Acts 16:35–17:9 (NKJV)
35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, “Let those men go.”Acts 16:35-40
36 So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.”
38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. 39 Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.
Paul held dual citizenship, the son of a Roman father and a Jewish mother. The magistrates in Philippi who had him beaten were not aware of his Roman citizenship. When they came to release them quietly, Paul revealed this to them, and they were afraid and alarmed that they had beaten a Roman citizen. They apologized and begged them to leave, which Paul refused. He did not want to protest their corrupt practices or their insensitivity to other nationalities, or even their unjust punishment of him and his colleague, Silas. He simply wanted to point out the power of the gospel–which he wrote later–by showing that the Word of God is unchained . This gospel would not be swept under a rug. He meant to send a message that there was a different King on the throne, and His name is Jesus! They eventually left, went to the house of Lydia, a recent convert, and then on to spread the gospel in more of the Roman empire.
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 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. 5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. 7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” 8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. 9 So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.Acts 17:1-9
Paul’s presence in Thessalonica was met with similar resistance as came in other cities in which he had preached. The world’s balance of spiritual power was shifting, and the established system was resisting with all its energy. Between the Roman government (political) amd the Jewish Councils (religious), the Christian church was meeting with much pushback in their effort to evangelize the world. Paul preached Jesus for three weeks in the synagogue in Thessalonica, and some were saved, and a church was established. However, once the Jews in the city were made envious of Paul’s success, a complaint was registered with the evil men in the marketplace who formed a mob and went to find Paul and Silas. When they could not be found, they dragged Paul’s host, Jason, out into the street before the rulers of the city.
The now-well-known phrase was uttered by the mob about Paul and Silas: “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.” What a powerful expression of the magnitude of the work they were doing. They were turning the world upside down! In this case, it was actually turning it right side up, for it had been upside down for far too long. Are we turning the world upside down today? Could be be accused of such a powerful characterization? I hope so. I pray so. I dream so!
Artwork from https://www.heartbeatservices.org/turning-the-world-upside-down and Logos Bible Software Atlas.