Acts 17 Bible Commentary

The Geneva Study Bible

(Read all of Acts 17)
17:1 Now 1 when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:

(1) The casting out of Silas and Paul was the saving of many others.

17:3 2 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.

(2) Christ is therefore the mediator, because he was crucified and rose again: and he is certainly not to be rejected because the cross is shameful.

17:5 3 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain a lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.

(3) Although the zeal of the unfaithful seems ever so virtuous, yet at length it is found to have neither truth nor fairness. Yet the wicked cannot do what they wish, for even among themselves God stirs up some, whose help he uses for the deliverance of his own.
(a) Certain companions which do nothing but walk the streets, wicked men, to be hired for every man's money to do any mischief, such as we commonly call the rabble and very cesspools and dunghill knaves of all towns and cities.

17:6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the b world upside down are come hither also;

(b) Into whatever country and place they come, they cause sedition and tumult.

17:9 And when they had taken c security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.

(c) When Jason had put them in good assurance that they would appear.

17:10 4 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming [thither] went into the synagogue of the Jews.

(4) That is indeed the wisdom of the Spirit which always sets the glory of God before itself as a mark with which it directs itself, and never wavers from it.

17:11 5 These were more d noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

(5) The Lord sets out in one short period of time, and in one people, different examples of his unsearchable wisdom to cause them to fear him.
(d) He compares the Jews with the Jews.

17:13 6 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.

(6) Satan has his who are zealous for him, and those who one would least suspect.

17:14 7 And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.

(7) There is neither counsel, nor fury, nor madness against the Lord.

17:15 8 And they that conducted Paul e brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.

(8) The sheep of Christ also watch their pastor's health and safety, but yet in the Lord.
(e) It is not for nothing that the Jews of Berea were so commended, for they brought Paul safe from Macedonia to Athens, and there is in between these two places all of Thessalia, and Boeotia, and Attica.

17:16 9 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was f stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to g idolatry.

(9) In comparing the wisdom of God with man's wisdom, men scoff and mock at that which they do not understand: and God uses the curiosity of fools to gather together his elect.
(f) He could not forbear.
(g) Slavishly given to idolatry: Pausanias writes that there were more idols in Athens than in all Greece; yea they had altars dedicated to Shame, and Fame, and Lust, whom they made goddesses.

17:17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with h them that met with him.

(h) Whoever Paul met with that would allow him to talk with him, he reasoned with him, so thoroughly did he burn with the zeal of God's glory.

17:18 10 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this i babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.

(10) Two special sects of the philosophers set themselves against Christ: the Epicures, who mock and scoff at religion: and the Stoics, who decide religious matters according to their own thinking.
(i) Literally, "seed gatherer": a borrowed kind of speech taken from birds which spoil corn, and is applied to those who without any skill blurt out the knowledge which they have gotten by hearing this man and that man.

17:19 And they took him, and brought him unto k Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, [is]?

(k) This was a place called, as one would say, Mars hill, where the judges sat who were called Areopagita upon important matters, who in ancient time arraigned Socrates, and afterward condemned him of impiety.

17:21 11 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)

(11) The wisdom of man is vanity.

17:22 12 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, [Ye] men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too l superstitious.

(12) The idolaters themselves provide most strong and forcible arguments against their own superstition.
(l) To stand in too foolish and slavish a fear of your gods.

17:23 For as I passed by, and beheld your m devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE n UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

(m) Whatever men worship for religion's sake, that we call religion.
(n) Pausanias in his Atticis makes mention of the altar which the Athenians had dedicated to unknown gods: and Laertius in his Epimenides makes mention of an altar that had no name entitled upon it.

17:24 13 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

(13) It is a most foolish and vain thing to compare the Creator with the creature, to limit him within a place who can be comprehended in no place, and to think to allure him with gifts, from whom all men have received all things whatever they have: and these are the fountains of all idolatry.

17:26 14 And hath made of o one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

(14) God is wonderful in all his works, but especially in the work of man: not that we should stand amazed at his works, but that we should lift our eyes to the workman.
(o) Of one stock and one beginning.

17:27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might p feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

(p) For as blind men we could not seek out God except by groping, before the true light came and enlightened the world.

17:29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, q graven by art and man's device.

(q) Which things (gold, silver, and stones) are custom engraved as much as a man's mind can devise, for men will not worship those things as they are, unless by some art it has formed into an image of some sort.

17:30 15 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

(15) The oldness of the error does not excuse those that err, but it commends and sets forth the patience of God, who nonetheless will be a just judge to those who condemn him.

17:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by [that] man whom he hath ordained; [whereof] he hath given r assurance unto all [men], in that he hath raised him from the dead.

(r) By declaring Christ to be the judge of the world through the resurrection from the dead.

17:32 16 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this [matter].

(16) Men, to show forth their vanity, are affected and moved differently by the very same Gospel, which nonetheless does not cease to be effectual in the elect.