April 22, Wednesday
So Paul and Silas were sent off to Berea that night. When they went to the Jewish synagogue there, they enjoyed a much better reception than in Thessalonica. These folks listened to the Message eagerly and studied the Scriptures every day to see if what they were now being told was true. Many of them became believers, as did a number of prominent Greek women and quite a few men.
When the Jews at Thessalonica found out that Paul was spreading the Message in Berea, they came there to stir up the people. To avoid trouble, the brothers sent Paul down to the coast; but Silas and Timothy remained in Berea. The men who accompanied Paul took him as far as Athens and returned with instructions for Silas and Timothy to rejoin Paul as soon as possible.
While Paul was waiting in Athens for Silas and Timothy, he was overwhelmed with the large number of idols throughout the city. He talked about it with the Jews in the synagogue as well as the God-fearing Gentiles. He even argued daily with any who were in the marketplace. Athens was a popular gathering place for philosophers and tourists who were always on the lookout for some new idea or fad. Some Epicurean and Stoic devotees engaged Paul in conversation and invited him to present his novel teachings to the council at the Areopagus. They thought he was introducing new deities when he spoke of Jesus and the resurrection.
This was Paul’s speech:
“Men of Athens, I see that you are an extremely religious people. In getting acquainted with your city I even noticed a shrine TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. It is this God, Whom you acknowledge while admitting that you don’t know Him, that I am here to proclaim to you. Your “unknown” God is the One who made the world and all that is in it. He is the Supreme Ruler of both heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands, nor could mere humans contribute anything to His well-being. Clearly, what could He need since He is the one who supplies life and breath and all that is needed to every living creature?
“Starting with the creation of one man, He has created every race of men and scattered them over the face of the whole earth. He determined when and where each should live, intending for them to search for God, in the hope that they might reach out for Him and find Him — yes, even though He is not far from any one of us. Indeed, it is by Him that we live and move and have our being. Some of your own poets have said as much, ‘For we are also His children.’ If then, we are the children of God, we ought not to picture God in terms of gold or silver or stone, conceived and constructed by human art or ingenuity.
“It is true that God has overlooked man’s ignorance for a long time. Today, however, He commands all men everywhere to repent. He has set a day on which He plans to judge the whole world by the perfect standard of the Man whom He has appointed. He has certified that Man’s authority to judge by raising Him from the dead.”
Now when the audience heard Paul talk about the resurrection from the dead, some of them laughed and mocked him, but others said, “We would like to hear you speak again on this subject.” As Paul left the gathering, some did join him and took hold of the faith. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus; a woman by the name of Damaris; and a few others.
It wasn’t long after this that Paul left Athens and went to Corinth where he found a Jew by the name of Aquila, a native of Pontus. He and his wife Priscilla had recently moved to Corinth from Italy because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul visited in their home; and because they were tent-makers as he was, he stayed with them and worked alongside them. Every Sabbath Paul used to speak in the synagogue trying to persuade both Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself full-time to proclaiming the Message, showing the Jews as clearly as he could that Jesus is the Messiah.
Here, as in the previous cities, the religious Jews turned against him and accused him of serving the devil. That was the last straw! He shook out his garments at them and said, “Your blood be on your heads! From now on I go with a perfectly clear conscience to the Gentiles.” So he left the synagogue and went next door to the home of a man named Titius Justus who feared God. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, trusted in the Lord along with his household; and many of the Corinthians who heard the message believed and were baptized.
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and don’t let anyone stop you, for I Myself am with you; I won’t let anyone harm you. I have many people in this city.”- So Paul settled down there for eighteen months and taught them God’s message.
At one point a cadre of Jews apprehended Paul and took him to court. They set him before Gallio, the governor of Achaia, charging him with “brainwashing people to worship God in a way that is contrary to the Law.” Just as Paul was about to defend himself, Gallio addressed the Jews, saying, “If you were bringing a violent criminal before me, I might put up with you Jews; but since it’s just a squabble about words and names and your Law, take care of it yourselves. I don’t have time for this.” With that he had them ejected from the courtroom. In their pent-up frustration they grabbed Sosthenes, the synagogue-leader, and beat him right in front of the court-house, but Gallio still refused to take up their cause.
Paul remained in Corinth for a while after this incident and then sailed for Syria, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him. At Cenchrea he had his hair cut off, fulfilling a vow he had made. They all arrived at Ephesus where Paul once again went into the synagogue to debate with the Jews. They asked him to stay longer but he declined, saying, “If it is God’s will I will come back to you again.” Leaving Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus, he set sail for the port of Caesarea, traveled up to Jerusalem for a brief visit with the believers there, and returned to the sending church in Antioch where he spent considerable time.