Here is an except from a 1970 sermon by Ray Stedman based in our reading for today, Acts 17:1-15
We are told here that the Jews were jealous. They were unable to win against the power of the Scriptures and the logic of the apostle, and so they revealed the lawlessness in their own hearts by turning, literally, to “the loafers of the marketplace,” young men who were what today we would call hoods or toughs, radicals, who knew how to manipulate a crowd.
In this they followed a classic pattern. They started a disturbance which attracted a crowd. When the crowd gathered around them, they inflamed them with emotional words and propaganda until the crowd was brought to a fever pitch. Then they gave them a victim to attack. They turned them against Paul and Silas, for no reason whatsoever. This is how easily a crowd can be manipulated. It does whatever its leaders direct. As these men were skilled at this, they were able to incite these people to an unprovoked and groundless attack upon these two men who were there preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. They came to lynch them.
But now, notice how God works. His hand was fully in control, and just before the mob arrived he sent Paul and Silas out for a cup of coffee or something. They simply were not there when the crowd arrived. So the mob had to be satisfied with dragging out Jason, the host, and some of the brethren, and bringing them before the city authorities. The charges against Paul and Silas are very interesting. There is a germ of truth in them, but, in the way they were intended, they are palpably false. They were charged with two things:
First, with being notorious troublemakers. “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.“ I do not know whether these authorities had heard about the trouble in Philippi or not. Perhaps they had. Or they may simply have recognized Paul and Silas as Jews and, since the Jews were in trouble in Rome at that very time, perhaps they identified them with that. But whatever the reason, what they said was true. These were indeed men who had turned the world upside down.
But what they did not realize was that the world was already upside down. When you turn something upside down which is already upside down, you turn it right side up. The world was turned upside down at the Fall, and it has been operating reverse ever since. That is why it never works right. In the final analysis everything seems to fall apart. Even the best efforts of men never seem to accomplish the solution of the dilemma. That is why we are still struggling with the same problems they wrestled with in the days of Noah, before the flood. Is that not amazing? No progress has been made, none whatsoever. Despite all our vaunted technology and abilities, we have made no progress in solving basic human problems. That is because the world is upside down.
But now the gospel comes in and turns it right side up. And as men and women respond to the gospel, that which God intended for man begins to be worked out in their lives. Peace and tranquility and prosperity and progress and harmony and love and grace — all these wonderful things begin to flow out of a community which is operating in the fullness of life provided in Jesus Christ. So they were indeed men who turned the world upside down.