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Sermon Notes & References                                                                                                                                                         Series: Living Forth the Gospel

Thessalonians: An Introduction

Acts 17:1-11, 1 Thessalonians 1:1

October 1, 2017


I  The Writer

 A  His Greeting


 B  His Times


II  The Place

 A  The City of Thessalonica


 B  The Church in Thessalonica


III  The Pressures

 A  Facing Persecution


 B  Living Forth the Gospel


IV  The Fundamentals

 A  Respecting God


 B  Respecting Salvation


 C  Conclusion

1 1 Thessalonians 1:1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Thessalonians: An Introduction


I  The Writer

 A  His Greeting

  1  “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.” (1  Thessalonians 1:1); and in the second letter, a little fuller:

  2  “1 Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:1-2)


 B  His Times

  1  the dates given are the estimates of some of the best biblical scholars

  2  The historically recorded NT times divide roughly into two periods

   a  The birth and death of Jesus Christ from 4-3BC to 30AD

    (A)  3-4 year calculation error when Christian calendar established

    (B)  this period recorded in the 4 gospels

   b  The birth and spread of the church, 30AD to nearly 70AD

    (A)  beginning with the Ascension & Pentecost

    (B)  ending with

     (1)  deaths of Paul and Peter

     (2)  almost to the destruction of Jerusalem & the Temple

    (C)  during which most of the NT books were written, although those written by John may have been written in the 90'sAD

  3  Paul (a.k.a., Saul) was born about 5-10AD ( this is inferred from the description of him as a “young man” in Acts 7:58)

   a  in 35AD, 5 years after Christ’s death and resurrection, he stood by the stoning of Stephen thereby giving his approval (Acts 7)

   b  his then persecuted the church causing Christians to flee from Jerusalem into Judea & Samaria (Acts 8)

   c  soon after, as he travelled to Damascus in order to persecute the Christians there, he was converted on meeting Jesus (Acts 9)

   d  he next spent 3 years, first in Arabia, then preaching in Damascus

   e  then in 38AD he made a short visit to Jerusalem, but was feared by many because of his history, yet Barnabas befriended him

   f  his bold preaching in Jerusalem brought Jewish opposition, so the church sent him to his home in Tarsus (Acts 9:28-30)

   g  in 43AD, 5 years later, Barnabas called him to Antioch in Syria, to help minister to the new Gentile church there (Acts 11-12)

   h  in 46-48AD, (11years since conversion), the church at Antioch, at the direction of the Holy Spirit) commissioned him & Barnabas to what was to be Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14)

    (A)  trace this journey on the map (note John Mark’s departure)

    (B)  note local church autonomy under Holy Spirit’s guidance

   i  49AD, saw the council at Jerusalem, which vindicated Paul’s ministry, teaching and mission to the Gentiles, sending Paul & Silas back to Antioch with a letter to that effect (Acts 15)

   j  49-52AD, Paul, with Silas, undertook his second missionary journey while Barnabas & John Mark went instead to Cyprus

    (A)  trace this journey on the map (Acts 16-18)

    (B)  revisited churches in Galatia, & added Timothy to the group

    (C)  so now the three men, whose names open up these two letters are joined together: Paul (Saul), Silas (Silvanus) & Timothy

    (D)  by the Holy Spirit they were diverted from both Asia and Bithynia and were led instead to go to Philippi

    (E)  they planted a church at Philippi, but after freeing a slave girl from a divining spirit, they were imprisoned, then sent away

    (F)  bringing us to their arrival at Thessalonica of which we read


II  The Place

 A  The City of Thessalonica

  1  it is now called Thessaloniki, or more familiarly, Salonika

  2  in Thessaly on Aegean sea, in the then Greek province of Macedonia

  3  it has a famous harbour

   a  the Persian, Xerxes, invading Europe, made it his naval base

   b  in Roman times it was one of the world's great dockyards.

  4  how it received its name (originally Thermes, or “Hot Springs”)

   a  Philip of Macedon had a daughter

    (A)  born at a time of one of his victories

    (B)  named her Thessalonica after this victory: “Thessaly Victory”

   b  this daughter was half-sister to Alexander the Great

    (A)  she married one of Alexander’s generals, Cassander

    (B)  Cassander rebuilt this city (~300BC) naming it after his wife

  5  became a headquarters of Roman administration (146BC)

   a  a free city, self-governing

    (A)  its own popular assembly, laws and magistrates

    (B)  population was around 200,000 (today, 315,000)

   b  its Main Street was the Via Egnatia, (Egnatian Road), running East and West, linking Rome with the East

  6  its characteristics

   a  like other Greek cities, idolatry was a way of life

   b  promiscuity was prominent, even esteemed (religious service)


 B  The Church in Thessalonica

  1  Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. (1:1)

  2  “1 ¶ Now when they had travelled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and [saying,] "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. 5 But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. 6 And when they did not find them, they [began] dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who have upset the world have come here also; 7 and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." 8 And they stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. 9 And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them. 10 ¶ And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, [to see] whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:1-11)

  3  Acts 17:1-11 is the record of the planting of this church by Paul, accompanied by Silas & Timothy

   a  Paul preached there on three Sabbaths and maybe a bit longer

    (A)  some of the Jews were converted to Christ

    (B)  but a larger number of Jewish proselytes & Gentiles converted

    (C)  the Jews in jealousy created an uproar, forcing the evangelists to leave the city

   b  the three travelled on to Berea, a neighbouring city

    (A)  the Jews listened to them, checking the message with Scripture

    (B)  the Thessalonian Jews pursued them there to cause trouble

    (C)  Paul then went on the Athens, but sent Timothy back (3:2)

    (D)  Paul continued on to Corinth where Timothy rejoined him

    (E)  Paul was many days there with Priscilla & Aquila (Acts 18:18)

  4  it appears that it was from Corinth that Paul wrote these letters

   a  next to Galatians, they seem to be his earliest letters

   b  some old Bibles have “... from Athens” at their end in small letters

    (A)  which indicate that this was a note added by the copyists

    (B)  Athens is inconsistent with Timothy’s return to Corinth (3:6)

   c  it was Timothy who related to Paul their situation, and also, undoubtedly, the concerns they expressed which Paul answers

    (A)  their conversion was a recent event, still vivid in their memories

    (B)  but enough later to make it commonly known to churches

   d  so we conclude that these letters were written about 50-51AD

    (A)  it was while Paul was still on the second missionary journey

    (B)  it is only on this journey that Silas accompanied him

    (C)  this puts them as among the first of his letters

    (D)  so they were written to a very young church experiencing their first growing pains as a body of believers


III  The Pressures

 A  Facing Persecution

  1  from non-Christian Jews as at start in Acts 17

   a  the missionaries had left a legacy of Christian character

   b  enemies lied about their motives

    (A)  Paul defends himself against this in chapter 5

    (B)  they were not in it for personal gain

    (C)  they were not promoting themselves

  2  the Gospel itself gave cause for persecution from the Gentiles

   a  the Gospel proclaims Jesus as Messiah: the Anointed Ruler

   b  He is the Ruler who supercedes the Roman emperor

   c  so Christianity came under official attack by local rulers

  3  Christians today are faced with a more subtle persecution

   a  government, educators refuse to admit Jesus as Ruler

   b  false religions use every way to stifle the gospel message

   c  Paul wrote how to respond to persecution; we need to learn the same lessons for ourselves from these letters


 B  Living Forth the Gospel

  1  these Christians, were living in a great commercial centre

   a  trade came through their port on the Via Egnatia, between Rome, the centre of the Empire, and the East

   b  affluence abounded; luxuries passed through their hands

   c  religions from all regions were to be found, and many of these were closely linked with sensual pleasure and immorality

  2  while some of the Christians were Jews, having the background of the OT and knowing God’s standards of morality

   a  some were proselytes to Judaism at various stages, seeking God but not necessarily understanding His word

   b  others were right out of paganism, carrying over pagan ideas respecting morality

   c  the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit was evidently neglected

   d  and, under pressure, it was easy to fall back to the old ways

  3  Timothy evidently also brought news that some of the new believers there has misunderstood Paul’s preaching of the second coming

   a  some stopped working, abandoned their duties in a hysterical expectancy of the parousia (arrival, royal visit, second coming)

   b  others – as there is throughout the NT an expectation of the imminence of the parousia, – thought that believers who had died since they believed were to miss out on its benefits

   c  Paul writes to correct these misconceptions, describing the parousia more fully in chapters 4 and 5 and comforting those who had recently been bereaved of Christian loved ones.

  4  in our town, province and country we are faced with many of the same challenges making it difficult to live forth the gospel

   a  many young Christian have had no Christian upbringing but know only the world’s standards, as found in the media and the permissive laws of our society

   b  we live in a region of great affluence, seducing us from “… seeking the things above, where Christ is ...” (Colossians 3:1)

   c  we live in a time of such wild ideas about the parousia that we neglect the lesson of its imminence – He may return any instant – “… We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)

   d  the daily living forth of the gospel is one of the lessons that we learn from these letters to the church of the Thessalonians


IV  The Fundamentals

 A  Respecting God

  1  Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

   a  the Thessalonians are reminded of their new relationship to God

    (A)  the God who created all things, yet befriends man

    (B)  as Father, a protective, loving relationship

    (C)  as Saviour, delivering mankind from the curse of sin

   b  the church – every church – like the individual believer – every believer – is in God’s hands: He must be recognised as sovereign

    (A)  for protection

    (B)  for guidance

    (C)  for ministry

   c  in this verse God’s rule of the church, as the individual, is focussed on the first two Persons of the Trinity

    (A)  on the Father as the one who plans all things

    (B)  on the Son – the Lord Jesus Christ – who has carried out the Father’s plan, delighting to do His will

    (C)  the role of the third Person, the Holy Spirit is to make known the Father’s plan and to apply the Son’s work to the church and to the individual, rather than place Himself at the forefront, for as Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you.” (John 16:13-14)

  2  so the basic response of the church as the body of Christ, as of the individual believer, is the same: God is in control


 B  Respecting Salvation

  1  Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

  2  in this verse of greeting, the two cardinal aspects of salvation are stated

  3  Grace – the unmerited favour of God

   a  the means by which salvation is realized

Wonderful grace of Jesus, Greater than all my sin;

How shall my tongue describe it, Where shall its praise begin?

Taking away my burden, Setting my spirit free,

For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me. 2

   b  RW Dale “Grace is love passing beyond all claims to love, conferring on a revolted race honours which no loyalty could have earned”

  4  Peace – the age-old rebellion against God has ceased

   a  in Eden man suffered the loss of harmony of his soul with God; Jesus, the Great Physician restores that harmony

   b  the veil separating God and man has been torn away

   c  Sholom: spiritual wholeness is established in the believer’s heart

  5  grace and peace, linked together, describe God’s great salvation


 C  Conclusion

  1  these truths will sustain us now, as then, in living forth the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives – may the Holy Spirit apply them to our hearts.

Endnotes

1

© 2017 by Garth Hutchinson, Faith Fellowship Baptist Church of Aurora (Ontario): may be distributed or quoted freely, only let this be done to the glory “of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus ii.13). This message has drawn extensively on my message preached October 21, 2001, “1 Thessalonians – Christianity 101". Except as noted otherwise, quotations are from the New American Standard version, used by permission. Various other English versions of the Holy Bible may be used in this sermon. Explanatory additions to the Bible text are shown in [braces]. Version identifiers are:

 

              AV          Authorized (King James) Version of 1769

              NAS        New American Standard version © 1960, 1995 The Lockman Foundation (usually the 1995 edition)

              NIV         New International Version © 1984 by the International Bible Society

              NLT         New Living Translation © 1996 Tyndale Charitable Trust

              NKJV              New King James Version © 1979 Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers

              NRSV             New Revised Standard Version © 1989 National Council of Churches of Christ

              RSV        Revised Standard Version © 1946, 1952 National Council of Churches of Christ; Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd

              WEY               The New Testament in Modern Speech © 1902, 1912 R. F. Weymouth


Some of the commentaries and resources used in the preparation of this message are identified as follow:


              BM       Biblical Museum, Editor James Comper Gray, ca 1870

              EGT             The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Hodder & Stoughton; 1903

                             1 & II Thessalonians, by James Moffatt

              NCBC –    The New Century Bible Commentary – 1 and 2 Thessalonians – I. Howard Marshall – Wm B. Erdmans

2

Wonderful Grace of Jesus – by Haldor Lillenas (1885-1959)