Bible Study – The Source of our Being

Key Verse

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his off spring.”
— (Acts 17:28)

The Source of our Being

Acts 17 & 18:1-22


After being released from the prison in Philippi, Paul and Silas continued their missionary journey. This chapter includes their visit to Thessalonica (vs. 1-9) and Berea (vs. 10-15), where they were joined by Timothy. The chapter concludes with Paul’s message to the people in Athens and their response (vs. 16-34). Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia, a seaport, and a wealthy city. Jewish people liked to study, discuss, and even argue about the Scriptures. Opening in verse 3 means “explaining,” and alleging means “to place alongside,” indicating that Paul used Scriptures the Jews knew to prove his statements about Jesus’ death and resurrection. After three Sabbaths, the Jews no longer allowed the two men to participate in the synagogue. It appears that Jason was hosting the missionaries and the group of believers met at his house. Those opposing the Gospel “gathered a company” (vs. 5), which means they formed a mob and caused an uproar. When the mob could not find Paul, they took Jason and some other believers to the city rulers, releasing them once they had paid security as a guarantee there would be no further trouble. “The brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea” (vs. 10), a city about fifty or sixty miles to the west. In that city, Paul and Silas again went to the synagogue, and those people were “more noble” (generous or of better disposition) and eagerly studied the Scriptures daily. Followers of the Gospel grew in number, but Jews from Thessalonica came and stirred up trouble, so Paul had to leave immediately. Paul travelled alone to Athens (vs. 15), which was the intellectual and cultural centre of the ancient world. Art, architecture, education, philosophy, and idols abounded. Paul adapted his evangelistic strategies to his environment. Here he met with Jews in the synagogue, and with Gentiles in the marketplace. The Epicureans and the Stoicks were two of the primary groups of philosophers. The Epicureans were materialists, believing that matter was the fundamental substance of nature, life, and creation, and also that pleasure was the most important goal for living. The Stoicks were fatalists and felt the supreme good was virtue and that reason was of greater consequence than emotion, so they taught a life of self-denial. Areopagus is another name for Mars Hill, which was the location of the ancient Athens court. Thus Paul was brought before the supreme judges in Athens to explain his doctrine. Beyond that, the Holy Spirit dwelt in him. His address to the court is given in Acts 17:22-31. Paul declared to them that their “Unknown God” was the Creator of the world who gives humanity life and breath. Beginning at verse 30, he introduced repentance and judgment by “that man who he hath ordained” (Jesus Christ) and the Resurrection. Acts 18:1-22 covers Paul’s stay in Corinth during his second missionary voyage. Verses 1-4 describe Paul’s early days in Corinth. Dominated by a Temple to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and war, the city was known for its vices and corruption. The Apostle lodged in Corinth with Aquila and Priscilla, Christian Jews driven from Rome by anti-Jewish policies, who shared his avocation of tent-making. As was his custom, he began his outreach efforts thereby “reasoning” or discoursing in the synagogue, though he likely also used his workplace as a forum for witnessing. His audience was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles who worshipped with the Jews. His intensified outreach efforts in the synagogue met with opposition from Jewish religious leaders, so the Apostle shifted his focus to the Gentiles. Due to the increasing hostility of the Jews, Paul moved his centre of operations to the home of Justus, a devout Gentile who resided next to the synagogue. Justus’ name indicates that he was a Roman citizen, which would have given the small Christian congregation some status in the city. The subsequent conversion of Crispus, a leader of the synagogue, no doubt inflamed the Jewish religious leaders even more; this is suggested by the fact that God sent reassurance in a night vision to Paul instructing the Apostle to stop being afraid and to go on speaking. Verses 12-17 describe Gallio’s response to Paul’s ministry. Gallio was the governor of Achaia and the brother of Seneca, the philosopher, and tutor to Nero. The inscription “judgment seat” (vs. 12) can still be seen on the ruins of ancient Corinth. Although the Jews’ anger at Paul was based on a religious difference, they attempted to convey that he had broken Roman law. Gallio, however, saw through their duplicity and refused to judge the matter. The Greeks, perhaps venting their wrath at the Jews who had caused the turmoil, proceeded to beat Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue who replaced Crispus after his conversion.



As young teenagers, my brother and sister were arguing over a matter of opinion. Since it was an opinion, neither could be wrong but they both could have been right. They went back and forth at each other for a while, and then my very frustrated brother hollered, “You just have no knowledge of being!” None of us listening had a clue as to what that statement meant, but it stopped the discussion and then eventually became quite a joke in our family. Now, when any of us want a conversation to end but also want the last word, we say something that makes absolutely no sense. That leaves our opponent with his mouth open and nothing to say. At various times, family members have discussed just what a “knowledge of being” was, but none of us ever came up with a good definition. However, the phrase has stayed with us for years now! Recently, I read today’s key verse, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being,” and it reminded me of that long-ago exchange. I understand, as did Paul the Apostle, that my true existence is through Jesus Christ. Paul was speaking to men in Athens. He had discovered an inscription in their city, “To the Unknown God,” and declared to them that he knew who this God was — the Creator of all! Paul told these men that God did not need to be unknown to them; He actually was ready to be found in them. Before Jesus came into my life, I was breathing, talking, thinking, and functioning in my environment, but my life had no true essence or real meaning. Now, Jesus is my life! I know that I live and move in Him. I am His. I belong to Him, and I am who I am because He forgave my sins and made me His child. People who have not given their hearts to the Lord do not understand what causes believers to have such loyalty and honour for Him. The “knowledge of being” is the answer. We can thank God that He is not unknown to us, and praise Him for giving us the wonderful, comforting, exciting knowledge of being His children. And then we can ask Him to help us share with others the love He has for them.



Question 1
In view of the shameful treatment Paul and Silas had endured in Philippi, preaching the same message at their next stop in Thessalonica took God-given courage! Still, they went ahead and taught boldly in the synagogue of that city, making it clear that the Jewish ceremonial way of being reconciled to God was obsolete and that Jesus was the promised Messiah. While some believed, others of the Jews stirred up a mob. What accusation was levelled against the missionary team? Acts 17:6
Question 2
In chapter 17, we read that Paul visited Athens, the intellectual and cultural center of the ancient world, where he began his sermon on Mars Hill by referencing an altar with the inscription “To the Unknown God.” Based on Acts 17:16-21, how would you describe the men of Athens? In what ways do you think they were similar to people in the “Christian” society of our day?
Question 3
Paul adapted his style of witnessing to his audience. How can we know the best method of witnessing in a particular situation?
Question 4
When Paul told the Jewish leaders that because of their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, he would go to the Gentiles, what do you think he meant by the statement, “I am clean”? Acts 18:6
Question 5
What are some ways God has encouraged you or one of your acquaintances in the face of persecution or rejection?



Is your life grounded in your relationship with Jesus Christ? He is waiting to be the focal point of your existence. God can and will give us the courage to stand up for Him, even when those around us are unreceptive, ridiculing, or hostile. Perhaps our opportunity to declare our faith will be before our peers in the classroom, our employer, or an unbelieving family member. Whatever the situation, we can be sure that God will give us the needed boldness. He did that for Paul, and He will do so for us!