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Acts #61 (chapter 17:4-9, 12-15)

The Book of Acts

Men Who Turned the World Upside Down, Part 2

Acts 17:4-9, 12-15


Last week we began a study of Acts 17 where we find it being said of Paul and Silas that they were men who "turned the world upside down" for Jesus.  And through their ministry in two cities, Thessalonica and Berea, we are looking for the things that make that happen. 

What is it about a person that allows God to use them in such a way that the entire area, the known world of the day, is impacted by their testimony?  So far, we've looked at two characteristics. 

First, they were men of courage, and second, their content, their message was the Word of God and what it says about Jesus. 

Wherever they went, regardless of the consequences, they boldly preached the message of salvation available only in Jesus Christ.

There are three more characteristics I want us to see tonight and to be able to do that, we're going to need to jump right in.  The third characteristic is

3.  Converts

You can know you are making an impact on the world when you see people being converted to faith in Jesus Christ.  Evangelism done the New Testament way, which involves discipleship, will make a difference in the world.

Notice what happened in

verse 4

Paul arrived in Thessalonica, went down to the local synagogue, preached Jesus, and some of those Jews got saved.  By the way, notice, they were persuaded. 

Paul presented the gospel in such a way that they couldn't argue against it.  The Holy Spirit then, took the presentation and convinced them about Jesus.

When they went to church that day, they weren't even looking for the Messiah, but before worship was over, they were saved. 

Now, down in Berea, they were just waiting to believe, already looking and searching and all they did was grab a copy of the Old Testament and observe how it lined up with what Paul preached and they were convinced. 

verses 11-12

In Thessalonica, it took persuasion.  In Berea, they simply confirmed the message through their search of Scripture.  But in both cases, people were saved.  By the way, God still uses both approaches.  Some are looking and searching and others have to be knocked on their back and persuaded.  God uses a variety of methods to bring people to salvation.  But conversion always follows a presentation of the gospel. 

The results of the preaching was converts. And notice, verse 4, there were some Jews, a bunch of Gentiles and several influential ladies that were converted.

And what we have there is the beginning of a beautiful, diversified congregation in Thessalonica. 

Then, over in Berea, you have a similar thing.

verse 12

Now let me show you something.  Notice the description that is given of these Berean believers.  We are led to believe they are a more fair-minded, noble people than those in Thessalonica.  They are searching the Scriptures. They are open to the message, and again, some of the Jews, many of the Greeks and prominent women are saved and a church is born in Berea.

But I find it interesting that we never hear another word in the New Testament about the church in Berea.  On the other hand, you hear a lot about Thessalonica.  In fact, I think it safe to say that Thessalonica became the most beloved church that Paul ever wrote to. He just loved those people. And of all the churches that are written to in the New Testament, they seem to be the most like Christ wanted the church to be.

Isn't it interesting that with Berea you have those that were eagerly saved, yet you never hear about them again and in Thessalonica, they had to be persuaded, but when they got saved, they became what God wanted the church to be?

So what's the point?  The point is that salvation is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter what you were before you were saved or even how you got saved.  The important thing is what you do with the resources that become yours when you get saved. 

Sometimes we make the mistake of saying, "Well you can't expect much out of somebody because they were into dope and alcohol and lived a rough life."

No!  I expect just as much out of the person who came from a tough background as I do from those who had a blessed background because the spiritual resources are the same for both.

Thessalonica may not have been as fair-minded and open to God as they were in Berea, but once salvation showed up, the resources and opportunities and privileges were the same and they took advantage of them.

And to be fair, I don't know that Berea didn't.  I'm just saying that there's no reason to assume that if you are saved out of a difficult or even resistant experience, you don't get everything God has to offer you.  Salvation isn't gradual, it's instantaneous.  It isn't deserved; it's by grace and everything Jesus makes available is available to anybody that's saved.

That is the power of conversion and people who make the world different are the people who multiply the holiness in the world by making converts to Jesus Christ.

To turn the world upside down requires courage, content and converts.  The fourth characteristic is

4.  Conflict

Now if you know anything about the devil and his agenda, it makes sense to say that conflict will develop if you are out there boldly sharing the gospel and making converts to Jesus Christ.

verse 5

Notice, those who were not saved became envious.  They didn't like the fact that some of the leading Jews in town have become Christians.  Some say, well , they lost income and position and all that those former Jews had to offer. 

I don't think that's why they were envious.  I think it has more to do with the fact that Gentiles were getting saved right alongside the Jews.  After all, they were the chosen people!  They had a corner on the market and could monopolize God. And it just chapped their hide that anyone would suggest the Gentiles were on an equal standing with them.

And they decided something had to be done about it so they organized a mob and attacked these new Christians and fired up the whole city. And while it was true that Paul and Silas turned the world upside down for Jesus, they did the same thing for Satan.   

And they go down to the house of a man named Jason, who was probably a new convert, and they are looking for Paul and Silas.

But Paul and Silas and Timothy are gone.

verses 6-8

They bring two charges against them.  First, they charge them with being revolutionaries who are stirring things up around town and second, they are charged with treason against Rome.

And notice, they specifically name Jesus in the accusation.  I don't think there is any doubt that they preached a plain message of salvation in Christ. 

They got the message, loud and clear.  Jesus, not Caesar, is our King.  By the way, that's the same thing they charged Jesus with at His trial.  They crucified Him for claiming to be a king. Remember Pilate questioned Him, "Are you a king?" And the Jews all cried out, "No, He's not our king. We'll have no king but Caesar."

Well, it was the whole issue of His Kingship, and here Paul had been preaching the Kingship of Jesus Christ, and so they grabbed on that, the same thing that the crowd used to execute Jesus, to attempt to kill Paul.

That is always where the rub is.  The conflict between those who serve God and those who don't is always about who's in charge.  There is a spirit of rebellion in the human heart that always resists giving Jesus control. 

Jesus always demands that place of authority and men don't like to hear that. So they decided to make Jason post a security bond that would guarantee Paul and Silas wouldn't cause any more trouble.

In the meantime, Paul and Silas make their way down to Berea.

verse 10

So, what happened there?  Well, we've already looked at the good things that happened in Berea, but notice what we read in

verse 13

So, this gang travels the 60 miles from Thessalonica to Berea and stir things up again. In fact, that's the very word that is used at the end of verse 13. They "stirred up" the crowds.  Interesting, isn't it?  If Satan doesn't have local people, he'll import some.  And once again, Paul had to leave town! 

verses 14-15

They made them believe they were going out to sea, then traveled in another direction. Paul heads off to Athens and leaves Silas and Timothy behind to disciple these new believers.  Later, Paul will send for them to join him.


verse 16a (Paul waited)

You don't find that word used with Paul very often! In fact, some commentators believe he is waiting because of the hurt in his heart.  We sometimes lose sight of the humanity of Paul.  But conflict hurts!

But out of conflict came joy. And out of conflict came the productivity of those churches. You say, "But what about Paul?"

Well, out of conflict in Athens came fantastic results, and we'll see that in the weeks to come. But let’s close with this. The last thing, and if you miss this, you miss everything, was

5. Concern

verse 16

That verse brings up an interesting thought.  Most of the time, when we think about people who are lost, we think in terms of them needing to get saved and all that, and how making that decision would be better for them. 

They could straighten out the mess in their lives and go to heaven and experience the blessing of God.  And all of that is true.  But that's not all that is involved in people getting saved.  We should also consider salvation from God's perspective. 

Paul looked at Athens and saw an entire city that was worshipping idols.  That means God was not being glorified.  He was being robbed of what was rightfully His.  It's the companion thought to what we discussed Sunday in that people deserve to perish because they have sinned against a God Who is worthy of being glorified. 

And when Paul looked out that this city and saw what was going on, this verse says "his spirit was provoked within him".  The old KJV says his spirit was stirred, which I think is a better translation because if you look at the definition and usages of the original word, it can mean to be irritated or aroused to anger, but it primarily means to stimulate, to spur to action or to urge.

And remember, we're talking about what makes men turn their world upside down.  And unfortunately, a lot of us are provoked by the lostness and sin around us.  We are angered when we are confronted with sinful behavior.  But we are not stirred to do anything about it. 

The greatest motive that any Christian could ever have in doing evangelism is the motive of glorifying God.  Paul could have just rested and relaxed and waited for his friend in the beautiful city of Athens.  But Paul saw more deeply than the physical.  He saw the spiritual condition.  He didn't see the glory of Athens.  He saw that God was not being glorified and it tore him up.

And that's one of the things that made him a man that changed the world. He God as a God that deserved to be glorified and he saw every man as either one who gave glory to God, or one who didn't.  And that's what drove him to preach the gospel boldly. 

verse 17

So true to form, Paul boldly took to the streets preaching the good news of the gospel in spite of the conflict it caused.  And moved by the concern in his heart, Paul saw people converted, changed from worshipping idols to giving God the glory He deserves.

He and men like him turned the world upside down with the gospel.  May God help us to do the same.

Let's pray.


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