Acts 17 provides different responses to God’s word that are common in our world today. Paul arrived in Thessalonica and reasoned from the Scriptures in the synagogue for three Sabbath days (Acts 17:2). This reasoning involved opening the Scriptures and drawing arguments from the text (Acts 17:3). Much like how Jesus Himself opened the Scriptures (Luke 24:32, 44), Paul also went to the Hebrew Bible (what we call the Old Testament) to show how it foretold that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead (Acts 17:3). Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures. How did those in Thessalonica respond? Some were persuaded and became Christians (Acts 17:4); however, others became angry and sought to get Paul into legal trouble (Acts 17:5). Anger and jealous rage are the responses many have to the Gospel today.
Paul then traveled to Berea, and opened the Scriptures in the synagogue as he had done in Thessalonica (Acts 17:10). A different response occurred among the Bereans, as Luke records: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). These people were well-disposed to give a fair hearing to logical arguments from the Scriptures. They did not merely accept what Paul said without critical examination. They searched the Scriptures to determine whether his teaching was sound. They accepted the truth based on intellectual conviction that Jesus was indeed the Christ who came to suffer, die, and rise again according to the prophecies of the Old Testament. The example of the Bereans is one we should follow today. How wonderful it is to come across honest souls who are open-minded and receptive to the Gospel today, who reflect the same disposition as the Bereans.
Paul also preached in Athens in Acts 17. He encountered schools of philosophy including Epicureans and Stoics (Acts 17:18). The Athenians were overloaded with ideas. They were distracted, flitting from one idea to another. Acts 17:21 says, “For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” Many today likewise are so bombarded with information and obscure questions that they become too overwhelmed to benefit from the Bible. Some of the Athenians mocked Paul’s presentation of the Gospel, and others stated they would hear him again (Acts 17:32). Many are so busy and distracted with various issues in life that they have no time to really think about the most important issues that involve the salvation of their eternal souls.
How do you respond to God’s word? Do you take time to study, investigate, and meditate on what it says? Jesus pointed people to the Scriptures. Paul pointed people to Scriptures. We should point people to the Scriptures today. God’s word is able to save our souls, if we will take it into our hearts and live it out in obedience in our lives (James 1:21).