesus Christ commissions his people to proclaim the good news about him (Acts 1:4–8) and then he ascends to heaven (Acts 1:9).

After that, Peter and the other apostles in Jerusalem proclaim the gospel in that city.

The Church Scattered

Then in Acts 7 Stephen suffers a martyr’s death and as a result the church is scattered from Jerusalem to all sorts of geographical locations. It’s also at Stephen’s martyrdom that we meet this man named Saul who is agreeing to the persecution (Acts 8:1).

Saul’s Conversion & First Missionary Journey

But amazingly, Saul is converted to Christ in Acts 9 and begins to preach this Christ (Acts 9:20) whom he once persecuted.

Eventually Saul ends up in the church in Antioch. And it’s from there that he and Barnabas are sent on what we call their First Missionary Journey starting in Acts 13.

The Second Missionary Journey

That journey ends and so then Paul starts his Second Missionary Journey toward the end of Acts 15. It’s on that second journey of his where he receives what we call the Macedonian Vision (Acts 16:9) where during the night a man from Macedonia appears to him and tells him to come and help them. And so, Paul and his crew decide to go there and proclaim the gospel in Macedonia – which is in modern-day Greece.

Philippi

Well, the first stop of Paul and his company is in the Macedonian city of Philippi. It’s there that Paul and Silas see some success of the gospel. Some people trust Christ as a result of their ministry.

But then there’s an uproar in the city after Paul casts a demon out of a slave girl (Acts 16:18). Her owners then bring Paul and Silas to be beaten by the city officials and thrown into jail (Acts 16:19–24).

But later that night, the Lord miraculously causes all the doors to open in that prison and all the chains to fall off of the prisoners (Acts 16:26). That results in the conversion of the Philippian jailer and his family (Acts 16:27–34).

At the end of that episode, Paul and Silas are set free and urged by the local government to leave (Acts 16:35–40).

And that’s where we come to our text in Acts 17:1-9.

Amphipolis and Apollonia

So far then, we have the ancient city of Philippi in our minds in terms of where Paul and Silas have been up to this point.

But now in Acts 17:1 we’re introduced in passing to these two cities named Amphipolis and Apollonia. And of course ultimately Paul and Silas are on their way to Thessalonica.

So, we have these three cities to consider. So, I’d like us to get a visual of the geography and the layout of the area under discussion. So, let’s start out with a wide view of the area we’re talking about.

You can see Italy on the west and Turkey on the east. And then modern-day Greece is right in the center. Athens is to the south of the area we’re dealing with.

Now, let’s zoom in. Philippi – which is spelled a little differently these days – is on the northeast side of the map. And Thessalonica is on the southwest – labeled as “Ancient Agora Square” in this map. And in between those two cities you have Amfipoli (Amphipolis) and Apollonia. You can see that Thessalonica is on what is called the Thermaic Gulf.

And just kind of as a funny side note, you can see the city of “Drama” to the north of Philippi. And of course, the Apostle Paul and his crew experienced a lot of drama in this area of the world.

Distance and Travel

But more closely related to this message, it’s also interesting that Google Maps suggests it should take under two and a half hours to traverse from Philippi to Thessalonica. Because in Paul’s day it would have taken days to get from one city to the other on foot. But we’ll talk about the time potentially involved later in this message.

Now, the journey between these two cities would have been shorter on horseback. And that’s
 the mode of transportation that some people think that Paul and Silas would have used because of their weak physical condition after being beaten in Philippi.

But whatever the case, it would have been a much longer journey for Paul than it would be for someone today with a motorized vehicle.

Via Egnatia

One thing that would have been true of Paul’s day is still true today concerning travel in this area. And that is that Paul and Silas would have used a road to get from one city to another. And that’s because there was a Roman Road called the Via Egnatia that connected these four cities and beyond.

Thessalonica, Finally

Well, Paul and Silas eventually make their way from Philippi through Amphipolis through Apollonia and to Thessalonica.

A Synagogue of the Jews

And unlike Philippi, in Thessalonica they find a Jewish synagogue.

They say that at least 10 Jewish men would have been needed in order to start a synagogue in a city. The idea there is that each man is giving ten percent of his income in order to support the ministry.

A synagogue would be the equivalent of our church building. These gathering spots are mentioned numerous times in the New Testament gospels. But after that, we really don’t hear much about them – with just one mention in James and two references in the book of Revelation. In this book of Acts there are 19 mentions of this type of building.

Now, you can probably recall that there was no Jewish synagogue in Philippi. Paul and Silas had to find the few religious folks in that city by the river where they were praying (Acts 16:13).

Amphipolis and Apollonia – I suppose – could have had a synagogue. But we hear nothing about it.

But now in Thessalonica there is a synagogue, which would indicate a relatively sizeable Jewish presence (at least 10 Jewish men). The strength of their opposition to Paul later on in this text also would argue for a decent amount of Jews in this city.

Acts 17 Commentary Verse 2

Well, the mention of a Jewish synagogue can portend only one thing. And that is that Paul is going into that synagogue and telling these folks about Jesus – their Messiah!

Acts 17:2 AV 1873

2 and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

As His Manner Was

So, it was Paul’s manner or custom to go into any synagogue he could find and proclaim Jesus. He didn’t start with the Gentiles. He would start with the Jews.

This comports with Paul’s famous statement in Romans 1:16 – that the gospel is the power of God to save people from their sins. And in that verse he gives a kind of order in his philosophy of ministry. He says that this gospel is “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

Order of Operations

That was Paul’s order of operations.

It’s like in math where we have that acronym PEMDAS. Or maybe you remember the order of operations by a phrase like “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” That stands for Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. It’s an orderly system whereby you know which mathematical calculation to do first when you have an equation with multiple calculations to perform.

Well, Paul had his order of operations when it came to proclaiming the gospel. It was: Jews first. And also, Greeks.

And so, we see Paul and Silas going in to speak with those Jews in that synagogue – because those Jews were to be – by God’s design – the first in that community to hear the gospel of their Messiah.

Jesus’s Manner/Custom As Well

And Paul I think is simply following the example set by our Lord Jesus in visiting God’s chosen people the Jews first with the gospel message of their Messiah who came especially for them.

In fact, out of the 57 times that a synagogue is mentioned anywhere in the New Testament, a full 21 of those references are to Jesus doing something in one of these buildings.

In fact, even this word “manner” that describes Paul’s approach to ministry in this verse is used of Jesus as well to describe his common practice of typically visiting a synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16).

Three Sabbath Days in the Synagogue

Well, Paul and Silas were at that synagogue for three Sabbath Days. They went to the synagogue when it was in session which would have been our modern Saturday – the seventh day of the week.

And the concept of the Sabbath is closely tied to that of the synagogue in that in the New Testament we find this word used numerous times in the Gospels and in Acts – 66 times in those five books. But only twice does it appear outside of those books – once in 1 Corinthians and once in Colossians.

Well, Paul and Silas apparently visited this synagogue in Thessalonica for three weeks.

Now, let me just note something that we’re going to need to keep an eye on as we deal with the book of 1 Thessalonians in the coming weeks.

The fact that Paul and Silas entered the synagogue for three Sabbath days doesn’t necessarily mean that they were in Thessalonica for only three weeks. It does mean that they showed up that synagogue for three consecutive sabbath days. But they could possibly have been in the city for maybe a few months even.

In Thessalonica Longer

And there are at least three realities that could allow for their being in Thessalonica for longer than three weeks.

Silence

The first reason is an argument from silence, I suppose. But that piece of evidence would be the fact that we’re not explicitly told how long Paul and Silas were in the city between those three sabbath days of proclaiming the gospel and then the response of faith on the part of some (v 4) and further then the response of violent resistance on the part of others (vv 5-9).

In other words, there could be a chronological space of a few weeks or maybe months between verse 3 and verse 4 in this text.

So, that’s one reason to not hold too dogmatically to the idea that Paul and Silas were in Thessalonica only three weeks.

The Gifts from Philippi

Another reality that might support Paul and Silas being in Thessalonica longer than three weeks is a statement that Paul makes in Philippians 4:16. There he reminds those Philippian believers that they had sent him some provision for his need on more than one occasion. And he says that he received those multiple gifts while he was in this city of Thessalonica.

Philippians 4:16 AV 1873

16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

So, think about that. The believers in Philippi – the city that Paul and Silas had just recently left in order to come to Thessalonica – they sent a gift more than once to Paul while he was in Thessalonica.

How long would it have taken for one tranche of those gifts to come from Philippi to Thessalonica?

Well, the distance between those two cities is estimated at about 167 km – as you saw on that Google Map earlier. If a person walks on average 5 km/h (about 3 mph) then it would have been 33 hours of straight walking to get from one city to the other. People at this time in history may have walked up to 8 hours in one day. So, you have at least four days of straight walking to get from Philippi to Thessalonica.

So, it’s possible that one gift came four days there, a night of rest in between, and then four days back. And then at least one more gift came four days there – one night of rest – and then four days back. That total journey for those two gifts would have taken over two weeks.

And so, while it’s technically possible that the Philippians sent Paul at least two gifts within the span of three weeks, I see it as more likely that a gift came toward the beginning of Paul’s time in Thessalonica. And then another one came a bit later. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be scrunched into a three-week period of time.

The Breadth of Theological Teaching

The third consideration that seems to indicate that Paul was in the city of Thessalonica longer than he was in the synagogue of Thessalonica (3 Sabbaths) is the depth of theological knowledge that apparently the Thessalonian believers had, as is alluded to especially in the book of 2 Thessalonians.

In that book, Paul says that he addressed the believers in Thessalonica concerning the coming of the Anti-Christ while Paul was with them. That’s a rather deep discussion to have with converts who have been saved a mere three weeks or less. Really, it’s probably not what you would think to discuss with a new believer in the first few weeks of his being saved.

But then Paul even indicates that the Thessalonians knew what is restraining that Anti-Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:6). I think that today the average Christian would have no idea what is restraining the Anti-Christ from being revealed. Even the most studied and intelligent and devoted Christian these days would be able to supply options for exactly what Paul is talking about in that passage after years of study. But to be dogmatic about any one position on that is probably more than most would feel comfortable with.

2 Thessalonians 2:6 NET

6 And so you know what holds him back, so that he will be revealed in his own time.

But somehow in three weeks Paul and Silas could instruct these believers in the basics of personal holiness – which we see in 1 Thessalonians – all the way up through the really complex matters of eschatology in both 1 and 2 Thessalonians?

Three Weeks?

My point is that – of course – anything is possible with God and if he enabled Paul and Silas to have a tremendously effective ministry with the Thessalonians, he could have done it in three short weeks.

But it’s not a necessity from the text that Paul and Silas were there in Thessalonica for only three weeks. They were in the synagogue only three weeks, but they could have been and likely were in the city a bit longer. I’m not talking about years – but maybe months.

God is advancing the gospel through the biblical message

Well, what was Paul doing those three Sabbaths among the Jews?

That’s where we get to the second way that God is advancing his gospel  in this world. God is advancing the gospel through his biblical message.

We see that at the end of verse 2 and also in verse 3.

Reasoned

At the end of verse 2 we see Paul’s method.

Paul reasoned with the Jews for three Sabbaths. That word is also translated by the KJV in other passages as dispute (6), preach (2), and speak (1).

Paul is speaking with the aim and intent of persuading these Jews of his message.

Out of the Scriptures

Then we see Paul’s material. He reasons with the Jews out of the Scriptures.

So, what were the scriptures for Paul and his first century Jewish audience?

Jesus explicitly identified the following as “Scripture”:

•     Psalms (Matthew 21:42)

•     The book of Exodus (Matthew 22:29)

•     The Old Testament Prophets, and especially those that foretold of the Messiah’s suffering (Matthew 26:54-56)

•     The book of Isaiah (Luke 4:21)

•     And everything from Moses (Genesis) through to all the prophets (Luke 24:27). So, from Genesis to Malachi for those with an English Bible or from Genesis to 2 Chronicles for those with a Hebrew Bible – Jesus affirmed it all as Scripture.

So, what Paul is using here in the synagogue in Thessalonica would have been the entire Old Testament.

Paul is attempting to verbally persuade these Jews from his and their shared Old Testament.

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.

Opening

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.

Alleging

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.

Messiah/Christ

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.

External Opposition to God’s Work and the Response of God’s People in Nehemiah 2

I’d like to look at the second chapter of the book of Nehemiah today and zero-in on a particular theme. And that theme is – the opposition to God’s work, and then the proper response that we as God’s people should have to that opposition. 

The theme of enemies who oppose the work that God was doing through Nehemiah is found often throughout this book – especially in chapters two, four, six, and thirteen. We’ll just focus on what’s revealed for us in Nehemiah 2 this morning. 

Opposition in Nehemiah 2:9-11 

So, let’s look at Nehemiah 2 and verses 9-11 in which we get the first hint of opposition to God’s work in this book. 

Neh 2:9 [After getting the king’s permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it…] Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters.  

Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. 

So, that’s a good thing! God was sending this godly leader to help his people to do the work he wanted them to do. Who wouldn’t rejoice about this? Verse 10… 

10 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the {servant, the Ammonite,/Ammonite official} heard of {it/God sending Nehemiah to help God’s people and rebuild their city}, {it grieved them exceedingly/it was very displeasing to them/they were very much disturbed} that there was come a man to {seek/promote} the welfare of the children of Israel. 

11 So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. 

The Opposition 

So, note the parties involved in opposing God’s work. We’re given two names. Sanballat and Tobiah. They are not Jews – they’re not God’s people. And interestingly, this list of opponents increases as we continue in this book. 

Now, how is this opposition expressed? The enemies of God’s people are grieved or displeased or disturbed. They’re happy when God’s work is hindered and God’s people are disadvantaged. But when it looks like God’s work is going to go forward,… not so much. So, these enemies start off with some negative emotion but they’re not really acting it out just yet. 

So, that’s the opposition.  

The Response of God’s People 

Now, how does Nehemiah – the godly servant of the Lord – react to this opposition? Verse 11 seems to indicate that he just ignores them completely. And that’s sometimes what we need to do with external opposition to our serving the Lord – just ignore it and get to work. There is a time for that. 

OK, so that’s the first hint we get that certain people are opposed to the work that Nehemiah is doing for the sake of God’s people.  

Opposition in Nehemiah 2:17-20 

From there Nehemiah goes on his now-famous midnight ride around the city to survey the damage that’s been done to the wall and what needs to be fixed. 

Then he speaks to his fellow-Jews in Nehemiah 2:17 

17 Then said I unto {them/Nehemiah’s fellow-Jews},  

Ye see the {distress/bad situation/problem/trouble} that we {are in/have},  

how Jerusalem {lieth waste/is desolate/lies in ruins},  

and the gates thereof are burned with fire:  

come, and let us {build up/rebuild} the wall of Jerusalem, {that/so that} we be no more {a reproach/in disgrace}. 

18 Then I told them of the hand of my God which {was good upon/had been favorable to/was gracious to} me;  

as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me.  

And they said,  

Let us {rise up and build/begin building right away!/start rebuilding}.  

So they {strengthened their hands for/put their hands to/readied themselves for} this good {work/project}. 

So, again, this is great. God’s people are encouraged and ready to start the work he wanted them to do! Right?  

Not so fast. Verse 19… 

19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the {servant, the Ammonite,/Ammonite official} and Geshem the {Arabian/Arab}, heard {it/all this/about it}, they {laughed us to scorn/mocked us/derided us}, and {despised/expressed contempt toward/ridiculed} us, and said,  

What is this thing {that ye do/you are doing}?  

{will ye rebel/Are you rebelling} against the king? 

20 {Then/So} answered I them, and said unto them,  

The God of heaven, {he will prosper us/will give us success};  

therefore we his servants will {arise and build/start the rebuilding}:  

but {ye/as for you, you} have no {portion, nor right, nor memorial, in/just or ancient right in/claim or historic right to} Jerusalem. 

The Opposition 

So, what is the opposition doing now? They’re not just grieved or displeased emotionally. Now they’re scorning and laughing at God’s people and God’s work. They’re mocking with the intention of discouraging Nehemiah and his co-workers. And they’re even insinuating that what Nehemiah is doing is wrong – it’s rebellion against the king! 

And did you notice that the list of enemies has increased? We saw the familiar names Sanballat and Tobiah. But now there’s this new character – Geshem the Arab! So, the opposition is both intensifying in nature and increasing in number. 

The Response of God’s People 

Well, what’s Nehemiah’s response? Note that before the intimidation from the enemies, Nehemiah was communicating the great need that he and his fellow-Jews had. He put before their eyes the great danger they were in and how they were in a humiliating condition. 

But then he gave them a picture of what things could be like if they followed the Lord and did his will of rebuilding those walls. Nehemiah related to the people God’s providential support of their work – both directly and even as mediated through the ungodly human Persian king that Nehemiah served! And the result was that Nehemiah strengthened the hands of the workers. 

And even after the enemies tried to discourage him and his people, Nehemiah remained undaunted. He communicated his rock-solid faith that God would be with them to help them as they obediently and faithfully served him in this endeavor. 

Application 

So, may the Lord help us to face with an undaunted determination any opposition we might experience as we try to do God’s will. Let’s remember the ways in which the Lord’s hand has been so clearly displayed in our lives bringing us to this point. And let’s endeavor to strengthen each other to do the work that God has for us. 

What happens when you gather wealth by labor according to Proverbs 13 11?

What happens when you gather wealth by labor according to Proverbs 13 11
What happens when you gather wealth by labor according to Proverbs 13 11

According to Proverbs 13 11, when you gather wealth by labor – that is, you work hard and wisely and you are diligent in your work – you will increase that wealth – you will make your wealth grow. You might even become rich!

KJV Proverbs 13:11 {Wealth gotten by vanity/Wealth obtained by fraud/Wealth gained quickly/Dishonest money} {shall be diminished/dwindles/will dwindle away/dwindles away}:

but {he that/the one who/he who} {gathereth/gathers/gathers it/gathers money} {by labour/by labor/little by little} {shall increase/increases it/will become rich/makes it grow}.

Proverbs 13 11

For more teaching on Proverbs 13 11, read our Proverbs 13 11 Summary.