Opposition at Thessalonica
“When 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” (v. 13). - Acts 17:1-15
After leaving Philippi, Paul and company came to Thessalonica. Paul went first, as always, to the synagogue, and for three Sabbaths he preached out of the Old Testament, showing the Jews and God-fearers that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Some Jews and many God-fearers became Christians.
The majority of the Jews, however, rejected the Gospel. They hired some of the town thugs (what the Old Testament calls “sons of Belial”) and formed a mob, fomenting a riot. They sought to capture Paul, but only succeeded in dragging a new convert named Jason before the officials. They accused this man of troubling the city, but the officials did nothing more than make Jason post bond. That night, Paul and Silas were spirited out of the city and sent on to Berea (Acts 17:1–9).
The Bereans “were of more noble character than the Thessalonians” (Acts 17:11). They not only received Paul with eagerness but studied the Old Testament daily (not just on the Sabbaths) to see if his message was true. Here we find that many, not just a few, of the Jews believed, as well as many God-fearers.
The Jews in Thessalonica, however, imitated the behavior of Saul before he became Paul. They sent a delegation to Berea to stir up trouble there. Silas and Timothy remained in Berea, but the Bereans escorted Paul to Athens (Acts 17:10–15).
During the years A.D. 30–70, the greatest enemy of the Christian church was not the Romans but the Jews. There are two things we need to bear in mind about this. First, the opposition of the Jews at this time is the same as the opposition of liberal and dead orthodox people to any revival of Christianity. They resent the excitement, commitment, and holiness of those who are being revived. They reject the call to repent, and become bitter enemies of the revival. This has happened over and over in church history, and it will happen again.
Second, the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 ended the generation of Jews that opposed the early church. We are not to regard Jews since that time as anything other than one mission field among many.
The Jews opposed the early Christians for the same reason that Rome opposed the Reformers, and compromised liberals oppose uncompromising evangelicals today. The greatest enemies of the true church are always found within the church. Pray for strength in the face of all enemies of the Gospel.
Passages for Further Study
- 2 Corinthians 3:1–6
- Galatians 1:6–10, 13–17
- 2 John 4–11
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