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Thessalonica, the City
The location of Thessalonica enjoyed the advantages of a tactical location. The famous Via Egnatia is the name of a Roman Road that connected ports on the Adriatic Sea with Byzantium.
This important Roman highway enabled travel and commerce and put Thessalonica into contact with the important inland districts on either side of it. This road was the main artery of travel between Rome and her eastern provinces. Because of its location, Thessalonica could be called “the key to all Macedonia.”
Thessalonica, its Inhabitants
Thessalonica was the largest city of Macedonia. It has been estimated that during Paul’s time its population may have been as high as 200,000. Most of the population was Greek, but there was also a mixture of other ethnic groups, including Jews (Acts 17:1-10). As to their moral standards, the Thessalonians were not any different from the citizens of any other large Greek city. It seems most were idolaters, though it is certain that some were seeking a different kind of religious experience than polytheism (multiple gods) could provide; so they involved themselves (loosely) to the local synagogue.
Thessalonica, its Author
Only modern form critics have seriously doubted Paul's authorship and the authenticity of 1 Thessalonians, but their conclusions have not convinced many scholars. It is most likely that 1 Thessalonians was written shortly after Paul’s arrival in Corinth, for he would be eager to get in touch with the new church as soon as possible. In 1:1 the apostle addresses “the church of the Thessalonians,” though some questions have arisen as to the make-up of that church. Specifically, was it primarily Jewish or Gentile? If mainly Gentile, were these Gentiles former proselytes of the Jewish synagogue or were they simply former pagans? (1 Thes.1:9-10; Acts 17:1-10) have quite a bit of bearing on this question. It seems that the main leadership of the church was Jewish, although the majority of the membership was of Gentile origin, many of whom were loosely attached to the synagogue.
1 Thessalonians is Paul's earliest Epistles (letters) written around 51-52 AD. Paul was probably in Corinth a short time after he left Thessalonica.
The church at Thessalonica was founded by Paul on his 2nd missionary journey in which the Gospel was taken to Macedonia which was Eastern Europe. This was a sea side Roman city, with a good harbor which made it an important trade center. After beginning the new church in Philippi, Paul went to Thessalonica and the New Testament tells us he was only there three weeks or three Jewish Sabbath days (Acts 17:2).
In Acts 17:1-16 Paul and Silas stopped there on his way after leaving Philippi, Berea. It was on the east coast of Macedonia between Berea and Athens. Silas was the Jew from Jerusalem who had been send to Antioch after the Paul and Barnabus went there to resolve the issue of Gentile believers eating meat from the local pagan run meat markets and eating meat with blood still in it. He was led of the Lord to be Paul's helper and traveled with him.
Paul, as was his practice, went to the Jewish synagogue and there he reasoned with the Jews from the Scriptures the Old Testament Scriptures. In other words, Paul preached Jesus the Messiah from the Old Testament.
Some of the Jews believed, but others, moved by jealousy opposed Paul and the Gospel. These who opposed him were Jews, self-righteous Pharisees (Mat.23). Although the Old Testament clearly showed Jesus to be the Christ, the Messiah, they rejected Him . . . the same as the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem.
***** These unbelieving Jews were not satisfied just to reject the Gospel, they also wanted to destroy Paul who preached it. Some of the most dangerous people in the world are religious zealots. The Jews gathered a mob of men of doubtful character, called "lewd fellows of the baser sort" (Acts 17:5), to destroy Paul. These were evil and vulgar men, whom the Jewish leaders had stirred up and bribed.
***** They first caused an uproar attacking Paul's preaching and then they attacked Paul himself.
***** Paul won some to Christ and the believing Jews helped him. One was named Jason, who invited Paul to stay at his home. The mob heard that Paul was at Jason's home and went there to get him, but Paul was not there. The mob them assaulted Jason and his friends and accused them of "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also." (Acts 17:6)
***** They accused Paul, Jason and those with them of treason, because they had believed and had befriended Paul and those with him.
***** The put Jason under a bond (Acts 17:9), which he would lose if there was any more trouble.
We should consider Jason and his situation. He heard the Gospel that Jesus was the Messiah and that if one believed in Him, God would save him, forgive his sins and give him eternal life. Jason believed the message. But . . . what about others who rejected the same message and Jesus Christ. Same message . . . different response. It is the exact same today! Jesus Himself explain why when He addressed the Pharisee Nicodemus:
John 3:19-21 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (KJV)
Paul had preached Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and Acts 17:5 says they were jealous of Paul. False leaders always are jealous of those who teach the truth, and always do their best to silence them. These leaders of the synagogue felt threatened in losing their power and prestige. They were worldly men, doing so-called religious acts, BUT were much more interested in being in the lime light . . . than receiving God's forgiveness and eternal life.
***** You would think that these Jews who so strictly worshipped God would be happy to hear the Great News their Messiah had come. BUT, their actions revealed them to be unsaved religious wolves in sheep’s clothing (Mat.7:15). Their descendants are with us today.
We must understand the situation that existed in Thessalonica to fully get a grip on this Letter.
***** It was Satan who was causing the opposition to the Gospel. Paul says: Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (KJV) . . . The fact is that the devil and his demons are more faithful in coming to church that many Christians. They do anything that they can too disrupt a church service, to cause doubts in weak believers, to hinder a Christian from serving the Lord and trying to destroy the success of the preaching the Truth of God's Word. They will attack the pastor and every member of a church. The devil and his demons can destroy a church that is NOT on guard, or unaware of the devil's devises.
***** The attack was open, but it was deceitful. The devil's devises are always deceitful! He is a master of the LIE! Paul was falsely accused of being a traitor to Caesar and causing disorder and trouble. Paul never even mentioned Caesar and the disorder was not caused by Paul, but those that stirred up the mob. These idol makers were losing business that so the wanted desperately to get rid of Paul. It shows the power of the Gospel to change lives when people believe.
***** Paul left the city with Silas at night to avoid the mob and went to Berea. Acts 17:11 says the Jews at Berea were more noble, (higher character) than the Thessalonians and when Paul preached Jesus the Christ from the Old Testament they examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul was saying was true. They received his message with open hearts and minds. What was the difference between the believing Jews in Berea, and the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica? Many, both men and women believed in Berea (Acts 17:12); while in Thessalonica only a few believed.
***** When the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica heard Paul was preaching God's Word at Berea, they went to that city and stirred up the people there. The brethren then sent Paul away out of the city by way of the sea to Athens, but Silas and Timothy remained. Paul now at Athens sends word for Silas and Timothy to come to him there. In Athens Paul preached on Mar's Hill to the Greeks and afterwards goes to Corinth where Timothy and Silas join him. In Athens a few believed, but most did not (Mat.7:13-14). It does appear that a church was started there.
***** Timothy and Silas brought the news that the Thessalonians was growing strong in the Lord even in the face of great persecution.
***** We cannot be sure, but some may have lost their lives in the persecution or had died since they became Christians. That bothered these new Christians and so they had send word questioning Paul about the dead in Christ.
***** We need to consider that it was a young church in Thessalonica, and these believers were being persecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ. Some had died. The New Testament was not yet written and they did not know God's program for the churches.
***** There were several classes of people in the church. (Acts 17:4)
Jews who mostly rejected Paul's message, although a few did believe.
Greek proselytes who attended the synagogue.
Woman of high social status from well to do families.
Some were converts from idolatry. (1 Thes.1:9)
***** Although the Gospel was opposed there, those that believed appear to have faithfully accept God's truth in spite of the persecution and opposition.
***** Those saved there had great respect and love for Paul. As their founding pastor he had a great love for them as for his responsibility towards them as the children of the Lord.
***** This church was a missions minded church and worked hard to spread the Gospel in their area and even to Achaia.
*****There was some confusion about what happens to believers after death and of the resurrection. They do seem to have anticipated the Lord's imminent return.
The Salutation of Paul to the Thessalonians. ( 1 Thes 1:1)
The greeting is from Paul and his companions Silas and Timothy. Silas began his ministry with Paul when Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to seek advice on how the Gentiles believers in the church at Antioch should behave in regard to the Old Testament laws. Silas was sent by the church in Jerusalem as their representative and he remained with Paul. Timothy was a young preacher called under Paul's ministry and he too was helping on Paul's second missionary journey.
Paul proclaims the congregation at Thessalonica was "in the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thes.1:1),
God desires that all men receive God's grace by faith, and receive the peace of God.
Do you understand that the Bible you have in your home . . . is God Himself reaching out to you, and to all men to believe in Him and receive His unmerited favor?
Do you understand: Romans 5:1-2 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (KJV) . . . You are justified (declared NOT guilty in the courts of Heaven), when you believe God (1 Jn.5:10-13), and accept Jesus as your Saviour and Lord by faith! (Eph.2:8-9). The righteousness of Jesus (1 Cor.1:30), is transferred to you when you sincerely trust Him in faith!
Paul’s Reason for His Love for the Thessalonian Congregation.
***** Paul gave thanks to God for their faith. (1 Thes.1:2-3).
***** Clearly, this congregation was a great blessing to Paul and his companions who were spreading the Gospel. They had heard the message and believed it! What an amazing thing that was. God message, the Gospel, is powerful and genuine . . . but far too often people just do NOT see its power. The Gospel is hindered by unbelief!
***** Paul wanted what was best for them and their families. We all should want to see the Lord honored in our lives, and Him being pleased with us.
***** Paul prayed for them regularly. Part of his prayers was thanking the Lord for them and the encouragement they were to him.
We know we have the Lord with us always, IF we are His children and faithful to Him. That is His Promise. It was uplifting to Paul when he saw the fruit of faith and the life changing result of salvation their lives.
***** He remembered them for their work for the Lord. IF the Lord appeared before you and asked you what you did today for Him what would you say?
***** What did your professed faith in Jesus Christ produce in your life today? Do you pray for the lost and for each other? Does your faith in God's Word and Promises cause you thank God? Does your faith make you look for, and desire the Rapture? Do you pray for His soon return?
***** Was your service to the Lord this week a "labor of love?" Or did you sit on your backside and do nothing for Him?
***** Paul remembered them for their "patience of hope in Jesus Christ." Do you have patience of hope in Jesus Christ? (1 Thes.1:3).
***** When the trials of your daily life come, did you seek help from the Lord? That is what having hope in the Lord means. Patience is a result of hope. Patience (longsuffering) is the fruit of faith (Gal.5:22). The TRUE child of God who is living by faith will have patience in the Lord's provision for him. He knows God will never forsake him (Heb.13:5). We must be a faithful believer trusting the Lord, always, in every situation.
The Thessalonians were an encouragement to others everywhere of the certainty of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead. We too, must encourage those around us that Jesus shall come again!
***** It was Jesus and Jesus alone who delivers the believer from the wrath of God which will come upon the whole world. Wrath of God: (Jn.3:36; Rom.1:18; 2:5; Eph.5:6; Jam.1:20; Rev.14:10,19; 15:1,7; 16:1,19; 19:15).
***** Because His return is sure . . . anyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord, their position and Promise of Heaven is sure.
Consider: In light of the example of the Thessalonians where do we stand? Their example of faithfulness should inspire and motivation us to believe as they did and faithfully serve the Lord. If you accept God's will for your life and lived it . . . the result would be that God's will for your life would be fulfilled. What is God’s Will? http://www.godcannotlie.org/booklet_the_will_of_god.htm
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