Setting

The first city Paul and his companions evangelized in Macedonia was Philippi. There, the Lord led Lydia and her family to the faith. By God’s miraculous arrangement, the gospel also came to the prison keeper and his household. This was how the church in Philippi was established. Upon their release from prison, Paul and Silas met with the brethren, encouraged them, and continued on to other cites in Macedonia and Achaia.

Key Verse

(18:9-10)

Did You Know...?

1. Amphipolis (17:1) was a city in Macedonia, 33 Roman miles northeast of Philippi and about 3 miles from the sea. Its site is now occupied by a village called Neokhorio. [ref]
2. Apollonia (17:1): 36 miles from Thessalonica, Apollonia was a city of Macedonia that lay between Amphipolis and Thessalonica. [ref]
3. They came to Thessalonica (17:1): From Philippi to Thessalonica was a hundred-mile long journey.
4. Thessalonica (17:1): “a large and populous city on the Thermaic bay. It was the capital of one of the four Roman districts of Macedonia, and was ruled by a praetor.” [ref]
5. Security (17:9): “Jason was forced to guarantee a peaceful quiet community, or he would face the confiscation of his properties and perhaps even death” [ref]
6. Berea (17:10): “a city of Macedonia… It is now called Verria or Kara-Verria, and is situated on the eastern slope of the Olympian mountain range.” [ref]
7. Athens (17:15): “the capital of Attica, the most celebrated city of the ancient world, the seat of Greek literature and art during the golden period of Grecian history. Its inhabitants were fond of novelty (Acts 17:21), and were remarkable for their zeal in the worship of the gods. It was a sarcastic saying of the Roman satirist that it was ‘easier to find a god at Athens than a man.’” [ref]
8. Epicureans (17:18): “followers of Epicurus (who died at Athens B.C. 270), or adherents of the Epicurean philosophy… This philosophy was a system of atheism, and taught men to seek as their highest aim a pleasant and smooth life.” [ref]
9. Stoics (17:18): founded by Zono (340-265 B.C.), “a celebrated school of severe and lofty pantheists, whose principle was that the universe was under the law of an iron necessity, the spirit of which was what is called the Deity: and that a passionless conformity of the human will to this law, unmoved by all external circumstances and changes, is the perfection of virtue.” [ref]
10. Areopagus (17:19): “The Greek term for Mars’ hill… The hill was a place of assembly. There the supreme court of Athens met. There the courts that sat concerning religious matters convened. The associations had something to do, probably, with Paul being taken here to speak, though the meeting was informal and not official. The hill is about fifty feet high, and was then surrounded by the most glorious works of art in Athens.” [ref]
11. Corinth (18:1): “a Grecian city, on the isthmus which joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece. It is about 48 miles west of Athens. The ancient city was destroyed by the Romans (B.C. 146), and that mentioned in the New Testament was quite a new city, having been rebuilt about a century afterwards and peopled by a colony of freedmen from Rome. It became under the Romans the seat of government for Southern Greece or Achaia (Acts 18:12-16). It was noted for its wealth, and for the luxurious and immoral and vicious habits of the people. It had a large mixed population of Romans, Greeks, and Jews. When Paul first visited the city (A.D. 51 or 52), Gallio, the brother of Seneca, was proconsul.” [ref]
12. Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome (18:2): This was “the Edict of Claudius, an expulsion order proclaimed during the ninth year of Emperor Claudius’s reign (i.e., 25 January A.D. 49 to 24 January 50) and directed against the Jews in Rome to put down the riots arising within the Jewish community there.” [ref]
13. He shook his garments (18:6): “an act symbolizing repudiation of the Jews’ opposition, exemption from further responsibility for them (cf. 13:51)” [ref]
14. Gallio (18:12): “The brother of Seneca, the philosopher, who was the tutor of Nero. Gallio was admired as a man of exceptional fairness and calmness. From an inscription found at Delphi, it is known that Gallio was proconsul of Achaia in AD 51-52.” [ref]
15. Hair cut/vow (18:18): “It was probably a temporary Nazirite vow (see Nu 6:1-21). Different vows were frequently taken to express thanks for deliverance from grave dangers. Shaving the head marked the end of a vow.” [ref]
16. Cenchrea (18:18): “the eastern harbour of Corinth, from which it was distant about 9 miles east, and the outlet for its trade with the Asiatic shores of the Mediterranean.” [ref]

Outline

  • Ministry at Thessalonica
    (17:1-9)
  • Preaching in the synagogue
    (17:1-4)
  • Jason’s house under attack
    (17:5-9)
  • Ministry at Berea
    (17:10-15)
  • Fair-minded Bereans accepted the gospel
    (17:10-12)
  • Thessalonians stirred up opposition
    (17:13-15)
  • Ministry at Athens
    (17:16-34)
  • Paul reasoned with the Athenians
    (17:16-21)
  • Paul’s sermon at Areopagus
    (17:22-34)
  • Ministry at Corinth
    (18:1-17)
  • Meeting Aquila and Priscilla
    (18:1-3)
  • Preaching and teaching
    (18:5-11)
  • The Jews’ accusation and the proconsul’s dismissal
    (18:12-17)
  • Ministry at Ephesus
    (18:18-21)
  • Returning to Antioch
    (18:22)

Segment Analysis

  • 17:1-9

    1.

    Where and when did Paul preach in Thessalonica?

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    Paul went into the synagogue of the Jews, as his custom was, and for three Sabbath reasoned with them from the Scriptures (2).

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  • 2.

    Are you able to reason with a seeker from the Scriptures? What would it take to do so?

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  • 3.

    What was the message of Paul’s preaching?

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    The Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and that Jesus is the Christ (3).

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  • 4.

    What were the responses to his preaching?

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    Some Jews, a great multitude of devout Greeks, and not a few leading women were converted. However, the Jews who did not believe were envious and gathered a mob to stir up trouble for the believers (4-9).

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  • 5.

    What was the Jews’ accusation against the believers?

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    They accused the Christians of acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar and claiming that there is another king—Jesus (7).

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  • 17:10-15

    6a.

    Why does the writer of Acts praise the Bereans?

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    The Bereans were more fair-minded than the Thessalonians, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so (11).

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  • 6b.

    Why is it important for us to have the attitude of the Bereans? How can we imitate them in our response to the message we hear, be it during Bible studies or sermons?

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    1. The Bereans received the word with all readiness. Being eager to accept the truth shows that a person honors God’s will and thirsts for the word of God. When we study or listen to God’s word, we need to first remove our personal biases and come with the desire and the humility to submit to whatever God teaches us. With this right attitude, God will reveal His will to us and be pleased with us.
    2. The Bereans searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether what they had heard was true. While it is good to be submissive, we need to weigh carefully everything we hear against the Scriptures. We should not blindly accept everything that is being taught, because there are many false and misleading messages in this world that may appear to be from God (cf. 1Jn 4:1). God’s word is the ultimate authority, and every believer needs to be equipped with the heart to discern whether the message they hear is based on God’s word (cf. 1Cor 14:29; 1Thess 2:13; Rev 2:2).

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  • 7.

    Why did Paul have to leave Berea?

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    When the unbelieving Jews from Thessalonica heard that Paul was preaching God’s word in Berea, they came to Berea and stirred up the crowds. Because of this trouble, the believers in Berea thought it would be best to send Paul away.

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  • 17:16-34

    8.

    Describe the life of the Athenians based on this passage.

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    They were very religious in all things (17:22); their city was given over to idols (17:16).
    Athens was the home of the intellectuals. Two great schools of philosophy, Epicureanism and Stoicism, were prominent at that time (cf. 17:18). The Athenians loved philosophy as well as new ideas. They enjoyed spending their time telling or hearing some new thing (17:19- 21).

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  • 9a.

    How did Paul feel when he saw the rampant idolatry of the Athenians?

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    His spirit was provoked within him (17:16).

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  • 9b.

    Do you also feel compelled to preach to the unbelievers around you? What do we need to have in order to feel what Paul felt?

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    1. Dedication to the Lord’s commission. The apostle Paul had a strong conviction and determination to fulfill the great commission to which he had been called (cf. Acts 26:16-19). It was this strong sense of mission that compelled him to preach to the Athenians. Like Paul, we also need to be dedicated to the mission that we have been entrusted with in order to be active in preaching the gospel.
    2. Fervent love for the lost souls of this world. Paul felt indebted to the people of the world because he had great compassion for them. This attitude drove him to preach the gospel to all (Rom 1:14; 1Cor 9:19-23). He must have felt greatly distressed to see the spiritual ignorance of the Athenians, which provoked his spirit to reach out to them. In the same way, we need to open our eyes to the needs of this world and pray to God to pour out His love into our hearts. Sincere and earnest love will motivate us to tell others about the good news of salvation.

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  • 10.

    Whom did Paul first preach to?

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    The Jews and the Gentile worshippers in the synagogue as well as those who happened to be in the marketplace.

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  • 11.

    What can we learn from Paul’s sermon in terms of how to share the gospel with people who are unfamiliar with our message?

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    Paul did not simply denounce the idolatry of the Athenians. Instead, he noted how religious the Athenians were and pointed out that they even worshiped “the unknown God.” By acknowledging the Athenians’ desire to worship, he led them to the understanding of the true God. Later on, Paul also made reference to the words of two Greek poets to explain man’s relationship to the true God.
    Today, we can also learn to recognize and establish common grounds between our listeners and us when we preach to them. By acknowledging the things that both we and our listeners already believe in, we can more effectively explain what we would like to share with them as well as tell them what further steps they need to take.

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  • 12a.

    What did Paul teach about God and what He has done for man?

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    1. God is the maker of the world and everything in it; He does not dwell in temples of man or be worshiped with man’s hands.
    2. God is the giver of life and all things.
    3. From one man God has made every nation of men to dwell on earth, and He has determined their life span and the boundaries of their dwellings.
    4. In God we live and move and have our being; we are His offspring.
    5. In the past, God had tolerated man’s ignorance, but He now commands everyone to repent.
    6. God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ; He has given us assurance of this by raising Jesus from the dead.

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  • 12b.

    What did Paul say about what man ought to do?

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    1. We should seek the Lord and find Him (17:27).
    2. We ought to turn away from the gods made by man’s hands (17:29).
    3. We need to repent of our sins and accept Jesus, whom God has appointed to judge this world (17:30).

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  • 13.

    What were the reactions to Paul’s sermon?

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    See 17:32,34.

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  • 18:1-17

    14a.

    Whom did Paul meet and work with in Corinth?

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    Aquila and Priscilla (18:2-3)

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  • 14b.

    Which is your primary occupation? “Tent-making,” or witnessing? What can we learn from Paul?

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    Paul made tent to support his livelihood and to not be a burden to the Corinthian believers (2Cor 11:9). But Paul’s primary goal was to preach the gospel. This is why he made it a point to go into the synagogue every Sabbath to reason with the Jews and Gentiles.
    Today, we may not be able to preach the gospel on a full-time basis, and we need to study or work to sustain ourselves and our families. However, our ambition and purpose should not be placed on our education or career. Working is only the means to living, but the goal of living is to carry out the Lord’s will of saving the lost. So while we may spend most of our time on the job or in school, we need to keep the Lord’s commission in our hearts all the time and take every opportunity to share our faith with others.

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  • 15.

    Why did Paul shift his focus from the Jews to the Gentiles?

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    See 18:6-7.

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  • 16a.

    What did God tell Paul in a vision?

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    See 18:9-10.

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  • 16b.

    Why do you think the Lord gave Paul this vision?

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    From the events that took place in Corinth, we understand that the opposition was strong and persistent. The Lord’s words to Paul suggests that the situation was quite disheartening and menacing. Paul himself later recounted his feelings at this time in his letter to the Corinthians (1Cor 2:3). Therefore, the Lord spoke to Paul at a time when he was in great need of God’s comfort and guidance. The vision was also to instruct Paul to stay longer in Corinth, for God intended to save many people in that city.

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  • 17.

    What was Gallio’s position regarding the accusations of the Jews against Paul?

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    Gallio chose not to interfere with the activities of the Christian missionaries and dismissed the Jews’ accusations. His wise decision afforded Paul and his companions protection against harm—a fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to Paul (18:10).

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  • 18:18-21

    18a.

    Which city did Paul preach in after he left Corinth for Syria?

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    Ephesus (18:19)

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  • 18b.

    Who went with him?

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    Priscilla and Aquila (18:18)

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  • 19.

    Why did Paul not stay longer in Ephesus?

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    He wanted to return to Jerusalem in time to keep the Passover feast.

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