17:2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.
Some were persuaded. Some from the synagogue were persuaded. Are you following what actually happened? Are you thinking about the implications of what happened? Are you applying those implications to yourself, to our time, to our "synagogues"?
Synagogues then were places where Jews gathered to worship God. In our Christian culture we would call them churches. Jews still call their places of worship synagogues. In actuality synagogues are slightly different than churches in the sense that they were and are multipurpose facilities where worship took place on Sabbath and during the rest of the week it was everything from a community center to a school to an assembly hall. It was the literal hub of Jewish community life.
Paul went into the hub of Jewish community life. There was a provision in Jewish worship services for visitors to speak. Paul used that provision to talk to them about the Christ, about the Anointed One they have been awaiting for centuries, even millenia. He was not talking to the skeptics society or a gathering of atheists. He was not preaching on the streets to a random crowd. He was in a Jewish house of worship talking to them about their long awaited Messiah from their own sacred writings. It was a captive audience who in theory were already converted yet only some were persuaded.
Why? Thessalonica is far removed from the politics of Jerusalem. There was no real power base here. No turf to war over really. Why didn't they all believe him? The evidence of a Messiah that dies to save His people is overwhelming. From the very beginning of Genesis we find an animal being symbolically offered to cover the sin of Adam and Eve. When Cain tries a different offering it is rejected. The entire Jewish temple system is built around the death of an animal as a substitute for us. Isaiah wrote extensively about the One who would come and suffer and die in our place. The prophet Daniel pinpointed the timing of this monumental event when Messiah would come. When wise men from the east came to Herod at that specific time looking for "the One" Herod summoned the Jewish scribes. They in turn opened the scrolls and told Herod where He would be - Bethlehem. Later on John the Baptist, a respected prophet announced Him with these words "Behold the Lamb (sacrificial lamb) that takes away the sin of the whole world!"
For three weeks Paul reviewed the evidence from Genesis to Malachi. For three weeks he compared the prophecies to their fulfillment in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The audience were already believers before he began yet only some were persuaded.
This is Thessalonica. A region dominated by secular Gentiles. These proud Jews, the children of Abraham were second class citizens here. For centuries they have been taught a very different story. They have been taught about a world conquering Messiah who will elevate the Jews to their "proper" place. A time when the tail will become the head. Money and power will be theirs again. The golden era of Solomon will be revived. No longer would they be an inferior minority sect in a world hostile to their faith and culture.
Simply put the truth was not as appealing as the fairy tale.
Application? Why am I a believer? Why do I frequent the "synagogues"? If truth came to me in a deeper, fuller, paradigm shifting way would I be among the persuaded ones? Religion is about rewards and even dominance. Truth is about dealing with the sinful heart of man. Religion is about superficial externals while truth puts me in front of my own mirror. Religion strikes down others while truth strikes my heart. Jesus didn't come to oppress or conquer any nation or group. Jesus came to conquer the stone in my body where a heart was meant to be. It's not as glamorous as a world beater but what good would a kingdom do me with the heart I have?
If Truth came to you, would you be persuaded?