Written by Glyn Norman
I remember that night when we arrived late in Thessalonica. It had been a long, dry and dusty journey from Philippi. Ministry had gone well there until the city officials got involved, and then the pressure to leave began. Finally, when the danger was too much, we went on our way, seeking the next ripe town for sharing the good news. Thessalonica seemed a good choice, with around 200,000 people there, and a synagogue in place.
That was where we started of course, in the synagogue. They were happy to listen to me, with my reputation as a serious Jewish scholar from the school of Gamaliel. Starting from the Scriptures, I showed them that the long awaited Messiah had actually come, that the Suffering Servant from Isaiah had walked among us. I told of his death, his resurrection and his ascension, some sixteen years past now.
Three Sabbaths they allowed me to speak, then the resistance grew so strong that my speaking privileges were revoked. Even though I was out of the synagogue, there were some who believed and wanted to know more. Many Gentiles too, came over from their heathen idolatry, and placed their trust in my precious Messiah.
But that was a year ago. Though I left them thriving, my heart had been heavy since I was forced to leave the city. My soul burned with concern for these new believers. Were they being taught in accordance with the Scriptures? Was their faith still strong? Were they living together in unity or were there divisions? Were they standing strong against persecution? Many nights I wept in prayer, bringing these new believers before the Lord, asking him to sustain and grow them in their faith.
Finally, I could bear it no more and sent Timothy to them. And what a report he brought back. How my heart was lifted when I heard of their faith, their love and their perseverance. And so now I, Paul, beloved of God, put ink on parchment, expressing my joy and hoping to encourage the saints.
That's the background to Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian church. Our new series going through that letter begins on August 6th, when we will explore the great themes of faith, character, perseverance, holiness and the return of the Lord. Though this letter was written 1,967 years ago, its truth and challenges are just as relevant today, as we seek to live as "children of the day." I hope you can join us as we journey together.