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A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

Keith Phillips

In Acts chapter 17 we read about apostle Paul’s first experiences in Thessalonica and Berea, two cities in what is modern-day Greece. Both cities had Jewish populations, synagogues, and apparently a number of prominent Greeks who had converted to Judaism.

In Thessalonica, “as was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said.”1 Some of his listeners were persuaded, but others were not. Those who weren’t stirred up persecution, and Paul and Silas fled to the nearby city of Berea.

Again Paul taught about Jesus at the local synagogue. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”2

In both cities Paul found people who believed in the one true God but realized there was more to Him than they knew or understood. This was why they gathered at the synagogue, to study and discuss matters of faith. Both groups of believers heard the same message from Paul, and both had the same resource for examining that message—the Holy Scriptures. What set the Bereans apart is that they “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

This was precisely what Paul was trying to accomplish with his “reasoning, explaining, and proving.” As he told another group of early believers, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”3 He didn’t want them to simply take his word for it; he wanted them to base their faith on personal conviction gained through the Spirit of God leading them to the answers they sought as they explored the Scriptures. 

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1 Acts 17: 2-3 NIV.

2 Acts 17:11 NIV.

3 1 Corinthians 2:4–5.