The gospel now comes to the seaport of Thessalonica. Ancient seaports were infamous for their prosperity and licentiousness.
Here the Jewish opposition seems to be especially tough and persistent; they even pursue Paul all the way to Berea (v. 13). The immorality of the city has probably made them more resolute in keeping the Mosaic law.
“On three Sabbath days [Paul] reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving” (vv. 2–3) the gospel’s truth—the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah.
It is important to note that in this difficult environment, it is the same gospel that is powerful. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, after conducting a university mission in Oxford in 1941 said, “There is no greater fallacy than to think that you need a gospel for special types of people.” 8
Jewish opposition is driven by jealousy (v. 5), though the reason they cite is loyalty to Caesar (v. 7). This is just like the opponents in Philippi, who used concern for community as a cover for greed (Acts 16:19–21). In the King James Version, verse 5 reads: the Jews gathered “certain lewd fellows of the baser sort” to cause uproar in the city.
Establishing a church in Thessalonica, Paul and his team next travel to Berea, about 40 miles away. The Bereans nobly examine the Scriptures in the light of the gospel. They were eager to hear and many came to believe (vv. 11–12).
The Jews from Thessalonica pursue the missionaries and oppose them in Berea before Paul leaves and is escorted to Athens.
In these three Greek cities, Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, we see a consistent pattern—there is a gospel proclamation, a response of faith from some, and opposition from others. God is sovereign. His purpose is not thwarted. He uses the bad response as much as the glad reception to see His purposes fulfilled.
8D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1972), 130.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. We should not be surprised when we encounter opposition to the gospel. Why are we so taken aback by opposition to gospel work?
The Bereans were of noble character (v. 11). Note the reason they are described this way. What do you learn from their example?