Paul at Thessalonica & BereaVolume 4, Number 33
Created Date: April 19, 2018
Posted Date: April 19, 2018
“Believe” in Acts: Part 15 - Paul at Thessalonica and Berea:
After a short hiatus to study for sermons presented on Palm and Easter Sundays, I’m back to our study of the 39 passages the Greek word “pisteu’o,” usually translated believe, are found in the book of Acts. We’ve already examined the 23rd and 24th occasions, both of which reference the Philippian jailer who, in, asked Paul and Silas what he needed to do to be saved and they answered him in “... Believe (23rd occasion) on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Then in , the Jailer and his household believed in God (24th occasion) and thus were saved unto eternal life. Paul and company left Philippi and traveled to Thessalonica where, as was Paul’s custom, he attended the Jew’s Synagogue and reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, , “Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” .
They only had the Old Testament (OT) then, wherein various passages foretell a suffering Messiah as well as a reining Messiah. Israel was anticipating and waiting for the reining Messiah to establish His Kingdom on earth and free them from oppression. However, they did not understand that the same Messiah would suffer, die, rise again and ascend into heaven before returning to judge the world and then reign as their King. The Apostle Paul’s message in the Synagogues was that Jesus of Nazareth was the Jew’s promised Messiah; He had fulfilled the OT prophesies about suffering and someday in the future He will fulfill the rest. It’s clear from the two epistles Paul subsequently wrote the Thessalonians that he taught them they did not need to fear the coming Judgement of God (Great Tribulation) because they were not appointed to that wrath because it will not occur until after the Church, the Body of Christ is caught up to heaven, 1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 5:11. Paul’s teaching of the pre-Tribulation rapture is part and parcel of the mystery/secret that God revealed exclusively to him,, .
“And some of them (the Thessalonian Jews) believed and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.”. The word believed here is not translated from the same Greek word (pisteu’o) we are studying. Instead, it is “peitho” (G3883) found 55 times in the New Testament (NT) where it is most frequently translated “persuade” (22 times); then 8 times as “trust;” 7 times “obey;” 6 times “have confidence” as well as “believe,” “agree,” “yield unto,” “wax confident,” etc. “Peitho” is found most often in Acts where it is translated “persuade” 9 times and “believe” 3 times. It appears the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to use “peitho,” translated “believe” here in Acts 17:4 to demonstrate that to be “persuaded,” to “trust,” to “have confidence” in God’s Word are elements of believing (pisteu’o) - because if we truly believe God’s Word from the heart, we are persuaded, we trust and have confidence in it. Therefore, from this passage in Acts along with Paul’s two epistles to the Thessalonians, it’s clear that some of the Jews as well as a great multitude of the Gentiles and “not a few” of the chief women in Thessalonica were believers, i.e., members of Body of Christ, just as believers are today.
But even though some of the Jews in Thessalonica believed, Acts 17:4a “... the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.”. (The words “believed not” are translated from another Greek word we will examine later.) The mob apparently was not able to locate Paul and Silas, but they hauled Jason and other believers before the rulers of the city, claiming they were against Caesar by preaching that Jesus was King. This troubled the rulers but they released Jason and those with him on bail, .
Paul and Silas were hustled out of Thessalonica and traveled to the town of Berea where they again entered the Jew’s Synagogue,. In Berea we learn “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore, many of them believed; (25th occasion of believe in Acts) also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.” . Note the difference between the Jews in Thessalonica and in Berea: only “some of the Jews” and many Gentiles in Thessalonica believed while the unbelieving Jews there caused an uproar and assault. On the other hand, in Berea “many of the Jews” believed while “not a few” of the Gentiles did so and there is no mention of unbelieving Berean Jews stirring up trouble. The Jews in Berea were intimately familiar with the OT Scriptures; they read them every Sabbath in the Synagogue and when Paul reasoned with them they searched the OT Scriptures daily, comparing them to what Paul was teaching about their Messiah. As a result, they believed.
But a question arises about the Jews in Berea being "more noble," Acts 17:11, than the Jews in Thessalonica? The two words "more noble" are translated from the Greek word “yoog-en’-ace” (G2104) found only 3 times in the NT. Best practice is to let Scripture interpret the meaning of Words used therein so let’s look at the other two passages in the NT where “yoog-en’-ace” is used. Jesus Himself used it in a parable the first time it’s found in the NT; “He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.”. It’s obvious the nobleman about which Jesus spoke was He Himself. From this we get the idea a nobleman was a person of high estate - a ruler. The last time “yoog-en’-ace” is used is by the Apostle Paul; “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:” .
Thus, the Holy Spirit’s description of the Jewish Bereans as being “more noble” than those in Thessalonica appears to mean they occupied a higher position in life, they were noble or honorable, so were more sophisticated and learned than those in Thessalonica. They were adept at searching the OT Scriptures, which they did to determine whether what Paul was teaching about The Lord Jesus Christ was true. However, Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 1:26, that those noble believing Bereans were in a category of people from which not many are called into the Body of Christ “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”. Since the time of Paul, almost 2000 years now, history teaches there have been many more Gentiles than Jews who have come to believe Paul’s gospel and thus are in the Body of Christ, just as there have been more common men and women added to Christ’s Body then those of high estate.
But whether common or of high estate, all have been saved by the Grace of God upon belief in the Gospel preached by the Apostle Paul. But all believers should take a cue from the Bereans by studying the Scriptures, which now are complete, to determine whether what is being taught or preached by someone is true. Today, all Scripture must be viewed through the prism of Paul’s epistles,and he reiterates the Berean’s practice for us: “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” .
We have no record of an epistle written by Paul to the noble, sophisticated Bereans but we have two that he wrote to those of lowlier estate, the Thessalonians. With this in mind we should re-read both first and second Thessalonians. Here, we only have space to reflect on how he opened his first letter to the them: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything.”.