Now that we’re a few chapters into Paul’s journey, we can see routines begin to emerge. “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures”
Paul’s custom was to go straight to the Jews center of influence to talk about the scriptures directly to them. By this time, he’s been run out of several towns and even stoned nearly to death by the Jews from the synagogues. Yet he keeps returning and had even made it ‘his custom’ by this point. The outsider may wonder why Paul feels this is ‘what’s working’ if he’s been chased out of town and nearly killed. Yet Paul knows this is the right way to proceed.
Despite the number of times he had been chased or beaten or jailed, every time the result was the same. Many were added to their numbers. So without a concern for the potential danger, Paul continued to stick with what was working.
In Thessalonica, the Jews were once again violent. “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.” (v 5) Then Paul moves on to Berea and is met by a different crowd. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (v 11) However the angry Jews from Thessalonica traveled about 45 miles on foot to chase Paul’s group out of Berea as well. “But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds.” (v 13)
Finally Paul arrives in Athens and finds a curious but cautious group of Greeks who worshiped all kinds of gods, including “the unknown god.” (v 23b) Paul then proceeds to so what he has done every time before, preach to make the unknown become known.
Paul stuck with what was working, ignoring what others would consider set backs and even more would consider road blocks. To him, they were just speed bumps in the road he was called to travel. In ever town, he repeated what was his custom. Go to the center of influence in that community and preach the Word in a manner that would connect to the audience. To the Jews, he stuck with scripture. To the polytheistic Greeks, he helped them know more about this unknown god. He may have changed the words for the audience but he never changes his style, purpose or method.
Have you bounced around in a few different churches? Either from moving and having to find a new church or simply seeking something different locally, many of us have experienced more than one style of preaching and worshiping. Unfortunately, too many churches change everything to bend to the culture they’re in, seeking to be popular. Paul was not worried about popularity, or even his own safety. He simply stuck with what works and continued on his way. Sometimes he was well received and other times he was jailed or beaten, but he continued on.
Be willing to adjust your words to the audience you are speaking to, but never change your purpose or goal. Don’t bend so much that your message gets missed and you just become noise. Stay strong to the Word and the message of Christ.
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