Acts 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)

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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