Paul’s Answer to Superstition – Acts 17:22-34
“Superstitious” (v.22) means excessively devoted, as the Athenians were to their idols (cf.v.16). They’d park an “altar” (v.23) in front of each idol to sacrifice to it (Ezek.6:13). But the one Paul found had no idol, for it was to the unknown God (v.23). They had 30,000 gods, but were superstitiously afraid they’d missed one! Paul said he would tell them about that god they were already worshipping, lest they kill him for trying to introduce a new god, like they did to Socrates.
Paul told them their unknown God created heaven and earth (v.24), because after He did, He spent the next 2,000 years trying to get the Gentiles to worship Him. They refused to (Rom.1:21), so Paul is taking them back to their roots as Gentiles to show them where they went wrong, as Stephen did when he took the Jews back to their roots (Acts 7:2).
The first place they went wrong was in building God temples (Acts 17:24cf.IISam.7:5-7). Secondly, they worshipped Him “with men’s hands” (Acts 17:25), i.e., with idols (cf.Isa.2:8), “as though” God needed an idol to represent Him! He’s a giver, not a needer. He gave us all “life” (Acts 17:25) when He gave us “breath” (v.25cf.Gen.2:7). And He gave us “all things” (v.25) when He made Adam king of the world.
God didn’t make us “all of one blood” as opposed to the four blood types. He made us “one blood” as compared to when Satan made men of two bloods (Gen.6:1-4). Letting that happen was the Gentiles’ third mistake. But the Athenians could relate to that! Their gods were always sleeping with women and having kids called demigods. But God made men of one blood when He killed off those men of demonic blood with the flood, and appointed Noah king of the world, and all men came from his blood. That’s what “determined the times before appointed” means (Dan.2:21). They could relate to that too, since they believed Zeus flooded the world, and Deucalion survived on an ark, and we all came from his blood.
Ancient man’s fourth mistake came when Noah’s seed refused to “replenish” the earth (Gen.9:1), and built a city instead (11:1-4). God scattered their language (v.6-9) to make them scatter. That set up “nations” (Acts 17:26), nations who set “the bounds of their habitation” when they set up borders around their nations. God did that to make them “seek the Lord” (v.27cf.Gen.11:4-6), but those scattered Gentiles built more cities in their nations. And when men live together, they start telling each other how smart they are, and “imagine” (Rom.1:21-23) something really vain—that they are God. They had a better chance finding God by feeling after Him, like blind unsaved men have to, than they had living next to a neighbor who told them they were gods.
The Greeks believed the gods all lived far off on Mt. Olympus, but Paul says the unknown God wasn’t far from them (v.27cf.Ps.139:7-10). They made images to their faroff gods to bring them up close and personal, but Paul said they didn’t need to do that for their unknown God. He then reminded them their own poets said we’re God’s “offspring” (v.28). We’re His offspring by creation (Lu.3:23, 38), but His children by faith (Gal.3:26). But since offspring resemble their fathers, and we “live” and “move,” they shouldn’t think God is an idol that doesn’t live and move (Acts 17:29).
“Winked at” (v.30) means to overlook, as when a grandfather winks at a grandson who did wrong instead of punishing him. God overlooked idolatry in Gentiles for 2,000 years (Acts 14:15,16) because He intended to get the Jews saved and have them tell Gentiles to repent. So He didn’t suffer idolatry in Jews (Ezek.14:6), but He suffered it in Gentiles—until Paul. He then sent Paul to tell “all men” to repent of idolatry (Acts 17:30cf.26:20), not just Jewish men.
They knew what “man” Paul meant (v.31cf.v.18). God made Him the world’s judge (Jo.5:22,27) because He could judge as one who’d been tempted and didn’t sin. Men thought they got rid of their judge when He died, but they didn’t!
A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “Paul’s Answer To Superstition” Acts 17:22-34
A Tale of Three Cities – Acts 17:10-21
How important is it to search the Scriptures (v.10,11)? Even the prophets who wrote the Scriptures searched them (I Peter 1:10,11), as did angels (v.12 cf. Eph.3:10). “Noble” (Acts 17:11) refers to noblemen (Acts 24:3), and Luke wrote Acts to a nobleman (Acts 1:1cf.Luke1:3; Acts 23:26). He was reminding Theophilus that he may be noble in men’s eyes, but he’d have to search the Scriptures to be noble in God’s eyes.
History’s greatest nobleman said, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter” (Pr.25:1,2). It was the glory of God that He was able to conceal Paul’s mystery (ICor.2:7,8) from the devil himself. It wasn’t hid in Scripture, it was hid in the heart and mind of God (Eph.3:9). But now that Paul’s written 13 epistles about it, it’s our honor to search it out in those epistles.
We know God was thinking about the mystery when He inspired Solomon to write Proverbs 25, for verse 3 says it is the honor of kings to search out a matter, “the heaven for height, and the earth for depth” (cf.Eph.3:1-3,18). When Proverbs 25:3 ends, “and the heart of kings is unsearchable,” hindsight tells us God had the mystery in mind there, because the heart of the King of kings is certainly unsearchable!
But if Paul told the Bereans about the mystery, how did they search the Scriptures to see if it was so if the mystery isn’t in the Old Testament Scriptures? He said, “It’s not there. If you don’t believe me, search and see!” When they did, they found it was so! They also found what James found when he heard about the mystery from Paul—it “agreed” with the Old Testament (Acts15:15). He’d have known the mystery was not so if it didn’t, because God never contradicts Himself. And the Bereans knew it was so for that reason as well.
Only some in Thessalonica got saved (Acts17:4), but many Bereans did (v.12) because they searched the Scriptures.
Paul went to Athens (Acts 17:13-15) because it was such an influential city. He didn’t usually order his helpers around (v.15), but he knew the importance of fellowship, even for a great apostle like himself. Looking around Athens, he saw what history says were 30,000 idols (v.16). So he was itching to witness to some idolaters, but he didn’t let that keep him from doing what God sent him to do and go to the Jews first (v.17). You shouldn’t let anything you see around you keep you from preaching Christ & the mystery either.
The Greeks were famous for philosophers. Epicureans (v.18) believed man’s chief goal in life was to get pleasure, while Stoicks believed in stoically accepting whatever lack of pleasure life brought. These were opposite philosophies, much like Corinthianism and Galatianism. The Corinthians were guilty of pleasurable sins like fornication, but the Galatians were guilty of legalism. Legalism denied that pleasure, but it also denied the good kinds of pleasure, like giving(Gal. 4:15 cf.Acts 20:35). All the sins Christians commit fall into one or the other category, and all philosophies are either the lust of Epicurean flesh or the lust of Stoic mind (Eph.2:3).
Babble (Acts 17:18) means to speak incoherently, like a drunk (Pr.23:29,30). Greeks called anyone who wasn’t Greek a barbarian (Rom.1:14) because it sounded like they were saying bar bar to them. They had gods of abstract things like harmony and democracy, so they thought Paul preached the gods of Jesus and resurrection. This shows he didn’t believe you had to study a false religion to win proponents of it, as some say today (cf.Deut.12:30;Rom.16:19).
The “Areopagus” (Acts 17:19) was named after the Greek god Ares, whom the Romans renamed Mars, and “pagus” means hill, so Paul followed them to “Mars’ Hill” (v.22). This is a tale of three cities because those in Thessalonica were too closeminded, and the Athenians were too openminded (v.21). In between stood the Bereans, who kept an open mind to new truth, then searched to see if it was truth.
A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “A Tale Of Three Cities” Acts 17:10-21
Paul’s Same Old Routine – Acts 17:1-9
Paul’s same old routine involved entering a city and making a beeline for the synagogue (v.1). But he didn’t pass over Amphipolis and Apollonia because God told him He hadn’t chosen any of those people to be saved. His new routine was to target big cities and let the gospel radiate out from them to small towns like those, and it worked (cf. IThes.1:8).
But why did he go to synagogues if he was “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Rom.11:13)? It was to provoke them to get saved (v.14) by magnifying his office to the Gentiles. “Emulation” is a form of jealousy that makes you want to emulate someone, and “emulate” means to want to equal or excel you at what you’re doing. Paul was doing the Jews’ job of reaching the Gentiles, and magnifying his office would make them want to get saved and join him in reaching the Gentiles. Some did, and became his equals, his fellows (Col.4:10,11). Saved Jews will excel Paul at reaching the Gentiles in the kingdom (Rom.11:12; Isa.11:9). In the meantime, God’s Word says that the best way to reach the Jews is by magnifying Paul’s apostleship to the Gentiles, as we do.
Paul was only in Thessalonica 3 sabbath days (Acts 17:2), or 14 days total, but the Philippians sent him money there “once and again” (Phil.4:15,16)—and they only had one messenger to do it (Phil.2:25-30). How’d you like to walk 400 miles in 14 days? Paul says to hold Christians like that “in reputation.”
Paul preached boldly in Thessalonica, even though it got him beaten and imprisoned in Philippi (IThes.2:2). It took bold-ness to do that because Jews didn’t want to believe their messiah was crucified (ICor.1:23). Crucifixion was the death of crooks, not Christs. This proves that Jews like Abraham and David weren’t saved by believing Christ would someday die for their sins, as some say (cf.Gal.3:8). There were verses that said Christ would die, but Jews preferred the verses that said He would make their enemies die (cf.Lu.1:68-75). Paul proved Jesus was Israel’s Christ (Acts 17:3) by quoting verses like Genesis 49:10, Micah 5:2, and Isaiah 35:4-6.
When “some” Jews believed, but “a great multitude” of Gentiles believed (Acts 17:4), that’s a picture of how the Body of Christ is made up of both, but this is a primarily Gentile dispensation.
“Envy” (17:5) is another form of jealousy, the bad kind (cf. Acts13:44,45). “Lewd” means lustful, and “base” means low, like the base of something is the lowest part. Envy in the heart of a few men ended with a city in an uproar, so don’t let it get so much as a toehold in your life (cf.Mt.27:17,18).
They assaulted “the house of Jason” because they thought Paul was staying with family (cf.Rom.16:21), but he wasn’t (Acts 17:6). They were right/ Paul was turning the world upside-down, but Adam had turned it upside down, so turning it upside-down again would turn it right side up. Paul did it with grace, but after the age of grace ends at the Rapture, the gloves are coming off, and God will turn the world upside-down with wrath. He’ll start with Israel, because they should have known better (IIKi.21:12-15; IPet.4:17). But after that, He’ll turn the whole world upside-down in judgment (Isa. 24:1,19). For now, He wants it turned upside down with grace, and not with angry petitions and protest marches.
If the charge of doing things contrary to Caesar sounds familiar, it’s because that’s what they charged the Lord with (Lu.23:1,2). If the reaction Paul got sounds familiar (Acts 17:8,9), it’s because that’s the reaction the Lord got (John 19:12). I Thessalonians 4:13-17 indicates that some of the believing Thessalonian Jews were killed. That’s why Paul chose that church to talk to them about how the dead in Christ will precede the living at the Rapture (IThes.4:13-17). The dead in Christ in Thessalonica hadn’t died of malaria, they died of persecution.
A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “Paul’s Same Old Routine” Acts 17:1-9
The Power of the Gospel of Grace – Acts 16:33-40
The jailer was usually sleeping at midnight, but grace had him washing Paul’s back (v.25cf.v.33). But how’d Paul baptize him? The prison wasn’t likely to have a tub big enough to immerse him, and the river was outside of town (16:13). The answer is, baptism was by sprinkling. It’s purpose was to cleanse men from their sins (Acts 22:16), and cleansing was by sprinkling (Num.8:6,7; 19:18-20). God Himself will sprinkle believing Jews before the kingdom (Ezk.36:24,25).
The Greek word baptismos means to dip, and the English word “dip” means to immerse. But it was hyssop that they’d “dip” in water to sprinkle people with (Num.19:18,19). We know those washings were baptisms because the Greek word for “washing” in Hebrews 9:10 is baptismos. That explains why they didn’t ask John what he was doing (John 1:25). They asked why he was doing it if he wasn’t Christ, the God who would sprinkle them right before the kingdom that John said was at hand (Mt.3:2). Few if any homes in Israel had a tub of water big enough to baptismos a “table” (Mark 7:4).
The jailer likely never brought any other prisoners into his home (Acts 16:34), where they’d endanger his family. But grace was working powerfully in him, so “he” served Paul dinner, not is wife. But according to religion, this isn’t what was supposed to happen if you told a man he could be saved by believing, not by behaving (v.31). Religion says if you tell men that, they won’t behave, they’ll do what they want. But when the man who was God in the flesh told a man to go his way, he went the Lord’s way instead (Mark 10:52).
If Paul told the man he had to behave to be saved, he couldn’t have rejoiced (Acts 16:34), he would have feared instead. He would have feared that he hadn’t behaved well enough to be saved, or for long enough. But the jailer understood he was saved by what Christ did for him on the cross, not by what he himself did or didn’t do.
The rulers heard the earthquake freed Paul, but he didn’t flee, so they figured his God sent it because Paul was innocent, and ordered him freed (v.35). But Paul insisted the rulers free him officially in person (v.36,37). He wasn’t protecting his reputation, he was protecting the gospel. He knew the world would hear about his jailing, and he wanted the exoneration of the apostle of the Gentiles to be just as famous.
When the rulers heard Paul and Silas were both Romans they feared, so they walked to the prison in shame to free them. That’s a type of the public humiliation the Lord gave heaven’s wicked rulers (Eph.6:12) at the cross. When Lucifer won the victory over Adam, the human race became Satan’s “lawful captive,” just as Israel was Babylon’s lawful captive (Isa.49:22-26). But the Lord spoiled Satan of his captives (Col.2:14) and forced them to officially release us in an open show before heaven’s unfallen host of angels.
People saw the opposite. They saw wicked rulers shame and humiliate the Lord (Mark 15:16-20). But later, He revealed the mystery to Paul that revealed how the Lord shamed those unseen rulers at the cross. When the Lord ascended, “He led captivity captive” (Eph.4:8), which means to make captives out of the ones who held His people captive (cf.Judges 5: 12). The “gifts” the Lord gave us are the thrones those wicked rulers will be forced to vacate in Revelation 12:7-9. So when the rulers freed Paul in Acts 16:33, and then were forced to release them in person in verses 38,39, that’s a picture of how the Lord freed us at the cross, and we’ll humiliate Satan’s host when we pass through the realm of “the prince of the power of the air” at the Rapture (Eph.2:2).
Paul insisted the jailer imprison him again after supper (Acts 16:40), until the rulers officially released him. That shows the respect for earthly rulers in government that all Chris-tians should have even when rulers are wrong. And Paul comforted the brethren, even though he was the one beaten and jailed. That’s the power of grace in a believer’s life!
A video of this message is available on YouTube: “The Power Of The Gospel Of Grace” Acts 16:33-40
What To Do If You’re Wrongfully Imprisoned – Acts 16:25-32
Paul and Silas probably prayed to get out of prison (16:25), but the reason Luke says the prisoners heard them is that they probably also prayed for the rulers who sentenced them, the men who beat them, and the jailer (Mt.5:44cf.Rom.12:14).
They also sang praises to God (v.25), possibly Psalm 142:1-7 (cf.IChron.16:9; Ps.98:5). Under grace, we can sing psalms or hymns (Eph.5:19). But if they prayed when they were afflicted, does that mean they were merry now that they were singing (James 5:13)? Probably, because they knew they were where God wanted them to be in their lives (Acts 16:9,10) and had prayed and left their problem with the Lord. You too can be merry in afflictions if you’ll do the same! But today, God won’t send a vision to tell us where to go and what to do like He did for Paul during the transition period of Acts. We must examine our lives as adult sons and decide what is the perfect will of God for ourselves (Romans 12:2).
In the dispensation of grace, God won’t send an earthquake to get you out of prison, even if you’re wrongfully imprisoned like Paul (Acts 16:26). There’s been a dispensational change. When the jailer thought the prisoners had fled, he was going to take his life (16:27) because Roman guards were responsible for their prisoners with their lives (Acts 12: 19). That word “examined” means tortured (cf.Lu.23:13, 14), so the guard knew falling on his sword was merciful.
Paul stopped him (Acts 16:28), because it was the right thing to do (cf.Pr.24:11,12), but not because he feared God would render him according to his works if he didn’t. Paul practiced grace (IThes.5:15) because he knew the man wasn’t saved, so he assured him the prisoners hadn’t fled. When you’re tempted to let someone suffer because they wronged you, why not do what Paul did and bless them instead?
Why hadn’t they fled? They’d heard the apostles’ prayers for those who abused them, and their songs of praise, and figured any God who could make His people pray and sing like that must be the true God. And they knew the true God had likely sent that earthquake to free them because they were innocent, not guilty criminals like themselves. So they feared God would strike them dead if they tried to leave!
When the jailer “sprang” into their prison cell (Acts 16:29), that shows they were down in a dungeon, so he called for a light. Why would he tremble before a man who just saved his life? He figured Paul’s God was none too pleased that he’d incarcerated His servant, and might strike him dead.
Why’d Paul wait for the jailer to bring him out of prison after the prison’s doors and bands were loosed (v.30)? He had such respect for governmental authority, he wouldn’t leave without the jailer’s permission, even though he was wrong-fully imprisoned. God expects us to obey rulers even when they’re wrong, as long as they don’t ask us to do wrong.
Paul probably witnessed to the jailer when he was clapping his feet in the stocks, so now he asks how to be saved (v.30). That has to be answered dispensationally, for the Lord told a man to keep the ten commandments (Mt.19:16-19), then added the kingdom gospel (v.20 cf. Lu.16:16) of selling all you had and giving the proceeds to the poor. When the Jews asked Peter what to do to be saved, he added baptism (Acts 2:38). But Paul just said to just believe and be saved (16:31).
Some grace believers don’t like this verse because it says to believe “on” Christ, not “in” Him (cf.Rom.3:26), but they are the same (John 3:18). They also protest it doesn’t mention Christ’s death for our sins, but Paul covered that in verse 32. When Paul also preached the word of the Lord to the jailer’s house, that shows that when he said in verse 31, “Believe on the Lord and be saved, and thy house,” that this meant that his house could be saved if they believed too, which they did (v.33).
A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “What To Do If You’re Wrongfully Imprisoned” Acts 16:25-32