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“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, 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’ ” (Acts 17:1–3).

TO A JEWISH AUDIENCE, THE CENTRAL CLAIM OF THE GOSPEL WAS THAT JESUS WAS THE MESSIAH PROMISED IN THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES. Jewish hearers already accepted God and the writings of the prophets as the word of God. But whether Jesus was the Messiah promised by the prophets was another matter. Jesus put it simply: “You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1 NET).

We should note that with a Gentile audience, the argument had to start further back. They had to be persuaded that the God presented in the Hebrew Scriptures was the true God. It is interesting, however, that in both cases the apostles’ argument rested on the resurrection. If their testimony to Jesus’ resurrection was true, then Jesus was both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:32–36). To the Jews, this meant that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. And to the Gentiles it meant there was a God for Jesus to be the Son of.

But let’s go back to our text in Acts 17:1–3 and Paul’s presentation of the gospel in the Jewish synagogue at Thessalonica. To convince them that Jesus was the Christ, he “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.” Even to those who took the prophets seriously, it needed to be shown that the death and resurrection of the Messiah were predicted by the prophets (Psalms 16,22,110; Isaiah 53; etc.) and that Jesus had fulfilled not just some of these messianic prophecies but all of them.

Personally, I would love to have been there to see the excitement of those who were persuaded by Paul’s exposition of the Scriptures. To have known these prophecies all one’s life and then be able to exclaim, “Yes, this Jesus is, in fact, the Christ we’ve been looking for” — their jubilation must have been like fireworks!

“According to those predictions [in the Hebrew Scriptures], the Messiah was appointed to suffer and then rise again from the dead. Both these experiences had been fulfilled in Jesus, and in nobody else; therefore, said Paul, this Jesus of whom I tell you is the promised Messiah” (F. F. Bruce).

Gary Henry — +

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