Sufficiency of Scripture (Acts 17)
Sufficiency of Scripture (Acts 17)
Reasoning from the Scriptures (verses 1-9)
Though Paul still has fresh wounds from his previous beating in Philippi, he is willing, after traveling 100 miles, to face potential hostile hearers once again. He doesn’t change his method at all, but continues to argue from the Scriptures, just as he’s always done. He knew nothing else; no other way to give people what they needed. The summary of what he spoke to the Jews was simply this: “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ” (v3). Paul took the facts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and laid them down beside the promises of the Old Testament, proving that Jesus was the Old Testament Messiah. Preaching the gospel is just that, proclaiming Jesus as “the Christ.” It is not story telling, or moralizing, or offering commentary on cultural events, or speculating about events in the Middle East. If lost people are going to be changed (i.e. converted), if Christians are going to be made holy, the gospel must be proclaimed.
When some were persuaded to believe Paul’s message, the Jews were moved to jealousy and gathered a mob against Paul and Silas, claiming that they had “upset the world,” or “turned the world upside down.” In reality, the Jews and the mob had it backwards. The world was created upright, but sin had turned it upside down. These men, by proclaiming the gospel, were actually being used to turn the world right-side-up again. Only the gospel has the power to reverse the wrongs of this sinful world.
Examining the Scriptures (verses 10-15)
When Paul and Silas arrived in Berea, they found a group of Jews who were more “noble-minded than those in Thessalonica.” This group received the word (v11), examined the word (v11), and responded to the word by believing it (v12). They had an attentive mind, diligent in their attempt to understand. They had an open Bible, understanding that what we believe must be found in the Scriptures. And they had a ready heart, willing to believe what God has revealed in His Word. Once again, the Jews stir up the crowds in Berea, which results in Paul being forced out of town.
Preaching Christ from the Scriptures (verses 16-21)
Athens was a city full of idols. It was an incredibly ornate city, but its beauty was un-impressive to Paul because it was dishonoring to God. Paul abhorred idolatry because he adored Christ, and was jealous for His Name. It was this pain that drove Paul to share the good news of the gospel with the Athenian idolators. The hope that he explained in Athens was the same hope declared in Thessolonica and Berea. Christian hope is the same whether it’s preached to Jews or Gentiles, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, young or old, etc. Resulting from Paul’s insistence to speak the truths of Christ and His resurrection from the dead, the Athenians extended Paul an invitation to tell them about his teaching.
Expounding the Scriptures (verses 22-34)
Represented on Mars Hill were a very wide range of beliefs among the religious, or superstitious, men. Paul finds common ground with them all in order to make the hope of Christianity appealing to each of them, without any compromise at all to the truths of the gospel. He doesn’t dress up the message or strip it down. Through careful assessment, Paul was able to perceive the need among the crowd, discern their religion (i.e. what they love) and target it. After finding the central issue to address, he tracked from there to the gospel.
There was fluidity and flexibility to Paul’s approach. He didn’t have a memorized set of ice breakers or conversation starters. He cared enough about people to tailor the message for them. When common ground had been established, Paul begins with God, the only adequate foundation for the gospel. From there, he points to the problem, that they have rejected the one true God who has made Himself known to all men, and have willingly placed Him to the side as the “unknown god,” or we could say the “undesired God.” He then pricks their conscience by showing them that God is not served by human hands, since He is the one who gives life and breath to all things. And finally, he proclaims the truth, declaring that the long-suffering of God gave way to the coming of Christ, who has now been appointed as the judge of all the earth.
- What does it mean for the Scriptures to be sufficient for all things in our life? Are you more like the Thessalonians or the Bereans in your approach to God’s Word? Do you diligently consider the truths of the Scriptures and attempt to build your life on them? How is that demonstrated in your life? In what ways are you receiving, examining, and responding to God’s Word?
- With whom in your life do you desire to share the gospel? Considering Paul’s example in this chapter of Acts, how might you best seek to communicate the good new of Christ as Savior and Judge to them?