Today’s Chocolate: Parra Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: Acts 17
You probably know Acts 17 for Paul’s sermon at Mars Hill. It’s a brilliant piece of apologetics, meeting the Greek population of Athens right where it is, starting from what’s laudable in their religious practices and leading those interested step-by-step to the truth of Christ’s resurrection. Here in Cincinnati, Mars Hill lends its name to a K-12 Christian private school, though when it comes to Mars Hill namesakes, you’re more likely to know of Mark Driscoll’s controversial and now-defunct Seattle-based megachurch. The earlier portions of Acts 17 really just kinda work the spotlight as the Mars Hill sermon takes center stage; after all, apart from the sermon, most of the chapter is just Paul going here and there. But let’s consider his here-and-there-going.
After Paul’s conversion in chapter 9, it seems like much of Acts is just Paul going to a new place, making some new converts, and then getting the heaven out of Dodge as those who didn’t receive the gospel turn hostile on him. Sometimes the enemies he made in one town follow him to the next, as happens here: “But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds” (13). And while Greeks and Romans make their share of trouble for our missionaries, Paul’s pursuers from previous towns tend to be jealous Jews.
Great, now I’m going to get mired in defending the New Testament from charges of anti-Semitism, aren’t I? Look, there was no shortage of Jewish converts. The first Christians were Jewish. Jesus was Jewish. Paul was an ardent Pharisee, and continued to identify as one even after his conversion! Don’t misread Luke. Let’s get back to the point.
The point is that, in the trend I’m seeing, Paul usually leaves a town when the populace turns hostile toward him. And it’s this aggressive pressure that keeps the gospel spreading throughout the first-century world. Imagine how it would go if Paul and whoever was traveling with him at any given time didn’t have to flee for their lives on account of the gospel. Would it have spread so explosively?
Maybe. But I’m disinclined to think so. Just imagine how bad things would be if things were never bad. Admittedly, I’m not thrilled that struggle is necessary for growth, but given that it is, let’s make the best of it.