17.1 The missionaries pass through Amphipolis and Apollonia and arrive in Thessalonica via the great Egnatian road. We are left to wonder why the Apostle does not stop and preach at Amphipolis which is the capital city of this region of Macedonia. Possibly because there was no synagogue? Maybe his mantra was conquer the cities and the villages will fall of themselves? That seems to be the policy that swept through the empire like a prairie fire. It is 33 miles from Philippi to Amphipolis, another 30 miles to Apollonia and 37 more on to Thessalonica. It would seem the Apostle must have stopped for lodging in these cities, yet he does not linger to preach.

17.2-4 for three sabbath days Paul reasons that Jesus is the Christ. Luke the writer of Acts includes the fact that chief women were a large part of the conversion of souls here in Thessalonica. One interesting note is how quickly Paul was able to begin churches. It was always a matter of weeks and a conversion occurred.

17.5-10 Thessalonica…the spiritual battle for Europe is rejoined on another battlefront. Again, the enemy is the Jewish sector resisting Jesus Christ as the messiah. A church is again quickly founded, and is the first of Paul’s churches to receive a letter from him in the near future. (1Thessalonians). The opposition from the Jews is so intense Paul’s brethren immediately send Paul away. How long did Paul stay in Thessalonica? This account in Acts would suggest a short time. If we look at Paul’s letter written a few months later to the Thessalonican church, we can get additional insight. It is evident Paul stayed long enough to convert and establish converted idolators. We are also made aware he was in Thessalonica long enough to receive financial support two times from the church at Philippi. Paul recounts how he worked while he was there (2.9) With this insight it is probable that Paul spent a few months in Thessalonica.

17.11-15 Paul takes the battle to Berea. Berea is not as large as Thessalonica. The preaching of the gospel takes root once again. Many of them believed, including honorable women who were Greeks. There were also a number of men who believed. These believers in Berea were called nobel by Paul,(nobel= yoog-en’-ace= high born). This would infer a higher level of learning as a rule. The gospel need never fear education or learning. Here the great Apostle proves that even education is no match for the gospel in the battle for Europe. However, Paul’s enemies from Thessalonica arrive in Berea to continue their assault on the gospel. Like hunters seeking prey they attack Paul again. These gospel haters stir up the people, so Paul is sent away for safety. He starts as though to go by ship. Paul leaves Timothy and Silas with the new believers. Paul leaves for Athens. The world center of humanism and philosophy. It is at Athens Paul has his greatest defeat. That battle almost took down the great apostle.

17.16-19 Paul feels he is ready. He has fought some battles for some cities and they have fallen to the gospel of Jesus Christ. What thoughts must have looped through the mind of the great Apostle as he saw Athens on the horizon. What dreams he must have entertained. With Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea on his list of great victories and conquered cities, Paul enters Athens. He attends the synagogue as is his custom. The idolatry is rampant throughout the city. Athens is a stronghold for false gods. Paul goes to the market place and daily preaches and teaches. He is noticed by the elite philosophers of the city, the Epicureans and the Stoicks. Some of them mock, but others are mildly interested. This entertaining of new ideas was the Athenian pastime. It is interesting where they bring Paul. They bring him to the Areopagus, which is ar’-i-os pa’-gos in the original. This name is the name of the Greek deity of war! If there was any doubt until now that they were in a war for Europe, that doubt is dispelled. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ against the Greek God of War! Epicureans and Stoicks smugly square off with God’s greatest mind among men. The Epicureans, believers in hedonism and pursuing life’s greatest pleasure and learning, joined the Stoicks, who believed in no outward show of emotion and remaining calm, to face off against Paul. It was a world class battle. All of Paul’s life, history, intellect and training were challenged. They asked Paul point blank, what is this new doctrine?

17.20-34 The Athenian was religious. The innumerable temples, statues, and altars prove his religion. It also reveals what his religion was. It was one which made him a splendid animal with a splendid intellect. One which had no power against sin and fatalism. Like the sun, while it preserves the living, it hastens the decay of the dead. Possibly it was here Paul first thought if one died for all, then were all dead. Three hundred years before, in his little garden beside the market place, Epicurus had taught his followers that happiness is the great purpose and pursuit of life. The Stoics taught a system of ethics at odds with this. While the Epicurean had made the world conform to self, the Stoic had made self conform to the world! Self gratification became the doctrine of the one, and self denial of the other. While the Epicurean avoided pain, the Stoic welcomed it. The Stoic found the secret of life in living in conformity to nature, receiving its bitter as sweet, and its sweet as bitter, with equal composure. These polar extremes joined in an unusual show of force to challenge the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The battle did not end there in Athens that day. It has been fought, and still is fought on innumerable battlefields all over planet earth. Athens was a microcosm of humanism versus the manifesto of Jesus Christ. The great Apostle Paul gleans one soul, Dionysius, from the opposition, and a hand full of others, but he leaves Athens on his own. No one asked Paul to leave as at the other battlefronts. Paul was discouraged. Human wisdom, was a standoff with human wisdom. Somewhere between Athens and Corinth, Paul made the decision that forever changed our world. He decided he would preach nothing save Jesus Christ and him crucified. That mantra, sifted from the ashes of the battle for Europe at Athens, brought the greatest revival in the history of the world. It still brings the greatest revival!

The next stop on Paul’s journey is the city of Corinth. In the apostle’s first letter to them he states the Greeks seek wisdom (1Cor1.22). God allowed Paul to see what man’s wisdom can achieve in the city of Athens. Then God allowed the Apostle Paul to see what the power of God can do in contrast to man’s wisdom. In Athens there were a half dozen converts. In Corinth, tens of thousands converts.

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