Thessalonica was the chief port of the Roman province of Macedonia in what is now modern day Northern Greece. It was located on the east-west Egnatian Highway, which was the main road from Rome to the Orient via Byzantium (now modern Istanbul, Turkey). Most of its nearly 200,000 residents were native Greeks with many Romans, Asians, and Jews also living there.
Pagan Greek religion produced immorality, but there was a strong Jewish presence that attracted disillusioned Greeks, Romans, and Asians to the synagogue resulting in many proselytes (a Gentile converted to Judaism). They were present when Paul preached there in Acts 17:1-9 during his second missionary journey in A.D. 51. He went to Macedonia because he received a vision of a man from Macedonia calling for help, Acts 16. As a result of his preaching there, some Jews, several Gentile Greeks, and some wives of prominent citizens of the city came to believe (17:4). Because of persecution, Paul and Silas were sent away to Berea (17:10).
A short time later, Paul sent Timothy to check on the Thessalonians because he heard of their persecution. Timothy rejoined Paul at Corinth with good news that the Thessalonians were standing strong in their faith (Acts 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7). It is believed that Paul wrote the two letters to the Thessalonians from Corinth in A.D. 52-53 and the events between Acts 18:22 and 23.
Paul wrote them to encourage them to persevere and to correct errors: moral laxity, laziness, and disrespect of spiritual leaders. He also assured them of Christ's return.
1 Thessalonians 1
This letter is from Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. We will find out more about Timothy next week when we study Paul's letter to him, but Silas accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-17:15), helped Paul establish the church in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9), and is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 1:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:1, and 1 Peter 5:12.
Paul thanked God because the Thessalonians stood firm in spite of persecution. They were a model to other believers everywhere (1:8). They had turned from the dead idols of the Greek pagan religion to serve the living God and to wait for the return of Jesus.
1 Thessalonians is one of the first books I studied deeply. At the end of the three month verse-by-verse study in 1981, our study went to the Oregon Coast and studied it again, but this time, we did it TOPICALLY. Our Bible study leader made nice little books, and sent us out on a gorgeous June day to ask question about how Paul "followed-up" the new believers of Thessalonica. (I saved that precious book for years, but I cannot find it now!) I encourage you to look at Paul's attitude and actions toward these new followers of Jesus.
|My Bible Study on that June day in 1981 - I am in the orange jacket.|
Like the Thessalonians, I came from a pagan culture and had no background in the Bible. I could count the number of times on one hand I went to a church before age 10, but I was desperate and disillusioned with the "perfect" secular life I had with my family growing up. It lacked meaning and hope. Jesus gave this to me. Sadly, I was NOT followed-up and grounded in the truth from the Word of God at the beginning of my journey of faith that began in the fall of 1969. It took me ten years to really start growing, doing the best I knew how to be as a believer in junior high and high school. I navigated it OK, but I was an orphan with no one to tenderly care for me like Paul cared for the Thessalonians until I met this group of women and our leader, Sheryl Rice Jury (she is not in the picture).
That is why I am passionate about follow up now!
If you need some direction about how to ground new believers, let Paul be your guide and do a topical study on the subject of follow-up as we read 1 Thessalonians.
Here is a great resource for getting you started helping people grow:
There are four lists in this handout with Bible studies for investing in four different groups:
1) Discovering God (for not yet followers or those who need a foundation)
2) Discovering Obedience (for establishing believers in obedience to Christ)
3) Discovering Reproduction (for equipping believers to reproduce)4) Discovering Leadership (for developing leaders)
I also have additional resources to help you become grounded or to ground someone else! Just leave a comment, and I can send them to you.
Lord, thank You for Paul's wonderful model of care and concern for the Thessalonians. May we care for someone else in the same way. Amen.