Scripture and the Church

First Thessalonians: Exhortations to a Faithful Church

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Christians today can learn much from the early church at Thessalonica - both that which is commendable and that which urgently requires correction.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part one of a series

Christians today can learn much from the early church at Thessalonica - both that which is commendable and that which urgently requires correction.

We find many instructive parallels between the situation that confronted the church at Thessalonica nearly 2,000 years ago and the situation of the church in our own time.

The Apostle Paul had visited Thessalonica with Silas during his second missionary journey, about the year 50 A.D. He wrote his first letter to them about two years later, probably from Corinth. First-century Thessalonica was a sizeable metropolis of about 200,000 people. A port city in the northwest corner of the Aegean Sea, Thessalonica was the capital of the province of Macedonia in the Roman Empire.

Due to the influx of migrants from other regions, Thessalonica was a very cosmopolitan city. Previous centuries had witnessed a considerable movement of people to Thessalonica from other parts of the Roman Empire, and the Greek Empire before it. These migrations included large numbers of Jews, the descendants of captives who had been taken from Palestine to Babylon over 600 years earlier. These Jews were exiled westward from Babylon by later rulers. Because of the Jewish and Gentile migrations and because of its prominence as a commercial port city, many different languages were spoken in Thessalonica, many different cultures were represented, every kind of religion, and every kind of pagan philosophy. And, like cities throughout the world whether ancient or modern, one could find every kind of immorality in Thessalonica.

Thus many forms of spiritual pressure exerted themselves against Thessalonians who had come to faith in Christ. Every kind of ungodly influence worked in opposition to those who desired to live godly lives in Christ Jesus. Truly, the Thessalonian Christians were engaged in a warfare "not...against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).

We read in the 17th chapter of Acts that when Paul and Silas first came to Thessalonica the strongest opposition to their preaching came from the Jews who resided in the city. They gathered a mob, started a riot, and attacked the house of a man named Jason who had provided lodging to Paul and Silas.

The situation quickly became so dangerous that the people who had believed Paul's message and had become Christians immediately sent Paul and Silas away during the night to Berea, where they were treated with much greater respect. But out of these very adverse beginnings, a faithful, witnessing local body of believers in Christ had sprung up. And now the Apostle Paul is writing his first letter to them.

We know that Paul never wrote a letter to any church without a clear purpose. As we examine his first epistle to the Thessalonians we find that his purpose is twofold: On the one hand he encourages much that is commendable among them; on the other hand, he identifies thoughts and actions that urgently require correction.

What were these things? We shall take up the first category as we continue.

 

Next: The Commendable at Thessalonica

 

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