Acts 17

A Short Ministry in Thessalonica

1 Then they traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.
2 As usual, Paul went to them, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
3 explaining and showing that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead, and saying: "This is the Messiah, Jesus, whom I am proclaiming to you."
4 Then some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, including a great number of God-fearing Greeks, as well as a number[a] of the leading women.

The Assault on Jason's House

5 But the Jews became jealous, and when they had brought together some scoundrels from the marketplace and formed a mob, they set the city in an uproar. Attacking Jason's house, they searched for them to bring them out to the public assembly.
6 When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, shouting, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too,
7 and Jason has received them as guests! They are all acting contrary to Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king-Jesus!"
8 The Jews[b] stirred up the crowd and the city officials who heard these things.
9 So taking a security bond from Jason and the others, they released them.

The Beroeans Search the Scriptures

10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea. On arrival, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.
11 The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
12 Consequently, many of them believed, including a number of the prominent Greek women as well as men.
13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica found out that God's message had been proclaimed by Paul at Beroea, they came there too, agitating and disturbing[c] the crowds.
14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul away to go to the sea, but Silas and Timothy stayed on there.
15 Those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible, they departed.

Paul in Athens

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was troubled within him when he saw that the city was full of idols.
17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with those who worshiped God, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.
18 Then also, some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers argued with him. Some said, "What is this pseudo-intellectual[d] trying to say?" Others replied, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign deities"-because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.
19 They took him and brought him to the Areopagus,[e] and said, "May we learn about this new teaching you're speaking of?
20 For what you say sounds strange to us, and we want to know what these ideas mean."
21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new.

The Areopagus Address

22 Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect.
23 For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
24 The God who made the world and everything in it-He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands.
25 Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things.
26 From one man[f] He has made every nation of men to live all over the earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live,
27 so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.
28 For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'[g] Gk poet.
29 Being God's offspring, then, we shouldn't think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination.
30 "Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent,
31 because He has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead."
32 When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to ridicule him. But others said, "We will hear you about this again."
33 So Paul went out from their presence.
34 However, some men joined him and believed, among whom were Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Acts 17 Commentary

Chapter 17

Paul at Thessalonica. (1-9) The noble conduct of the Bereans. (10-15) Paul at Athens. (16-21) He preaches there. (22-31) The scornful conduct of the Athenians. (32-34)

Verses 1-9 The drift and scope of Paul's preaching and arguing, was to prove that Jesus is the Christ. He must needs suffer for us, because he could not otherwise purchase our redemption for us; and he must needs have risen again, because he could not otherwise apply the redemption to us. We are to preach concerning Jesus that he is Christ; therefore we may hope to be saved by him, and are bound to be ruled by him. The unbelieving Jews were angry, because the apostles preached to the Gentiles, that they might be saved. How strange it is, that men should grudge others the privileges they will not themselves accept! Neither rulers nor people need be troubled at the increase of real Christians, even though turbulent spirits should make religion the pretext for evil designs. Of such let us beware, from such let us withdraw, that we may show a desire to act aright in society, while we claim our right to worship God according to our consciences.

Verses 10-15 The Jews in Berea applied seriously to the study of the word preached unto them. They not only heard Paul preach on the sabbath, but daily searched the Scriptures, and compared what they read with the facts related to them. The doctrine of Christ does not fear inquiry; advocates for his cause desire no more than that people will fully and fairly examine whether things are so or not. Those are truly noble, and likely to be more and more so, who make the Scriptures their rule, and consult them accordingly. May all the hearers of the gospel become like those of Berea, receiving the word with readiness of mind, and searching the Scriptures daily, whether the things preached to them are so.

Verses 16-21 Athens was then famed for polite learning, philosophy, and the fine arts; but none are more childish and superstitious, more impious, or more credulous, than some persons, deemed eminent for learning and ability. It was wholly given to idolatry. The zealous advocate for the cause of Christ will be ready to plead for it in all companies, as occasion offers. Most of these learned men took no notice of Paul; but some, whose principles were the most directly contrary to Christianity, made remarks upon him. The apostle ever dwelt upon two points, which are indeed the principal doctrines of Christianity, Christ and a future state; Christ our way, and heaven our end. They looked on this as very different from the knowledge for many ages taught and professed at Athens; they desire to know more of it, but only because it was new and strange. They led him to the place where judges sat who inquired into such matters. They asked about Paul's doctrine, not because it was good, but because it was new. Great talkers are always busy-bodies. They spend their time in nothing else, and a very uncomfortable account they have to give of their time who thus spend it. Time is precious, and we are concerned to employ it well, because eternity depends upon it, but much is wasted in unprofitable conversation.

Verses 22-31 Here we have a sermon to heathens, who worshipped false gods, and were without the true God in the world; and to them the scope of the discourse was different from what the apostle preached to the Jews. In the latter case, his business was to lead his hearers by prophecies and miracles to the knowledge of the Redeemer, and faith in him; in the former, it was to lead them, by the common works of providence, to know the Creator, and worship Him. The apostle spoke of an altar he had seen, with the inscription, "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD." This fact is stated by many writers. After multiplying their idols to the utmost, some at Athens thought there was another god of whom they had no knowledge. And are there not many now called Christians, who are zealous in their devotions, yet the great object of their worship is to them an unknown God? Observe what glorious things Paul here says of that God whom he served, and would have them to serve. The Lord had long borne with idolatry, but the times of this ignorance were now ending, and by his servants he now commanded all men every where to repent of their idolatry. Each sect of the learned men would feel themselves powerfully affected by the apostle's discourse, which tended to show the emptiness or falsity of their doctrines.

Verses 32-34 The apostle was treated with more outward civility at Athens than in some other places; but none more despised his doctrine, or treated it with more indifference. Of all subjects, that which deserves the most attention gains the least. But those who scorn, will have to bear the consequences, and the word will never be useless. Some will be found, who cleave to the Lord, and listen to his faithful servants. Considering the judgement to come, and Christ as our Judge, should urge all to repent of sin, and turn to Him. Whatever matter is used, all discourses must lead to Him, and show his authority; our salvation, and resurrection, come from and by Him.

Footnotes 7

  • [a]. Lit as well as not a few
  • [b]. Lit They
  • [c]. Other mss omit and disturbing
  • [d]. Lit this seed picker; that is, one who picks up scraps
  • [e]. Or Mars Hill, the oldest and most famous court in Athens with jurisdiction in moral, religious, and civil matters
  • [f]. Other mss read one blood
  • [g]. This citation is from Aratus, a third-century b.c.

Acts 17 Commentaries