Key Verse: 17:3
“...explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,’ he said.”
1. Why were Barnabas and Paul sent to Jerusalem? (15:1-5) What was the
evidence of God's work among the Gentiles? (4,12) How was the
matter resolved? (6-35; See 11:18) Why was this issue an important
2. Why did Paul and Barnabas separate? (15:36-41) Where did Paul and
Silas go first? Why? (15:40,41; 16:1,4,5) Who was Timothy? What
kind of person was he? (16:1,2; 2Ti 2:2) Why did Paul take him?
3. Trace Paul's second journey on a map. Why did Paul decide to go to
Macedonia? (Compare Acts 2:17) What was the importance of this
decision to Paul and to the world? (6-10)
4. Trace Paul's journey to Philippi. What kind of city was this? How
did Paul begin? How did God open the door? What can we learn from
5. Describe the event in 16:15-24. What does this event reveal about
the people of that city? How did Paul and Silas win a victory over
Satan, and how did God help them? What is real freedom? (2Co 3:17)
What happened to the jailor? To Paul? (25-40)
6. In most cities, where did Paul usually go first? What was the main
point of his Bible teaching? (17:1-3) Why did Jesus have to suffer?
(1Ti 1:15) What does it mean that he was raised? (Php 2:9-11) What
happened in Thessalonica? (17:1-9)
7. How were the people in Berea different from those in Thessalonica?
(17:10-15) Why was Paul distressed at the atmosphere in Athens?
(17:16) Where did he preach and what was his message? (17-21;
22-34) What was the result?
8. Read 18:1-22. Describe Paul's life and ministry in Corinth. Why and
how did the Lord encourage him? (8-10) Where and why did he get a
haircut? (12-22) What did it mean to Paul that Jesus is the Christ?
Today's passage covers the council at Jerusalem and Paul's entire
second missionary journey. In this passage the Jerusalem church accepts
Gentile believers as the same Christians as they are, overcoming their
traditions and cultural differences. Paul, on his second missionary
journey, does his best to explain why Jesus is Christ the Lord.
I. The Jerusalem Council (15:1-41)
In Acts chapter 10 God showed Peter through a vision that he should
accept Cornelius, a Roman officer and a Gentile, into the church; 10
years had passed. Through this vision Peter learned that he should
accept Gentiles into the church unconditionally, regardless of
circumcision, if they call on the name of Jesus (11:18). But it was
hard for most Jewish Christians to accept Gentiles as fellow
Christians, for to do so meant losing their pride as chosen people,
which had enabled them throughout history to overcome adverse
situations and grow as a strong people. So some of the mossbacked Jews
went to Antioch and taught, "Unless you are circumcised, according to
the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved" (1). It implied that
Gentiles should become Jews first, before becoming Christians. At the
same time, the Antioch Christians had begun an intensive campaign to
evangelize Gentiles without requiring circumcision. The Jerusalem
church could hardly find the solution to this problem. In the Jerusalem
Council, God through his Spirit let Peter and James give formal
approval that circumcision was not necessary for Gentiles to become
Peter said in verses 7b-9, "Brothers, you know that some time ago
God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips
the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed
that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did
to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified
their hearts by faith." This is the last mention of Peter in the book
of Acts. On the basis of the vision in chapter 10, Peter decided to
accept Gentiles as fellow Christians without requiring circumcision.
But James had to make the final decision, since he was the leader of
the Jerusalem church. He was the brother of Jesus himself. His
spiritual leadership was outstanding. They say he was so constant in
prayer that his knees were as hard as a camel's, because he had knelt
so often and for so long. How could a strict and orthodox Jew consort
with a Gentile? James, by the help of the Holy Spirit and based on the
Bible's teachings and on the facts of God's work at Antioch, agreed
with Peter's decision to accept Gentiles, suggesting certain
regulations for Gentiles to keep, such as abstaining from food
sacrificed to idols, from eating blood-stained meat or the meat of
strangled animals, and from sexual immorality (15:28-29). The Jerusalem
church leaders were indeed great men of God; they broke their pride as
the chosen people in order to accept Gentile Christians into the
Verses 36-41 mention the separation of Paul and Barnabas. Paul
wanted to visit the brothers in all the towns where they preached the
word of the Lord, to see how they were doing (36). For the journey,
Paul was not convinced that Mark, who had once deserted the company,
was qualified to be a partner (13:13). Paul was a man of principle. On
the other hand, Barnabas was a man of encouragement in any situation.
Barnabas was the one who had first invited Paul to Antioch to start
pioneering work. He admitted that he needed Paul's help to establish
the church. But now, Barnabas shows that he could do God's work without
Paul. So he separated from Paul. Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus.
Paul chose Silas and they left on the second missionary journey with
the prayers and support of the church.
II. Paul's vision of a man of Macedonia (16:1-40)
First, Paul's vision (1-10). Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra
where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Christian
Jewess and whose father was a Greek. Paul decided to take him along on
the journey, not because he was big leadership material but because he
was faithful (2Ti 2:2). In choosing coworkers, Paul saw faithfulness
as the most important quality, more than human ability. This is what
God saw when he chose Abraham and David. The same was true with Jesus
when he chose the Twelve. Paul's mission team traveled throughout the
region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from
preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the
border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus
would not allow them to (7). So they passed by Mysia and went down to
Troas. "During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia
standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us'" (9).
After Paul had seen the vision, they decided to leave for Macedonia,
concluding that God had called them to preach the gospel there (10).
Paul had thought that he should preach the gospel to Asian countries
first, where Satan's stomping noise was more vociferous. But God
planned to send him to European countries first. It was to conquer
Rome, so that the whole world could be conquered through Roman roads.
Here we remember Acts 2:17b "Your young men will see visions, your old
men will dream dreams." We must be men of God's vision, not petty
Second, Paul's one-to-one Bible study with Lydia at Philippi (11-15).
Paul's mission team put out to sea from Troas and sailed straight for
Samothrace, and the next day to Neapolis. From there they traveled to
Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of
Macedonia. From God's point of view, Paul was the commanding officer of
world evangelism. But he had no place to sit down and pray. So on the
Sabbath his mission team went outside the city gate to the river, where
they expected to find a place of prayer. When they sat down, they saw
several women who had gathered there. Obviously it was Paul who spoke.
One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple
cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord
opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and her
household were baptized, she invited them to her home. "If you consider
me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." In
this way God provided room and board for them overnight. Lydia became
the founder of the church at Philippi, Paul's first European church and
one of the most faithful churches. From this church Paul received
financial support while pioneering other churches.
Third, Paul and Silas sang in prison (16-40). Once when Paul's mission
team was going to the place of prayer, they were met by a slave girl
who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great
deal of money for her owners. She nagged Paul to heal her. Paul drove
out the spirit in the name of Jesus. Then her owners realized that
their income source was gone. They seized Paul and Silas and dragged
them into the marketplace to face the authorities. Paul and Silas were
stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were
thrown into prison (16-24).
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying for God's help and
singing hymns to God for thanksgiving, and the other prisoners were
listening. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the
foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors
flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and
when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword to cut himself to
death. Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" Then the
jailer exclaimed, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied,
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your
household" (25-31). We note several things here. Where there was a work
of God, there was a hindrance of Satan. We also see the powerful spirit
of Paul and Silas; in jail they could pray and sing, while the other
prisoners were groaning. Also, they were ready to preach the gospel
even to the jailer, despite their physical wounds. When the Spirit of
Jesus was with them, they were victorious. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says,
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there
III. The Lord spoke to Paul in a vision (17:1-18:22)
As we studied, Paul and Silas received physical abuse which required
at least one month of treatment and mental restoration. But Paul
continuously traveled around to reach out to the remaining cities on
the Greek peninsula. In this part Paul travels to Thessalonica, Berea,
Athens and Corinth.
First, the work of God in Thessalonica (17:1-9). When Paul's mission
team had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to
Thessalonica. There Paul went into a Jewish synagogue. What did Paul
teach at the synagogue? Paul taught two main points of the gospel:
First why Jesus had to suffer for our sins, and second, how God raised
Jesus from the dead and made him Christ the Lord. Look at verses 2,3.
"As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath
days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving
that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. 'This Jesus I am
proclaiming to you is the Christ,' he said." First Paul taught that the
Christ suffered for our sins. The Thessalonians had no concept of sin
because they lived on the animal level, like tigers or lizards. So Paul
reasoned, explained and proved that man is both body and spirit, that
man has both an animal nature and God's nature, that man's body is
mortal but his soul is immortal. These days many people suppress the
truth of God that man is both animal and divine, and they encourage
others to live only on the physical level. Likewise, it was not easy
for Paul to explain the concept of sin to such animal people.
Nonetheless, Paul did his best to reason with them that Jesus had to
suffer for man's sins. Here we learn that one who knows that he is a
sinner is already a great man. Paul knew what kind of sinner he was,
and who Jesus was. He said in 1 Timothy 1:15, "Here is a trustworthy
saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world
to save sinners--of whom I am the worst." When he said this, he really
Next, Paul reasoned and proved that God raised Jesus from the dead.
Jesus, the one and only Son of God, died for man's sins in obedience to
God's will for world salvation. Then God exalted Jesus, who obeyed his
will, to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every
name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on
earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus is
Christ the Lord (Php 2:9-11). All Christians must know how to explain
and prove based on the Scriptures why Jesus had to suffer for our sins,
and why Jesus is Christ the Lord, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Because of Paul's message, a large number of God-fearing Greeks
accepted Jesus as Christ the Lord.
What happened next? The Jews were jealous--so much so that they
rounded up some bad characters and together with them they accused Paul
of causing trouble all over the world, and of defying Caesar's decrees,
saying that there is another king, one called Jesus (5-9). They made
Jason a scapegoat, for he offered Paul's team hospitality.
Second, noble Bereans (17:10-15). Paul and Silas were sent away at
night. On arriving in Berea they went to the Jewish synagogue and
preached the gospel of Jesus, overcoming the hardships they had
received in Thessalonica. What was the Berean's response to Paul's
preaching? Obviously they had heard the bad news about Paul's mission
team, but they were not disturbed; they listened to Paul's message.
Look at verse 11. "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than
the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness
and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was
true." Noble people are those who study the Bible prayerfully.
Third, the work of God among the sophisticated people at Athens
(17:16-34). As we know well, Athens is the home of Hellenism and of
the world famous philosophers. Denying God's existence, the Athenians
started their thinking based on humanism. But when they did not fear
God, everything became an object of fear to them. So they made their
own kinds of gods and worshiped them. There were two groups of people:
one was the Epicureans, who, in contemporary terms, were "hedonists;"
the others were Stoics who were too moralistic. These Athenians were
curious about Paul's new ideas and wanted to hear him again. They spent
their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest
ideas, to please their ears. Paul stood up and said, "Men of Athens! I
see that in every way you are very religious...I even found an altar
with this inscription: 'To an unknown God.'" Paul then proclaimed that
God is the Creator, and that men, who are God's children, must seek
God, not idols (24-28). Men must not worship idols made by human hands,
but repent, so that they may be pardoned on the day when God will judge
the world with justice. Paul also preached the resurrection of Jesus.
But his preaching in accordance with the Athenian's way of thinking
(28) was not so effective. The Athenians mocked the resurrection,
though a few believed.
Fourth, the work of God in Corinth (18:1-22). Paul left Athens and went
to Corinth. There he met Aquila and Priscilla, who were tentmakers as
Paul was. After Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia to join him,
Paul devoted himself exclusively to testifying that Jesus is Christ the
Lord. But the opposition of the Corinthians was unbearable. Probably
Paul felt lonely and was afraid. But the Risen Christ visited him and
encouraged him. Look at verses 9,10. "One night the Lord spoke to Paul
in a vision: 'Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For
I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I
have many people in this city.'" So Paul stayed for a year and a half,
teaching them the word of God (11). Then Paul left Corinth accompanied
by Priscilla and Aquila. Leaving them in Ephesus, Paul went back to
Antioch. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because
of a vow he had taken.
In this passage we learn that in every place, to both Jews and
Gentiles, Paul proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ. May God help us to
explain and prove why Jesus had to suffer and why Jesus is Christ the