Acts xvii: 1 to 34.
ROM Philippi, Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica, which was the largest city in Macedonia. There they found many Jews, and a synagogue where the Jews worshipped. For three weeks Paul spoke at the meetings in the synagogue, and showed the meaning of the Old Testament writings that the Saviour for whom all the Jews were looking must suffer, and die, and rise again from the dead. And Paul said to them:
"This Jesus whom I preach to you, is the Christ, the Son of God and the King of Israel."
Some of the Jews believed Paul's teachings, and a far greater number of the Greeks, the people of the city who were not Jews, became followers of Christ. And with them were some of the leading women of the city, so that a large church of believers in Christ arose in Thessalonica.
But the Jews who would not believe in Jesus were very angry as they saw so many seeking the Lord. They stirred up a crowd of the lowest people of the city, and raised a riot, and led a noisy throng to the house of a man named Jason, with whom they supposed that Paul and Silas were staying. The crowd broke into the house, and sought for Paul and Silas, but could not find them. Then they seized Jason, the master of the house, and some other friends of the apostles, and dragged them before the rulers of the city, and cried out:
"These men who have turned the whole world upside down, have come to this city, and Jason has taken them into his house. They are acting contrary to the laws of Caesar the emperor, for they say that there is another king, a man whose name is Jesus."
The rulers of the city were greatly troubled when they saw these riotous people, and heard their words. They knew that Jason and his friends had done nothing against the law of the land; but to content the crowd they made the believers promise to obey the laws, and then they let them go free. The brethren of the church sent away Paul and Silas, in the night-time, to the city of Berea, which was not far from Thessalonica. There again they found a synagogue of the Jews, and, as in other places, Paul went into its meetings and preached Jesus, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles, many of whom worshipped with the Jews.
These people were of a nobler spirit than the Jews of Thessalonica, for they did not refuse to hear Paul's teachings. They listened with open minds, and every day they studied the Old Testament writings, to see whether the words spoken by Paul were true. And many of them became believers in Jesus, not only the Jews, but the Gentiles also; for those who study the Bible will always find Christ in its pages. But the news went to Thessalonica, that the word of Christ was being taught in Berea. The Jews of Thessalonica sent some men to Berea, who stirred up the people against Paul and Silas. To avoid such a riot as had arisen in Thessalonica, the brethren in Berea took Paul away from the city, but Silas and Timothy stayed for a time.
The men who went with Paul led him down to the sea, and went with him to Athens. There they left Paul alone, but took back with them Paul's message to Silas and Timothy to hasten to him as quickly as they could come. While Paul was waiting for his friends in Athens, his spirit was stirred in him as he saw the city full of idols. It was said that in the city of Athens the images of the gods were more in number than the people. Paul talked with the Jews in the synagogue, and in the public square of the city with the people whom he met. For all the people of Athens, and those who were visiting in that city, spent most of their time in telling or in hearing whatever was new. And there were in Athens many men who were thought very wise, and who were teachers of what they called wisdom. Some of these men met Paul, and as they heard him, they said scornfully, "What does this babbler say?"
And because he preached to them of Jesus, and of his rising from the dead, some said, "This man seems to be talking about some strange gods!"
There was in Athens a hill, called Mars' Hill, where a court was held upon seats of stone ranged around. They brought Paul to this place, and asked him, saying, "May we know what is this new teaching that you are giving? You bring to our ears some strange things, and we wish to know what these things mean."
Then Paul stood in the middle of Mars' Hill, with the people of the city around him, and he said:
"Ye men of Athens, I see that you are exceedingly given to worship. For as I passed by I saw an altar, upon which was written these words, 'To the Unknown God.' That God whom you know not, and whom you seek to worship, is the God that I make known to you. The God who made the world and all things that are in it, is Lord of heaven and earth, and does not dwell in temples made by the hands of men; nor is he served by men's hands, as though he needed anything. For God gives to all men life, and breath, and all things. And he has made of one blood all the peoples who live on the earth: that all men should seek God, and should feel after him, and should find him; for he is not far away from any of us. For in him we live, and move, and have our being: even as some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are the children of God.' Since we are God's children, we should not think that God is like gold, or silver, or stone, wrought by the hands of men. Now God calls upon men to turn from their sins; and he tells us that he has fixed a day when he will judge the world through that man Jesus Christ whom he has chosen, and whom he has raised from the dead."
Paul preaching on Mars' Hill.
When they heard Paul speak of the dead being raised, some laughed in scorn; but others said, "We will hear you again about this." After a time Paul went away from Athens. Very few people joined with Paul, and believed on Jesus. Among these few was a man named Dionysius, one of the court that met on Mars' Hill, and a woman named Damaris. A few others joined with them; but in Athens the followers of Christ were not many.