The Mission Through Macedonia

Acts 17:1-15

Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And they stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them. And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there likewise, agitating and stirring up the crowds. And then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. Now those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

After a not-so-warm welcome to Macedonia, Paul and Silas and their colleagues are making their way through Macedonia, going through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they make their way south-east to Thessalonianica, finding a Jewish synagogue there. We see Paul pick up where he left off; “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.'” Some traditions really do die hard and for good reason–again, for some, others, not so much.

Paul was not and never will be, finished preaching the gospel to the Jewish people. To this day we have more than enough evidence explained by Paul that Jesus was the Messiah, contained in the New Testament for posterity in perpetuity–it is recorded for all history, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. We also have Peter, John and other Jews who consistently preach Jesus to the Jewish people. The only problem is that most Jewish people refuse to read the New Testament based upon tradition, and we don’t tell them about the New Testament based upon our own traditions. Remember Christians, the hardening of Israel is only partial and won’t last forever. On that note, Israeli millennials are coming to Christ, mostly based upon Isaiah but then reading the New Testament. Now this is not some measurable thing–I am not proclaiming a revival in Israel…yet. Nevertheless it is interesting to watch. Many videos have been posted online by Israeli evangelist who take to the streets, cameras in tow, filming Israeli reactions to Isaiah 53. There is quite a generational gap. The people are asked if Isaiah 53 reminds them of, or, resembled any man in history. The young would say, “Yeshua,” the old would say, “not Yeshua.” Before I continue, I have a riddle; what is the difference between an average American evangelical and an average Israeli expecting the Messiah any day now? Answer: 40 years. The average Israeli is stuck in 29 AD and American evangelist are stuck in the year 69 AD. Forgive me, I am watching Four Blood Moons, as I write.

Jesus said; “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign,” multiple times. Why then do we stare at the sky, seeing celestial signs that are not signs at all. Millions were made on the premise that the tetrad, coinciding with Jewish Holy Days, coinciding with the Shmita year, only a handful of months before the Jubilee, meant something big was going to happen. (Crickets chirping.) Hear we are, mere minutes before 2020, on the Gregorian calendar, and nothing happened during the four blood moons. In Isaiah, the Lord instructed his people to consult him– why then are we obsessed with celestial signs, especially when we have already seen them fulfilled, by proclamation of Peter nonetheless, in the book of Acts? Sola Scriptura used to be taken seriously, but now we look to the moon for answers? When will we get back to the sublimely simple task that Jesus gave to the twelve, that was handed down to all disciples, to make more disciples? Paul got it. Jew or Greek, Paul continues to preach Christ crucified to all.

“Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.” Making their way through Macedonia, Paul preaches to Jew and gentile alike. We certainly notice that many more gentiles believed but we cannot discount the fact that some of the Jewish people present also joined them. But as always, many did not. And as always these Jewish people in Macedonia make life miserable for Paul and his companions.

“But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.'”

The dogmatic dispensationalists need to understand something, and it’s found in today’s text along with many others. Even without taking our Vitamin E, we can see something severe in today’s text, written in a historical narrative, by an actual eyewitness, the beloved physician Luke. But before we do I have to remind everyone that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was Jewish, Paul and Silas were Jewish, some of the new converts were Jewish. Anti-Semitism is an absolute evil. God calls people from every tribe, tongue and culture, absolutely including the Jewish people. In fact, he called the Jew first and many came. But many did not. And in today’s text we see their jealousy and their enlistment of evil men. It is right there in the context, written by an eyewitness–it is sacred Scripture. But we don’t consider only the context and the genre, we search the Scriptures for examples. Remember when Pilate washed his hands of Christ, what did the Jewish mob say then?

John, a Jewish eyewitness writes: “’If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar!’ Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold, your King!’ So they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.'”

The dogmatic dispensationalists claim that the return of the Jewish people to Israel is the greatest miracle. Maybe it is but consider what they also claim, according to their dogma. “This Generation” of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 24 and elsewhere, is the generation alive in 1948, when Israel was recognized as a nation again. Ipso facto, Israel has 40-100 years (now they say a generation could be 120 years, doubling down because time is running out) before the tribulation, then two thirds of them will be slaughtered in a Great Tribulation that will make the Holocaust look like a tea party. And they defend this position by saying, “but some will be saved.” Which brings us back to today’s text.

Some were saved but others claimed that the Macedonian missionaries, “all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Isn’t it odd that they hoped that Jesus was going to overthrow Caeser but when they realized that he wasn’t, not immediately at least, they now hold Caeser high as their king? And yet Paul preached Jesus to them. But holding fast to their traditions and self-righteous religion, they teamed up with evil men and formed a mob. I suppose that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But according to their self-righteous religion, this was unlawful.

Jason appears to have welcomed the missionaries into his house, much like Lydia did previously. Therefore the angry mob drags Jason out of his home and before the city officials, because they couldn’t find Paul or his companions. Jason, in their eyes, was guilty by association. “’These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.’ And they stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them. And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.”

Again? I thought Paul was an exclusive evangelist to the gentiles–wasn’t that what he said? Why then do we see Paul consistently and constantly going to the Jews first? Because we have presuppositions and preconceived notions and don’t utilize the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, where; Context is King, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience are Apex, Genre is the General, Expository Exegesis of Examples Enlightens and Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions.

It’s interesting to go to Israel, watching the witnessing to Jewish people. They are very set in their ways making missions to them all but impossible. But guess what, it’s exactly the same witnessing to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Roman Catholics, Latter Day Saints and the worst of all, dogmatic dispensationalists. When we witness to Jewish people and they are not receptive, we chalk it up to their partial hardening. But when we witness to any other “group” of people we chalk it up to “indoctrination.” Nevertheless the Bible is clear, it’s difficult to penetrate pride. Paul was most definitely the apostle to the gentiles but he never gave up on Israel–God doesn’t either.

My question to the dogmatic dispensationalists for today is; why is God waiting to bring a terrible tribulation on Israel until at least 2020, unless we are raptured in the next few minutes, E.S.T.? Was it not the Jewish people in the first century that put Jesus to death? Did they not cry out, “we have no king but Caesar?” And, “His blood be on our head and the heads of our children?” Did Jesus not tell them, in their generation, to their literal faces; “Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation?” Sola Scriptura, keeping it in context.

“And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; aand when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there likewise, agitating and stirring up the crowds. And then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. Now those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.”

Context is King! Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, reaches a great number of Jewish people in Berea. As always there is an ebb and flow. Expecting the ebb after the flow, we are not surprised​ that the Jews from Thessolanica come to Berea to persecute Paul and the new converts. Yet I ask; Scripturally and also logically, why would God pour out his vengeful wrath on a yet future Israel when they no longer persecute people? Why would God reserve his righteous wrath and not pour it on the people persecuting Paul, the early church, their own alleged brothers and greatest of all, their long-awaited Messiah? Our extremely patient Lord sent them prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, the twelve and they killed them all. They cried out, “We have no king but Caesar; Let his blood be on our heads!” Do we really think that God passed them over to await the destruction of a Jerusalem 2000 years hence?

This is why we take a long view, this is why we consider the context, this is why we see the sublime string and this is why we don’t look for celestial signs and why we consider history. Jesus prophesied that the temple would be destroyed in their generation and it came to pass. Why then do we not assume that everything else he said would come upon their generation did not come to pass? Why is Paul fervently preaching Jesus to the Jews, even though he is the apostle to the gentiles. The answer is found in Romans 9-11, and those chapters must be considered as a whole, yet parenthetical, not ripped out of context. Notice; “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants…and so all Israel will be saved.” This, of course, is illustrated by the olive tree. But to apostate Israel God has always promised something other than land. I will give Ezekiel the last word but remember to read history and keep Matthew 24 in context.

“Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Because you have more turmoil than the nations which surround you, and have not walked in My statutes, nor observed My ordinances, nor observed the ordinances of the nations which surround you,’ therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I, even I, am against you, and I will execute judgments among you in the sight of the nations. And because of all your abominations, I will do among you what I have not done, and the like of which I will never do again.”

 

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