Acts 17

Listen to Acts 17

Paul and Silas in Thessalonica

1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to 1Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.
2 And Paul went in, 2as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them 3from the Scriptures,
3 4explaining and proving that it was necessary for 5the Christ to suffer and 6to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ."
4 And 7some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did 8a great many of the devout 9Greeks and not a few of the leading women.
5 10But the Jews 11were jealous, and taking 12some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd.
6 And when they could not find them, 13they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,
7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against 14the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is 15another king, Jesus."
8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things.
9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

Paul and Silas in Berea

10 16The brothers[a] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they 17went into the Jewish synagogue.
11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, 18examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
12 19Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek 20women of high standing as well as men.
13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, 21agitating and stirring up the crowds.
14 Then the brothers 22immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and 23Timothy remained there.
15 24Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as 25Athens, and after receiving a command 26for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

Paul in Athens

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was 27provoked within him as he saw that the city was 28full of idols.
17 So 29he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.
18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, 30"What does this babbler wish to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities"--because 31he was preaching 32Jesus and the resurrection.
19 And they took him and brought him to 33the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this 34new teaching is that you are presenting?
20 For you bring some 35strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean."
21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Paul Addresses the Areopagus

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.
23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 36'To the unknown god.'37What therefore you worship 38as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
24 39The God who made the world and everything in it, being 40Lord of heaven and earth, 41does not live in temples made by man,[b]
25 nor is he served by human hands, 42as though he needed anything, since he himself 43gives to all mankind 44life and breath and everything.
26 And 45he made from one man every nation of mankind to live 46on all the face of the earth, 47having determined allotted periods and 48the boundaries of their dwelling place,
27 49that they should seek God, in the hope that 50they might feel their way toward him and find him. 51Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,
28 for 52"'In him we live and move and have our being';[c]as even some of 53your own poets have said, "'For we are indeed his offspring.'[d]
29 54Being then God's offspring, 55we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
30 56The times of ignorance 57God overlooked, but 58now he 59commands all people everywhere to repent,
31 because he has fixed 60a day on which 61he will judge the world 62in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and 63of this he has given assurance to all 64by raising him from the dead."
32 Now when they heard of 65the resurrection of the dead, 66some mocked. But others said, 67"We will hear you again about this."
33 So Paul went out from their midst.
34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius 68the Areopagite and 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.

Cross References 68

  • 1. Acts 20:4; Philippians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:1
  • 2. See Acts 13:5
  • 3. See Acts 8:35
  • 4. Luke 24:26, 32
  • 5. See Acts 3:18
  • 6. See John 20:9
  • 7. [1 Thessalonians 2:1, 2]; See Acts 14:4
  • 8. ver. 12
  • 9. See John 7:35
  • 10. 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; See Acts 13:50
  • 11. See Acts 5:17
  • 12. [Judges 9:4; Judges 11:3; 2 Chronicles 13:7]
  • 13. Acts 16:19-21
  • 14. Acts 16:4; Luke 2:1
  • 15. See Luke 23:2
  • 16. ver. 14; See John 21:23
  • 17. ver. 2
  • 18. [Isaiah 34:16; John 5:39]
  • 19. ver. 4
  • 20. Acts 13:50
  • 21. ver. 8
  • 22. ver. 10; See Matthew 10:23
  • 23. See Acts 16:1
  • 24. [Acts 15:3]
  • 25. Acts 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:1
  • 26. Acts 18:5
  • 27. [2 Peter 2:8]
  • 28. [Isaiah 2:8]
  • 29. See Acts 13:5
  • 30. [1 Corinthians 4:10]
  • 31. See Acts 5:42
  • 32. ver. 31, 32; Acts 4:2; [1 Corinthians 15:12]
  • 33. ver. 22; [ver. 34]
  • 34. Mark 1:27; [John 7:16; Hebrews 13:9]
  • 35. 1 Peter 4:4, 12; [Hosea 8:12]
  • 36. [John 4:22; 1 Corinthians 15:34]
  • 37. [John 4:22; 1 Corinthians 15:34]
  • 38. [ver. 30]
  • 39. Isaiah 42:5; See Acts 14:15
  • 40. Matthew 11:25; [Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalms 115:16]
  • 41. See Acts 7:48
  • 42. Psalms 50:8-12; [1 Chronicles 29:14, 16; Job 22:2]
  • 43. 1 Timothy 6:17; James 1:5, 17
  • 44. Genesis 2:7; Genesis 7:22; Job 33:4; [Job 27:3; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Zechariah 12:1]; See ver. 28
  • 45. [Genesis 3:20; Malachi 2:10]
  • 46. Genesis 11:8; Luke 21:35
  • 47. [Job 12:23; Job 14:5]
  • 48. Deuteronomy 32:8; [Psalms 74:17]
  • 49. [Acts 15:17]
  • 50. [Job 23:3, 8, 9]
  • 51. [Deuteronomy 4:7; Psalms 145:18; Jeremiah 23:23, 24]; See Acts 14:17
  • 52. Job 12:10; Daniel 5:23; [Hebrews 2:11]
  • 53. [Titus 1:12]
  • 54. [Luke 3:38; Hebrews 12:9]
  • 55. Isa. 40:18, 19, 25; Isaiah 46:5; [Romans 1:23]
  • 56. Ephesians 4:18; 1 Peter 1:14; [ver. 23]
  • 57. [Romans 3:25]; See Acts 14:16
  • 58. [Mark 1:15; Titus 2:11, 12; 1 Peter 4:3]
  • 59. Mark 6:12
  • 60. Matthew 12:36; Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Peter 2:9; 1 John 4:17; [Isaiah 2:12]
  • 61. 2 Timothy 4:8; See Acts 10:42
  • 62. Psalms 9:8; Psalms 96:13; Psalms 98:9; 1 Peter 2:23; [Romans 3:6]
  • 63. [John 16:10, 11; Romans 1:4]
  • 64. See Acts 2:24
  • 65. Hebrews 6:2; See ver. 18
  • 66. [Acts 2:13; Acts 26:8]
  • 67. Acts 24:25
  • 68. ver. 19, 22

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Or brothers and sisters; also verse 14
  • [b]. Greek made by hands
  • [c]. Probably from Epimenides of Crete
  • [d]. From Aratus's poem "Phainomena"

Acts 17 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.