Sunday, September 14, 2008

September 14th - Introduction to 1st and 2nd Thessalonians

Prayer Requests
Dave, Brooke, and Jimmy in Mexico
Pastor Aaron and Denise
Kari's Dad's Job-situation
Our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world

Paul’s Epistle to Thessalonica

To listen to Darlene Deibler Rose's story, visit Way of the Master Radio - September 3, 2007 and start listening at 14 minutes 55 seconds.

Thessalonica is in a strategic position in Macedonia, which is now part of Greece, it was a major harbor as well as being located on the Egnatian Way, a major road across this part of the world. The cross-roads of Thessalonica made it especially useful for spreading the Gospel. This was a theme for spreading the Gospel, first in Jerusalem, then in Thessalonica, then Corinth, then Ephesus, and finally Rome.

Us, in Acworth, are sort of off the beaten path, we have a major thru-way called I75, but nobody stops in Acworth to talk to the locals and find out about news of the world. But we do have something very close, we have Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the busiest airport in the world. I’ve talked to people from Armenia, Italy, California, and Wisconsin there, probably someone from every country in the world passes through that airport every day. The next time you go on a flight or to pick someone up, make sure you take some tracts and spread the Gospel in our major crossroad.

Thessalonica has a name which no-one knows for sure what it means. Thessaly is the name of the province that the town is in. Thessaly may come from two words, Therma and Salos which mean warmth and waves, and since Thessaly is on the Thermaic Gulf, the name may mean “Warm Waves” it is hard to say for sure though because these words have to be stretched to match the name.

We know for sure that the name of Thessalonica means, “Place where Thessaly was conquered.” Who in this class knows what nike means? Nike is Greek for victory.
Thessaly – Nike.

If you went to Greece today and tried to buy a train or ferry ticket to Thessalonica, they’ll probably look at you like you are crazy, because the name has been changed to Salonica, but the town is still in the same place it was in when Paul visited and when he wrote this letter.

Paul founded this church with Silas.

Acts 17:1-10 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.

Paul, as a devout Jew, always wanted to declare the Messiah to his kinsmen first, but Christ had specifically sent Paul to the Gentiles, to the non-Jews, who ranged from refined Greeks to outright barbarians. He was following the Egnatian Way through Greece, stopping to preach in the Synagogues, and so far he had been stoned to the point that those stoning him thought he was dead, as well as chased out of town, and beaten. Yet he continued going to the Jews, finally in Corinth he abandoned the Jews to preach solely to the Gentiles.

Many believe, and I am among them, that the letter to the Hebrews was written by Paul, but left unsigned in order that he could still reach out to the Jews without them rejecting the letter because he wrote it. Though he finally heeded Christ’s command to go to the Gentiles, he never lost his desire to see Israel saved.

He arrived in Thessalonica at the end of AD 50, and spent about five months there before the Jews ran him out of town for converting so many people. They went to Berea, where the Jews compared what Paul was saying to the Old Testament, and they believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but Paul’s preaching had made the Thessalonian Jews so mad that they found them in Berea and chased them out of the region all together.

Paul was worried that the new churches in Thessalonica and Berea would succumb to persecution and so first sent Timothy to be their interim pastor, then wrote them this letter in order to strengthen their resolve and provide them with information they needed to know in order to maintain the church and see the souls saved that were passing through the important cross-roads of Thessalonica.

The letter points to the church being made up of almost entirely Gentiles, both by references to their old gods, and through a total lack of old-testament quotations. The letter begins by telling the Thessalonian church who they are now that they’ve been saved, then goes on to tell them how to live as Christians and what to expect from this life. Many think that First and Second Thessalonians are only eschatological epistles, in other words, that they only deal with end-times theology and the return of Christ. Dr. John MacArthur rightly points out that these epistles are pastoral first, and eschatological second.

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

This is a standard greeting, identifying who it is from, who it is to, and a greeting.

Paul and Silas started the church, Silas was a Jew, but here Paul wrote his name as Silvanus, which is the Greek rendering of his name. Timothy is included since he lived amongst them and reported their progress back to Paul.

The church of the Thessalonians is referring to the body of believers, and not the church building. We’ve lost an important element in language by saying, “I’m going to church…” because you are the church, Christ is the head, we are the body, and the church at Summit will go to Heaven, where-as the building will not. Some churches have gone so far as to call their buildings “assemblies” or “meeting places” in order to try to alleviate the issue of mistaking the church building for the church body. I don’t think it’s particularly important to make this distinction as long as you remember, like we said last week, that going to church doesn’t make you a Christian in the same way that going to the garage doesn’t make you a car. Only the redeeming work of the Spirit in your soul based on the payment of Christ on the cross can make you a Christian.

After Peter preached in Jerusalem on Pentecost, “when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…’” (Acts 2:37-38) Paul writes to the church of the Thessalonians in God and Jesus. When Peter said, “Repent and be baptized…” he didn’t mean, “repent and get wet…” he meant, “repent and be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ…” Baptism is first and foremost an immersion, it is not just a dunking in water, and we have to realize that we aren’t Christians because we’ve been baptized in water, we’re Christians because we’ve been immersed into God and our Lord Jesus Christ. This epistle to Thessalonica states that well by Paul calling them “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace to you and peace was a common greeting in the early church. It is kind of blocky for us to say, which is why I think it has lost its use in English, but it was common to say, "Grace to you, and peace", which in Greek is charis humin kai eirene. What it means is reminding the Christian of the unmerited favor in which they have been saved by Jesus Christ and the peace that we've attained with God through the cross of Christ.

Remember that:
Justice is when you get what you deserve, which in this case is Hell for transgressing God's laws.
Mercy is when you don't get what you deserve, which would be if God gave you a reprieve from Hell but wouldn't let you into Heaven.
Grace is when you get what you don't deserve, not only did Christ pay your fine on the cross, he gave you his righteousness so that you can go to Heaven.

Questions Afterward

- Why do some people in the Bible have their names changed?

Short answer, because out of time: names are changed in order to show an outward sign of the inward work of Grace in our lives. I'll try to research a good write-up on this in order to share here and in class.