Mixed Results: Paul stirs up acclaim, scorn or riots
Acts 17:18 Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?”
Jesus told a parable about a farmer sowing seed (Matthew 13:3–9)). Some seed falls on rocky places, some among thorns and some on fertile ground. This chapter, which reviews events from Paul’s second journey, demonstrates that he, the first foreign missionary, encounters all these responses in quick succession.
In Thessalonica Paul’s visit sparks a riot. The next town, Berea, proves far more receptive. After studying the Scriptures to test Paul’s message, many believe, both Jews and non-Jews. Yet agitators from Thessalonica soon stir up trouble there as well, for Paul is often trailed by hostile opponents seeking to disrupt his work.
Showdown in Athens
In the sophisticated university city of Athens, Paul faces perhaps his most daunting missionary challenge. This renowned city of philosophers subjects each new thinker to a grueling intellectual ordeal. Local philosophers, full of scorn for Paul, haul him before the Aeropagus, a philosophical council that oversees religion and morals.
Confident that the new faith can compete in the marketplace of ideas, Paul stands before the skeptical audience and, in a burst of eloquence, delivers an extraordinary speech to a gathering of philosophers and thinkers. Apparently, he meets with little success, and the results trouble him.
Paul gains few converts among the elite Athenians, but he next travels to the city of Corinth and founds a church remarkable for its ethnic diversity. Some scholars believe that the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians describe the aftereffects of his experience in Athens.
When talking with your friends and acquaintances about the gospel, what kind of approach do you find works best?