I need to stay focused on the essential message of the good news of Jesus. Paul understood that and shows us the way.
I want to be a part of turning the world upside down. Imagine that being what they say about us. That is the power of the good news message of Jesus.
- Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one and King of God’s country.
- Understanding the scripture is essential to understand Jesus.
- Jesus had to suffer and die for us.
- Jesus rose from the dead into an incorruptible body and is now seated next to God as King of God’s country.
The essentials matter. The good news message matters. I must stay focused.
After they passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As usual, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and rise from the dead: “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah [the anointed King].” Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, including a large number of God-fearing Greeks, as well as a number of the leading women.
But the Jews became jealous, and they brought together some wicked men from the marketplace, formed a mob, and started a riot in the city. Attacking Jason’s house, they searched for them to bring them out to the public assembly. When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too, and Jason has welcomed them. They are all acting contrary to Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king — Jesus.” The crowd and city officials who heard these things were upset. After taking a security bond from Jason and the others, they released them. | Acts 17:1-9
Following the famous Egnatian Way, Paul and Silas went 100 miles from Philippi to Thessalonica. Timothy is not mentioned again until Acts 17:14, so he may have remained in Philippi. As far as we can tell, they did not pause to minister in either Amphipolis or Apollonia. Perhaps there were no synagogues in those cities, and Paul certainly expected the new believers in Philippi to carry the message to their neighbors. It was Paul’s policy to minister in the larger cities and make them centers for evangelizing a whole district.
Paul knew that Thessalonica was a strategic city for the work of the Master Jesus. Not only was it the capital of Macedonia, but it was also a center for business, rivaled only by Corinth. It was located on several important trade routes, and it boasted an excellent harbor. The city was predominantly Greek, even though it was controlled by Rome. Thessalonica was a “free city,” which meant that it had an elected citizens assembly, it could mint its own coins, and it had no Roman garrison within its walls.
Paul labored at his tentmaking trade, but on the Sabbath ministered in the Jewish synagogue where he knew he would find both devout Jews and Gentiles, “God-seekers” and proselytes. This witness went on for only three Sabbaths; then he had to minister outside the synagogue. We do not know exactly how long Paul remained in Thessalonica, but it was long enough to receive financial help twice from the church in Philippi. God blessed Paul’s ministry and the message spread from Thessalonica to other places. It was not a long ministry, but it was an effective one.
Four key words describe Paul’s approach to the synagogue congregation.
- He reasoned, which means he dialogued with them through questions and answers.
- He explained (“opening”) the Scriptures to them
- He proved (“alleging”) that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. The word translated “alleging” means “to lay down alongside, to prove by presenting the evidence.”
- The apostle set before them one Old Testament proof after another that Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah God.
Paul was careful to announce the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, which is the message of the good news. In the sermons in Acts, we find an emphasis on the Resurrection, for the believers were called to be witnesses of His resurrection. “Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion,” says Dr. John R.W. Stott. “The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.”
As the result of three weeks’ ministry, Paul saw a large number of people believe, especially Greek proselytes and influential women. Among the men were Aristarchus and Secundus, who later traveled with Paul. Luke’s phrase “not a few” is one way of saying, “It was a big crowd!” It was a whole bunch of people.
These results did not bring joy to everybody. The unbelieving Jews envied Paul’s success and were grieved to see the Gentiles and the influential women leaving the synagogue. Paul hoped that the salvation of the Gentiles would “provoke” the Jews into studying the Scriptures and discovering their promised Messiah, but in this case, it only provoked them into persecuting the infant church.
The Jews wanted to drag the missionaries before their city assembly, so they manufactured a riot to get the attention of the magistrates. Unable to find the missionaries, the mob seized Jason, host to Paul and his friends, and took him and some of the believers instead. The Jews’ accusations were similar to the ones used at the trial of Jesus: disturbing the peace and promoting treason. Their crime was that of “saying that there is another king, one Jesus.”
The Greek word translated “another” means “another of a different kind,” that is, a king unlike Caesar. When you read Paul’s two Thessalonian letters, you see the strong emphasis he gave in Thessalonica on the kingship of Jesus the Messiah and the promise of His return. Of course, our Master’s kingdom is neither political nor “of this world”, but we cannot expect unsaved pagans to understand this.
The kingship of Jesus the Messiah (the anointed King) is unlike that of the rulers of this world. Jesus is King of God’s country (aka the Kingdom of God). He conquers with ambassadors, not armies; and His weapons are truth and love. He brings men peace by upsetting the peace and turning things upside down! He conquers through His cross where He died for a world who has missed God’s goal (aka sinners). He even died for His enemies!
The mob was agitated because they could not find Paul and Silas, so they settled for second best and obtained a peace bond against them. Jason had to put up the money and guarantee that Paul and Silas would leave the city and not return. It is possible that Jason was a relative of Paul’s, which would make the transaction even more meaningful. Paul saw this prohibition as a device of Satan to hinder the work, but it certainly did not hinder the Thessalonian church from “sounding out the word” and winning the lost.
- Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Ac 17:1–18:1). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 470–471). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.