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Weekly Prompts for Thinking Through ScriptureCovering Acts 17 - 18

Day One

Read Acts 17:1-9

· V. 1 – Don’t miss this pattern which can be traced throughout Acts. Paul goes into a Gentile city, and his first official stop is to the synagogue of the diaspora Jews. “To the Jews first… “(Romans 1:16). Why do you think this was?

· VV. 2-3 – “Reasoned…explaining…proving” – the Christian proclamation does not relay on emotional tugs, provocation, chicanery ad hominem attacks . But on reasonable explanation. We’re not talking down to people. Remember that. If you’re losing your temper or going after the big “gotcha” to make your unbelieving conversation partner appear foolish, you’re going about things the wrong way.

· V.5 – This verse reminds us that not all in a mob are the same. Not each in a raucous crowd is as nasty as all the others. It only takes a jealous contingent + a few wicked people to set the whole aflame. This verse should also remind us that following the crowd isn’t always (usually? hardly ever?) the way to go.

· V.6 – “These men who have turned the world upside down” – man, they were crediting Paul and his partners with quite a lot! But what exactly did they mean? How had the Greco-Roman world been turned upside down by Paul and his compadres?

· V.7 – How did this crowd summarize the Christian message here? Were they wrong?

Day Two

Read Acts 17: 10-15

· V.10 – Sent away by night – is this cowardice? If God is protecting you, should you need to take precautions?

· V. 11 – Luke calls the Berean Jews “more noble” than those of Thessalonica – why?

· V. 11 – “To see if these things were so” – but Paul was an Apostle…an expert if there ever was one. Shouldn’t they just take what he says as gospel and not insult him by checking to see whether he’s correct? Well no. Blindly trusting the experts isn’t a Christian impulse.

· V. 13 – Antagonism to the truth is tireless. Remember that.

Friday 04 December

Read Acts 17: 16-33

· 19 years ago, this was the passage I preached over and over fundraising to come to Boston, the “American Athens.” It never got old (for me at least. Tonia? Well…)

· V. 16 – The word translated “provoked” comes across stronger in the original Greek. So, think about it: Paul is actually between ministries, Athens is an unplanned stop, and yet he’s still ‘in the moment’ enough to have a heart and an eye for ministry. This guy doesn’t stop!

· V. 17 – “Reasoned” – think about that again. Not berated. Or scolded. “Reasoned.”

· V. 21 – This habit of looking for something new, checking the web, refreshing the browser, waiting to hear something interesting that might relieve the tedium or boredom – it all sounds pretty contemporary. God, give us an understanding of the gospel that will be striking to those who hear us proclaim it.

Day Four

Read Acts 17: 16-33

· I realize you read this yesterday, but this passage is worthy of a second reading.

· VV. 23 – Paul was observant of the culture and used what he observed to segue into the gospel.

· What kind of God does he proclaim to the Athenians? Leading question: does he present a small God or a big God? By your deeds and words, are you presenting a small or transcendent God?

· V. 27 – “He is actually not far from each one of us” – this became the main point of my fund-raising sermon. I still stand by that message!

· V. 28 – He quotes their poets. Love people enough to study their culture if you want to reach them.

· V. 30 – “…but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” – what has changed so that God is no longer overlooking ignorance?

Day Five

Read Acts 18:1-11

· A short passage so you have time to locate your church shoes

· V. 2 – Not the last time in the Scripture we’ll see Aquila and Pricilla.

· V. 4 – Here we go again: “Reasoned…tried to persuade.” Not shouted. Not shook his head in shock at their stubbornness. Not…

· V. 5 – Another repeat of the pattern: First to the Jews in the synagogue; and then once they’ve tired of him -and they almost always did - on to the Gentiles.

· V. 9 – We don’t hear directly of Paul being afraid in Corinth, but Paul’s vision in the night implies that he was indeed intimidated, perhaps to the point of being ready to stop proclaiming. Isn’t that strangely heartening?

· V. 10 – The encouragement of the vision: “I have many in this city who are my people.” Were these people who were already followers of Christ? Or “many” who would become followers through Paul’s preaching? Are there many of Christ’s people already in northern CT/ southern MA?

Day Six

Read Acts 18: 12-23

· V. 12 – A reasonable government agent – evidently there is such a creature. One of the ways the Scripture encourages us to submit to the government is through spotlighting some sane government officials. Can you think of other instances?

· V.17 – Sosthenes happens to be the name of Paul’s co-author of 1 Corinthians mentioned in the first verse of that book. Are the two the same person? Dunno, but it would make sense of the beating here.

· V. 18 – Paul cut his hair, and the only reason this could be worthy of note is that the haircut was for some religious purpose: something akin to a Nazirite vow (Numbers 6). A point to be made here is that Paul’s religion was not static: sometimes he vowed, sometimes he fasted, sometimes he was perplexed…. What tied it all together was he walked all these paths with God.

· VV. 21-23 – Paul is on the move. There’s a lot to do, including greeting old friends, reporting on his ministry, and strengthening those who were already disciples. Strengthening how? And was the other stuff important?

Day Seven

Read Acts 18: 24-28

· VV. 24,25 – Apollos has a lot going for him, although he hasn’t yet grasped the baptism of Jesus. But that’s ok: this intellectual and learned and eloquent man demonstrates that he wasn’t above being corrected, even by lowly tentmakers. So, the best thing he has going for him is HUMILITY.

· V. 26 – A godly couple who have given their lives to serving the Lord: Ahhh, what a boon to the Church!

· Paul says in Corinthians that “not many noble” people were called into God’s family. But “not many” – there was and has been the occasional public intellectual and those from tony neighborhoods and celebrities that find their way (more properly ‘have been found’) into the Kingdom. Apollos seems to be one of the first of these types. We know he had some magnetism to him because some in the Corinthian church had selected him as their favorite teacher (1 Corinthians 1:12).

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