THE DEVOUT GREEKS
Acts 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, 3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. 4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. 5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; 7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. 8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. 10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
In chapters one through seven of the Book of Acts, we see the gospel among the Jews. In chapters eight through twelve we see the gospel in transition from the Jews unto the Gentiles. And in chapters thirteen through the end of the book, we find the gospel among the Gentiles. And our above passage, being in that third section, clearly reveals that the issue in the work of the Spirit is among The Devout Greeks.
We have recently seen that Greek word, here translated into English as devout. But it was not so translated at that time. For we saw it in chapter sixteen and verse fourteen. There we read, And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. Our Greek word for devout is here seen translated as, which worshipped. Therefore the Holy Spirit is here showing the difference in those Jews who only practiced endless religious tradition from the Gentile believers whose heart, like Lydia’s, was opened by the Lord for his true, spiritual worship. And true, God-accepted worship cannot be had apart from sovereign regeneration! For worship is a normal outflow of heart-felt thanksgiving for the forgiveness and cleansing from all sin!
Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
And we should not fail to notice that in this free state of Thessalonica there was a great multitude who were quicken into spiritual life and worship of the one true God. And we also read that the believers included of the chief women not a few.
Then the spotlight falls upon a chief character in this episode of gospel accomplishment. And his name also tell us of the working of the Spirit among the Gentiles. For his name, Jason, is the Greek word used for the Hebrew name, Joshua. He represents the other sheep of Christ that our Lord spoke of who were not of the flock of national Israel. John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
His name means, “he that cures.” And believers being both the salt of the earth, and the light of the world, due to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, Jason is now part of the “cure” of that infectious envy of those who believed not, which destroyed the peace of this city. For we read that the old man, that is, the carnal soul before its regeneration, is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. (Eph. 4:22). James 5:20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
And this city of Thessalonica, as we have before mentioned, was a free state, unlike Philippi, and therefore had no Roman garrison within its bounds. It was a self-governing state with its own constitution. Its name was that of Alexander the Greats sister. It was truly more Greek than Roman. And even though it had a synagogue of the Jews within it, it was primarily a Greek state. This would prepare the Apostle and his company for the encounters he would have when he arrived at Athens in the upcoming verses of this same chapter.
If you will take notice of the difference in the ruling bodies of Philippi and Thessalonica, you will also see this difference more clearly. For in Philippi there were magistrates, (see Acts 16:20,22,35,36,38), which Strong says is “a military governor.” Whereas in Thessalonica we find the word rulers. (See verse six listed above.) This word is interpreted by Strong as, “a town officer.” And we take notice that when the Apostle and his company are falsely accused by hired, false witnesses, they are said to be brought out to the people, and not to magistrates!
But the Apostle yields to these town officers just as strictly as he has to the military governors of Philippi. Listen to his writing concerning the christians responsibility to adhere to human authority in his Roman letter. Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
The Lord Jesus, who could have called 10,000 angels for deliverance, instead yielded to Pilate, stating that Pilate’s power was given him from above! (John 19:11). Therefore to resist Pilate was to resist his Father! (Its amazing to see ‘christians’ refusing to yield to authority in this same way today, due to prejudice! But the Lord God just as sovereignly put this administration within our land as he ever has any authority to any other land.)
Yet the Apostle Paul obeyed the injunction pledged to by Jason, who had to yield some satisfactory “security” to the rulers that Paul was sent forth from the city. (See Acts 17:9). And therefore to the christians there he writes in his first letter that he would have come to them; but Satan hindered us. (1 Thess. 2:18). In this he spoke of, not the rulers, but of the Jews who hired the lewd fellows to stir up the city against him.
Therefore we see that there is no human environment wherein the gospel cannot have God’s predestinated effect! Whether in a Jewish state, or a Gentile state; whether in a state ruled by a military governor, or by a civil ruler, elected by the people, Christ’s gospel always accomplishes its goal. 1 Corinthians 9:20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, For He who sent the gospel forth has all authority given him in heaven and in earth! (Matt. 28:18). Revelation 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
The Apostle’s statement in that First Corinthian letter, in verse twenty one of chapter nine, states that to the Gentiles, who have been brought up without the law of Moses, he becomes as without law, in order to more readily gain them that are without law. And would it interest you to know that the Apostle does not quote a single Old Testament verse, nor give reference to any, in both letters to these devout Greeks of Thessalonica? Therefore what he both preaches to them, away from the Jews synagogue, is all pure New Testament revelation, preached and then written under the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost! If that is not so, then why do you use his letters to this church of devout Greeks in Thessalonica as if it were a part of God’s word to you?
Search it for yourself. The Cambridge wide margin Bible with center reference does list a few Old Testament verses for the reader to consider. But Paul never once, in these two letters uses the words, “Moses,” or, “law,” or, “it is written,” or, “of old time,” or even the word “prophet,” in the singular! (It is listed in the plural in 1 Thess. 2:15, not quoting the prophets, but in telling how Israel killed them!) And the only time he uses the word, “heard” is not to refer to some Old Testament passage, but to something he had previously preached, which they had heard of us!
There was also a difference in the need of these devout Greeks concerning their salvation. For they were not said to have been turned from Hebrew religious fables or traditions, but from pagan idolatry! 1 Thess. 1:9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; God’s grace is sufficient for every need!
And what of the length of Paul’s stay in this free state? Our minds are falsely directed by the date stamp of verse two of this seventeenth chapter of Acts. But there it only states that he preached in the Jew’s synagogue for three sabbaths! It does not state how long he stayed thereafter. One writer (Ramsay) states that he was there from December of the year 50 AD, until May of 51 AD. But lets look at the biblical evidence as to the endurance of the apostle’s stay.
First we know that he stayed there long enough to receive two financial gifts for the support of his ministry from Philippi. Phil. 4:16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. And there is no doubt that this certainly took more that three sabbaths time!
Then we read that he said that he was working night and day to support himself, so as not to be dependent upon those to whom he preached. 1 Thess. 2:9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. 2 Thess. 3:8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: And making tents by hand took much more time than we might think.
Then we read that a great ministry was begun there which went out over a vast audience. 1 Thess. 1:8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
Lastly his stay was long enough to make persevering gospel workers. Just taking one such faithful worker, a brother named Aristarcus, we find him faithful in Ephesus and even on the journey of the Apostle Paul to Rome. Acts 19:29 And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.
Acts 20:4 And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.
Acts 27:2 And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.
Pastor Gene Breed, May 11, 2013