Scripture: 1Thessalonians 5:1-11; 4:13-18
This week for our series Church and State: The Rise of Early Christianity, we are talking about the earliest document we have in the New Testament, Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, which was written around 51 A.D. This letter is the earliest glimpse we have into the types of churches that Paul founded and how he enabled the Christian religion to survive. So let’s take a moment to describe the area of Thessalonica so that we can understand a little bit about why one of Paul’s first churches was established here.
Thessalonica is a city located in northern Greece in an area known as Macedon. When the Romans took it over, Thessalonica became the capital of the Roman province of Macedon. The city flourished due to its location on the major trade routes to the east. Ships were always coming in and out of Thessalonica making it very cosmopolitan. The reason why Paul was attracted to Thessalonica is because it had a very large Jewish community.
From what we can tell, during Paul’s initial journeys to spread the word about Jesus, he focused mainly on areas that had large Jewish populations. Paul would visit the synagogues on the Sabbath and then would find an opening to talk about Jesus. According to tradition, Paul spent three Sabbaths trying to convince the Jews of Thessalonica that Jesus was the messiah. Based on the content of 1Thessalonians, we know that Paul was successful in his efforts.
A small group of people broke away from the synagogue and formed the first Christian church in Thessalonica. The question that I’ve always wondered about was what Paul said to convince these people that they should believe in Jesus, because whatever he said must have been pretty compelling considering they refocused their belief system around Jesus. That is the question we will be exploring this Sunday, so I hope you can be here because this sermon is going to reflect on how God is calling us to be the church in the 21st century. I look forward to seeing you in church on Sunday! Enjoy this beautiful weekend.