The Jews Who Were Not Persuaded
Paul and Silas arrived in the metropolis of Thessalonica following an eventful stay in Philippi. For three Sabbaths, Paul reasoned with the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. He explained and demonstrated how Jesus had to die and be risen from the dead, proclaimed as Lord and Christ.
As with all of Paul's preaching, the reaction was mixed. On this occasion, "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." (Acts 17:4)
The greater portions of those who responded to the preaching of Jesus Christ were not Jews but Greeks. Also included was a number of leading women of the community.
Acts 17:5-9 shows the response that the community of Jews gave Paul's preaching. "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. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason andsome brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, 'These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king -- Jesus.' And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go."
The moral and spiritual state of the Jews had degraded to a religion of pomp and circumstance with little appearance to the people of God - a people who were supposed to be the chosen of God had become a mob of vengeful anarchist. They were so blinded by the keeping of the law they could not see the truths revealed to them through Jesus Christ.
Paul must have felt the frustration of the Jews who rejected Jesus as Christ. He had spent his early life in devotion to destroy the gospel of Christ. Now he was not attacking Christianity but seeking to bring all to the power of salvation. The Jews in Thessalonica would not be convinced of his arguments. He argued diligently and thoroughly proving Jesus to be the Christ. The only reason they would not agree is because of their own prejudices.
Paul so enraged them they decided to take matters into their own hands. The plan of the Jews was founded upon using evil men for their purpose. These were "vile fellows of the rabble." These are wicked men who filled their lives with evil pursuits. Why would a Jew want to associate with such rabble and even use them to carry out their work?
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 4:14-17, "Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence." These religious people used evil men to accomplish their own evil work. They got the whole city in an uproar and assaulted the house where they thought they might findPaul and Silas. They turned their hatred upon Jason and certain brethren and took them to the rulers of the city.
They accused Paul of "turning the world upside down" by his teaching. It should be noted that all Paul was doing was going into the Synagogue and preaching that Jesus was the Christ. Those who caused all the commotion and disturbance were the Jews who involved evil men in their scheme. The Jews knew they could not do anything to Paul without the backing of the Roman government. The true heart of the Jews came out in the next statement.
"These are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king -- Jesus." (Acts 17:7) The faithfulness of the Jews leaned more to the favor of Caesar than to the will of God. They had become so immersed in their ability to compromise for the sake of self preservation they could not hear what they were saying. The accusation against Paul was that he was not being faithful to a pagan who exalted himself above God. While the Jews denied Jesus to be the Son of God they gave more allegiance to Caesar than to the God they pretended to worship.
During the life of Jesus, He faced the same attack. "Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, 'We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.' Then Pilate asked Him, saying, 'Are You the King of the Jews?' He answered him and said, 'It is as you say.' So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, 'I find no fault in this Man.' But they were the more fierce, saying, 'He stirsup the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.'"
The same vicious mob that delivered Jesus up to be crucified seemed to be resurrected again in Thessalonica. Allegiance to a pagan king was put over the allegiance they should have given to Jesus Christ. At His crucifixion, they cried out, "Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar." (John 19:12)
The law of Moses plainly taught that allegiance is only to God and to God alone. The first commandment is stated: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:2,3) The Jews tried hard to find something against Jesus. "So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretendedto be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. Then they asked Him, saying, 'Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: 'Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?' But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 'Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?' They answered and said, 'Caesar's.' And He saidto them, 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.'" (Luke 20:20-26)
The Jews failed in their attempt to destroy to work of the Lord. They finally took security from Jason and the rest and let them go. Later, when they heard Paul was preaching in Berea, they went there (18 miles) and stirred up the crowds. They went to a lot of trouble to go that far to stop the preaching of Paul.
Prejudice was the blinded eye that caused the Jews to reject Jesus as King. They witnessed His miracles, heard His teachings and never found anything they could lay charge to Him with. As the gospel spread throughout the world, the same prejudice prevailed as they rejected the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Jews at Thessalonica were not a representation of all Jews as many turned to the Lord. Many held to their belief in the law of Moses and their own law of righteousness.
For man today, Jesus must be accepted as King and King alone. He is to be Lord of ones' life and allegiance must be given only to Him. We honor the king (1 Peter 2:17) and recognize government as established by God (Romans 13). However, our allegiance to the king ends when it invades our allegiance to God. (Acts 5:29)
The Jews of Thessalonica are not uncharacteristic of many today who turn a blind eye in prejudice to the truth of the gospel. They cannot be persuaded to the one way of salvation and the one way of truth. While the time is not come yet, a day will come when the church will once again suffer persecution from the hands of religious movements. As religion today becomes more andmore like the nations around them - accepting homosexuality, women preachers, laxity on laws of marriage and divorce - those who stand for the gospel of Christ will be targeted and abused.
The mind of the Jews of Thessalonica is not new nor is it old to believe it will never happen again. May we have the faith to stand as Jason did and boldly preach the truth as Paul and Silas continued to do. Let us rejoice in the ones who are persuaded. Many will be of the "heathen" class as Paul found among the Greeks as regarded by the Jews. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." (Romans 1:16)
By Kent E. Heaton, Sr.
From Expository Files 8.12; December 2001