Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Paul and Silas were coming from Philippi. There they were beaten and imprisoned. They passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia. Amphipolis was thirty miles southwest of Philippi. Apollonia was twenty-five miles farther. Why didn’t Paul and Silas stop in ether town? We do not know. They were famous cities. Amphipolis was the capital city of the southeastern district of Macedonia. It was also a military post. The implication of verse 1 is they lacked a synagogue. But Philippi was a Roman colony and did not have a synagogue. So there had to be another reason. All we know is the Spirit did not tell Paul to stop in either place.
Paul and Silas ended up in Thessalonica. Thessalonica had a population of 200,000 and was the provincial capital of Macedonia.
For three Sabbaths Paul reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue. The Pauline epistles suggest that Paul stayed in Thessalonica much longer. According to Philippians 4:16, the Thessalonian church often sent him aid. The Thessalonian epistles say Paul had given them extensive doctrinal instruction. This is no conflict between them. Luke stated Paul spoke at the synagogue for three Sabbaths. He could have attended but not spoke at the synagogue. That does not prevent him from remaining in Thessalonica longer.
Paul reasoned with those at the synagogue. You can also translate the Greek word translated “reasoned” as “disputed”, or “argued.” This comes from its classical meaning or usage. It is used in philosophical debates, including the Socratic method. That is a method of questions and answers. But that does not seem to fit the contextual evidence. It is most probable Paul addressed the synagogue as any other qualified member. This was common in the first century. There are examples in Matthew 4:23 and Mark 1:21.
Luke may have used the word to show a teaching style. Paul may have argued with himself. That is, he anticipated objections. He would bring up an objection. Then he would address it. Paul did this in his letter to the Romans. (Roman 6:1-2, 9:14).
Paul proved through scripture
Jesus was a conquering Christ. He conquered that greatest of all enemies. He conquered death.
Paul proved through the scripture. No theological debate should ever contain the words. “I think” or “I believe.” What we believe is unimportant in that context. What does the scripture say? Paul proved his point through the scripture.
Paul’s preaching was controversial. The most controversial part was preaching the messiah’s death and resurrection. Though Paul proved the Messiah must die and rise from the dead, many did not believe. Proving is not the same as convincing.
There were a large number of devout Greeks and leading women who believed. The Greeks were not full Jewish converts. They were not circumcised. Luke mentions leading women. They may have been leading women but they were still women. Society marginalized women in the first century. Christianity is and has always been a religion of the downtrodden and outcast.
The Jews were jealous. What were they jealous of? Were they jealous of gentiles coming to God? That does not seem reasonable? In the first century, Judaism was very evangelical. They went all over making converts. (Matthew 23:15) They were looking to make Jews out of gentiles. But here comes Paul with the gospel. Paul’s message was gentiles do not need to become Jews. They did not need circumcision. They do not need to follow dietary restrictions. They do not need to make sacrifices. Paul gave gentiles an easy path. The Jews had those constraints. They needed to obey both the spirit and letter of the law. They felt it was unfair. They thought Paul was saying God had one standard for the Jews and another for the Gentiles.
They did not realize Christ fulfilled the law. Justification did not ever come through the law. (Romans 3:20, 4:15, 5:20; Galatians 2:16, 21; Hebrews 7:19) It is God who justifies. Keeping the Law does not justify. God justifies. It was always God. And it was God alone. Nothing we do justifies us. (Romans 9:15) God bestows His mercy on whomever He desires and for His purpose.
The Jews gathered men predisposed to violence. They then gave them permission to exercise their base nature. In other words, they incited a riot.
They attacked Jason’s home. They were looking for Paul and his companions. But the mob did not find them. The mob needed to satisfy its thirst for violence so they dragged Jason and some others out of the house.
They dragged Jason and the brothers to the city authorities. They charged them with insurrection and treason. They blamed Paul and Silas for inciting the violence. How ironic! The guilty blamed on the innocent. Paul and Silas could have defended themselves. But the authorities tried them in abstention.
The mob charged Paul and Silas were treason. They did not distinguish between the spiritual kingdom and a political kingdom. The same problem exists today. Many accuse the church of attempting to set up a physical kingdom. They have unwitting allies within the church. Some, inside the church, are attempting to establish a political kingdom.
The Jews instilled doubt and confusion into the mob and the officials. They brought false charges of treason. With Paul and Silas absent it was easy to twist their words. It was easy to distort their words into a political message. It was easy to convict them.
Jason and his companions were released after posting bail.
You will notice the parallel between this even and Philippi. Satan kept repeating himself.