1. REASONING FOR THREE SABBATHS
a. After Philippi, describe the next mission of Paul and Silas. Acts 17:1–3.
“After leaving Philippi, Paul and Silas made their way to Thessalonica. They were there privileged to address a large concourse of people in the synagogue, with good effect. Their appearance bore evidence of their recent shameful treatment, and necessitated an explanation of what they had endured. This they made without exalting themselves, but magnified the grace of God, which had wrought their deliverance. The apostles, however, felt that they had no time to dwell upon their own afflictions. They were burdened with the message of Christ, and deeply in earnest in his work.
“Paul made the prophecies in the Old Testament relating to the Messiah, and the agreement of those prophecies with the life and teachings of Christ, clear in the minds of all among his hearers who would accept evidence upon the subject.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 81, 82.
“Paul was an Adventist; he presented the important event of the second coming of Christ with such power and reasoning that a deep impression, which never wore away, was made upon the minds of the Thessalonians.”—Ibid., p.83.
a. How was the message received in Thessalonica? Acts 17:4.
“As the truths of the gospel were thus proclaimed in Thessalonica with mighty power, the attention of large congregations was arrested.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 229.
b. Describe the way the enemy of souls manifested his jealous wrath—and what we today can learn from this experience. Acts 17:5–8.
“[The envious Jews] excited the passions of the worthless mob by cunningly devised falsehoods, and incited them to make an uproarious assault upon the house of Jason, the temporary home of the apostles. This they did with a fury more like that of wild beasts than of men. They had been instructed by the Jews to bring out Paul and Silas, and drag them to the authorities, accusing them of creating all this uproar, and of raising an insurrection.
“When they had broken into the house, however, they found that the apostles were not there. Friends who had apprehended what was about to occur, had hastened them out of the city. . . .
“Those who preach unpopular truth in our day meet with determined resistance, as did the apostles. They need expect no more favorable reception from a large majority of professed Christians than did Paul from his Jewish brethren. There will be a union of opposing elements against them; for however diverse from each other different organizations may be in their sentiments and religious faith, their forces are united in trampling under foot the fourth commandment in the law of God.
“Those who will not themselves accept the truth are most zealous that others shall not receive it; and those are not wanting who perseveringly manufacture falsehoods, and stir up the base passions of the people to make the truth of God of none effect. But the messengers of Christ must arm themselves with watchfulness and prayer, and move forward with faith, firmness, and courage, and, in the name of Jesus, keep at their work, as did the apostles. They must sound the note of warning to the world, teaching the transgressors of the law what sin is, and pointing them to Jesus Christ as its great and only remedy.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 84-86.
3. DEALING WITH DIFFERENT MINDS
a. What blessings were found at Berea—and how is this a lesson for us? Acts 17:10–12.
“Apostasies have occurred and the Lord has permitted matters of this nature to develop in the past in order to show how easily His people will be misled when they depend upon the words of men instead of searching the Scriptures for themselves, as did the noble Bereans, to see if these things are so.”—Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 394.
“Let every one who claims to believe that the Lord is soon coming, search the Scriptures as never before; for Satan is determined to try every device possible to keep souls in darkness, and blind the mind to the perils of the times in which we are living. Let every believer take up his Bible with earnest prayer, that he may be enlightened by the Holy Spirit as to what is truth, that he may know more of God and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Search for the truth as for hidden treasures, and disappoint the enemy. The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth. For it is the work of every one to whom the message of warning has come, to lift up Jesus, to present Him to the world.”—Ibid., bk.1, pp. 362, 363.
b. To what kind of place was Paul hurried away, and why? Acts 17:13–15.
“The city of Athens was the metropolis of heathendom. Here Paul did not meet with an ignorant, credulous populace, as at Lystra, but with a people famous for their intelligence and culture. Everywhere statues of their gods and of the deified heroes of history and poetry met the eye, while magnificent architecture and paintings represented the national glory and the popular worship of heathen deities. The senses of the people were entranced by the beauty and splendor of art. On every hand sanctuaries and temples, involving untold expense, reared their massive forms. Victories of arms and deeds of celebrated men were commemorated by sculpture, shrines, and tablets. All these made Athens a vast gallery of art.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 233, 234.
4. INTELLIGENT . . . YET DECEIVED
a. Describe Paul’s introduction to Athenian culture. Acts 17:16–21.
“In this great city, where God was not worshiped, Paul was oppressed by a feeling of solitude, and he longed for the sympathy and aid of his fellow laborers. So far as human friendship was concerned, he felt himself to be utterly alone. In his epistle to the Thessalonians he expresses his feelings in the words, ‘Left at Athens alone’ (1 Thessalonians 3:1). Obstacles that were apparently insurmountable presented themselves before him, making it seem almost hopeless for him to attempt to reach the hearts of the people.
“While waiting for Silas and Timothy, Paul was not idle. He ‘disputed . . . in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.’ But his principal work in Athens was to bear the tidings of salvation to those who had no intelligent conception of God and of His purpose in behalf of the fallen race. The apostle was soon to meet paganism in its most subtle, alluring form. . . .
“Some were prepared to ridicule the apostle as one who was far beneath them both socially and intellectually. . . .
“[Yet, all] who came in contact with him, soon saw that he had a store of knowledge even greater than their own. His intellectual power commanded the respect of the learned; while his earnest, logical reasoning and the power of his oratory held the attention of all in the audience. His hearers recognized the fact that he was no novice, but was able to meet all classes with convincing arguments in support of the doctrines he taught. Thus the apostle stood undaunted, meeting his opposers on their own ground, matching logic with logic, philosophy with philosophy, eloquence with eloquence.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 234-236.
b. What point is missed by environmental worshipers today? Acts 17:22–28.
“Of himself [man] cannot interpret nature without placing it above God. He is in a condition similar to that of the Athenians, who, amidst their altars dedicated to the worship of nature, had one inscribed: ‘To the unknown God.’ God was indeed unknown to them. He is unknown to all who, without the guidance of the divine Teacher, take up the study of nature. They will assuredly come to wrong conclusions.”—Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 257.
5. REALITY AND FOCUS
a. What appeal made to the Athenians is a sobering reminder to us who are entrusted with much greater light than they—and living as we are in the time of investigative judgment? Acts 17:29–31.
“Before any can enter the mansions of the blessed, their cases must be investigated, and their characters and their deeds must pass in review before God. All are to be judged according to the things written in the books and to be rewarded as their works have been. This judgment does not take place at death. Mark the words of Paul: ‘He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.’ Acts 17:31. Here the apostle plainly stated that a specified time, then future, had been fixed upon for the judgment of the world.”—The Great Controversy, p. 548.
b. How did Paul’s work in Athens conclude? Acts 17:32–34.
“At the close of his labors he [Paul] looked for the results of his work. Out of the large assembly [in Athens] that had listened to his eloquent words, only three had been converted to the faith. He then decided that from that time he would maintain the simplicity of the gospel. He was convinced that the learning of the world was powerless to move the hearts of men, but that the gospel was the power of God to salvation.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1062.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What can I learn from the apostles’ zeal after their pain in Philippi?
2. How will Paul’s general experience in Thessalonica soon be repeated?
3. What attitude found in Berea is vital for us today?
4. In what ways is society today similar to what existed in Athens?
5. What lesson learned by Paul in Athens do I need to learn as well?