Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Acts, Chapter 17

I watched the The Matrix Reloaded last night, a fascinating movie that has many allusions to Christianity. During a key scene, there is a debate about the nature of cause and effect. In today's reading of Acts chapter 17 we see that cause and effect played out in three different ways as Paul takes the message to Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens. Paul's message of the gospel bore fruit as there were some that believed in each place, but the most prominent reactions that he received were vastly different.

5But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus." 8When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. – Acts 17:5-8

This is obviously a bad reaction, as the entire city is thrown into chaos because of their teaching. I find it funny here also that the Jews of Thessalonica were more concerned with following Caesar, an earthly king, than they were with following the will of God. Throughout the entire Bible, there are countless examples of the Jews losing faith and following earthly signs rather than the will of the God that had chosen them as His people. For every act of faith it seems there is an act of unfaith, and this is yet another one.

13When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. – Acts 17:13

The verses before this indicate that more people believed the message at Berea, but I find it interesting that the Jews from Thessalonica were so hellbent on causing trouble that they followed Paul and his menagerie to Berea to cause more trouble. We see that the Bereans themselves were more relaxed and accepted of differing viewpoints, but the people from Thessalonica remind me of the people who give Christians a bad name by traveling all over the country to force their views and opinions on people. That's not what the message is about! I don't expect you to agree with everything I say, as my views are my views. I simply put the Word out there as I interpret it and allow the Holy Spirit to work from there.

22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. 24"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. – Acts 17:22-25

From the Athenians we see yet a third reaction, as there is little unrest, but at least thought is given to Paul's viewpoints. This is all that is all I ask when I present the case for Christ here, as thoughtful discussion is my minimum goal. I am sure that Paul found it a welcome relief that people were willing to let him speak and simply listen instead of stir trouble up against him. Instead of forcing their own views on Paul, they came to him with an open mind and were willing to listen. This is an attitude we can all learn from.


  1. Why did the Jews show such a lack of faith in their God?
  2. Why are some people more intent on forcing their views on people than just listening?
  3. How does the Holy Spirit work to change minds?

No comments: