Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

“Paul’s Letters to the Church at Thessalonica”

“Hope for the Hopeless”

#1 – “The Birth of a Church”

Acts 17:1-15

 

Paul’s second missionary journey brought him and Silas north of Antioch into Europe. They were accompanied by Luke and Timothy, the latter joining with them at Lystra (Acts 16:1). Originally called “Therma” because of the hot springs in the area, the city was renamed in 315 BC by Cassander after his wife. Thessalonica was one of the most important cities of its day. Being located on a major highway that tied the east and the west together, it was an ideal place to establish a church and spread the gospel.

 

I. Paul’s Past Experience in Thessalonica, Acts 17:1-15.

A. His Arrival, v. 1. After leaving Philippi, Paul and his group passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia until they came to Thessalonica. These places surely needed the gospel also, but there is no mention of it being preached there. This shows that while the gospel is to be preached in the entire world (Acts 1:8), God has a specific place for each of His servants. It isn’t enough to simply preach the gospel; we must serve in the place God has appointed for us, Acts 16:6-12. Thessalonica was on a major highway and accessible by both land and sea. It was an ideal location for a church.

B. His Approach, vs. 2-3. It was customary. It was calculated. The word “reasoned” indicates that he engaged in a debate, a formal argument. He evidently put forth certain propositions and refuted their rebuttals using the Old Testament as his textbook. It was Christ-centered. Using the Old Testament as his source, Paul taught them about Christ. The word “opening” means “explaining”. The word “alleging” means to lay “beside.” As he reasoned with them, he laid out the scriptures in an orderly form showing them how they harmonized with one another and explained to them the true meaning.

C. His Audience, v. 4. Paul’s audience consisted of both Jews and Greeks. Some of the Jews believed, a great multitude of the Greeks believed, and more than a few of the chief women believed. By any standard, Paul’s efforts were a success. However, many were still not convinced of his message. This serves to remind us that at best, we will only be partially successful in our efforts to reach others.

D. His Adversaries, vs. 5-13. They were unbelievers. They were motivated by envy. They were of the “baser sort”. They created an uproar, abused God’s people, and took a man by the name of Jason into custody, vs. 6-9. They continued to harass the missionaries even after they moved to Berea, v. 13. God’s servants have always had to face the forces of heathenism. Just as Paul faced opposition where ever he went, we can expect much of the same today.

 

II. Paul’s Purpose for Writing to the Thessalonians.

After the unbelieving Jews stirred up trouble in Thessalonica and Berea, Paul journeyed on to Athens. While there, he sent word for Timothy and Silas to rejoin him, v. 15. They caught up with Paul and Corinth (Acts 18:1) and gave him a report of what was happening at Thessalonica.

Paul wrote his first letter to this church about AD 50 or 51. Concerning the purpose of his writing, John L. Benson offered the following reasons :

1. To commend them for their behavior in persecution.

2. To comfort them in suffering.

3. To confirm his own conduct and motives.

4. To correct erroneous doctrine.

5. To challenge them to chastity, industry and duty.

6. To caution them against social cliques.

7. To cement the bond of personal affection between them and him.