Commentary on Acts 17.4-7

By Bob Myhan

4 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. 5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, 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. 

Some but, apparently, not many of the Jews were persuaded that Jesus was the Christ. These “joined Paul and Silas” (“Literally, ‘they threw in their lot with Paul and Silas,’” Gareth L. Reese: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Acts, p. 613). Again, “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Messiah.” The “devout Greeks” were worshipers of the One True God, but not proselytes. They seem “to have been sympathizers with Judaism, who attended the worship of the synagogue, but were not circumcised. It was among this class that the gospel made its first converts among the Gentiles. Those who were fully proselytes were probably as fanatical opponents of Christianity as were the Jews” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).

As usual, “the Jews who were not persuaded” envied Paul and Silas for their influence on these “devout Greeks” and “leading women” and used “evil men from the marketplace” (whom they had not been able to convert to the worship of the One True God) to do what they themselves would do but for a lack of courage. This demonstrates the depths to which an individual will go when he is religious for the wrong reasons. These Jews were of that sort that Paul later described as having been circumcised for naught.

You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you," as it is written. For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Rom. 2.23-29)

6 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. 7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king--Jesus.”

Being deprived of the opportunity to vent their envy and anger on those whom they held responsible, they turned their attention to Jason and others who had been converted. The accusation that the disciples of Christ had “turned the world upside down” was false. The world was already “upside down” due to sin. The preaching of the gospel was designed to turn the world “right side up” again. The charge they now bring to “the rulers of the city” was the very charge the enemies of Jesus brought to Pilate (John 19.12-15). The truth is that the Jews, as a whole, had wanted to be nothing more than a geo-political kingdom since the time of Samuel (1 Sam. 8.1-22). They had tried to make of Jesus such a king but He resisted their effort (John 6.15). But, as He told Pilate, His kingdom was “not of this world.”

Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered him, "Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?" Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."  (John 18.33-37)

They wanted a king who would deliver them from Roman oppression but He came to deliver them from sin (John 8.31-36). Not wanting to admit to being servants of sin they pledged allegiance to Rome, rather than accept the authority of Jesus over them (John 19.15).

(To be continued)

A Study of the Holy Spirit (Part 36)

By Bob Myhan

The “fruit of the Spirit" is collective not singular or plural. There are nine “pieces” of the collective “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23). It begins where the "Christian graces" end--with "love." Why is this? It is probably because Peter is dealing with the Christian's character as he maintains his separation from the world, while Paul is dealing with how Christians interact with one another (see Gal. 5:13). Thus, while Christian character, when contrasted with worldliness, culminates in love, Christians’ treatment of one other begins with love. But the word, “love,” does not always mean the same thing in our English translations of Scripture. The Greeks had at least four words for love. In seeking to understand any passage on the subject it is necessary to know which word and, therefore, which meaning attaches.

Eros – “This is characteristically the word for love between the sexes, for the love of a man for a maid; it always has a predominantly physical side, and it always involves sexual love” (William Barclay, Flesh and Spirit, p. 63). This word is not found in the New Testament. Philia – “This is the highest word in secular Greek for love. It describes a warm, intimate, tender relationship of body, mind and spirit” (Ibid, p. 64), such as the love between David and Jonathan (2 Sam. 18:1). Storgé – “This is the word of family love, for the love of the parent for the child and the child for the parent, for the love of brothers and sisters and of kith and kin” (ibid). It is only used with a negative prefix, in the New Testament, to point out some who were without it. (Rom. 1:31) Agapé – “A new word to describe a new attitude to others, an attitude born within the Christian fellowship, and impossible without the Christian dynamic” (ibid). According to Vine (pp. 702, 703), it is used "to describe the attitude of God toward His Son ... the human race, generally ... and to such as believe on the Lord Jesus, particularly." It is also used "to express the essential nature of God" (1 John 4:8). It "is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor ... spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered." Rather, it "seeks the welfare of all." It is with this word that we are concerned at present.

The ability to speak in a multitude of languages could not make up for a lack of love (1 Cor. 13:1). The ability to prophesy, understand all mysteries, know all things, and to perform miraculous feats could not make up for a lack of love (1 Cor. 13:2). Giving all your goods to feed the poor and giving your body to be burned cannot make up for a lack of love (1 Cor. 13:3).

(To be continued)