Study the Word! – 3-4-22

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.” Acts 17:11-12 NKJV

More fair-minded. Ah the importance of having an open mind. But having an open mind does not mean you just accept anything that comes in the name of the Lord. Remember that scripture: beware of false teachers. Paul explained the gospel and these men opened their scrolls and searched daily to confirm that Paul was saying the trust as well as saying it in context. Thank God Paul had such an intense study of the scriptures as a child and was a Pharisee – because he was able to have these deep theological debates. Over and over I remind us all that it is the scripture that is anointed. If you want power and if you want people touched and changed, then use the Word of God!
However, in order to use it correctly you MUST have a relationship with him. Without a relationship the word will always come from you filtered through your sin and will be corrupted. Repent, ask for forgiveness of your sins and the word comes forth with the ability to be pure (as long as you keep yourself out of it and let God be God – and for that you must know him personally).

RELATIONSHIP:

Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen

BIBLE READING:

Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word and our sound mind. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Today’s reading is the Book of Acts chapter 17 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV). 

Preaching Christ at Thessalonica

17 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

Assault on Jason’s House

But the Jews [a]who were not persuaded, [b]becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has [c]harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

Ministering at Berea

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more [d]fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.

The Philosophers at Athens

16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was [e]given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 [f]Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this [g]babbler want to say?”

Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.

19 And they took him and brought him to the [h]Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

Addressing the Areopagus

22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the [i]Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one [j]blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Footnotes

  1. Acts 17:5 NU omits who were not persuaded
  2. Acts 17:5 M omits becoming envious
  3. Acts 17:7 welcomed
  4. Acts 17:11 Lit. noble
  5. Acts 17:16 full of idols
  6. Acts 17:18 NU, M add also
  7. Acts 17:18 Lit. seed picker, an idler who makes a living picking up scraps
  8. Acts 17:19 Lit. Hill of Ares, or Mars’ Hill
  9. Acts 17:22 Lit. Hill of Ares, or Mars’ Hill
  10. Acts 17:26 NU omits blood

MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

STUDY/DEVOTIONAL

So far, Paul goes to a city and into the synagogue and preaches Christ, then he goes to the Gentiles and preaches Christ, then runs for his life! Time and time again.

So when Paul (along with Silas and Timothy, possibly Luke, but it is not a ‘we’ passage and I can’t remember off the top of my head – and I do not want to read ahead because we have a weekend between now and the next chapter and I do not want to get ahead of myself) arrives at Thessalonica. Paul later writes 2 letters to the church that was established here.
When I first started studying more attentively, it surprised me that people were more accepting at Berea, because I had heard of Thessalonica before (because of the letters) but not Berea. It is in the Letters to Thessalonica that we learn the most about the rapture and being caught up in the sky with Jesus, along with some minor end time prophecy. But let’s stick with the birth of this church in today’s reading.
When I said they were not as accepting – there was still a very large number (including prominent people) who repented and turned to Jesus. And apparently, one of them was named Jason and he let them all meet at his house. If you did the reading you know the house was raided – the Christians fled and escaped, but they caught Jason and basically fined him. I have read multiple studies on the books Thessalonians; and in these studies many scholars said the church continued to meet in Jason’s house.

So we are again, back to Paul running for his life.

Side note – growing up, I always thought Paul and Silas traveled alone together and the other people were just people they met along the way. It is an impression many Christians have because of simplified Sunday school lesson’s and lack of studying the word. Now, not everyone is built with time and ability to dig into all of these things, this is why we have teachers. But still you should still study to show yourself approved. I study for myself and read the studies of many people.
I was once warned not to be one of those people that find all these preachers on the internet and follow them all – because it is easy to then chase what you want to hear and not what God is saying. And easier to be deceived by a false teacher. So I was told to stay under one preacher. But if you aren’t doing any other additional studying and are only under one who influences everything – no matter how good that preacher/teacher is, you will walk away with the same sins, corruptions, struggles and stinking thinking that that teacher/preacher has.
I work with my hands and not so much my brain. So I have hours and hours to listen to anything. I fill that time with the bible read to me, or listening to MANY studies on whatever book or topic I am working through. I eat the meat and throw out the bones. I also listen to sermons, books by great evangelists of the past, like Derek Prince. I also listen to documentaries on archeological explorations of different Biblical times so I can better understand the culture and environment in which the Bible happened. I also listen to a lot of political podcast mostly by men of God, connecting things back to the Bible – but some are also foreign news casts so I can see what the world is thinking. And finally – sometimes I listen to praise and worship music. And oddly enough, all these sources are never contradicting each other and when God is saying something it comes from multiple sources all in agreement. The point is not how much I study. I am also the rare kind of person who would rather read the encyclopedia for fun, then a fictional fantasy story. The point IS that you should NOT be afraid to study and learn different perspectives. BUT – and yes there is a warning – know the WORD of God first and run it through with all truth, study and prayer. When you are tapped into the Holy Spirit in a relationship with God through Jesus – He will speak to you (in some way) and then you too will learn that everyone who is of the Spirit got the same message. Quickly you learn who is of the spirit and who is not. I am always in awe of God when the revivalist in Florida has the same message: as the Baptist in the Midwest, as the street preacher in Chicago, as the nondenominational in Tennessee, as the Christian Rabbi in Israel, as the evangelical Pentecostal preacher in New Jersey, as the pastor in my small town in New York, as the random message a friend sends to me to check out, as the random post in one of my social media feeds that for some reason stands out, etc. etc. etc. When God speaks and we are plugged into the Spirit – we all get the message. Listen carefully by studying.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV

Fleeing at night, for his life Paul (and probably Silas, Timothy, Luke and other followers that joined them) ran to Berea. As we saw in the opening verses, way up at the top of this post, it is here in Berea, the men (and women) opened the scrolls to double check Paul’s work. AND guess what?! Paul is right! Jesus does fulfill the prophecies and IS the Christ! The Messiah came and they have been given the grace to obtain the knowledge of Him AND the opportunity to repent and develop a personal relationship with Him.  Glory!!

But then!!! The unbelieving Jews from Thessalonica learn Paul was there and came there to stir up trouble.  Now, let’s remember, Silas was a prophet, Timothy became a teacher/preacher, Luke is a doctor, and Paul was pretty much one of those knew everything Pharisees, but preaching FOR Jesus.  Since Paul could speak to the scriptures and had more knowledge, he was the face of the mission trip and the speaker.  The best way to thwart trouble is the silence it.
What I find MOST interesting about this part is that the brethren sent Paul away by sea – and Silas and Timothy stayed and finished ministering to the people.
My guess – and just speculation is that Paul is getting worn out and tired.

Fleeing again, this time alone on a boat (well, the boat had a crew, but Paul did not) Paul arrives in Athens and is just supposed to wait there patiently for his group.

Now, this is why I think Paul was worn out:
Verse 16 says that Paul’s spirit was provoked – not God’s spirit or the Holy Spirit. Paul slipped into the flesh. And “therefore” (in verse 17), in the flesh, he, by himself, without his back up, decides to follow his usual pattern. And he walks into the synagogue and starts talking about Jesus.
Let me make sure you are following what I am pointing out. He is in Athens, Greece. I am sure you studied it in school. This is after the Greek empire and after the Byzantine Empire and during the Roman Empire. So Athens, the birth place of Humanism and seeped in idolatry of Greek, Byzantine and Roman gods, and where principalities of humanism have strongholds, this is where Paul slips from walking in the spirit, from being guided by the spirit, and from dwelling in the spirit?! This is where Paul in a moment of righteous frustration let’s himself slip into the flesh. His anger and frustration was Godly but his actions in response were fleshly, or another word for fleshly is humanly… or maybe humanism-ish-ly? The flesh doing what it wants is the core or humanism – because humanism answer to its own flesh as the authority and not to God.
The spiritual battle play out, and Paul isn’t on the top of his game. An anointed speaker, whose words were clear and understandable and cut into the heart and God worked through it to change lives, Paul became instead a babbler with just one more new philosophy for them to change and adopt to suit their whims as they had with all the rest.

Now – for the other side of study. And another warning. Too much knowledge without the wisdom and life experience and revelation of Jesus – always leads to corrupt thinking, elevation of self, pride in your own knowledge, and your own speedy slippery slope into sin and death.  This is NOT a threat to most people as the general public does not study that much. DO I? I do, this is a real warning to me. I eat the meat and toss out the bones, but what if a bone gets stuck in my throat? You see?
So I tell you, be like Berea and double check me!  You all will know before I know if I slip down that path. SO, I have committed myself to the purity of the word in context NOT subject to my overthinking. If something is my opinion, speculation (my own or others), or common thoughts and they are NOT biblically founded (can’t site a chapter and verse on it) I will say so. I include them as a way to understand the larger picture – and I pray and trust the Holy Spirit to do the actual revealing of truth (since that is his job and not mine).

Back to Paul – at this point in the reading we find him with an audience of philosophers eager to hear, overthink, discuss (but mostly to hear themselves speak), and alter this new school of thought to suit themselves.  And Paul is ready to preach – BUT… he steps off script!! Over and over, he sticks to the pattern and gospel and quotes the old scriptures and suddenly we find him quoting poets and other philosophers. Besides going to the Jewish schools to become a Pharisee and studied in Jerusalem, before that, he was in Tarsus and a Roman, so he had studied Greek, byzantine, and Roman poetry, law and philosophy; so he knew it.
So, Paul, in the flesh, using humanism, to make a logical argument for a spiritual matter that can only be reveal by the Holy Spirit, preaches.
I have only once heard a preacher preach from this sermon. And it was not a lesson on humanism. He actually used this to make a self-help sermon and one of the points of his message was not to bother God with the stuff we should have fixed ourselves.   No. (To clear things up, DO TAKE EVERYTHING TO GOD. Even if we can fix it ourselves. (Phil 4:6 – “in everything” and Prov. 3:6 – “in ALL your ways”)

When Paul was finished some mocked and some didn’t. It was no great anointed sermon. It lacked. Only a few believed.

And it all centers around study – the Berea’s studied asking God for revelation and help and in Athens they studied too much of every whim and fleshly thing that tickled their ears, running past themselves as the humanistic authority, and came to the conclusion that Christianity does not benefit Self. They are right, it only glorifies the Father.  So the real warning is what are you filtering your studying through? When you study – are you discussing it with God or yourself? If you put God first, all things are added to you, including revelation, knowledge and wisdom. But if you are putting yourself first you will not have the deep meat revealed, you will lack understanding of the knowledge and since wisdom opposes the flesh, you will eagerly dispose of it.
God directed our studies to the wisdom books on weekend – please do not skip weekend readings, it is urgent we are wise and full of knowledge (revealed by Christ) in such a time as this! Study, not just for approval and life – but also to avoid destruction.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” Hosea 4:3 NKJV

***

Thank you for reading in 2022 – a Year of Wisdom and Salvation
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

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