Friday, March 12, 2010

Intro to Thessalonians

Acts 17:1-15 - Passage Lookup - New International Version -

Keep in mind that Thessalonica was a vibrant metropolis. The population, scholars say, reached 200,000 civilians. That constitutes a major city. Hence, there were a lot of people and a lot of ideas floating around.

In that large population there were a lot of Jews. The Jews apparently had great influence on the city as we read in Acts. So much so, that they were able to raise a legal ruckus against the new Christians and persecute them mercilessly. This persecution forced Paul to leave without building the strong foundation that he had customarily built in other places he evangelized in.

Note that Paul has his comfortable starting point in verse 2. Paul likes to start by preaching in the temple. This is no wonder because of his background, Paul knew the Jewish religious like the back of his hand. He was experienced in it.Why not use your strengths and training (education) to further the kingdom?

Note also in verse 2 that Paul reasoned with the hearers. He engaged them. He explained to them. One must be familiar with their subject matter before they can engage and reason with others on it. How well do we know the scriptures? Are we able to reason with others concerning Christ? We should be so familiar with Him (and His Word) that we can speak of Him comfortably in every situation -- especially those situations we excel in.

In verse 4 we have the initial conversion of the crowd: some Jews, God-fearing Greeks (ie. those who had converted to Judaism) and not a few women. I find it interesting that women have been mentioned a lot in the book of Acts as the initial place where Christianity took hold and in the epistles as leaders of the assemblies in the various evangelized cities. This is a significant alteration of the common view of women in the ancient world. Women were second / third class citizens in the ancient world, but in Christ, all are equal and significant.

The large city turned violent against Christianity and a peculiar statement is found in verse 6. Luke uses a peculiar description for "city officials" that was not common in the literature of archaeology. In fact, many have cited the use of this word as evidence that Luke may have been fabricating things. Ancient Thessalonica was located on the site that current Thessaloniki now stands. Recently, an arch was found with an inscription using the very word Luke used in this passage. It is a verification of the historical accuracy of the account Luke delivers in Acts.

The charges pressed against the believers in the town were, of course, ridiculous reaches on the theology and practice of Christians. While Christ is the ultimate authority for Christians, we are also clearly commanded to be subject to earthly rulers in all moral leadership. Civil disobedience is not a common occurrence, it is the exception. And such disobedience should be done in a peaceful manner.

The account of the Bereans is important because of the reaction the Thessalonians had -- pursuit. The Thessalonians pursued Paul and Silas to Berea and persecuted the Christians there. In short, Thessalonica was hostile to Christianity because of the Jews. So rather than attempting to infiltrate Christianity, they openly opposed it.
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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