This page is a verse by verse study of Acts 17:1-15. These verses describe Paul’s experiences and work in Thessalonica and Berea during his second missionary journey. .
Paul’s experiences and work in Thessalonica.
¶ "When Paul and Silas had travelled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica. There was a Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica. So Paul, according to his custom, went in to those assembled and reasoned with them from the Scriptures. He did this on three Sabbath days. Paul explained and proved that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead. Paul said, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” "(Acts 17:1-3).
The synagogue. Jews were now living all over the world. They had meeting places called synagogues where their local congregations met and were administered. The temple in Jerusalem was a place for festivals and pilgrimages, but the synagogue was the center of grass-roots religion and worship each Sabbath. It became Paul’s practice, when he came to preach in a city, to first go to the synagogues. There he would hope to preach the gospel to the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles who worshipped God with the Jews.
The scriptures. The scriptures from which Paul reasoned were that part of the Bible we call “The Old Testament”. These scriptures were read in the synagogue. These scriptures taught about Christ. Paul was able, from these scriptures, to show that Jesus is the Christ. (cf 1Peter 1:10-12,John 5:39).
The Christ. The word Christ is the Greek word for Messiah. The Jews were looking for a coming Messiah, the king who would sit on David’s throne and restore Israel. In Jerusalem, Peter had proclaimed, "Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Christ"(Acts 2:36). Now in Thessalonica, and wherever he went, Paul was proclaiming the same.
¶ "Some of the Jews in the synagogue at Thessalonica were persuaded by Paul and joined him and Silas. So did a great many of the devout Greeks and quite a few of the important women. But other Jews grew jealous. They took along some wicked men from the marketplace, got a mob together, and set the city in an uproar. Storming the house of Jason, they intended to bring Paul and Silas out to face the people. When they didn't find them, they dragged Jason and certain brothers before the rulers of the city and shouted, “Those men who have turned the world upside down have come here also. Jason has welcomed them. These men and their followers all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar. They say that there is another king, Jesus!” "(Acts 17:4-7).
Some persuaded, others grew jealous. Paul’s message divided the synagogue. Paul won some for Jesus to add to his church. However Paul at the same time added to his enemies. Sometimes, in our efforts to turn people into followers of Jesus, we inadvertently, and unavoidably, stir up opposition to the word.
Storming and shouting. The opposition to Paul and Silas was indecent. Decent people don't stir up a mob and create an uproar. This is not the mark of genuine and sincere opposition.
There is another king. The dishonesty of the half truth is evident here. Yes, Jesus is another king, but he himself made it plain that he was not usurping Caesar. "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my disciples rise up and fight"(John 18:36).
NOTE: Paul discusses his feelings and experiences at this time in 1Thessalonians 1-3
Paul’s experiences and work in Berea.
¶ "The populace and the rulers of the city were troubled when they heard these things. They released Jason and the others, but only on bail. The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When Paul and Silas arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue."(Acts 17:8-10).
Rulers troubled. The rulers of the city were rightly concerned, because any disturbance of the peace would be frowned upon by the Romans, and the city officials would be held responsible. They seem to have treated the Christians fairly well. They did not keep Jason and the others in custody, nor did they apparently attempt to find and arrest Paul and Silas, who were able to get away from the city.
The synagogue. [See earlier note on verse 2.] Paul and Silas don't change their strategy. They do the same in Berea as they did in Thessalonica. They go into the synagogue, taking the risk that trouble will come upon them again.
Thank God for Jasons. This Jason, who stood with Paul, is nowhere else mentioned in scripture (except perhaps Romans 16:21). His is no “big name” in the Bible, but how important are people like him: people who, in their small corner, stand for the gospel of Christ and fearlessly help its preachers in adversity.
¶ "Now these at Berea were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind. They examined the Scriptures daily to see whether the things that Paul and Silas preached were so. Consequently, many of them believed. So did many of the prominent Greek women, and quite a few men."(Acts 17:11-12).
More noble. The result at Bearea is quite a contrast with Thessalonica. This shows that Paul and Silas were right not to label and condemn one synagogue by the actions and attitudes of another. Those at the Berean synagogue were examples of honest seekers of truth. They listened; they examined the scriptures themselves to confirm that Paul’s use of the scripture was in harmony with the whole; and many of them believed.
Prominent women and men. In Thessalonica, there seemed to be a group of bigots dominant in the synagogue, rather than a group of tolerant, open-minded, and influential people. In Berea, the dominant group seems to be those of high standing and position in the city, with all the noble qualities that such a position requires. Perhaps that's one of the reasons that the experience in Berea did not imitate the confusion in Thessalonica.
¶ "The Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also. So they came there stirring up the crowds as they'd done in Thessalonica. Then the brethren at Berea immediately sent Paul out of the city and all the way to the sea. Silas and Timothy remained in Berea. Paul’s escorts brought him as far as Athens. Paul gave the escorts an order for Silas and Timothy to come to him very quickly. So the escorts departed."(Acts 17:13-15).
Came there stirring. Unfortunately the riot makers of Thessalonica invaded Berea and tried to make the same trouble there. Although this did not lead to any arrests, the brethren thought it prudent to send Paul out of the city. When the cat disappears, the dogs have nothing to bark at. So the trouble was prevented, and Silas and Timothy could work with the new converts quietly for a short time, while Paul was discreetly taken a good distance south.
Timothy sticks with Paul and Silas. It isn't clear whether Timothy had been with Paul and Silas most of the time, or whether he got separated from them and caught up with them in Berea. But young Timothy shows his courage and commitment by continuing to be their companion in the face of all the trouble.