Yesterday, I preached from Acts 17:1-9 in an pre-planned evangelistic service within the life of our church. In this particular passage, we see the mission and preaching ministry of Paul put on display. However, he also points out a very relevant subject that pertains not only to the city of Thessalonica, but to the entire world.
Paul’s Source of Authority
The source of authority for Paul was not his own ideas or opinions. I’m sure that Paul had plenty of ideas and opinions to share, but upon arriving in Thessalonica, he found a Jewish Synagogue and spent three weeks reasoning, explaining, and proving his point to the people from the Scriptures. Paul was taking the Old Testament text and explaining that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ of God. The point is clear, Paul did all of his dialoging, preaching, and teaching from the Scriptures. Paul understood that the Bible is God’s Word and he stood firm upon the Scriptures.
Today, the world needs a fresh reminder that political opinions and personal ideas will not solve the problem of sin. We need something greater and that answer comes from the Scriptures. Today’s evangelical church must not lose sight of the sufficiency of Scripture. In an ever changing world of compromise, the church of Jesus Christ must continue to open the Word of God and reason, explain, and prove to people that Jesus is the answer for the world today.
Paul’s Message to the People
Paul labored his point that Jesus must suffer and rise from the dead in order to save sinners. Paul pointed to the need for a substitutionary atonement that comes in the suffering ministry of Jesus as He became the lamb of God who died for sinners. Paul likely pointed to the prophecies such as Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. He likewise, pointed to the need for Jesus to rise from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is the hinge of Christianity because it separates Jesus from all other world religions. Furthermore, it validates everything He taught and reveals His deity.
Immediately following the resurrection, the religious community of the Jews started a propaganda campaign to coverup the resurrection (Matt. 28:11-15). They didn’t want to lose control and it would force them to admit fault in killing Jesus, so their answer was simple – cover it up. When the apostles started preaching the resurrection of Jesus, they were opposed, arrested, beaten, and threatened. Their response was simple, “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
Persecution of Believers
A jealous mob of the Jews assembled to oppose the preaching of Paul. When they saw the people coming to faith in Christ, both Jew and Greek alike, they were outraged. The ESV translates this text as, “some of the wicked men of the rabble.” The NASB renders it – “wicked men.” The KJV calls them, “lewd fellows of the baser sort.” A.T. Robertson, renowned Greek scholar and former professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, calls them – “bums.”
They went to the house of Jason looking for Paul and Silas and when they could not be found, they dragged Jason before the authorities. They made two accusations against Paul and Silas, and both are worthy of our attention.
- These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.
- They are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.
The first accusation is commendable because it points out that they were turning the world upside down with the message of Christ – from the Scriptures. They didn’t depend on a rock concert, cultural celebrities, or other means of getting attention. They simply unleashed the gospel upon the city and it caused a massive explosion.
Secondly, they were accused of pointing out that there was another King – unlike Caesar. They were pointing out that Jesus is King of kings and that Caesar is subject to Jesus. This offended the people and was a punishable offense. Paul and Silas and the other believers were committed to Jesus as King and wanted the entire world to know that the resurrected Savior is also King. This message caused quite a stir, but it was true. This message is something our cities need to hear today – especially in our day of confused politics.
The answer to the problems today cannot be solved with another political leader or another political policy. The world needs Jesus. British columnist Matthew Parris, an avowed atheist, wrote an article (December 28th, 2008) titled, “As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God.” After returning home to his homeland in Africa after 45 years, he was stunned by what he discovered. He writes:
Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.
It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.