Trouble in Thessalonica
1After Paul and his friends had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they went on to Thessalonica. A synagogue was in that city. 2So as usual, Paul went there to worship, and on three Sabbaths he spoke to the people. He used the Scriptures 3to show them that the Messiah had to suffer, but that he would rise from death. Paul also told them that Jesus is the Messiah he was preaching about. 4Some of them believed what Paul had said, and they became followers with Paul and Silas. Some Gentiles and many important women also believed the message.
5The Jewish leaders were jealous and got some troublemakers who hung around the marketplace to start a riot in the city. They wanted to drag Paul and Silas out to the mob, and so they went straight to Jason's home. 6But when they did not find them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the Lord's followers. They took them to the city authorities and shouted, “Paul and Silas have been upsetting things everywhere. Now they have come here, 7and Jason has welcomed them into his home. All of them break the laws of the Roman Emperor by claiming that someone named Jesus is king.”
8The officials and the people were upset when they heard this. 9So they made Jason and the other followers pay bail before letting them go.
People in Berea Welcome
10That same night the Lord's followers sent Paul and Silas on to Berea, and after they arrived, they went to the synagogue. 11The people in Berea were much nicer than those in Thessalonica, and they gladly accepted the message. Day after day they studied the Scriptures to see if these things were true. 12Many of them put their faith in the Lord, including some important Greek women and several men.
13When the Jewish leaders in Thessalonica heard that Paul had been preaching God's message in Berea, they went there and caused trouble by turning the crowds against Paul.
14At once the followers sent Paul down to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea. 15Some men went with Paul as far as Athens, and then returned with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
Ultimately, there can only be one of two responses to the gospel – one is either persuaded or opposed. One may take a position between the two for a while, but in the end one has to decide for or against Christ.
When we share the message of Christ (vv 2-3), some people will be sympathetic. Others will be antagonistic. In common with the many other places where Paul journeyed to share the gospel, some of the people in Thessalonica and Berea were drawn to God (vv 4, 12) while others were hardened against him (vv 5-9, 13). That’s to be expected. The gospel is either a delight or an offense (see 1 Corinthians 1:18).
When people are persuaded by the gospel they join together with God’s people (v 4) and diligently study the Scriptures to know truth (v 11). When people don’t do these things, it’s doubtful they’ve been persuaded by the gospel, and identified with Christ. On the other hand, when people join a local church and live their lives by the Word of God, it’s a sure sign they’ve embraced Christ.
Sadly, when people oppose the gospel they often become hostile, critical, jealous, or rally others to pressurize civil authorities to act or legislate against believers (vv 5-9, 13). The tactics of the Jews in this story were crude and underhanded. They incited the unscrupulous to do their dirty work (vv 5, 13), bully opponents (v 6a), tell lies (v 6b) and to do whatever they could to create turmoil (v 8).
Are you persuaded by or opposed to the gospel? If you’re persuaded, you’ll be known for engaging thoughtfully and daily with the Scriptures (v 11). If you’re opposed, beware. Think twice before dismissing the Scriptures as superficial or irrelevant.
Lord, as opportunities present themselves to share the gospel, help me proclaim the Scriptures in an intelligent, reasoned, Christ focused way. And as you open my mouth, open the hearers’ minds to accept the message eagerly and thoughtfully. Amen.