Acts 17: 10 – 15 In Berea
As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
* * *
Was it only the gospel provoking opposition or did Paul contribute? The Berean believers sent Paul away out of trouble, but kept Silas and Timothy.
Paul was an abrasive character; earlier in Acts 15: 39, we read that he quarrelled with Barnabas to the extent that they parted company.
Look back at Acts 16: 37. “But Paul said to the officers: ‘they beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.’”
Paul was fully justified in terms of demanding reparation for his ill-treatment. He and Silas were Roman citizens and as such were protected against arbitrary detention and punishment. The magistrates had broken Roman law by beating and imprisoning them.
But to demand the magistrates came in person and escorted Paul and Silas was a humiliation for them. It would have made them angry. It would have made them enemies. What about “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15: 1)?
The towns in Macedonia were in contact with each other, as we see in Acts 17:13 “But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up.” I wonder whether the magistrates in Philippi also played a part in this?
There is no doubt that Paul was a dynamic man, with great personal courage, a deep knowledge of the Scriptures and a fierce intellect. Maybe the abrasive nature of his personality was an unavoidable consequence of its strengths? Maybe it was one of the reasons God picked him for the task of spreading the gospel?
I suggest, though, that it’s worth thinking about. Paul’s epistles are the earliest written records we have of the Christian faith. They pre-date the gospels, and a great deal of church doctrine is based on them. To what extent should we consider Paul’s character when we seek to understand the epistles that he wrote?
Maybe the answer to that is that we shouldn’t consider it at all. Maybe I should simply work to show as much zeal as I can for spreading the good news of Jesus. For there is no doubt at all that Paul was exemplary in his zeal.
I’m sorry that I am so slow to spread the good news of Jesus. Please stir up the Holy Spirit in me. Please increase my love for you and for those around me.
In Jesus’ name, Amen