In this chapter Paul & Co. are traveling and preaching in Greece. They start in Thessalonica in the north part of the modern country. While there they continue the pattern of preaching first to the Jews and second to the Gentiles. But when some Jews of the city see that Paul has had an impact on many Gentiles, they get jealous and run him out of town. But they don’t stop there;they make Paul’s hosts pay up. What do you think would motivate these people to be so “jealous” of Paul? And why do you think Luke used the term “jealous” to describe their attitudes? If you were Jason what would your reaction be to these “jealous” people? What would be your reaction to your guest Paul?
Next our company moves on to Berea, a near-by town. There we find a different attitude at work in the Jewish population: a pursuit of truth. They “earnestly” search their bibles to see if what Paul said actually holds water. This is a remarkable response that only happens once in all of Paul’s journeying. It is remarkable because of the radical worldview change from following the law of Moses to following Jesus. And they could be disowned by their Jewish families or even persecuted like in Jerusalem. But these people didn’t settle for the status quo, they wanted the truth. This desire for truth is a rare quality in our culture as well, but it can also be infectious. What kind of impact can a person have on a community if they won’t settle for less than the truth? A pre-requisite for spreading this quality is having it. Do you pursue the Truth about God? It is very easy to become comfortable in our understanding of God and become proud. Think about what it would look like in your life to earnestly pursue Truth, and consider making any changes that come to mind.
After being sent ahead of his posse Paul goes to Athens where he speaks at the leading philosophical meeting. This message is a little different than his past speeches as recorded in Acts but most of the main points are retained. He continues to mention that everyone must repent and follow Jesus who rose from the dead and will judge everyone. However, in this sermon, Paul doesn’t quote from the bible and doesn’t explain that Jesus is the Christ/Messiah (the one chosen by God to deliver the Jews from sin and slavery). Instead, he explains the truth about God by making reference to sources that those people would know. It was like Paul studied the city and customized his preaching to maximize its impact. This careful study and application has two great advantages over preaching the same message to every people group.
These reasons make a strong case for studying an audience and tailoring the message preached to them. And lets not make the mistake of assuming that Paul was afraid of boring, confusing or offending people. Paul was bold and argumentative but he also wanted everyone to know God and His love. In what ways can you make the message of Jesus more relevant with the people in your life?