In this message we come to 17:1-34. In verses 1 through 9 Paul comes to Thessalonica; in verses 10 through 13, to Berea; and in verses 14 through 34, to Athens.
In 16:11-40 we have an account of the raising up of the church in Philippi. This church was raised up through two rather unusual persons. The first was “a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple-dyed goods, from the city of Thyatira” (16:14). The second was a jailer. According to our experience and observation, churches are often raised up through unusual persons such as these.
After staying in Philippi Paul and his co-workers traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia and then “came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews” (17:1). Thessalonica was another leading city, sitting on a gulf in the middle of the shoreline of the province of Macedonia.
In Thessalonica there was a synagogue of the Jews, a place where the Jews sought the knowledge of God by studying the Holy Scriptures. According to his custom, Paul “went in to them, and on three Sabbaths he reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (v. 2). Concerning what did Paul reason with those in the synagogue from the Scriptures? Concerning theology and the law of Moses? Concerning types and prophecies? No, he did not reason from the Scriptures concerning any of these things. Rather, he reasoned concerning Christ, “opening and setting before them that the Christ must suffer and rise from among the dead, and saying, This is the Christ, Jesus, whom I announce to you” (v. 3).
In my Christian life I have seen people reason concerning many things other than Christ. For example, many have reasoned about immersion. Some have argued that believers should be immersed frontward; others argue that they should be immersed backward or straight downward. Each of the parties gave reasons for their opinions. Others have reasoned concerning whether a believer should be immersed once or three times—the first time in the name of the Father, the second in the name of the Son, and the third in the name of the Holy Spirit.
When Paul was in the synagogue in Thessalonica, he did not reason concerning the law. Rather, from the Scriptures he reasoned with those in the synagogue concerning Christ. He set before them that Christ must suffer and rise from among the dead. Then he said to them, “This is the Christ, Jesus, whom I announce to you.”
Because Paul was constituted of the Spirit of Jesus, he was led, guided, and directed by this Spirit. He did not have the heart to reason concerning genealogies, prophecies, or types. He had just one burden, and this burden was according to his spiritual constitution. Paul’s constitution was fully of the Spirit of Jesus. Therefore, in Thessalonica Paul ministered nothing other than the all-inclusive Christ. Many rabbis studied the Old Testament without seeing anything of Christ. Paul, however, could see Christ revealed in the Scriptures.
We need to learn to study the Bible and use the Bible the way Paul did. We should also seek to minister divine things according to Paul’s way. I have observed much reasoning, debate, and contention about certain biblical truths, but I have seen very few reasonings concerning the all-inclusive Christ. Let us learn to reason for the all-inclusive Christ based upon both the New Testament and the Old Testament.
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