Read Acts 17:1–9
17 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, has 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.
“The specific charge made against the apostles and the Christian community in Thessalonica amounted to treason. There were two accusations: (1) Paul and his company were itinerant troublemakers engaged in activities designed to upset the status quo in the empire; (2) they had acted contrary to the decree (dogmaton) of the emperor by saying that there was another King, named Jesus. The latter charge, of course, was far more serious (maiestas, or “sedition”) and, if substantiated, carried with it the penalty of death. Paul had urged people to turn away from idols, including the plethora of Roman gods (1 Thessalonians 1:9). The Emperor Claudius, in a sign of blatant insecurity, had banned all predictions suggesting a change of ruler, and Paul’s preaching about the second coming (a major feature of his first and second letters to Thessalonica) may well have been construed as suggesting a coming overthrow of the imperial powers. It would not be difficult for pagans to hear sedition in Christians’ talk about Jesus, especially when they heard Christians refer to him as “Lord.”
The mob charged the apostles with “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), an expression suggesting that they were guilty of “radical social upheaval.” It is a term employed in 21:38 of an Egyptian terrorist who “stirred up a revolt” by leading four thousand assassins out into the wilderness.
Jason and the others had been forced to post bond for the good behavior of the apostles, and there really was nothing for it but to leave Thessalonica as quickly as possible, lest they be the cause of harm coming to others. Thus it was that Paul and Silas left secretly by night and headed southwest, a full day’s journey, to Berea. Once again, Paul had been driven from a city. Once again, the natural opposition to the gospel was evident. And once again, the power of the Holy Spirit was manifested in bringing many to saving faith. As Paul and Barnabas had recorded in their return from the initial missionary journey, it is “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
Serving Jesus Christ can provoke jealousy and turmoil. It can prove costly, both physically and emotionally. Are we ready to take up the cause of the gospel with as much zeal as did the apostles of the early church? Are we praying for those who are encountering such hostility on the mission field? To stay firm and steady in the face of such opposition, we will need to ensure that Jesus Christ is our treasure—so much so that we are ready to endure anything for him. Are we ready? Do we love Jesus Christ that much?”
Thomas, Derek W. H. Acts. Ed. Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Daniel M. Doriani. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2011. Reformed Expository Commentary.
Heavenly Father, may the Good News of Jesus Christ, the King of kings, continue to turn this world upside down. Amen.