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Bible Commentaries
Acts 17

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An Altar To The Unknown God Acts Seventeen

In Act_17:1-34 we have record of the missionaries in the city of Thessalonica. At Thessalonica Paul and Silas reasoned from the scriptures for three Sabbath Days in the synagogue of the Jews. Many Jews and proselytes received the gospel and this caused the Jewish persecution to begin again. The preaching done by the brethren centered in the fact Jesus had been put to death and restored to life again. They offended proof that Jesus is the Christ.

The envy of the Jews led them to secure certain base people to cry out against the brethren. They even attacked the house of Jason hoping to bring these preachers out to the people for persecution. They accused Paul and Silas of making trouble all over the world. The charge was, "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also."

Jason was charged because he had received the brethren into his house. The people were upset because these men had said that Jesus is king. They made Jason and others give proof that they were peace loving and then let them go.

After this tumult Paul and Silas were sent to Berea. There the Jews were more noble in that they examined what they heard by the word of God to see if it was so. This led to a great number of people becoming believers. Jews from Thessalonica went to Berea and stirred up the people against Paul. The brethren sent Paul away to Athens but Silas and Timothy stayed longer at Thessalonica.

Paul's spirit was stirred at the sight of much idolatry in Athens. He proclaimed the true God unto all that would hear. He declared that the one true God is Creator and that Jesus, His Son that was raised from the dead shall judge everyone. The resurrection is the basis of Christianity. In plain and convincing terms Paul showed the folly of serving "an unknown God." He said that man should search for God, get to know Him or find Him. God is not far from any one of us.

Verses 1-9

Paul preached Christ at Thessalonica Act_17:1-9 : Paul and his co-workers left Philippi and journeyed to Thessalonica. Their journey carried then through Amphipolis and Apollonia. When they visited Thessalonica they found a synagogue and many Jews. Paul went into the synagogue and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures. He used the Old Testament to identify Jesus as the Messiah.

Paul used the scripture to show that the Messiah had to suffer and die for sins. He presented proof that Jesus was raised again from the dead, and that this Jesus is the Christ. The result of the preaching was that a good number of God-fearing Greeks and some of the chief women became Christians. There was, however, opposition to the truth. The Jews stirred up some base fellows and attacked the house of Jason where these preachers had stayed. The mob was looking for Paul and Silas, but did not find them. Those that opposed Christianity said, "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also." What was said in derision was in fact a great compliment. The things that seemed to disturb the unbelieving Jews most were: (1) preaching concerning the resurrection, and (2) saying the Jesus was king.

Verses 10-15

The noble conduct of the Bereans Act_17:10-15 : Out of love for their spiritual fathers and concern for their safety the brethren sent Paul and Silas to Berea. They were sent out at night to preserve them from the fury of the mob. At Berea the missionaries went into the synagogue and preach Jesus. These people were nobler than those in Thessalonica. They did not dispute with the missionaries. Neither did they just receive their massage as right. They took it upon themselves to search the Old Testament to see if what was said about Jesus was what scripture said about the Messiah. After they has searched the scriptures "a number of them had faith and no small number of the Greek women of high position and of the men" believed.

The Jews of Thessalonica were not content to leave things alone. They came to Berea to stir up trouble for Paul. This caused the brethren to send Paul away to Athens. Silas and Timothy stayed for a while at Berea, to confirm and strengthen the new Christians there.

Verses 16-23

An altar to an unknown God Act_17:16-23 : While Paul waited for his co-workers his spirit was stirred by all the idolatry in Athens. He saw a city "full of idols." Paul had discussions, (1) in the Synagogue with the Jews, (2) with God-fearing Gentiles, and (3) in the market-place with those that were there. The philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoicks called Paul a babbler. They said, "He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection."

Paul was brought to Areopagus to be examined by the most skillful judge concerning his doctrine. They had never heard about Jesus, or about salvation through Him, nor of His resurrection from the dead. They wanted to hear for themselves the things spoken by Paul. The Athenians "spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing." Paul began his speech by saying that he had observed that the people of Athens were very religious. When they "honored their gods" for fear of missing one they had an altar "with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD." This was the God that Paul declared to them.

Verses 24-34

A sermon about the one true God Act_17:24-34 : In his sermon Paul showed that the true God made the world and all things therein. This God is Lord of heaven and earth. He gives to all life, and breath, and all things. He is the Creator having made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth. In the one true God we live, and move, and have our being. You cannot make an image of or to this God. The God of heaven has commanded all men every where to repent in view of coming judgment. The assurance of coming judgment is the resurrection.

"When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter." The discussion ended with Paul having no more to say to them, or they to him. "Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them." These were some that received the love of the truth and so they were saved. Paul could say, “To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life...?" ( 2Co_2:16 ) The resurrected Christ provides hope to all that obey Him.

Bibliographical Information
Box, Charles. "Commentary on Acts 17". "Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/box/acts-17.html. 2014.
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