A Righteous Man In A Wicked City   Acts 17:10-16

Kent Bailey

In the reading of our text we note that after leaving Philippi, Paul along with Timothy and Silas, continued his journey, leaving Luke in Philippi. They traveled about 90 miles from Philippi to Thessalonica, then proceeded to Berea, where they found the more noble Bereans to be receptive to the word of God. The term noble (eugenes) was used to denote those born into high ranking families. J. H. Thayer, in his Greek-English Lexicon, page 257, stated that in this specific context the word indicated those who were noble minded.

The Jews in the synagogue at Berea proved to have a more noble attitude than those at Thessalonica. Whereas the Jews in Thessalonica permitted Paul to preach in the synagogue for only three Sabbath days, resulting in only a few accepting the truth, the Jews in Berea were open to investigation what they had heard to determine if such were true or not. Listening with a desire to know the truth, they examined the Scriptures daily to determine whether of not Paul correctly represented the Scriptures. Their nobility consisted in the fact that they neither stubbornly refused to listen to that which they had not previously heard, nor gullibly accepted Paul’s words as those who were tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). In the preaching of Paul, he demonstrated that Christ was the one to whom the Old Testament Scriptures pointed, and they examined those Scriptures to see if those things that Paul preached were so. God had provided those Scriptures as divine revelation, and the Bereans esteemed those passages as the word of God, the truth against which all other doctrine must be measured.

After leaving Berea, Paul departed Macedonia (leaving Silas and Timothy behind) and came into Athens Greece. To the pagans of that city, Paul, the apostle of Christ, proclaimed the one true and only God–The God who was unknown unto them. It was during this time frame that Paul sent for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, so they departed. It was while Paul waited for them to come that he took note of what was transpiring among the people. Luke records the fact that the city was wholly or entirely given over to the practice of idolatry (kateidolos). This term is literally translated “full of Idols.”  In walking along the streets of a city whose fame had been familiar to him from childhood, and in noting, in the temples and statues on every hand, the constant processions of people going to and from their places of worship, though a stranger, who might have been awed into silence by the magnificent around him, Paul was deeply aroused in his own soul to make one mighty struggle for the cause of truth in this city–first in the Jewish synagogue and then among the educated and elite of paganism. Paul was therefore a righteous man in a wicked city committed to preaching and defending the only hope for that society–the gospel of Christ.

Paul’s attitude toward error. We note the fact that Paul involved himself with disputation with the unbelieving Jews in the synagogue in Athens as well as with the devout persons in the market places indicates that more than sincerity is required for individuals to be right with God (Acts 17:17). While indeed sincerity is both commendable and necessary, it takes truth in conjunction with our sincerity to produce Salvation (Romans 10:1-5; Romans 1:16-17).

When the truth of God is preached plainly and there is a righteous defense made of such, it will arouse opposition (Acts 17:18-21). The unbelieving Jews brought opposition due to Paul’s stand for truth regarding Christ. The Greek philosophers opposed Paul because of his stand regarding the essence and nature of God and even human life itself. The Stoics taught that the true philosophy of life was a total indifference to both sorrows and pleasures in this world. Paul refuted such a notion by arguing that we should weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). The Epicureans sought escape from life’s sorrows by means of self indulgence regarding their fleshly lusts. Paul refuted such a heresy by arguing self control (Titus 2:6-15). The basis of his approach is a proper understanding of the being of God (Acts 17:22-31).

Paul’s practice toward error. He presented the truth of God is a very plain uncompromising manner because of his love for God, truth, and the souls of those who were in a lost condition. Our text states that he engaged in disputation  (dialegomai), i.e., he stated his case completely by argumentation, dispute and/or reason. Paul saw the value of public debate (Acts 17:2; Isaiah 1:18; Philippians 1:17). The life of Christ constituted a prolonged series of arguments. The Scriptures do not condemn debates but rather wrangles. Those who oppose public debating are either weak in what they believe, afraid of their own position, or else uninformed as to the controversial nature of truth. In Acts 17 Paul debated with the Jews regarding their misunderstanding of the Old Testament, the Gentiles regarding their false view of God. He at various times even debated with brethren because of their misapplication of divine revelation.

Paul’s reward. As we take note of Paul’s great work there was no great financial reward in such (1 Corinthians 4:11-13). This is not to say that he was undeserving of such, nor had the scriptural right to receive such (1 Corinthians 9:1-12). This is an affirmation of the fact that financial reward was not the basis or motive of his work  (1 Corinthians 9:13-16). Regardless of whether the brethren loved Paul the way God would have them love him or whether they were covetous and sinfully stingy lacking in the love of Christ, Paul loved the truth of God and the souls of men  to preach the gospel of Christ.

Paul knew his ultimate reward would be eternal life in Heaven (2 Timothy 4:6-8). May the people of God today strive to be righteous individuals living in a wicked society. May we stand uncompromisingly for that which is truth and right, looking not for personal gain or popularity for our eternal reward in glory.

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Author: bible

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