Luke relays that Paul ministered in the Thessalonian synagogue for three weeks (v. 2). The length of Paul’s ministry was most likely longer than that, as a solid church was established, the church was mostly made up of Gentiles (1 Thess 1:9), and the Philippian church (100 miles away) sent two gifts to Paul while he was there (Phil 4:15-16).
The Athenian philosophers desiring to hear from Paul are identified in verse 18 as being Epicureans (believed happiness found in peace of mind and body) and Stoics (believed everything is God, that God isn’t a person, emphasized rational ability and self-sufficiency).
When Paul ministered the gospel to Jews he taught that Jesus as the Christ had to suffer and rise again (v. 3), and that he is the Christ, Israel’s Messiah and King (vv. 3, 7). When Paul ministered the gospel to idolatrous Gentiles he started by teaching that God is their Creator (vv. 24-25), sovereign sustainer (vv. 26-28), the only One they should worship (vv. 29-31), and that Jesus, who died and rose again, would be their judge.
Paul always taught from the Scriptures (vv. 2, 13, 24-31), and this involved explaining, demonstrating, and calling for immediate repentance and faith. There were always some who believed and some who did not, no matter if their background was biblical Judaism or pagan idolater.
Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On
- When witnessing for Christ you must be able to patiently walk through the Scriptures to help understand it so that they will believe it. The better you know your Bible and the more you witness for him, the better servant of the Lord you will be!
- The lost can be very devoted to religion. Being really religious doesn’t wash sins away or make one right with God. Only Jesus can do that! They must hear this and the Spirit must convict them. Pray and labor toward that end!
- When talking to someone without any biblical background, you must start with who God is, show them their dependence on God, their relation to him as sinners, teach that the resurrected Jesus will judge the world, and that they must therefore repent and believe in Jesus.