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Mission at Thessalonica – Acts 17:1-10


Paul’s Mission at Thessalonica 

Acts 17:1-9, 1 Thessalonians 2. 

Paul and Silas and Timothy have left Philippi following the shameful events there, in which Paul and Silas were arrested, humiliated, beaten and imprisoned without trial, and they have travelled down through Macedonia to the town of Thessalonica.  He later recalls this in 1st Thessalonians 2:1-2   He is still BOLD in God to bring the message of the gospel.

STRATEGY – Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Firstly, let’s see how he labours in the gospel, and what the results were…

1 The Object of Paul’s Work. V2-4 

Paul’s objective here is possibly twofold:-

  • It is Spiritual – that was always Paul’s primary aim, to bring sinners to faith in Christ, to preach the cross. Paul begins his mission at Thessalonica in his usual manner, – at the synagogue of the Jews. Psalm 84:10  And while in the Synagogue, as a learned Rabbi, he is given opportunity to speak, and he speaks about Jesus.  
  • It is Strategic.  Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.  Paul is by no means haphazard in his missiology, he is a logical thinker. Thessalonica was an important city.  It was the capital city of the Roman Province of Macedonia and the largest city in the region. The Roman road between Greece and the Middle East was the Egnatian Way.  It ran right through the centre of Thessalonica, forming the city’s main street. A new church in Thessalonica would be a strategic asset, a centre to spread the message both east and west. 

Planting a church at Thessalonica is an important step in the evangelisation of Europe.

2. The Orderliness of Paul’s Work.

Here we see something more about Paul’s methods, and in particular three aspects of his teaching ministry at Thessalonica.  It comprised of:-

  • Reasoning. Biblical exegesis, preaching, starting with the Scriptures should always involve REASON. Being sensible and reasoning from the word does NOT exclude the guidance obtained through the work of the Holy Spirit in any way.   How did Paul, practically speaking, employ his logical ability to engage people’s minds and bring them to a correct understanding of the truth?   See:
    • His methods.  Amp: ‘he engaged in discussion and friendly debate.’  This was typical for a rabbi.  As well as preaching in the sense of proclamation, they engaged in teaching, settling down their pupils around them and taking questions.  It was similar to catechesis, a form of Christian instruction that we sadly neglect.  
    • His sources.  This involves the Scriptures. But how could he be preaching Christ when they only had the OT? Paul would have known that all of the Scriptures point us to Christ.  “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.”   The OT is about Jesus.  Remember what Jesus himself said in John 5:39  On the road to Emmaus, He pointed to Himself rom the OT, in Luke 24:44-45 
  • Explaining and Demonstrating.  AMP: ‘explaining and pointing out [scriptural evidence]’  
    • How was he explaining?  Do you ever reach the end of a sermon, and the preacher says, “And now, in conclusion,” and you think, “Goodness me, that was a short sermon!”   Paul was like that.  1st Thessalonians 2:5   The preacher’s aim is to EXPLAIN THE SCRIPTURES, in such a way that everyone who is listening will understand.
    • How was he demonstrating?  The Jews were expecting a Messiah. Were they mistaken, or had they simply misunderstood the work of this coming messiah?  Paul’s ‘demonstrating’ was pointing them to the cross!  Pointing out Scripture evidence.  v3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead,The Messiah had to suffer and die, and subsequently rise from the dead.  (Luke 24:26).   
  • Persuading.  4 And some of them were persuaded; I think this is important too.  It’s essential to be persuasive when we preach Christ. What is the point of preaching if it is nothing more than academic knowledge and rhetorical skills?  We preach to persuade men and women to turn from their sins and trust Christ.  We preach, said Richard Baxter, as dying men to dying men.  

So, see the orderliness of how Paul approaches his work.  He reasons, he explains, he demonstrates, and he does so with a persuasive passion.

3 The Outcome of Paul’s Work.

and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

Paul’s methods have a positive result, for Acts records that a great number of the ‘devout greeks’ – the ‘God-fearers’ and a goodly number of the leading women followed the Lord Jesus. In his first epistle to the church Paul himself explains more of what this involved:-

  • Repentance of sin, and turning away from their ungodliness. 1 Thessalonians 1:9.  
  • Believing in the finished work of Christ.  1 Thessalonians 2:13  They welcomed what Paul had preached – he had preached Christ, crucified and resurrected for the sins of men.  They believed and accepted that wonderful message,  
  • Discipleship.  Paul not only preached the gospel to the Thessalonians but he discipled them, and taught them how to live the Christian life. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 
  • Persecution.  1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 
  • Rejoicing.  1 Thessalonians 2:19-20    Paul’s pleasure is not in any way dampened by his own circumstances, he is thrilled that people have been saved, names written the Lamb’s book of life and a new church is meeting together in the Name of Jesus.

So the Lord’s work in Thessalonica has begun, and sinners have been saved, and taught, and a church formed.  But everywhere that Paul goes there’s a riot!  No-one who is committed to the sinful ways of this world has any time for the Gospel or for Christians or for Christ.  Thessalonica is no different, and Paul’s preaching and these conversions will bring trouble.  Just you wait and see…

© BobMcEvoy January 2021

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