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The Uproar in Thessalonica


After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, 3explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.” 4Some 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. 5But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house. 6When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, 7and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” 8The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this, 9and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let them go.

Paul and Silas in Beroea

10 That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea; and when they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so. 12Many of them therefore believed, including not a few Greek women and men of high standing. 13But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Beroea as well, they came there too, to stir up and incite the crowds. 14Then the believers immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and after receiving instructions to have Silas and Timothy join him as soon as possible, they left him.

Paul in Athens

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.” (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) 19So they took him and brought him to the Areopagus and asked him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.” 21Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.

22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

‘For we too are his offspring.’

29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33At that point Paul left them. 34But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

30. And the times of this ignorance Because that is commonly thought to be good which hath been used of long time, and is approved by the common consent of all men; it might have been objected to Paul, why dost thou disannul those things which have been received, and used continually since the beginning of the world? and whom canst thou persuade that the whole world hath been deceived so long? as is no kind of abomination so filthy, which the Papists do not think to be well fortified with this buckler. Paul preventeth 302302     “Anticipat,” anticipates. this question; showing that men went astray so long therefore, because God did not reach out his hand from heaven, that he might bring them back again into the way. It may seem an inconvenient [a strange] thing, that men endued with reason and judgment should err so grossly and filthily in a most weighty matter. But Paul’s meaning is, that men do never make an end of erring, until God do help them. And now he assigneth no other cause why he did not redress this any sooner, save only his good pleasure.

And assuredly we be not able to comprehend the reason why God did at a sudden set up the light of his doctrine, when he suffered men to walk in darkness four thousand years; at least seeing the Scripture doth conceal it, let us here make more account of sobriety than of preposterous wisdom. For they go about to bring God within bounds, which is a most unseemly thing, and contrary to nature herself, whosoever they be that will not suffer him to speak or hold his peace at his pleasure. Again, those that will not be content with his wisdom and secret counsel, must needs murmur against Paul, who teacheth manifestly that ignorance did reign in the world, so long as it pleased God to wink at it. Other some interpret it otherwise, that God did spare ignorance, as if he did wink, being unwilling to punish it; but that surmise is altogether contrary to Paul’s meaning and purpose, who meant not to lessen man’s fault, but to magnify the grace of God which did appear at a sudden, and it is proved to be false out of other places, because those who have sinned without law shall notwithstanding perish without law, (Romans 2:12.)

In some, Paul’s words carry with them this meaning only, that men were set upon blindness, until God did reveal himself unto them; and that we ought not too curiously and boldly to demand and require the cause why he put away darkness no sooner; but that whatsoever pleased him ought seem to us right and equal without making any more ado. For though this be a hard speech that men were miserably deceived long time, whilst that God made as though he saw it not, yet must we be content with, and stay ourselves upon his providence. And if at any time there come upon us a vain and perverse desire to know more than is meet for us, let us straightway call to mind that which Paul teacheth in many places, that it was a mystery hid since the beginning of the world, in that the light of the gospel did appear to the Gentiles at a sudden, (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:9;) and that this is a token of the manifold wisdom of God, which swalloweth up all the senses of men. Again, let us remember that it doth not lessen the fault of men, because God would not heal their errors; forasmuch as their own conscience shall always hold them convict, that they cannot escape just damnation. And Paul (not that he might lay the fault and blame upon God, but that he might cut off occasion of curious and hurtful questions) said, that the world did err whilst God did wink. And hereby we learn how reverently we ought to think of God’s providence, lest any man should be so bold, as man’s nature is proud, to demand a reason of God of his works.

Furthermore, this admonition is no less profitable for us than for the men of that time. The enemies of the gospel, when it beginneth to spring again, count it a great absurdity that God did suffer men to go astray so long under the apostasy of the Pope, as if (though there appear no reason) it were not as lawful for him now to wink at men’s ignorance as in times past. And we must principally note to what end he saith this; to wit, that the ignorance of former times may not hinder us from obeying God without delay when he speaketh. Most men think that they have a fair color for their error, so they have their fathers to keep them company, or so they get some patronage or defense by long custom; yea, they would willingly creep out here, 303303     “Imo libenter et cupide hoc captant effugium,” nay, they willingly and eagerly catch at this subterfuge. that they may not obey the word of God. But Paul saith, that we not fet [seek] an excuse from our fathers’ ignorance when God speaketh unto us; because, though they be not guiltless before God, yet our sluggishness is more intolerable if we be blind at noonday, and lie as deaf, or as if we were asleep, when the trumpet of the gospel doth sound. 304304     “Clangente evangelii tuba,” during the clang of the gospel trumpet.

Now he willeth all men. In these words Paul teacheth that we must give ear to God so soon as he speaketh, as it is written, “Today, if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts,” (Psalm 95:7,8; Hebrews 3:7,8.) For the stubbornness of those men is without excuse, who foreslow [neglect] this opportunity when God doth gently call them unto him. Also, we gather out of this place to what end the gospel is preached, to wit, that God may gather us to himself from the former errors of our life. Therefore, so oft as the voice of the gospel doth sound in our ears, let us know that God doth exhort us unto repentance. We must also note that he attributeth to God the person of the speaker, though he do it by man. For otherwise the gospel hath not so full authority as the heavenly truth deserveth, save only when our faith doth look unto him who is the governor of the prophetical function, and doth depend upon his mouth.

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