Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Acts 17:13-18
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Acts 17:13
v13: When the synagogue leaders in Thessalonica heard that Paul and Silas were now preaching the Word of God in Berea, they too came to Berea to stop them. Just as they had done in their own city, they were able to stir up an angry mob. Either they did this by going into the market place and drawing a crowd together (Ac 17:5) or a crowd had already gathered and was listening to Paul when they arrived, and they waded into it and began shouting accusations and slandering Paul to whomever would listen. Very likely they said they were there to warn people that Paul was a political subversive who would bring them trouble with the Roman government if they listened to him. And their strategy worked. They were able to instill fear in many and that fear quickly turned to anger. The friendly people of Berea who had been listening to the gospel and watching people healed and delivered (1Th 1:5), became a dangerous mob.

Monday: Acts 17:14, 15
vs14-15: Unlike Thessalonica (v6), Berea was a small town with no place to hide, so when they saw the situation turn hostile, a group of the men of the church immediately got Paul out of town and traveled with him to protect him. Luke says they took him “as far as the sea,” which may mean they escorted him out to the coast, about 16 miles away, over local footpaths, rather than main roads where they might be overtaken. When they arrived, they probably put him on the first boat that was departing. Once he was at sea, he could make his way to Athens from wherever the boat might dock. It’s also possible they took him to the road that ran along the coast and from there he could walk the 250 miles south to Athens. But since there’s no mention of him ministering anywhere along the way, it seems more likely he escaped by boat. With favorable winds he would have arrived in Athens within three or four days.

Tuesday: Acts 17:15
v15 (continued): Timothy and Silas must not have been as recognizable as Paul, either in Berea or Thessalonica, because they were both able to remain in Macedonia for a while longer, to care for the churches Paul was being forced to leave (1Th 3:1-3). However, Paul did not travel alone. Some of the men from Berea graciously took it upon themselves to accompany him all the way to Athens. Obviously, they felt a need to protect him. They may not have been comfortable allowing a Jewish rabbi to travel alone in Greece. Once they arrived, and undoubtedly after they helped him find a safe place to stay, they felt free to return home. Before they departed, Paul gave them either a verbal instruction or a letter telling Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

Wednesday: Acts 17:16
v16: During those days while he was alone in Athens, Paul’s spirit became grieved. In spite of its reputation as a center of learning and philosophy, people of Athens were gripped by spiritual deception. The whole place was immersed in a strong demonic presence (1Co 10:20). The Roman writer Pliny estimated there were over 30,000 public statues of gods in Athens and, of course, that number didn’t include the countless number of statues in people’s homes (A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Broadman, 1930, Vol. 3, p.278).

Thursday: Acts 17:17
v17: It appears Paul did not plan to conduct a mission in Athens, at least not until his partners re-joined him, but his concern for the spiritual condition of the people grew so strong he couldn’t help himself. He felt compelled to preach, so he began by dialoguing with Jews and God-fearing (worshiping) Greeks in the synagogue, and also by going everyday into the large market in the center of the city to converse with whomever he was able to sit or stand beside.

Friday: Acts 17:18
v18: In the course of these discussions, he met some Epicurean and some Stoic philosophers. The Epicureans taught that humans live in a soulless, mechanical world. If the gods existed at all, they had no interest or involvement with humans, and once a person finally accepted this atheistic reality, they were set free from the many superstitions and religions that weigh people down. They believed that the main goal of life is happiness. The founder, Epicurus, taught that true happiness is found when one escapes from pain and suffering into the quiet inner world of the intellect. Though this philosophy taught that happiness is not focused in the pursuit of pleasure, in time its effect was to break down religious restraint in people and it produced moral corruption (W. E. Caldwell, The Ancient World, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1962, pp. 319, 389-390).

Saturday: Acts 17:18
v18 (continued): The founder of the Stoic philosophy was a Phoenician named Zeno. He taught people to passively submit to the laws of nature. He taught that a truly wise person realizes that whatever life brings, whether pleasure or pain, joy or grief, it comes to us because it is part of a divine plan. The “god” he spoke of was not the personal God of the Bible, but simply a divine spirit that inhabits all of life. And since there is a predetermined plan for each person’s life, each of us should decide to energetically play out whatever role is assigned to us. Since we all partake of a common divine spirit, we should think of ourselves as “brothers and sisters” and accept our duty to live out our obligations to our fellow human beings. True happiness is found in knowledge and self-restraint. And when it comes time to die, a person should face death willingly and cheerfully (W. E. Caldwell, The Ancient World, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1962, pp. 320, 389).

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