THE ACTS 32
THE JEALOUS JEWS OF THESSALONICA
CONTRASTED WITH THE NOBLE MEN OF BEREA
When Paul and Silas left Philippi, Luke says simply that they went
through Amphipolis and Apollonia, and came to Thessalonica. Such a simple statement for a trip that was over a hundred miles and must have taken over a week for them to walk it. The intense concern that Paul has in spreading the Gospel is indicated by the long distances he was willing to walk, even over difficult and dangerous roads, in order to take the Word to as many places as possible.
As usual, Paul went to the Synagogue, where there would be not only Jews, but many Gentiles, who had turned from paganism to the Jewish religion, and were proselytes. In response to Paul’s preaching Jesus as the Christ…the promised Messiah…quite a few Jews were persuaded, and a great many of the Gentiles. This angered the Jewish leaders, for they considered the Gentiles their own personal preserve. So they used deceit and other underhanded methods to
have Jason, who was host to Paul and Silas, dragged before the city officials, who fined him and let him go. Knowing that this was not the end of the matter, and fearing for the safety of Paul and Silas, Jason and the brethren sent them away.
Through the years, many religious leaders have been so jealous of their position, that any opposition was considered a threat, and they would use any method to destroy it. To them, the end justifies the means, and, even if it means lying or killing in order to overcome the opposition, they are willing to do it and feel justified. I have personally seen some preachers tell lies about other preachers with whom they disagreed, in order to have them discredited. What a shame that the search for truth should suffer such infamy. The end,
even a noble one, never justifies the means used to accomplish it. This is a mistake often made by those who are so intent on pursuing their own personal agenda, which they believe to be right, that they are willing to ignore all other principles in the process. This never
helps the cause of Jesus Christ.
However, when Paul came to Berea, he found the people eager to learn the truth. They not only listened attentively, but “Searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were true”. Paul called them “noble” people. The word noble carries the idea of high ideals, honesty, sincerity and openness. The noble always subjugate their own self-interest in the quest for what is right. This is the only attitude which can foster unity, and can allow Jesus to be Lord of one’s life.
But the Jews of Thessalonica, still frustrated and angry at Paul’s success in their Synagogue, came down to Berea to stir up trouble. If you find the reaction of the Jews to the preaching of Paul to be strange or extreme, consider the situation in the religious world today. Almost every entrenched group in Christendom exhibits the same anger at those who offer criticism of their teaching or their methods. Why is this so? First, because they are comfortable with their rituals and precepts and feel this makes them acceptable to God.
Second, they do not wish to hear anything which might demand that they make a change, or have to exercise any more discipline in their way of life or their “easy” religion. True faith in Christ demands not rituals and church-going status but a life of sacrifice and dedication.
This is not preached to the satisfied crowds in our mega-churches today.
The third reason is perhaps the most widely spread problem in Christendom today. It is the belief in mass salvation, or membership salvation. The Jews thought they were God’s chosen people, and if you were a Jew you were right with God. Today, most people, who claim to be Christians, are members of a church that they deem to be the right church. Being a member equates with being a Christian with them, and their religious responsibility is limited to the rituals and activities of the church. As a result, they are not concerned with having a personal relationship with Him that translates into their daily life at home and in the market place. But it is this relationship that God wants. Not membership, but individual and personal.
However, the presence of the Jewish mob caused the Bereans to
fear for Paul’s safety. So they sent him away, but Silas and Timothy stayed. When Paul got to Athens, he sent for them immediately, and they came to join him.
In our next essay, we will discuss the great sermon by Paul on Mars Hill.