Last time I asked the question: “What kind of soil are you?” Said another way, “What is your level of receptivity to God’s Word?” As we continue on with Paul and Silas in the book of Acts we come upon a series of cities each with their unique soil conditions. The first city they come to is: Thessalonica… a skeptic’s haven.
1When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3explaining and proving that the Christ[a] had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,[b]” he said. 4Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.
I begin by noting that Paul and Silas are still moving by the Spirit’s direction in their journey. Amphipolis is thirty-three miles from Philippi, a day’s journey on foot. Apollonia is some thirty miles from Amphipolis, another day’s journey. And Thessalonica is another thirty-seven miles beyond Apollonia, another full day’s journey. Three days of walking and not talking. Why? Because, by the Spirit’s guidance no doubt, set his sights on Thessalonica.
Thessalonica was the capital city of the region of Macedonia. It was a perfect place to plant a church. But it was also a “hard soil” region. Paul and Silas set up a tent shop… we know they had secular jobs from his letters to this church later on.
So they made tents all through the week. But on Saturday they went into the synagogue reasoned with them, explaining and proclaiming Jesus to be the Christ.
Verse two points out this was all done from Paul’s copy of the Word of God. In a “hard soil” regions you need a firm grasp on the seed bucket. You need strong reasoning and debating skills. Paul possessed those in abundance.
Paul’s Message: Jesus is the Messiah! Paul preached the death and resurrection of the Christ, the Messiah. The people in the Synagogue in Thessalonica had a hard time receiving the message Paul was pedaling. They could not accept this JESUS was the Christ because he was crucified like a common criminal. It did not fit the image of the all powerful Savior that would swoop in and deliver Israel from its enemies and rule the earth with an iron fist. In fact a suffering, crucified Messiah was a great offense to them.
They read their Scriptures much as we sometimes read ours. They picked out all the passages they liked about Messiah, and read those over and over. They came to believe that that was all the Scriptures had to say about Messiah. But they ignored those passages which dealt with a suffering and crucified Messiah, and with the necessity for a resurrection.
Paul opened his scrolls and shared with them Isaiah 53 or perhaps Psalm 22? He revealed to them a God that would die to secure their deliverance from sin.
Town’s Reaction: Despite the doubters, some believed. Even on hard soil some seeds will grow. Throw grass seed on a concrete sidewalk, and some seed will find the cracks and eventually its shoot will crack the sidewalk during its ascent to the sun.
Do you know a hard nut to crack? You need, like Paul, to learn to debate knowledgeably and with respect. And then take hope. When you leave the results to God, He can cause growth in some pretty unexpected places.
For Paul and Silas in Thessalonica there was also a great band of unprejudiced Gentiles, Greeks, who, tiring of the emptiness of their pagan philosophies, had come to the synagogue hoping to hear the truth about the Living God. They had been attracted by the Jewish Scriptures. They knew there was something there, but they had not yet become Jews and were not yet circumcised. As these Gentiles heard the word of the gospel, they were persuaded and they believed.
What is the final Outcome: They get it run out of town.
5But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.[c] 6But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
We don’t know what the bond Jason had to post was, but it probably involved a condition that Paul and Silas (the one’s singled out as the trouble makers) would move on to another town… in any case that is what they did.
Final question for you: Are you like Thessalonica?
Do you read the Scriptures for a “feel good” shot in the arm to start your day? Do you like “happy” devotionals, with just one verse or two out of context and then not much by way of challenge?
When a preacher or teacher gets too close to something you don’t want to change… are you tempted to “run them out of town on a rail?”
Are you a skeptic’s haven?