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Jun 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 26, 2016 – Acts 17:1-15

The Spiritual Benefit of Integrated Circuits

Now . . . they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the whole world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them. Acts 17:1-9

Intro: It may be a miracle that Paul never developed Social Anxiety Disorder

People were always sending him away
– from the start, he was sent from Damascus and then Jerusalem (9:25, 30)
• in this chapter he is sent from

Thessalonica: The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night . . . (v. 10)
Berea, Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea . . . (v. 14)

• even praying in temple, Paul got this same treatment from the Lord Jesus

Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles (22:21)

– why was Paul considered such a trouble-maker?
• first, his message was revolutionary, truly life-changing
• secondly, because so many people were drawn to it
◦ there would have been no problem if Paul affirmed the status quo
◦ or if he was ignored — like most streetcorner preachers

Let’s get out the magnifying glass and take a closer look at this story

Paul designed his message to counter objections

You may have learned in a highschool or college speech classe
– there are different types of speeches–e.g., to inform, entertain, persuade
– Paul delivered a persuasive speech in the synagogue
• this is indicated by four words that appear here

  1. Reasoned – his topic was about an overlooked biblical insight
    • the Christ (Messiah) had to suffer, die and rise from dead
    • he had to prove this was a reasonable interpretation of scripture
  2. Explaining – same word translated ‘open’ of scripture and hearts (Lk. 24:32 & 45)
    • help them see it and understand it
  3. Giving evidence – lay it out for them to see
    • he quoted and explored with them various biblical passages
  4. Persuaded (v. 4)
    • Paul’s message made sense or seemed clear and they were convinced

Why was it important that Paul took this particular approach?
– the concept of a suffering Messiah was not an established belief
• it certainly was not orthodox among Jewish scribes and rabbis
• it had never occurred to most religious Jews, but just the opposite
◦ Peter’s initial reaction to it was typical (Mt. 16:21-23)

. . . we preach Christ [Messiah] crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23)

– Jesus’ life, teaching and miracles in themselves could have a strong appeal to many people
• but as soon as death came up, especially on a cross, he would be rejected as Messiah
• this was an obstacle Paul had to overcome, so he started there

Once Paul laid out his premise, he demonstrated that Jesus met the criteria
– Jesus’ crucifixion was not something that just happened
• the whole event (death, burial and resurrection) has theological significance
• much of Paul’s writing explores and elucidates the theology of it

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Ro. 5:10)

– in response to his three week preaching stint in the synagogue
• there was a ground swell of new believers – mostly Gentiles

Sadly, success frequently triggers opposition

Verse 5 identifies motive of their resistance: jealous
– this word probably does not mean what we immediately think
• in Greek, it is a heated emotional state and can be either positive or negative
• later on, Paul will explain to a Jewish crowd in the temple

that he too had lived strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today (zealous translates the same word as jealous — Acts 22:3)

– so it may not have been a vice that motivated them, but zeal
• this is another important lesson: these were religious, pious people defending their faith
◦ yet they were capable of resorting to unethical tactics and deceit
• there is a fear that drives many religious leaders; namely, a loss of control over the minds of their followers
◦ the purpose of many services and programs developed by Christian leaders
◦ to control people, so as to ensure their continued involvement and support

I will tell you now, that when your heart is led by Jesus
– do not be surprised if you encounter strong resistance
• or if that resistance comes from other believers
◦ try not to feel overly wounded if they prove to be unethical
• you see this a lot in “internet apologetics,” which tends to be ill-informed, ugly and abusive
◦ many of these folks shoot arrows from behind rocks
◦ perhaps King David had been attacked by people like this when he wrote,

For behold, they have set an ambush for my life;
Fierce men launch an attack against me,
Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O LORD,
. . . they run and set themselves against me (Ps. 59:3-4)

– Paul’s persecutors accused him of being a trouble-maker
• but they stirred up far more chaos and agitation in their city than he would anywhere

Vv. 10-15, A very different experience in Berea

Luke’s classic description of the Bereans: more noble-minded
– the Greek word means well-bred, people of a better pedigree
• How so? If we were to reduce it to one word: integrity
• they were interested in what Paul had to say and they received the word with great eagerness
◦ but it did not end for them there — they were

examining the Scriptures dailyto see whether these things were so

– they devoted time and effort to verify Paul’s message for themselves
• have you ever considered how difficult that would be in those days
◦ few people could read and few had access to the Scriptures
◦ also, the Book of Acts would require a scroll approximately thirty feet long
• but knowing and responding to the truth really mattered to them

As soon as a crop of new believers appeared in Berea, so did the agitators
• and the familiar pattern is repeated
• when Paul was shipped out this time, his destination was Athens
◦ just that fact tells us something exciting is on the horizon

Conc: Now I am going to backtrack a bit

We read that Paul had reasoned with the Thessalonians
– A. T. Robertson traced the history of this word, dialegesthai
• at one time it referred to Socrates’ method of teaching

Socrates would ask a question, such as, “What is courage?” When a student answered, Socrates would question the answer, whether it meant this or that. The student would give another answer, which Socrates would also question. In this way, Socrates sometimes led students to the point where their answer contradicted their first answer. He could continue this “dialectic” process until his student gave up in utter confusion and despair.  At that point, Socrates might point out that their first answer was correct, but not for the reason they had given. His goal was not to demonstrate that they really did not know anything, but to drive their thinking deeper.

– from this Greek word we get our English word, dialectic
• it is a form of argumentation that stresses the tension between opposing ideas
• this sometimes happens when either or both ideas could be true

The German philosopher, Hegel, made famous a dialectic formula that went like this:
– someone would present an idea, belief or fact: the thesis
someone else would come along and argue the opposite or the fallacy of the thesis: the antithesis 
– eventually the two ideas would modify each other and combine: the synthesis

Frequently, some form of dialectic is the way we work out our faith
– for example:
• our Christian lives depend on an individual relationship with God
• our Christian lives depend on our relationship to God in a community where he is at work (the body of Christ)
◦ or we could argue prayer requires solitude (Lk. 5:16)
◦ or prayer requires two or three in agreement (Mt. 18:19)
– these are not either/or choices

It has become popular to criticize dualism
– that is, to see things or people as belonging to one of two different realms
• e.g., it is argued that the distinction between sacred and secular is no longer meaningful
– but I believe that a case can be made for recognizing binary opposites
• that chaos is ordered by defining and separating things that differ
◦ this is exactly what we see in the first chapter of Genesis

. . . and God separated the light from the darkness. (Gen. 1:2-4)

• certainly the answer is not to meld or confuse two different things
◦ as if the differences were only our perception
◦ we can still maintain that day is day and night is night, hot is hot–and so on
◦ we have words for the points where two different things overlap: morning, evening, tipid, etc.

Rather than erase boundaries that inhere in the natural world,
– or to see irreconcilable difference in every instance of opposites or unlike things,
• I think our challenge is to seek integration
◦ to discover the tension in opposites and how it operates
• and then to relax into the rhythm of the integration
◦ not allowing ourselves to be carried to one extreme pole or the other

Paul provides an example of how head and heart can be integrated
– he was able to move smoothly back and forth between theological and experiential
• from biblical truth to living faith, from empirical fact to sanctified imagination
• he could rationally reason Jesus’ qualifications as Messiah
◦ but he could also say he had given up everything once dear to him,

that I might know Him [Jesus] and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings . . . . (Php. 3:7-10)

When integrate our biblical knowledge with a heartfelt devotion,
Jesus will be to us that living, ever present person that he was to Paul
The One who goes through everything with us
and transforms everything about us
The Creator of new creations


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  1. Eliot / Jul 6 2016

    Forgive me if this is a repeat, but I received no acknowledgement after submitting yesterday. My comments were eagerly shared with readers here, more than ever, because the Life of Christ has been manifest to so great a degree since I faced hospice 3 yrs. ago, and somewhat grudgingly allowed drastic surgery to bring together a mind venerating scripture with a body vulnerably salvaged!! Being so changed physically, I returned to Central Illinois from California & Oregon, to afford ANYTHING, and until discovering the observations of REFLEXION CONNEXION, existed as a huffy hermit for quite some time, obsessed with private concerns of artistic nature,”above” the all-too-familiar drudgery of Christian gatherings. Then, after attempting return to California and facing the same financial impossibilities, I found another place in Illinois I thought I’d “endure” better. Starting to withdraw immediately, I was confronted by a huge “shed” down the street with a giant rustic wooden cross placed alone but on the lot with the building. Drawn inside, I found soulful singing & shouting in faith informed more by childlike love than adult intelligence. Trying hard to not admit the attraction, I went down the street to a splendid cathedralesque structure I simply had to view for the architecture, and inside the pews FILLED with equally ancient, not so well-preserved congregants, emptied with heart-rending hobbling to partake of “communion”. Now, I consider myself part of each family’s meetings because the people in both places talk and sing about the ONE who will wait for anyone to learn the true source of harmonious camaraderie.

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Jul 11 2016

    The brief description of your journey from “huffy hermit” to a participant in (BEWARE: Greek word) koinonia–that is, communion within the larger community of Christians in diverse traditions, is deeply moving. Thank you.

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