Sermon: The Paradox of a Dead Savior? Acts 17:1-9

The Paradox of a Dead Savior?

Acts 17:1-9

Introduction

Paul and Silas have left the City of Philippi, having been told to leave by the Magistrates and as they leave, they stop by Lydia’s house and tell everyone goodbye.  Luke stays having been left there by Paul to help the fledgling church grow in doctrine and in grace.  The rest move on heading to another major city in Macedonia, namely, Thessalonica.

TT- It was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead
Human need met by text

Beloved, we must come to grips with the very weighty truth that our sin is so wicked and offends God so terribly that it took the sinless Savior Jesus the Messiah to atone for it.  It seems that sometimes we don’t think our sin is all that bad.

Acts 17:1-9 (ESV)
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.
2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.
5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd.
6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,
7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”
8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things.
9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

1. Some Were Persuaded

A verse of Scripture we have highlighted on our website, presentations and our literature is John 17:3…

John 17:3 (ESV)
3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
We must know God through Jesus Christ and we must know that the only true God sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth as a ransom for many.   We know God and we understand that the true God sent our Savior.  Jesus tells us that this faith equals eternal life.  Eternal life is knowing God and knowing Jesus whom He sent.  If a person claims to be in a right relationship with God but doesn’t believe that He sent Jesus and that Jesus is the Savior and that we only come to God through Jesus then this person is either delusional or lying.
If these Grecian Jews in Thessalonica are to be converted there is something that has to change.  Their view of the Messiah has to be corrected.  They have a faulty view of who the Messiah is and what He has done.

1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.
2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.
The first thing we should notice in the beginning of this passage is that once Paul and the others arrived in Thessalonica, they made a bee-line to the synagogue.  We’ve mentioned before that at the synagogue, Paul would find people who were worshippers of God and who knew the Scriptures.  They would have a foundation on which Paul could build.  What he would need to do is to fill in the blanks.

They were the ones waiting for the promised Messiah.  They were the ones praying everyday that God would send the Christ to Israel.

So, what Paul needed to do is show them that Jesus was, in fact, the One God had promised to send.

He went about this in a very amazing way.  He practiced what theologians call apologetics…
Luke writes that it was three Sabbaths that Paul went to the synagogue in Thessalonica and spoke.  The content is also given to us.  He took the Scriptures and used them as the foundation for what he was to teach.  The Jews could not get past the idea that their Messiah would be killed.  A dead Messiah was inconceivable.  In their minds a the Messiah had so much to do that the fact that Jesus was put to death was proof that He could not be the Messiah.  Notice what the basis of Paul’s teaching was… it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

His teaching was on the fact that the Messiah had to die to accomplish everything He was sent to accomplish.  If the Messiah did not die then He could not be the Messiah, just the exact opposite of what they were taught and believed.

Taking a people who have believed something all their lives and telling them they are wrong and then giving them something else to believe takes some doing.  I think it is valuable to see just how Paul went about sharing with those in Thessalonica that Jesus is the Messiah.

A.  Reasoned with them…

2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
διελέξατο-  This means that Paul literally dialogued with those in the synagogue in a type of question and answer style.  He would present an Old Testament passage about the Messiah and then they would discuss it together.

B.  3 Explained…

Διανοίγων- To open up… this word was used when Jesus was walking along with those on the road to Emmaus…
Luke 24:32 (ESV)
32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

            C.   Proved…

3 explaining and proving
παρατιθέμενος- From the OT Paul was providing proof that these things were so.  He was proving to these Grecian Jews that what they had learned from the OT was true and that now what they pointed to is fulfilled perfectly in the Person of Jesus Christ.

            D. Proclaimed…

it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

Paul not only taught, reasoned, proved, explained, but he preached Christ.  He wanted them to know that what they were called to believe is not made up fables or myths and that a crucified Messiah makes perfect sense once you understand the background prophecies contained in the OT and understand what was accomplished through His death in the NT.

Paul, himself, was a prime example of a Hebrew who knew the OT but didn’t know Christ.  It took Jesus to open his eyes to the truth.

2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (ESV)
5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

I want you see something here in how Paul explains who Jesus is.  Everything he shows them comes from the Scriptures.  Paul did not share his opinion with them; he didn’t take a poll or teach human wisdom.  He explained who Jesus is by using the Bible, specifically, by using the OT.  This shows what Paul’s view of Scripture was.  According to Paul the Bible is the place we seek to get our answers.  He believed in the Authority, Clarity, and Sufficiency of the Bible.  What the Bible says, God says.

So we see where Paul got his authority, namely God’s Word.  We see where his information came from, now let’s look to what he taught them in those three weeks or so they were in Thessalonica…

it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying,

The promised Messiah had to die and had to rise from the dead.  Remember the Jews struggled with the idea that their long awaited Messiah would come and before He could liberate them, be killed.  That was the stumbling block for them.

What Paul does here in Thessalonica is almost the exact thing Jesus did as He walked with the two sad worshippers on the Road to Emmaus…
Jesus’ death was necessary…
Luke 24:13-27 (ESV)
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,
14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.
16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.
18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.
21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.
22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning,
23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.
24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Please understand. It’s not merely the facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection that Paul focused on; it was also the fact that both of these were necessary.  The fact that Jesus died on the cross, being put to death by the hands of sinful men and then rising again on the third day is a stumbling block to the Jews…
1 Corinthians 1:22-25 (ESV)
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

To the Jews, the crucifixion was proof that Jesus was a curse and not from God at all but a sinner Himself.  In their minds, and rightly so, a cross equals a curse.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (ESV)
22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,
23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Isaiah even wrote that this concept of the cross, hanging on a tree, would be a stumbling block to the Israelites…

Isaiah 8:11-15 (ESV)
11 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:
12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.
13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

The Apostle Paul spends three Sabbath days explaining and proving that their current view of the Messiah is faulty and they need to believe that the Messiah is Jesus.

So much of what they viewed as disqualifying Jesus from being the Messiah was half right.

for a hanged man is cursed by God.

Everyone who is crucified or hung on a tree is cursed by God.  This is true.  What Paul had to prove to these Jews is that this verse is exactly right.  Jesus is the Messiah because He was cursed…but this curse of God that fell to Jesus was the curse we deserved.  Jesus was cursed with our curse.

Galatians 3:13 (ESV)
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
Once Paul made this point, he then had to prove that this was so.  Guess where he goes to make his case that the curse Jesus experienced was really our curse and that in order for this to take place, the sinless Messiah had to die.  It was necessary…

He went straight to the resurrection.
it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

It is the resurrection that proves that all God said would happen already took place in and through Jesus.  It is the resurrection that is the event where many people witnessed, including 500 at one time saw Jesus after He was killed.  Many if not most of these people in Paul’s day could be called on to answer questions as eyewitnesses.

4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.
Some of the Jews who he reasoned with believed.

2. Some Were Jealous

5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd.
6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,
7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”
8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things.
9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

Other Jews may have seen some merit in what Paul was saying.  They may have even on some level believed that he spoke the truth.  It doesn’t say that they wrote him off as mistaken about his theology.  It says they were jealous.

Here is the point.  They would rather work for their salvation and continue in their lifestyle than believe the truth.  They were so caught up in their system of religion that they refused to let go and believe the truth of what Paul told them.

We meet people all the time who have some belief system that is wrong.  We too must reason, explain, prove and preach the truth to them.  We must be able to understand their belief system and explain to them from the Bible what the truth really is.  If we can’t do that, then we are failing those around us.  This is not the job of the pastor.  This is the job of everyone who calls himself or herself a Christian.  Can we do basic apologetics when someone believes things that are wrong?

When a Mormon, Jehovah Witness, Hindu, or a Muslim shares their belief system can we explain in love why they are mistaken and then present them the truth from the Bible?  Can we explain the Christ had to die and be raised from the dead?  Because when we do some will believe.

Additional Application

Perhaps you’re hear today and have believed something other than the true Gospel.  Perhaps you think you may believe something not true.  In humility, seek the truth from God’s Word.  Perhaps you think that you might even be lost.  There are those present here who would just love to speak to you about salvation.  Perhaps you’re here and feel very inadequate when it comes to speaking with others about Christ.  We can help there too.  See one of the elders after the service for help in having answers to societies questions.

 

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