Covered: 1 Thessalonians 3-5; 2 Thessalonians 1-3; Acts 18:18-28, 19; 1 Corinthians 1-4
Scripture Memory: Anger – James 1:19-20
Let’s talk about the church in Thessalonica. We’ll read part of the content of some letters Paul sent to the church he helped start there, but we’ll not read about it’s founding. That is in Acts 17. You still might want to read it.
Thessaloniki, as it is spelled today, is still a city in Greece. While an ancient archway is still there, much of the old city has been paved over with the new one. It was an important town in Paul’s day on a significant trade route. It is a port city in the Aegean Sea. It was a “global city!”
Paul traveled there to help people meet, know and follow Jesus. This was on his second “missionary” journey. As was his typical strategy, he started with the Jewish community at the local Synagogue. Some call his interests in such a city his “urban strategy,” to reach the Roman Empire by reaching its major cities. It was effective!
He preached there for three days, “explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.” (Acts 17:3-4) It was the first such place where “prominent” – the wealthy – responded to the Gospel. It created a significant stir. Matter of fact, the mob that was rustled up by those who were jealous of Paul and Silas’ attention accused their host of being complicit in the trouble being brought to the city by these two men. Paul’s reputation was known. They stated their accusation: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” (Acts 17:6-7)
Needless to say, Paul and Silas left the town under the cover of nightfall. But the angry folks from Thessalonica actually chased after them, causing Paul to flee to Athens, which is due south by boat!
This was the church planting effort in Thessalonica! Our trust has to be in the promises of Jesus in light of any of our efforts. Remember, Jesus said he would build his church (Matt 16:18). He was doing so in this town.
Paul would visit the church a couple more times on this third “missionary” journey (Acts 20:1-3). This church would help establish a Christian stronghold in the area for hundreds of years. Therefore, early Christians called it The Orthodox City.
But like all churches, it struggled. The new congregation was basically Gentile, that is non-Jewish. They faced persecution. Paul encouraged them to carry on. Some had become morally lazy. Paul encouraged them to live right for Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit! People had accused Paul of seeking to make money from these citizens by peddling the gospel. He refuted that accusation. Some in the church were despondent when it came to the church leadership. Paul challenged their despondency and encouraged them to listen to their leaders. More than anything, however, Paul helped them clearly see and understand the future.
How we view the future affects how we live today. Without the hope and security of a positive future, we can lose hope, motivation and even our way. We live in a day and time with a means for global awareness and 24/7 news. It is easy to believe, even with small doses of media content, that the future is bleak.
For Christians, however, central in our understanding of the future is the second coming of Jesus! When the hope of His arrival dominates our thoughts, it begins to clear up our anxieties. Our understanding of the future is clarified in the two letters of Paul. This was the most encouraging word that Paul sent to this church.
If the future scares you, dive deep into the letters to the church in Thessalonica! Allow the assurance of Jesus’ continued concern and return to quiet your nerves, fill you with freedom to respond to God, and immerse you with love to share with others! We base our peace on the Promises of God, not current circumstances – see 1 Thess 5:1-5.
Written by: Kevin McKee
Photo Credit: Joshua Earle