Bible Passage: Acts 17
This chapter continues Paul’s second missionary journey, accompanied by Silas and Timothy. He continues working his way through Greece and visits Thessalonica, Berea and Athens, sharing the gospel and trying to plant a church in each place.
Trouble in Thessalonica: In Thessalonica, Paul started in the synagogues as usual and found some success amongst both Jews and Greeks, men and women. It seemed like everything was going well until some of the leading Jews became jealous and stirred up a mob, leading to their eviction from the city. The end result was a fledgling church (that Paul writes to in the letters to the Thessalonians) but the season of laying foundations was cut short and the church was left to fend for itself from an early stage. In some ways, Thessalonica is a microcosm of Acts as a whole, and also of what we can expect as we engage in God’s mission – people from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds coming to know Jesus, but also trouble and opposition for those spreading the word.
Bible-Searching In Berea: Following their departure from Thessalonica, the apostles headed to Berea. Again they started in the synagogue, and the reception was generally positive. Having heard Paul’s teaching, the Jews in Berea checked the Scriptures to see if what he taught was true, and this a great model for how to engage with teaching: look to Scripture as the standard and only receive whatever teaching lines up with what is written.
Apologetics In Athens: In Athens, Paul took a very different approach. It was a pagan city and the centre of Greek philosophy, so he didn’t have the foundation of scripture-knowledge to start from like he did in Berea. Instead, he started with his own observations of Athenian culture, including their shrine to the unknown god and the words of their own poets. By relating his teaching about Jesus to what the Athenians already believed, he was able to contextualise the gospel in such a way that it made sense to their audience. This principle should be one we keep in mind as we seek to share the gospel with different people and cultures; if we cannot show how it relates to their current understanding and values then it will be difficult to land the message with people.
- In all three cities, Paul shares the good news of Jesus because he wants to see people saved. You could explain the gospel in a way that makes sense in your own culture and offer the invitation for people to put their trust in Jesus.
- Challenge people to be discerning about the teaching that they hear, and like the Bereans check the things they are taught against the truth of Scripture.
- You could invite people to chat together about what things in your own culture could be starting points for gospel conversations with people.