New Testament & Psalms 2019

Acts 17 – Some thoughts about Paul’s message and the reactions against him

As I read through this chapter I found there was some common theme to how people reacted to Paul.

Act 17:5  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.

Act 17:6  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;

Act 17:7  Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

John Gill describes these lewd fellows this way: took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort; or of the market folks, who sat and sold things in the market, and were generally of the meaner and vulgar sort, as the word may signify; or who stood idle in the market place, squandering away their time in an idle manner, not caring to work, and so were fit persons, and who could easily be gathered together, for such service as the unbelieving Jews employed them in; or they were a sort of officers and servants, that attended courts of judicature, and cited persons thither, and assisted in the business done there, and who were commonly men of profligate and abandoned lives:

Matthew Henry writes: the Jews made use of certain lewd persons of the baser sort, whom they picked up and got together, and who must undertake to give the sense of the city against the apostles. All wise and sober people looked upon them with respect, and valued them, and none would appear against them but such as were the scum of the city, a company of vile men, that were given to all manner of wickedness. Tertullian pleads this with those that opposed Christianity, that the enemies of it were generally the worst of men: Tales semper nobis insecutores, injusti, impii, turpes, quos, et ipsi damnare consuestis – Our persecutors are invariably unjust, impious, infamous, whom you yourselves have been accustomed to condemn. – Apologia, cap. 5. It is the honour of religion that those who hate it are generally the lewd fellows of the baser sort, that are lost to all sense of justice and virtue.

Paul was accustomed to this as he had just been in prison in Philippi:

Act 16:20  And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

Act 16:21  And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

Act 16:22  And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.

Act 16:23  And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

Act 16:24  Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

In Athens a city full of idolatry, we get Paul’s wonderful words that he preached.

Acts 17:16  Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.

Act 17:17  Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.

Act 17:18  Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.

Act 17:19  And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?

Act 17:20  For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.

Act 17:21  (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)

Act 17:22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, to the unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. 24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. 29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.

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