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Genuine Christianity - Studies in 1 Thessalonians


We begin our studies in 1 Thessalonians with some background information.  This will help us to understand how the Church began in Thessalonica, and why Paul wrote this first letter to them. 

Thessalonica was originally named Therma.  It was an ancient town and got its name because of the many warm mineral springs there.  The city was founded in 315 B.C.  by the Macedonian King Cassander.  He renamed it Thessalonica after his wife.  She was the daughter of Philip the second and the sister of Alexander the Great.  Thessalonica became a large and wealthy city.  It was ideally situated in the rich plains all around, and with a magnificent harbour.  When Macedonia was conquered by the Romans in 168 B.C.  it was divided into four sections.  Because of its position and size Thessalonica was made a capital of one of its four divisions.  In 46 B.C.  it was made a Roman province and a major capital city.  Thessalonica became an important commercial centre.  This was because it was an the bustling trade route called the Via Egnatia, which started in Rome and finished by the sea. 

Because it was ever loyal to Rome it became a free city.  Thessalonica was only second to Rome in power, strength and influence.  It was the centre of Greek civilisation.  Every form of art and pleasure could be found there.  It a was this that pulled the heart of Demas away from serving Christ.  Paul said in 2 Timothy 3 verse 10, "Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone toThessalonica."  It had every form of pleasure and worldly entertainment.  But with all of that it was a city without Jesus Christ.  The people had all their heart could desire but had lost their own souls.  God sent Paul to this great city to tell them that they need Jesus Christ the saviour of sinners. 

Paul was on his second missionary journey.  He'd arrived at Troas on the Asian coast, now modern day Turkey.  Here Paul had an unusual experience.  We read in Acts 16 verse 9 "During the night Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia standing and begging him 'come over to Macedonia and help us'."  He saw this as God's call to go and preach the Gospel there.  Both Paul and Silas travelled by boat to the port of Neopolis, then on to Philippi.Paul was badly treated there and spent time in prison.  After his release he went on to Thessalonica.  We read of the founding of the church there in the book of Acts chapter 17 verses 1 to 9. 

First we see, The Passage of Paul.  We read in Acts chapter 17 verse l, "When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica."  We quickly read these words, but do not stop to realise that the journey from Philippi to Thessalonica was a hundred miles!  It's likely Paul and Silas walked it!  They did it for Christ, and for the furtherance of the Gospel.  The cost, distance, and sacrifice involved was nothing.  They just wanted to serve Christ and make him known. 

Are you prepared to put yourself out for the spread of the good news of the Gospel? Would you even consider walking a hundredmiles if it meant that was the only way for people to hear the message of salvation?

Second we notice, The Pattern of Paul.  We read in Acts 17 verse 2, "As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue."  Paul had a strategy.  He went to the Jew first.  Thessalonica had a synagogue and Paul went in to share the Gospel.  He preached Christ from the Old Testament. 

What is your strategy for evangelising your family, friends and neighbours? You can Pray for them.  Then you could invite them to your house for a meal.  Help them when there is a need.  Wait for the right opportunity and tell them the good news about Christ.  Get them along to a special event at your Church.  Paul worked according to a structured plan. 

We see thirdly, the Preaching of Paul.  First it was Christ Centred.  We read in verse three of Acts 17 that Paul was, "...explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead" That is our message.  It is Christ crucified and risen.  We have no other message.  The world needs Christ.  It desperately needs God's forgiveness.  The world does not need more politics, new politics, new schemes and philosophies.  answer to mankind's deep need is Christ.  We're not called to preach a denomination, creed, or a particular church.  Nor are we called to defend personalities within the church.  We are called to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified.  The Puritan Richard Sibbes said, "Preaching is the chariot that carries Christ up and down the world".  Second it was Scripture based.  Verse 2 says, "He reasoned with them from the scriptures".  Our authority is the Bible.  We bring God's word to people not our own ideas. 

Third it was Thoughtful.  We read Paul, "..  reasoned..  explained ...  proved" Picture a house.  It is the house of salvation.  On its door is an invitation "Whoever will may enter."  Running up to the door is a path full of pot-holes.  To get to the door the pot-holes need to be filled-in.  You and are called to fill them by reasoning explaining and proving from scripture that the Gospel is true and worthy of acceptance.  Salvation is by God's grace.  We don't deny that.  But God uses your witness and preaching to get people to the door.  We should be skilled in the use of God's word.

Fourth, it was Effective.  Verse 4 says, "Some of the Jews were persuaded."  The word 'persuaded' translates a Greek word which means 'to win over by bringing about a change of mind'.  They heard the truth thought about it and were convinced.  That is our role in witnessing and preaching.  To lead the thoughts of the hearers to acknowledge that the claims of Christ are true and should be accepted.  We then encourage them to receive Jesus Christ as their own personal Saviour and Lord. 

So began the Church at Thessalonica.  It was a large congregation, one of the largest Paul founded.  The work of God's grace and mercy had begun.  By following Paul's principles in your witness for Christ, God can use your efforts to turn men and women to the Saviour. 

Click here for part 2.