Category Archives: Acts

Acts 18:1-17 – God’s people in Corinth


Paul’s second missionary journey has taken him from Antioch in Syria to Athens in Greece. He is only a short boat ride away from Rome. He preached the gospel in Athens while he was waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him there. He reasoned with the Athenians that Jesus is God’s chosen one, risen from the dead, who will judge the entire world one day with justice. No other so-called gods are anything.



  • 1-3 Paul meets refugees Priscilla and Aquila
  • 4-6 Paul is done with the Jews in Corinth
  • 7-11 God points Paul to his people in Corinth
  • 12-16 The Jews being pushed aside
  • 1-3 Paul meets refugees Priscilla and Aquila

“…went to Corinth…” A church was formed from Paul’s visit here which receives at least 3 letters from Paul (only 2 of them have survived). Crispus (v8) and Sosthenes (v16) are both spoken of in 1 Corinthians 1:14 and 1:1. Paul had impact in this first visit that would establish a church of Christ.

“…there he met Aquila…with his wife Priscilla…” This husband and wife team became partners in the gospel with Paul. They housed him while in Corinth and went on to travel with him before commencing gospel work of their own (see v19, 26; Romans 16:3; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Tim 4:19).

“…Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome…” Priscilla and Aquila were refugees from Italy since Jews were being forced out of Rome. They were Greek since they were native of Pontus. Pontus is mentioned among the exiled Christians in 1 Peter 1:1.

“…he was a tentmaker…” Both Paul and Aquila were tentmakers. While Paul waited for his colleagues, Silas and Timothy, to arrive, he held an income alongside Aquila by working his trade. While tentmaking to earn money, he continued his habit of reasoning in the synagogues. This has become a modern shorthand phrase to refer to someone who works a low-key position somewhere in order to receive income while they continue their main goal in life which is to win people for Christ.

4-6 Paul is done with the Jews in Corinth

“…every Sabbath he reasoned…” Paul has continued to persist with the Jews in every town that he has visited. I am constantly amazed at how far and wide the Jewish faith had travelled for a religion that was all about the land and the Temple. It is apparent that the faith was also about the heritage and the hope that one day God would come and deliver them and re-establish his kingdom. And for this reason, Paul would reason with them every Saturday.

“…Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching…” When Siras and Timothy finally arrived to be with Paul, they may have brought rations and money with them to enable him to drop the tentmaking and devote all of his time to preaching.

“…testifying…that Jesus was the Messiah…” As we’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the subject of Paul’s message was not to establish the need for a Messiah but to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. In modern terms, we might say, in every context, that Jesus is the reason and purpose of life. Know Jesus, know life – No Jesus, no life. A Jewish faith that is honest and humble will recognise Jesus as the Messiah. But these Jews would not see it.

“…your blood be on your own heads…” Paul has made his case for Jesus and they have rejected Jesus as Lord. This will not fall on Paul’s head come judgement day, but on those who rejected. John 3:18 says that “Whoever believes in [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Condemnation falls on this fact alone: whether Jesus is accepted or rejected. Welcome Jesus today and you will be welcomed too into eternal life. Reject Jesus and you will receive the same response on the day of judgement. Paul is washing his hands of the Jews in Corinth.

7-11 God points Paul to his people in Corinth

“…Paul left the synagogue and went next door…” Paul’s next stop was not his lounge chair but to the next house. Right there, a stone’s throw away from the Jewish synagogue, stood another house containing a man who had regard for God. Perhaps his worship was unschooled or perhaps he fashioned his theology after the Jews that he heard next door.

“…many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptised…” Where one door had been closed to Paul, others were opened. Rejection by the Jews didn’t stop him from preaching and it turns out that some of the synagogue turned to Jesus and were baptised.

“…the Lord spoke…’I have many people in this city.’…” The Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, encouraging him to remain in Corinth and to keep speaking because his elect are there waiting to hear and believe. The Jews may be hard-hearted but God had prepared many other hearts in the city to receive Jesus as Lord of their lives.

“…so Paul stayed…teaching them the word of God…” As Paul stayed, he continued to make the word of God his teaching platform. The gospel does not grow or expand or sway or vear or increase or mature with other things. It remains about Jesus the Messiah who died and rose again according to the scriptures. Paul wants the world to hear the word of God – not the wisdom of Paul. With all the self-help books in the world and the thousands of hours of podcasts from Christians and other insightful people, nothing can grow and mature us quite like knowing and reading and learning from the word of God.

12-16 The Jews being pushed aside

“…the Jews of Corinth…brought [Paul] to the place of judgement…” Once again, the Jews are on Paul’s case to try and stop him from preaching Jesus. Once again, the Jews used their local Roman official to cast judgement for them. There is nothing new under the sun. These Jews will not succeed because God has been protecting Paul along his journey plus God had spoken to Paul and said that no harm was going to come upon him. It seems almost like God’s word could go unfulfilled – but we know better than to think that!

“…settle the matter yourselves…” Even before Paul has a chance to defend himself, the proconsul silences everyone and declares that this is none of his business. This is a waste of time for him. What does he care what Paul is preaching?

“…the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader…” Sosthenes was one of the Jews who had believed Paul, we know this because he is later mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor 1:1. The Jews turned on one of their own who had succumbed to the new teaching. Unable to do any real damage to Paul on their own since he was not part of their synagogue, they made a violent point to those within.

“…Gallio showed no concern whatever…” The Roman view of the Jews is becoming increasingly low. Aquilla and Priscilla had been driven out of Italy because they were Jewish. Now Gallio seems totally unfazed by what the Jews do to themselves.


The Jews are no longer considered the people of God but only those whom God has set aside to receive Jesus as Lord. Both God and the rulers of the land seem to cast the Jews aside.


  1. When do you stop reasoning with people about the gospel? What do you do when one dead end is reached on the mission field?
  2. A five year plan was set for us all to bring one person to church and to Christ in the next five years. What stage of the plan are you up to? Take time to pray for the person or people you believe God has given you to witness to.
  3. Paul was a tentmaker for a time but later devoted himself fully to preaching the word of God. Discuss how we use “tentmaking” and giving people fully to the work of the gospel in our church and community.
  4. Reflect on Acts 9-18 and consider the various ways the gospel has been presented. Look back over a map and see the area that Paul has covered. Give thanks to God that the gospel spread so far and so quickly into a world that had only known darkness. Pray for our world today that still needs this gospel so that we can know God, know eternal life and know the freedom that comes from serving Him alone.

Acts 17:16-34 – How to preach Jesus as Lord in a Gentile world


It’s a new world where God has revealed Jesus to be the Messiah. He was rejected by his people and crucified but was raised to life again, showing his approval by God. Jesus is God’s Son, His promised Saviour, and, quite literally, the Champion of the world. But will the world receive Him?

Paul has been travelling a great distance from his home church in Antioch to take the gospel to the Gentile world. He left with Silas and also Timothy whom he collected on his journey. Paul preached in Thessalonica and Berea and was escorted from Berea to Athens for his safety while Silas and Timothy remained. His travel partners were summoned for, however, and Paul waits for them in Athens.



  • 16-21 The context of the gospel in Athens
  • 22-31 Paul’s gospel to the Gentiles
  • 22-23 Introduction
  • 24-28 About the Lord of heaven and earth
  • 29-31 About the man God has appointed to judge the world
  • 32-34 The people’s response

16-21 The context of the gospel in Athens

“…he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols..” The idols described are of gold or silver in tribute to as many gods as the Athenians are aware of and even to any that they have not yet heard (17:29; 23). They were not merely statues for artists to create and admire, but were dedicated to the gods and regarded even as gods. This distressed Paul. He didn’t simply see a cultural reflection from a spiritual people, he saw the foolishness and ignorance of a people who have failed to acknowledge the one true God. They were lost without the knowledge of the truth.

“…so he reasoned…” So Paul got to work to reason with the people. They were responding to information that they had heard up until now about deity and now Paul took up the opportunity to inform them of the reality. You see, Paul doesn’t consider that the truth is open to interpretation or that their perception of the world is just as valid as his. Rather, he sees that they are lacking the piece of the puzzle of life that can set them free! They need to know Jesus and this is not just his own faith and part of his custom, but it is the truth which they need to hear and respond to. The gospel is something that we can speak reasonably to people about. Of course it is since it stems from where life came from.

“…What is this babbler trying to say?…Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection…” Although he was reasoning with them, he also spoke to them, perhaps, in the manner which he had grown used to among Jews and Gentile converts. He included background information that may have sounded reasonable and contextual for a Jew but to the Athenians, this was a new idea and a new perception.

“…talking about and listening to the latest ideas…” His new audience were very interested to hear more since this was their custom. Paul had attracted the ears of locals who loved to listen to new ideas. They were philosophers. They were people who enjoyed to ask the big questions and fill the answers with interesting and plausible – even testable ideas. It’s ironic that the oldest story ever told, because it is literally the oldest story, is being considered by the Athenians as a new idea. Sure, Jesus is a new name in the world, but his story is part of the oldest one alive. Strangely, even though we now live in a world where the story of Jesus is old, I sense that he is so misunderstood, so overlooked and so under taught (both literally and properly) that he can even be presented today as a new idea. Don Carson, who is an North American Theologian, has been doing university missions for 40 years and he reflected on a pod-cast (speaking at Queensland Theological College) that the current missions he runs are not like the ones he used to run. Forty years ago, people knew enough of the story of Jesus and of church teaching that they had plenty to argue about. Today, introducing people to Jesus gives a hugely different response. People are interested and not offended. People have elementary questions rather than hate and pre-rehearsed debate.

22-31 Paul’s gospel to the Gentiles

22-23 Introduction

“…you are ignorant of the very thing you worship…” This is the opening of Paul’s speech and the point of his talk. He didn’t open with this line of course, he remarked positively on the very thing that he had found disturbing. He was taking their idolatry and describing it in a light that would lead him to talk about Jesus. Paul had found an opening and an intersection between his message and their understanding. This is a great lesson in evangelism, knowing where to start and where the gospel connects with the audience. When and how you begin is really not important except that you find where it is! The really important part of sharing the gospel is not so much where you begin but where you end up. The gospel is all about repairing people’s ignorance and giving opportunity to turn to Jesus and live.

24-28 About the Lord of heaven and earth

“…The God who made the world and everything in it…” This is Paul’s way in. The gospel is universal because the God who sent Jesus is the same God who made heaven and earth and everything in it. Of course, he is the only God! The point, though, is that God is not local and subject to certain communities and their borders. Rather, he is above everything and we only need to know who he is and what he has done and calls us to do. He is not contained by temples or things made by humans because he, first and foremost, made us! Even Solomon, who made the first great Temple knew this (See 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chron 2:6).

“…as if he needs anything…” It’s a great mistake of all human religion that treats God like he needs to be appeased, fed, calmed, polished or whatever. Perhaps a robot might feel like they can provide for their human creators who made them for service. But the comparison is more like a soccer ball who feels that they have something to offer David Beckham. What possibly could an inflated cow-hide give to an athlete who knows how to be in control. Beckham does not serve the ball and the ball does not serve him – the ball merely is and does at Beckham’s whim and fancy.

“…rather, he himself gives…” It’s an equal mistake to think that God does not care about us puny humans. He is the giver of life. Because He created us and all things, we owe him our attention and respect. The world did not appear out of nothing by accident! God made everything and he place Adam in the world, with Eve, to fill it and subdue it. It is not our place to define God or to order his limitations but to acknowledge ours. From one man, all of life came. And for that, we give thanks to God.

“…God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him…” So, the gospel begins with this information: that God is the loving creator of all things. Next, it follows that all people on earth need to know him and thank him. Just as Romans 1:20 says, the basic outcome of life ought to be that we thank God and worship Him. The bible says that the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-2). Mankind is without excuse for ignoring their Creator. Paul adds that really God is not far away but near. The truth about sin is that mankind never reaches out to God. The truth about grace is that God always reaches out for us. Paul again reasons with the Athenians by using some of their own poets to help his argument. He has seen how their thinking and religion reflect that they are God’s creatures who need to be taught clearly about Jesus.

29-31 About the man God has appointed to judge the world

“…in the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now…” God has put up with idol worship for centuries. This was the constant battle of the Old Testament: to overcome idolatry in the hearts of the Israelites. The kings of Israel were graded good or evil based on their tearing down or building up of idolatry. God taught the Jews directly and they ought to have been a lighthouse for the world to tear down their idols and learn though the Jews who the one true God is. Instead, God has been putting up with idolatry for generations. Paul calls this ignorance. But the time is now to put aside ignorance and to teach the world that the living God has spoken to this world. And notice that the ignorance is not an excuse for sin because their next step is to repent.

“…he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed…” God’s dominion and power and authority has been established in Paul’s speech. The sin of all humanity has been laid down. The consequences of continued ignorance or rejection of this message is judgement which is coming. When the day of judgement comes, all will be judged equally and fairly. It is a day of justice. And the one who will judge is Jesus. He came the first time to save, but the second time he comes, it will not be to save but to judge (John 12:47; Acts 10:42; 2 Tim 4:1; Rev 14:7). All of humanity will stand condemned or freed based on their response to Jesus as Lord.

“…he has given proof of this to everyone…” How can we tell the world that Jesus is Lord when they are not Jewish or have any understanding of the being one God over all? How do you convince anyone that this is the truth and that Jesus is more than a carpentar and a prophet? You tell them about the resurrection. Paul places the resurrection as the central most important element of our faith (1 Cor 15). It was the resurrection that converted Paul! Not news about Jesus and his message but knowing that Jesus had been raised from the dead as he appeared to Paul on the Damascus road.

32-34 The people’s response

“…when they heard about the resurrection of the dead…” Now this is where the division begins. Some heard about the resurrection and became followers of Paul and believed while others sneered. John Dickson has done some great work in writing and presenting documentaries on the subject of the resurrection and the trustworthiness of the eye-witnesses. His books and DVDs like ‘The Christ Files’ and “The Life of Jesus” are excellent resources to have. Getting to grips with this discussion is important. Our faith is founded on the reality of the resurrection. Our hope is based on the reality of the resurrection. Our Lord’s character is tested on the reality of the resurrection.


The gospel preached to non-Scriptural folk begins with a different context but still concludes with Jesus as Lord and the resurrection from the dead. No human is exempt from this one test: do they believe that Jesus is Lord, risen from the dead. Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Otherwise…judgement is coming.


  1. Being distressed by the world that you live in. Have you considered your own reaction to people saying OMG? Do you worry about the amount of energy and time and dedication people give to shopping malls? When you look at the world, do you see people striving to get along while we wait for our lives to be over or do you see people living in ignorance and desperately in need of a Saviour? Reflect on the way you see the world you live in.
  2. Reasoning instead of attacking. Even though Paul was distressed by the idolatry, he used it as a way to make inroads to the gospel. He did not attack their sin but reasoned with them to see the truth. It seems like Paul did not view the Athenians as primitives but as fellow humans in need of the gospel. Consider how you view those around you? Are they exempt from judgement and true worship because of their different look at life? Or are they living in ignorance and need persuasion to repent?
  3. The resurrection as proof. Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus? Why? What makes you so sure? Could you persuade someone who is interested to listen?

Acts 17:1-15 – Reasoning from the scriptures


Paul and Silas left Antioch in Syria for Paul’s second missionary journey. In chapter 16, they had spent time in Philippi where they met a lady named Lydia who, along with her household, gave their life to Christ. And he met a jailer who did the same – he and his household. They left Philippi of their own will to continue their journey. Their mission is to take the word of the Lord – the message of salvation – to the Gentiles but it has been Paul’s practice to begin wherever he found a Jewish Synagogue.



  • 1-4 Believers in Thessalonica
  • 5-9 Jealousy in Thessalonica
  • 10-12 Studying the scriptures in Berea
  • 13-17 Stirring the crowd in Berea

1-4 Believers in Thessalonica

“…As was his custom…” Paul’s strategy has been consistant in his missions. Any time that he came to a town where there was a Jewish Synagogue, he began his ministry at that place. When there was no Synagogue, he looked for a place of worship. The Synagogues gave him a starting point to reason with the Jewish community to teach them what the Scriptures say about the Messiah. He is a man who is dependant on the Spirit and goes when he is called and follows opportunities as they arise but who had a plan and a system to follow. Rather than waiting for things to happen, he put his plans to work. Whether the plan was fruitful or not, well, that is a different issue. Paul knew that the Jews had already received the word of God and should have first opportunity to respond to the gospel. If they receive it, then they also provide a base to work out from.

“…he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving…” We live in a world overwhelmed with short pithy phrases that are supposed to set our hearts at ease. “Dance like there’s nobody watching – Love like you’ve never been hurt – Sing like nobody’s listening – Live like it’s heaven on earth.” There’s one example of what I mean. And there you go. Life’s problems have been solved right there! Do you think that Jesus and the Scriptures are often boiled down so simplistically that they are no more profound than that? God is love. Jesus teaches us to do unto others… But life is complex – not simple. God is love and yet he has prepared hell for those who reject Jesus. The Scriptures are neither a child’s book nor a list of Twitter feeds. The bible is a grown up book to be read like a grown up. In them, you can find eternal life. In them, you can discuss the complex issue of suffering and how to find joy in every situation – really. Paul had his brain switched on and expected his hearers to be attentive and think while he reasoned with them, explaining and proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is Lord. God has not given us a child’s book but a sophisticated story which unpacks the issues of life and death and everything in between.

“…that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead…” Thinking as a first century Jew, the concept of the Messiah was for God to raise up a king for Israel who will gather his people and rule again. This is a concept that comes from reading the Old Testament (or just the Scriptures as Paul would refer to them). What Paul wanted to convince the Thessalonian Jews of was this: that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. The disciples found it hard to digest that Jesus was preparing to die and rise to life again because that was not part of the Messiah description they were used to. Paul thought like this right up until his conversion on the Damascus road. After that, he saw clearly that the Messiah is God’s chosen king to rule over his people but it involved him suffering the cross and rising to life again. That this is supported and proven through the reading of the Scriptures means that God always had this planned – although unclear. The proof is scattered throughout Scripture in many and various ways. The clearest passage to go to is Isaiah 52-53. Knowing that the Messiah must suffer and rise again actually sheds light on passages to give them clarity. God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts and taught at our church helps in this learning.

“…Some of the Jews were persuaded and … prominent women…” Not an overwhelming response from the Jews in Thessalonica. It’s not easy to know what Luke meant by “prominent women” or why he adds this. Luke draws attention to women in his story from time to time (1:14; 5:14; 8:12; 13:50; 16:13; 17:12). Although only a small response came from the Jews in the positive sense, a larger following was gathered from the Greeks and prominent women.

5-9 Jealousy in Thessalonica

“…But other Jews were jealous…” Perhaps they were jealous that high standing Greeks and women were moving their attention to the gospel. Their perceived power was being taken from them and they became jealous – an immature response which exists outside the gospel and must be removed as soon as possible for any convert (1 Corinthians 3:3). Their actions were worse than their motives since they drummed up a mob from the marketplace full of bad characters. Their response was not simply disbelief but vengeance and hate. They accuse Paul of causing trouble all over the place but Paul is not the one gathering up vigilantes and shouting before the city officials.

“…saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” The fact is that if someone else appeared claiming to be the Messiah and seeking to raise an army of Jews to overthrow Rome, then these Jews would most likely be on the side of that king. But since Jesus is a so-called king who gives them no power, he is rejected as their king and they speak hypocrisy for their own sakes.

10-12 Studying the scriptures in Berea

“…the Berean Jews were of more noble character…” A funny translation for the NIV. Literally the phrase is “noble-minded” or “open-minded”. We are not being told that because the Bereans were more upper class that they listened like educated folk but that they had a mind to listen to alternate perspectives. Since they gave more time and attention to what the apostle had to say, they were described as open-minded.

“…examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true…” The Bereans responded to the message of Paul with equal interest and vigor to learn. They approached the subject with sincerity and purpose to know and understand. They were not won over by short, sharp propaganda. When they believed, it was with a depth of understanding. They applied their confidence in the Scriptures to test the truth about Jesus. Yet again, the story of Acts is about the truth that Jesus is Lord in connection to the ancient faith of the Jews. He is the fulfillment to the unfolding story of salvation through the promises of God to Israel. The gospel does not require that we throw away, abandon or move on from the Old Testament. On the contrary, the good news is that Jesus is the Messiah of the Old Testament – the Lord.

13-17 Stirring the crowd in Berea

“…Jews in Thessalonica…agitating the crowds and stirring them up.” It’s truly amazing the extent that haters of Jesus will go to. Paul was as convicted against the uprising Christian church that he once travelled abroad to take them down. It’s such an extreme reaction to a message which brings hope and peace and life and truth.

“Those who escorted Paul brought him…and then left with instructions…” Paul travels on from Berea but not with his missionary companions. This time he is escorted for his own safety by a band who do not engage or remain with him for the mission. When he arrived in Athens, probably seeing the potential there, he sent instructions with the same men to have Silas and Timothy join him again on mission.


The gospel demands a thorough investigation. It is a message grounded by…

  1. an ancient text predicting its fulfillment in Jesus and
  2. in an historic event where a man suffered and rose to life again having shown himself to be the Messiah.

To disprove Christianity, there are two clear places to attack: the ancient texts and the historic event. A fool who does not wish to believe can then attack the believers out of jealousy and hate. The wise man, however, will search the evidence thoroughly and come to see that Jesus is Messiah and Lord.


  1. How thoroughly do you search the scriptures? Is your beliefs and convictions driven more by surface feelings and thought or are they grounded in deep understanding and study? Talk about how you study the scriptures or how you could learn to study them better.
  2. What is the gospel? Can you sum it up in one word? Can you sum it up in a sentence? A paragraph? A page? What things are important in the gospel message and what things are of secondary importance? Where does the cross and resurrection fit in your answer?
  3. Do you have anybody that you should or could disciple? Discuss how that is going and what you need to do to improve in the area of discipling others. (If you are a parent then you clearly have some people that you need to disciple.)