On his second missionary journey, Paul left Philippi for the port city of Thessalonica, the most important trade center in northern Greece. It was a pagan and cosmopolitan city, a hustling and bustling city, home to people from every corner of the Roman empire. The main throughfares were packed with travelers headed west to Rome, or south to Athens or Alexandria, or eastward on the trading routes.
Unlike Philippi, Thessalonica was the home of many Jewish people, enough of a population to warrant a synagogue. So, as was his custom, “Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and rise from the dead: ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah’ ” (Acts 17:2-3).
Paul didn’t share his personal opinions. He didn’t argue his perspectives or viewpoints. He“reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” He opened the Bible to Messianic prophecies and testified to their fulfillment in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus! When he did, “some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, including a large number of God-fearing Greeks, as well as a number of the leading women” (Acts 17:2-3). Praise the Lord! Revival broke out!
As usual, the Gospel message was met with opposition. “The Jews became jealous, and they brought together some wicked men from the marketplace, formed a mob, and started a riot in the city” (Acts 17:5). The rioting mob insulted and accused Paul and his partners by saying, “These men ... have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Try not to laugh! Of course, the Gospel transforms. The Thessalonians had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:9–10). The glorious Gospel turns lives upside down and inside out!
After just three short weeks, Paul slipped out of town. “As soon as it was night, the brothers and sisters sent Paul and Silas away to Berea.” (Acts 17:10).
A few months later, Paul addressed his letter to “the church of the Thessalonians” (1 Thessalonians 1:1). Though Paul was in Thessalonica for such a short time, when he left for Berea, he left behind a fully functioning church. God’s church! Paul knew that the baby church in Thessalonica was a church that needed the “the pure milk of the Word” (1 Peter 2:2), so Paul commissioned “Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:2). Timothy traveled back to teach and encourage the growing number of new believers.
When Timothy returned to Paul in Athens, he “brought us good news about your faith and love. He reported that you always have good memories of us and that you long to see us, as we also long to see you” (1 Thessalonians 3:6). The epistles of First and Second Thessalonians are written in response to the church’s concerns and questions reported to Paul by Timothy.
Two short letters. Eight chapters. One-hundred-thirty-six verses. Will you read it with me this week?
“May the Lord of peace himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.