The Gospel to the Greeks

Day 56

Acts 17 & 18

Acts 17 and 18 cover four years (A.D. 49-52). Keep this in mind when you are reading Acts. Something that you can easily read in fifteen minutes took four years to live. No doubt Paul and Silas lived exciting lives, but don’t get the idea that every single day they had visions and angels and miracles. They did not. There were lots of days of simple monotony or just plain hard work. Keep that in mind when you’re reading Acts and keep that in mind when you’re living your life.

What we have just read is the brief summary of Paul’s second missionary journey which was predominately centered in the Greek cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, Bera, Athens and Corinth. We see Paul’s pattern of preaching the gospel first to the Jews and then to the Greeks (Romans 1:16). When preaching the gospel to the Jews, Paul had a common authority to base his preaching on: The Old Testament Scriptures. When preaching to the Greeks, Paul didn’t have this advantage. But Paul was a remarkable man; a scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures and well acquainted with Greek philosophy and poetry. When preaching in Athens Paul quoted from the Phaenomena by the third century B.C. Greek poet Aratus.

The Apostle Peter could open the door to the Gentiles by preaching to the Jewish influenced Cornelius, but it took the depth of learning and breadth of culture of the Apostle Paul to effectively preach the gospel to the Greeks. Four times in Acts 17 and 18 we see Paul preaching the gospel by “reasoning.” Miracle power and intellectual prowess can go together, and when they do it is a marvelous thing.

During the persecution of the Christian movement in Thessalonica, the opponents of the gospel used the same tactic that the chief priests used when they accused Jesus before Pontius Pilate: They asserted that the Jesus movement was a subversive political movement. We must continually remember the Christianity is not a political movement. It will influence politics as it influences people through the new birth, but Christianity itself is not a political agenda. Christianity can and has flourished in all kinds of political environments. The Kingdom of God will not be political until the King returns to rule the nations. Until then we must remember that our mission is to lead people into the new birth by a real encounter with Jesus Christ and not allow Christianity to be reduced to a mere human political agenda. This is a very important principle for American evangelicals to remember right now.