Missionaries in Macedonia
August 20th, 1978 @ 7:30 PM
MISSIONARIES IN MACEDONIA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-20-78 7:30 p.m.
It is with gladness that we welcome the thousands of you who are listening to this service on the radio of the Southwest, KRLD, and locally on the radio of our Bible Institute, KCBI. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message, which tonight is a homily, a verse by verse exposition of the first 12 verses of the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts. In our preaching through this wonderful record of the works of the Holy Spirit, we have come to chapter 17. And now, with your Bible open, read the text out loud with me, the first twelve verses of Acts chapter 17. Wherever you are, if you have a Bible, read it out loud with us. There is a great throng in God’s house this evening here in Dallas, and we shall read it aloud with you. Now all of us together, Acts chapter 17, the first twelve verses, together:
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days 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.
And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.
But 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.
And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.
And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
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; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
The title of the message is Missionaries, Messengers in Macedonia.
The sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts closed with Paul and Silas beat and in prison [Acts 16:23-24]. And as they prayed and glorified God and sang hymns, the Lord God took that jail and that whole town and shook it [Acts 16:25-26]; and following after, the wonderful conversion of the Philippian jailer [Acts 16:27-34]. So the authorities of the city, having beat them, being Roman citizens, having beat them without trial, were very happy to bow them out of the colony city of Philippi, and to see them depart [Acts 16:35-40]. Well, when the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts begins, having been beaten, and having been invited out of the city, they leave. So, they walk the distance of thirty-three miles from Philippi to Amphipolis; but they don’t preach [Acts 17:1]. You might think these warriors have ceased their battles for the Lord. They have laid down their arms. The persecution and the flogging and the imprisonment that they met in Philippi has been too much; they have renounced the faith. They go through Amphipolis, and there is no message. Then they walk the thirty miles to Apollonia, and again there is no message; there is no preaching [Acts 17:1]. Surely they have ceased, to anoint their wounds and to lick their stripes. The antagonism and the repudiation of their message by the world is too much for them. These embattled warriors of Jesus have met the foe, and they have been defeated; they have quit.
Then they walk the distance of thirty-seven miles further and come to the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia, Thessalonica. Ah. We were mistaken: for there in Thessalonica is a synagogue of the Jews [Acts 17:1]. It was this that the apostle was seeking, these who had been grounded in the law of Moses, and who knew the Writings and the Prophets, who were seeds that God could germinate into a fruit to the glory of Christ. And his heart burning within him, the apostle enters into the synagogue of the Jews in this capital city of Macedonia. “And as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures” [Acts 17:1-2]. That is a magnificent portrayal of the habits of a man. “As his manner was,” he went to church. I find that same way in the Lord Jesus, in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke: “As His custom was, He went to the synagogue; and they laid in His hand the prophet Isaiah,” and unrolling the scroll, He read to them out of that glorious messenger from heaven [Luke 4:16-19].
You will find when you study the life of those early Christians that they lived in the church. They were not casual visitors; they did not come inadvertently. But they came with great dedication and purpose and habit and custom. That is how a Christian ought to be. It is second nature with us to walk through the door into the house of the Lord, and to sit down with God’s people. It is our way of life. So Paul, “as his manner was, went in unto them, and for three Sabbath days…” that is a good portrayal of the acceptance of the rabbinical learning and the marvelous preaching of this man Paul. For three consecutive Sabbath days in that synagogue in which he was a stranger, he delivered the message of the Lord, “reasoning with them out of the Scriptures” [Acts 17:2] That is absolutely one of the finest definitions of what true preaching ought to be that you could find in language: “reasoning with them out of the Scriptures” [Acts 17:2]. The preacher, with an open Bible in his hand, stands in a strong castle and a mighty fortress, one that has been fashioned by the Lord God Himself. If the preacher fashions his own message, if he invents his own sermon, he stands in a bower of paper: any little flame will burn it up, and any little breeze will blow it away. But a preacher that stands with the Word of God in his hands stands upon an immovable and impregnable rock. This was the apostle Paul. As he went up the cities of Palestine and Asia and Europe, he carried with him a message from heaven; not one he invented, but one that was written out for him in the Holy Word.
Blessed is that preacher who stands before his people with an open Bible, and reasons with them out of these blessed Scriptures. Many passing interests of the day, many things of a peripheral and temporal and transitory nature that could be discussed, but what about the eternal Word of God? That is the assignment of the preacher.
I stumbled into one of the unusual things that happened to me in visiting with a young husband, whose wife was a faithful member of our church, but he had no interest whatsoever. In obedience to her earnest appeal, I talked to the young fellow about the Lord and about coming to church. So he said, “Would you like for me to be honest with you?”
I said, “Why, certainly.”
“Well,” he said, “I’ll tell you exactly why I don’t come to church: I don’t like to hear you preach.”
Well, I said, “That is,” whatever, “that surely is frank,” I said, “and honest. I appreciate it. But,” I said, “just for interest, why is it that you don’t like to hear me preach?”
Well, he said, “I’ll tell you exactly why. I have been there several times with my wife, and every time I have been there all you have done is preach out of the Bible. That is all you do.”
Well, I said, “What do you expect me to do?”
“Well,” he said, “when I go to church, I like to hear a preacher talk about politics, and about economics, and about current events, and about all of the things of the day. But when I go to church and you preach—all you preach is the Bible.”
“Well,” I said, “young fellow, I don’t blame you for not liking to hear me preach. Because when you go to church, you’ll never come just to hear a lecture on economics, or politics, or transient current events that happen to have a newspaper headline in the day. It’ll be a message from the Book.”
Well, I think that is what the preacher is called to do, he is an echo. He doesn’t invent his sermon; it is written out for him in the Holy Scriptures, and he is a voice crying in the wilderness, “This is the way of the Lord!” And that is exactly what it has said here: “Paul, as his manner was, went into the synagogue, and for three Sabbath days he reasoned with the people out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging…” [Acts 17:2-3]. Those are two interesting words; dianoigō, which means “to fully disclose, to open fully.” Let me show you a use of that word in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Those two disciples on the way to Emmaus—Cleopas and the other unnamed—a stranger got in step with them and began to talk to them about the Word of God [Luke 24:13-16].
And when they came to the eventide and to their home in Emmaus, they invited Him to break bread with them. And as they sat at the table, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake it; and their eyes were opened, and they knew it was the Lord, and He vanished out of their sight. And the one said to the other—
Do you remember what He said?—
Did not our hearts burn within us, while He talked to us by the way, and as He dianoigō, as He opened to us the Scriptures?
That’s the most, to a child of God that is one of the most moving and fulfilling of all of the experiences of life, to listen to the opening of the Scriptures, the deep, wonderful, marvelous, heavenly, saving things of God. Dianoigō, opening and alleging; paratithēmi—para means “alongside,” tithēmi means “to place”—paratithēmi, placing alongside, translated here “alleging.” That is referring to the apostle Paul as he brought proofs for the deity, and the kingship, and the saviorship of the Lord Jesus, “Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs suffer, and be raised from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ” [Acts 17:3].
You see, the sword has a point to it; the sermon has an appeal in it; he is preaching for a verdict, “Opening and alleging, that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ” [Acts 17:3]. God be praised for a man who delivers his message with an appeal, “Believe in the Lord Jesus!” [Acts 16:31]. And God be praised when the Holy Spirit sanctifies and hallows the Word, and the man replies, answers, “My Lord and my God!” [John 20:28]. That is the purpose of preaching. That is the purpose of our assembly and worship: that people, lost people, might come to know the Lord.
As John the apostle closes his twentieth chapter of the Gospel, “These things are written, said, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ . . . and that believing you might have life in His name” [John 20:31]. That’s marvelous! That’s why the Book, that’s why the testimony, that’s why the sermon, that’s why the convocation of God’s people: that the lost might come to know the Lord.
This is an old thing that I have heard many times said, and I think it’s true because I have read both the men extensively. There were two glorious, world famous preachers in London in the last century. One was named Joseph Parker—absolutely one of the most brilliant men who ever lived—you can read his messages; they scintillate, they sparkle, he is brilliant. And the other, of course, was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, whom I read all the time. Well, it was said a man went to hear Joseph Parker and went away saying, “What a great and a mighty preacher.” And then this same man went to hear Charles Haddon Spurgeon and went away and said, “What a great and a glorious Savior!” That’s the purpose of preaching: that we might exalt the Lord Jesus; and then when people turn aside, that they say in their hearts, “Isn’t it wonderful what Jesus is, what He does, what He means?” Preaching this Jesus is the Christ [Acts 17:3].
Now, those who did not believe created a turmoil and trouble in the city and not finding the preachers, they took this man Jason [Acts 17:5-6]. That is just the Greek way of spelling Joshua, so I suppose he was a Jew. They assaulted his house because he had opened it for these guests, these preachers, and not finding them, they haled him before the politarchs, the rulers of the city. And they say to those politarchs—these elders and councilmen of the city—they say, “These men do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus” [Acts 17:7].
Now we have heard that before, haven’t we? Their preaching that there is another king, one Jesus; yes, we have heard that. When they arrested the Lord Jesus and haled Him before Pontius Pilate, they said, “This Man is a traitor, and He is guilty of sedition; for He says that He is a king. And we have no king but Caesar!” [John 19:12-15]. And Pilate, looking at that thorn-crowned, bloody, beaten, despised, spit upon, and outcast Nazarene, turned to Him and said, “Art Thou a king?” And the Lord replied, “Thou sayest that I am a king,” the strongest affirmative that the Greek language is capable of avowing, “Yes, thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this purpose came I into the world” [John 18:37]. He is a King, and He died a King. The superscription they placed over His cross read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING” [Matthew 27:37].
And when Paul preached, look at 1 and 2 Thessalonians—he is there in Thessalonica preaching—and in 1 and 2 Thessalonians he is writing what he preached; every chapter ends with the coming again of the Lord. And every chapter discusses the kingly return of our Savior, the Lord Jesus. He is not a king of sedition, He is not a king of insurrection, He is not a king of enemy and devastation and destruction; but He is a King of glory, and of salvation, and of truth, and of peace. He is Jesus, a King.
So when they had taken security of Jason [Acts 17:9], they made him post bond, “for the good conduct of his guests.” Why, “The brethren took Paul and Silas by night, and sent them unto Berea” [Acts 17:10], fifty miles away. They are magnificently described, “These in Berea were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind” [Acts 17:11]. More noble; not referring to their birth, their breeding, but more noble in that they listened intently, eagerly, hungrily. Isn’t that a magnificent thing, to listen? No one ever had a silver tongue who first did not have a golden ear. It is a gift from God, I think, to listen. It takes two to make a sermon: somebody to preach, but somebody must listen. Expectancy turns into inspiration; and it is the quiet, earnest, hungry listening of a congregation that brings the best out of a preacher.
I think there is a reason why this pulpit is far famed: the people come and reverently, earnestly, they open their hearts and their ears to the Word of the Lord. You sweet people, you cannot know how the fullness of God overwhelms me when I stand here and look at you, and feel the intensity of your listening to an exposition of a passage of God’s Word.
Noble, “They received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so” [Acts 17:11]. That is what true worship is; from the Book to the preacher, and from the preacher to the Book, and in the Book to the context. Is the message according to the revealed Word of God? Is this what the Spirit says to the people? “Therefore, therefore, many of them believed; honorable women and men, not a few” [Acts 17:12], therefore, what a magnificent and logical conclusion, “Therefore, many of them believed,” having searched the living Word of God.
My dear people listen to me: if the faith is built upon the personality of the preacher—they have been swept away by oratory, or by the fame of the evangelist, or by some other human denominator—their faith is a rope of sand; it dissolves so quickly. But if the faith is in Christ and in the Word of the living God, in this Holy Book, however its minister, or the preacher, or the evangelist, it is like cables of steel: it anchors us to God forever and ever. “The flower fadeth, the grass withereth, but the word of God shall stand forever!” [Isaiah 40:8]. What a wonderful thing to build your soul, and your life, and your faith, and your destiny, and every tomorrow upon the infallible, unchanging, inspired Word of the living God [2 Timothy 3:16]; and that is our invitation to you.
The thousands of you who have listened on radio, tonight, believing the witness of the Holy Scriptures to Jesus our Lord; to receive Him, even as God hath anointed Him King of the world, Savior of our souls, the coming Prince, and may He be that in your heart and your life tonight. “This evening, pastor, joyfully, gladly, I open my heart to the blessed Savior [Romans 10:9-13]; and I’m coming. I want to be baptized, just as it says in the Holy Book [Matthew 28:19], I want to be baptized.” Or having believed and having been baptized, “Pastor, we are coming, placing our lives in the circumference and communion and fellowship of this wonderful church.”
Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand coming down that aisle, walking down one of those stairways. If you are in the last seat of the topmost balcony, there is time and to spare, come. God bless you in the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Moving on from Philippi
A. Having been beaten,
hurt, Paul and Silas leave the city(Acts 17:1)
1. They do not
stop in Amphipolis or Apollonia to preach
2. Have these
soldiers of the cross laid down their arms?
B. Walk further to
Thessalonica, to the synagogue there
1. As his manner
was, Paul went to church(Acts 17:2, Luke
a. Early Christians lived
at the church
2. He reasons with themout
of the Scriptures(Acts 17:2)
Blessed is that preacher
II. The message preached
A. Opening and alleging(Acts 17:3-4)
– “to fully disclose, to open fully”(Luke
2. Paratithemi – “placing
alongside” proofs for deity of Jesus
B. Preaching for a
verdict – believe in the Lord Jesus(John 20:31)
III. Those who did not believe create
turmoil and trouble
house of Jasonlooking for these men who preach another king(Acts 17:5-7)
have heard this before – Jesus before Pilate(John
18:37, 19:12, 15)
preached King Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:14, 5:2,
23; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, 2:1-12)
IV. On to Berea(Acts
A. These were more
noble than those in Thessalonica (Acts 17:11)
1. They listened
2. They searched
B. Having listened and
searched, many of them believed(Acts 17:12)
1. Faith built
upon personality of preacher fades away