BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday June 17, 2012
THE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY
(Your Christian journey can include many stops and many ups and downs)
Thessalonica was a city of some 200,000 residents that was located about 100 miles from Philippi along the major stretch of Roman highway known as the “Egnatian Way”. In fact, the main street through Thessalonica was actually a part of that road. This bustling city had a very large Jewish population, and also, had a Jewish synagogue for their worship. Whenever Paul arrived in a city that contained a Jewish synagogue, he would always go there first, to preach to the audiences that were already there worshiping.
The “GOD-fearers” that were in the temple worshiped under the banner of Judaism, but some, as a result of Paul’s and Silas’ preaching, were immediately drawn to the Christian doctrine. This angered the, already jealous, Jewish leaders, and they, as a result, went out into the streets and stirred up a mob of unsavory fellows. They attacked the house of Jason, the person, whom Paul and Silas resided with in Thessalonica, but did not find them. Not being able to find Paul and Silas, they dragged Jason out, along with some other believers, instead. Jason and the others were charged with treason and later released on bail.
That same night, Paul and Silas left town and headed for Berea, some 60 miles away. They found the people of Berea a lot more receptive to their message. In fact, they became avid listeners, and also, searched the scriptures each day to prove the correctness of their teachings. After seeing the truth of Paul and Silas’ teachings, many in Berea were converted to Christianity, including some prominent Gentile men and women. However, when the Jews in Thessalonica got wind of Paul and Silas’ success in Berea, some of them went there immediately to stir up trouble. Then, the believers in Berea escorted Paul to Athens, and left Silas and Timothy there in Berea.
Upon arriving in Athens, Paul sends the escorts back with a message for Silas and Timothy to join him there as soon as possible. While waiting in Athens for the arrival of Silas and Timothy, Paul became deeply disturbed by all the idols that he saw throughout the city. He also had debates with the “Epicureans” and “Stoics”, two of the main religious philosophical groups in town.
The Epicureans were a group that believed that everything happened by chance. They also believed that the gods cared nothing about this distant world of ours. They believed that when a person dies, that was it, and nothing else would happen after that. They believed that a man’s pleasure in life should be his ultimate objective.
The Stoics, on the other hand, believed that everything was God, both spirit, and matter, and, that every person had a small piece of that spirit in them, and that that spirit would return to God once a person died. The Stoics also believed that, periodically, the world would be destroyed by fire, and then, start all over again, repeating the same cycle.
And so, when Paul told them about JESUS, they scoffed at him and tried to dismiss him as a babbler who had picked up some strange ideas, or, foreign religion. They then took Paul down to the Council at “Areopagus”, or “Mars Hill” to stand before them and tell them more about his strange doctrine (Acts 17:19).
In verse 22, we find Paul standing in the midst the Areopagus, where he is about to deliver a brilliant six-point sermon to this idol worshiping, superstitious group of pagans. Here in verse 22, as expressed in the original Greek, the word Paul uses for “superstitious” is “deisidaimonesteros” (dice-ee-dahee-mon-es-ter-os), and “it describes one who is religiously superstitious, or much more paranoid than others, and in fact, actually, faithless”.
While walking along in Athens, Paul had noticed an altar that was inscribed with the words, “To the unknown GOD”. He then brilliantly uses this altar as a base, or beginning point for his sermon (verse 23). Paul’s first point is that GOD is the CREATOR, not the “created” like their idols are (verse 24). Paul’s second point is that GOD is the “GREAT PROVIDER” (verse 25).
Thirdly, Paul says that, not only is GOD the “CREATOR” of man, GOD is also the “ORCHESTRATOR and CONTROLLER”, of all men’s lives (verse 26). Paul’s fourth point was that, GOD has placed a hunger and thirst inside of each of us, innately from birth, and the only way to satisfy that hunger or thirst, is by seeking, and ultimately finding HIM. And it is only for HIS purpose, that we were ever created in the first place (verse 27-28).
The Fifth point Paul raises to the group is that, GOD will no longer overlook our ignorance in building idols, and HE has set a day of judgment for all men (verse 31). And finally, also in verse 31, Paul closes out his speech by telling them about JESUS, WHOM GOD has appointed to be that JUDGE. Furthermore, GOD has shown every one of us, just who that MAN is, by raising CHRIST JESUS from the dead.
When they heard Paul speak of the resurrection, some laughed, but still, there were others who wanted to hear more. And some even joined him and became believers. One of those who joined, a man named Dionysius, had been a member of the very Areopagus that Paul was preaching to that day. And so you see, Paul had brilliantly used their own monument to the unknown god, to show them the real GOD, WHOM they did not know.
For Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke, and even Barnabas and John Mark, who had gone in the other direction, the “Christian Journey” was filled with ups and downs, assaults and persecutions, people who listened, and those who mocked, those who joined the struggle, and those who dropped out due to their love of the things of this world.
And it is that way, all along anyone’s Christian journey, and it was that very same way for CHRIST, WHO showed us how it was to be done. We must continue on along our Christian journey, and never waver from the trials and tribulations that we encounter. And always remember we do not set out on this trek alone, but rather, we are always accompanied by, and equipped with, the power of THE ALMIGHTY GOD.
(1). Keep your focus on GOD, as it gives us perspective on present and upcoming
difficulties along our Christian journey.
(2). Don’t try to tweak the Gospel to suit your audience’s personal feelings, we are
not supposed to feel good about ourselves, unless we are lining up with GOD.
(3). The word of GOD was sent to us, to show us how far we are from GOD’s
glorious standards, so therefore, just tell it like it is.
(4). Remember, in some of the places Paul visited, along his journey, telling the truth
made things considerably worst for him with man, but, in all of the places he
visited along his Christian journey, telling the truth made it considerably better
for him, with GOD.
Pray to GOD for continued strength and perseverance, as you travel along your Christian journey, that you may be able to stay faced in the right direction, which is, with your eyes on CHRIST JESUS.
KEY VERSE: Acts 17:28
DEVOTIONAL PASSAGES: Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 6:10-12, Mark 6:4