During Paul’s second missionary journey he spent three Sabbaths in Thessalonica. Acts 17:1-10 tells how the church got started. This week we will begin a study of First Thessalonians. So let’s start with an introduction.
Thessalonica lies near the ancient site of Therma on the Thermaic Gulf at the northern reaches of the Aegean Sea. This city became the capital of Macedonia (ca. 168 B.C.) and enjoyed the status of a “free city” which was ruled by its own citizenry (Acts 17:6) under the Roman Empire. Because it was located on the main east-west highway, Via Egnatia, Thessalonica served as the hub of political and commercial activity in Macedonia, and became known as “the mother of all Macedonia.” The population in Paul’s day reached 200,000 people.
Paul undoubtedly had multiple reasons for writing, all coming out of his supreme concern for the flock from which he had been separated. Some of Paul’s purposes clearly included: 1) encouraging the church (1:2–10); 2) answering false allegations (2:1–12); 3) comforting the persecuted flock (2:13–16); 4) expressing his joy in their faith (2:17–3:13); 5) reminding them of the importance of moral purity (4:1–8); 6) condemning the sluggard lifestyle (4:9–12); 7) correcting a wrong understanding of prophetic events (4:13–5:11); 8) defusing tensions within the flock (5:12–15); and 9) exhorting the flock in the basics of Christian living (5:16–22).
Five major themes are woven together in 1 Thessalonians: 1) an apologetic theme with the historical correlation between Acts and 1 Thessalonians; 2) an ecclesiastical theme with the portrayal of a healthy, growing church; 3) a pastoral theme with the example of shepherding activities and attitudes; 4) an eschatological theme with the focus on future events as the church’s hope; and 5) a missionary theme with the emphasis on gospel proclamation and church planting.
Tomorrow we will begin our study of 1 Thessalonians 1. Please read Acts 17:1-10 as your introduction to the study.
Tom Stearns, WASI Chaplain, 907 715-4001