Acts – Chapter 17 – Paul’s Second Missionary Journey – Part 2
- Acts 17:1-4 – Paul reaches Thessalonica and goes in the synagogue to preach about Jesus and some Jews and a great multitude of devout Gentiles were persuaded
- Acts 17:5-9 – But the other Jews gathered a mob and took Jason who kept Paul in his house, to the rulers accusing him of acting contrary to Caesar. So the rulers took a security from Jason but let him go
- Acts 17:10-12 –The brethren sent Paul and Silas to Berea where he went to preach in the synagogue. Here they were more receptive and many Jews and Gentiles believed
- Acts 17:13-15 – The Jews from Thessalonica came to stir the crowd and the brethren sent him to Athens
- Acts 17:16-21 – In Athens, Paul again preached in the synagogue and in the marketplace and they took him to the Aeropagus to present his teaching
- Acts 17:22-31 – There Paul preached about God, Jesus and the resurrection
- Acts 17:32-34 – Some mocked Paul, others were curious but some joined him and believed
Are You Turning the World Upside Down?
Whenever Paul went to preach in the synagogues, the results were the same. A few Jews were open enough to believe his message but he had the greatest effect on devout Gentiles who became believers and followed him.
I believe that Jews may have not agreed with Paul’s doctrine but the thing that made them jealous and infuriated them was that they felt that he was “stealing their sheep.” There were repeated accusations they made, like “they have turned the world upside down!” (Acts 17:6) or “they create trouble” (Acts 16:20), etc. In a way, these accusations were true. The Gospel does turn the world upside down individually and socially. Even if imperfectly implemented by imperfect men, the Gospel introduced new powerful beliefs and values that the power of the Roman Empire could not overcome. It brought about the collapse of the Roman Empire and the establishment of a new world order.
Called to Be World Changers
The Great Commission appoints us to become World Changers (Mat 28:18-20). Jesus has changed the history of humanity. Those who have His Spirit living in them, have an internal drive to influence the world. The Bible clearly shows that this is the call of any born-again believer.
This is what happened at the beginning of the church. The Gospel spread like wild fire throughout the world, and will continue to spread to the end.
Jesus said that the revelation of who He is gives birth to His church and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mat 16:18) Many interpret this verse in the sense that the enemy will not be effective against the church. That is not true. Just look at believers today and derive your own conclusion.
The real meaning is that the gates of hell will not be able to stand against the power of His church, of His disciples. Those believers are not just part of a religious organization but have received the truth about Jesus and appropriated the power he has made available to them.
The gates of hell can easily prevail against the timid and insecure. However, the righteous is as bold as a lion (Pro 28:1). Paul was an example of persistence, boldness and courage that we all should follow.
Our mission as World Changers is to influence, convince and develop people into revolutionary men and women dangerous to the worldly “status quo” by transferring to them the eternal life that is in us. You and I are part of the God’s Love Revolution that will finally make the world system collapse as the Roman Empire did. We are ambassadors of God’s kingdom (2 Cor 5:20) commissioned to break down the gates of hell.
Learning to Minister Life Not Religion
Today in this relativistic society, people think that it is OK to have their own “belief.” The truth is that Jesus is the only way (John 14:6) even if many find it is not politically correct to say it. However, they never heard the Gospel or have been blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4); otherwise, they would have accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord.
I am not advocating manipulation and pressuring people into religion and legalism. These means do not really work and even when they seem to produce results, they do serious spiritual damage (John 3:6).
Taking Your Stand in the Battle Field
In the battlefield, we should not be antagonistic or negative. Our battle is a faith battle (1 Tim 6:12). We do not fight people. We love them as Jesus did.
Jesus instructed us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). This is where our effectiveness starts. The world is watching you. This involves two components:
- Your behavior
- Your words
These two must be congruent. Your witnessing quickly loses any effect when your actions do not correspond to what you proclaim. Saying, “Do what I say but don’t do what I do” is a sign of hypocrisy.
In other words, we should not make compromises concerning our values and beliefs. Our actions are a powerful, silent preaching. That does not mean that we should be silent, but that we should confirm our words with our actions.
Learning from Paul’s Outreach in Athens
The way Paul outreached in Athens shows us some principles for effective outreach.
- Paul was just passing by in Athens but did not miss the opportunity to preach the Gospel. We should always be ready to take the opportunities that the Holy Spirit brings to us.
- Paul’s reference to the “altar to the unknown god” (Acts 17:23) did not compromise his beliefs but demonstrated effective communication skills. It is important to connect at the audience’s level. Finding a point in the understanding and belief of the audience produces interest and openness in the hearer. Finding a point of agreement establishes effective leverage that we can reframe to our advantage. This is what we must learn to do. Often we should speak only after we have gathered enough information about our audience to address the issues that are of interest.
- Paul’s arguments did not use Jewish tradition because he was talking to Gentiles. He connected with their experience and beliefs and got their attention. This we should do also. Do not get caught up in traditional religious arguments and jargon unless they are in the mind of the audience.
- Paul’s preaching did not produce many believers in Athens (Acts 17:32-34) because the audience was more interested in a philosophical discussion than in seeking the truth. We can spend much energy and time to present our beliefs to people who do not feel the need for what we are presenting and we waste our time. Even if they agree with our argument, they are not ready to make a decision. You may say that you have planted some seeds. That may be true, but if the ground is not productive, the seed will die without producing fruit that we could have produced elsewhere. We need wisdom to determine how much to plant in a soil because other soil may be more productive. For this, we must learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, as Paul did when he did not preach in Asia and Bithynia (Acts 16:6-7).
- It is interesting that Paul did not perform miracles in Athens. The audience there was more interested in intellectual arguments than experiencing God’s power. Even Jesus could perform only minor miracles in Nazareth because of their unbelief (Mat 13:58), no matter how much anointing He had. Working in the supernatural power of God is actually the most effective way to produce believers. Miracles are the best proof that what we preach is true (Mark 16:15-18, Acts 1:8).
- What is your experience in witnessing and ministering to non-believers?
- What effect has your attitude and beliefs in reaching out?
- How can you become more effective in ministering to non-believers?
Prayer of Faith
I thank you Father for the Holy Spirit living in me. Help me grow, to listen to His direction and to become a bold and powerful witness of Jesus.
In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen!
© 2014, Pastor Maurizio. All rights reserved.