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) Thescornful conduct of the Athenians. (32-34)1-9 The drift and scope of Paul's preaching and arguing, was toprove 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 nototherwise apply the redemption to us. We are to preachconcerning Jesus that he is Christ; therefore we may hope to besaved by him, and are bound to be ruled by him. The unbelievingJews were angry, because the apostles preached to the Gentiles,that they might be saved. How strange it is, that men shouldgrudge others the privileges they will not themselves accept!Neither rulers nor people need be troubled at the increase ofreal Christians, even though turbulent spirits should makereligion the pretext for evil designs. Of such let us beware,from such let us withdraw, that we may show a desire to actaright in society, while we claim our right to worship Godaccording to our consciences. 10-15 The Jews in Berea applied seriously to the study of theword preached unto them. They not only heard Paul preach on thesabbath, but daily searched the Scriptures, and compared whatthey read with the facts related to them. The doctrine of Christdoes not fear inquiry; advocates for his cause desire no morethan that people will fully and fairly examine whether thingsare so or not. Those are truly noble, and likely to be more andmore so, who make the Scriptures their rule, and consult themaccordingly. May all the hearers of the gospel become like thoseof Berea, receiving the word with readiness of mind, andsearching the Scriptures daily, whether the things preached tothem 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, deemedeminent for learning and ability. It was wholly given toidolatry. The zealous advocate for the cause of Christ will beready to plead for it in all companies, as occasion offers. Mostof these learned men took no notice of Paul; but some, whoseprinciples were the most directly contrary to Christianity, maderemarks upon him. The apostle ever dwelt upon two points, whichare indeed the principal doctrines of Christianity, Christ and afuture state; Christ our way, and heaven our end. They looked onthis as very different from the knowledge for many ages taughtand professed at Athens; they desire to know more of it, butonly because it was new and strange. They led him to the placewhere judges sat who inquired into such matters. They askedabout Paul's doctrine, not because it was good, but because itwas new. Great talkers are always busy-bodies. They spend theirtime in nothing else, and a very uncomfortable account they haveto give of their time who thus spend it. Time is precious, andwe are concerned to employ it well, because eternity dependsupon it, but much is wasted in unprofitable conversation. 22-31 Here we have a sermon to heathens, who worshipped falsegods, and were without the true God in the world; and to themthe scope of the discourse was different from what the apostlepreached to the Jews. In the latter case, his business was tolead his hearers by prophecies and miracles to the knowledge ofthe Redeemer, and faith in him; in the former, it was to leadthem, by the common works of providence, to know the Creator,and worship Him. The apostle spoke of an altar he had seen, withthe inscription, "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD." This fact is stated bymany writers. After multiplying their idols to the utmost, someat Athens thought there was another god of whom they had noknowledge. And are there not many now called Christians, who arezealous in their devotions, yet the great object of theirworship is to them an unknown God? Observe what glorious thingsPaul here says of that God whom he served, and would have themto serve. The Lord had long borne with idolatry, but the timesof this ignorance were now ending, and by his servants he nowcommanded all men every where to repent of their idolatry. Eachsect of the learned men would feel themselves powerfullyaffected by the apostle's discourse, which tended to show theemptiness or falsity of their doctrines. 32-34 The apostle was treated with more outward civility atAthens than in some other places; but none more despised hisdoctrine, or treated it with more indifference. Of all subjects,that which deserves the most attention gains the least. Butthose who scorn, will have to bear the consequences, and theword will never be useless. Some will be found, who cleave tothe Lord, and listen to his faithful servants. Considering thejudgement to come, and Christ as our Judge, should urge all torepent of sin, and turn to Him. Whatever matter is used, alldiscourses must lead to Him, and show his authority; oursalvation, and resurrection, come from and by Him.
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