GETTING THE MESAGE/Acts 17:1-15
In Acts 17 the gospel begins to spread in Macedonia. Paul and Silas are undoubtedly still bruised and battered from the beating they received in Philippi, but they press on to the city of Thessalonica, the capital of Macedonia.
There was a large Jewish population in Thessalonica, so Paul goes to the synagogue and he “reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2) for three Sabbaths. His approach was Christocentric. He used the Old Testament Scriptures to show that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and be raised from the dead and that Jesus is the Christ written of in the Scriptures (verse 3).
Why was it necessary for Christ to suffer and die? Paul’s first point was that his death was written of in Scripture. In other words, it was according to the divine plan. Often in the gospels we read of Jesus doing or saying something, and then we read that it was to fulfill a particular prophesy in the Old Testament. So Paul is simply aligning the acts of Jesus with the Old Testament.
Also, it was necessary he suffer and die due to the condition of mankind. The Scriptures teach of the ruin on mankind. The world is under the judgment and curse of God because of sin. So the prophet Isaiah doesn’t simply predict that the Christ will die, he says that all have sinned, each one has gone his own way. The reason for Christ’s death is that God has laid the iniquity of us all upon him (Isaiah 53).
Second, it was necessary Christ suffer and die because none but him could obtain life for us. We cannot obtain it by ourselves, in our own strength, or by way of our own righteousness. Nothing we do can procure for us life with God.
The entire world couldn’t procure life for one person. If all the men in my city loved me to such a degree they were willing to offer to be crucified for my sake, it would be to absolutely no purpose. Instead of satisfying for all my sins, they couldn’t satisfy for one. They can’t pay anything of the debt I owe to God due to sin.
Sin is an offense to God, and divine justice must be satisfied. The penalty for sin is death. The suffering and righteousness of none but Christ could have been sufficient and satisfactory. He paid all that justice demanded, and God is well pleased with his sacrifice. And that is the reason salvation is found in no other name under heaven but Christ.
Another reason that it was necessary for Christ to suffer and die is for the glory of God. The redemption of sinners by Christ glorifies God in a greater way than creation. Creation was God making something out of nothing. It is less distance from nothing to everything than it is from sin to righteousness.
In a sinful state there is opposition and enmity with God. Christ brings his people out of a sinful state to become heirs of heaven, the dwelling place of God. The Son of God redeemed us by abasing himself. He came to expiate the pride of man- not simply as an example of humility but by taking the curse of sin upon himself in their stead. A soul who comes to the crucified Christ for salvation must lay his pride aside and glorify God.
In our passage we see that Paul sticks to Scripture. His approach is systematic. He makes careful arguments from the Scripture. He appeals to the reasoning of his audience. When he is driven out of Thessalonica and travels to Berea, he finds that the Bereans searched the Scriptures after hearing him to “see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). They set a worthy example for us.
We need to know and examine ourselves by the Scriptures. Not a jot of Scripture will fail. God speaks all these words. God will make every warning in his word good. Whoever does not believe in Christ will perish, according to the word of God.
Whatever sin is condemned in Scripture is condemned by God. Whatever is promised in Scripture is promised by God. If anyone is ashamed of Christ, Scripture says they will be condemned at the judgment. Whoever Scripture shuts out of heaven, God will shut out of heaven. So read and listen to God’s word. And keep close to Christ.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.