Scripture: Acts 17:1-10
At 50 miles west of Philippi on the coast of Macedonia lay the city of Thessalonica. Paul had arrived in that city fresh from the trouble of Philippi and spent just a few weeks—three Sabbath days, v2—in establishing the congregation that he later writes two epistles to.
In his labours in that city he was aided by Silas/Silvanus and likely by Timothy as well—who had just joined Paul’s band a short time before, 16:3. Although not mentioned by name in the events recorded in Thessalonica itself, Timothy is prominent immediately after leaving. Cp Acts 17:14. Timothy is with Paul at Berea, remains there for a short time while Paul moves on, but then joins Paul in Athens, only to return to Thessalonica, 1Thess 3:1-2, 6. The concerns that Paul had for the work there which prompted him to send Timothy, and the joy at Timothy’s report, underlie this first epistle.
As we begin this study we want to consider the formation of the congregation in Thessalonica. The details of this is given us in Acts 17:1-10.
I THE POWERFUL PREACHING OF CHRIST.
Here is the genesis of this congregation. It began in the ministry of the Apostle Paul so eloquently described here. A notable feature of the description given here is that it was Paul’s manner/custom that is in view, v2.
- A Biblical message. Paul’s ministry was a Scriptural ministry. This is the substance of His preaching. This congregation grew out of the preaching of God’s word. Cp 26:22-23.
- His methodology. How did Paul preach the Bible? This is still a key question today! Men claim to preach Scripture but by their methodology they deny the word of God and destroy it.
- Reasoned, v2. A ‘thorough discussion’ is in view. He discussed every aspect of the truth. This was no superficial treatment of the gospel.
- Opening, v3. Again thoroughness is seen. A full opening/exposition of the gospel. He unfolded and brought out to the light every matter!
- Alleging, v3. A basic idea is that he set the truth in front of them. Like an able prosecutor he exhibited undeniable evidence for his case.
- His doctrine, v3.
- Christ’s sufferings. The cross is central to Paul’s preaching. It was not a welcome message here! Cp 1Cor 1:17-18, 22-24.
- Christ’s resurrection. Paul insisted on the truth of the resurrection and preached its significance. Cp Matt 28:11-15
- The Biblical necessity of these events. The death and resurrection of Christ was necessary because: 1) the Scripture predicted it and; 2) the state of man required it for salvation. Cp Acts 4:12, Luke 24:25-27.
- His Messiahship. It is clear that there is a special emphasis on Christ as King, Acts 17:7. The return of Christ as King is a prominent theme in both epistles.
- The power of his preaching. The congregation was formed as God worked in power through Paul’s preaching. It is God’s use of the message that builds the church. Cp v6, 1 Thess 2:13. That so much was accomplished in just a couple of weeks evidences the measure of power at work here. Cp 1Cor 2:4.
II THE CONVERTS WHO FORMED THE CONGREGATION.
- Some Jews. This must have been both a delight and a sorrow to Paul. Cp Rom 9:1-6. That any Jew would respond was a joy; that only so few responded was a grief. These would have borne the brunt of the opposition from Jewish sources.
- Devout Greeks, v4. These were pagan Greeks who had converted to Judaism and become worshippers of the true God. Yet they were not converts to Christ—until now. The bulk of the congregation in Thessalonica would have been from this background. Devout men need to be saved! Cornelius was another of this class of men, 10:1-2, 11:14.
- Prominent women in society, v4. These are specially mentioned. They were either related to high officials or holding office themselves.
III TROUBLE COMES.
The preaching of Christ in the power of the Spirit of God always stirs opposition and trouble. Faithfully preaching Christ is an act of war, an attack on the kingdom of darkness. Their response to trouble is an underlying concern, 1Thess 3:3-4, Matt 13:21.
- The backdrop in Philippi. Cp Acts 16:19-23, 1Thess 2:2.
- The enemies of the gospel respond, v5. There was opposition led by Jewish sources which involved locals. They were looking for Paul but evidently did not find him. This attack on the cause of Christ was led by the Jews in the city and involved the baser elements of society. Cp 1Thess 2:14
- Local converts pay a price. There is a price to pay for being identified with the gospel of Christ. All who consorted with Paul became the target for the devil’s attack. Cp Heb 10:34.