The Church at Thessalonica

LarryMiles1In Matthew 16:13-18 we read these  words: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

Yes, Jesus kept  His promise, and the church was  established on the  first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.  Someone wrote, “The Church’s preoccupation must be Christ. Jesus did not say, I will build your church, or you will build My  church. He said  I will build My church.” (anon) (NASV-1977)

Yes the church of Christ belongs  to  Him. She is a blood bought divine institution.

Who  comprises the church that was  established on the day of Pentecost? We want to cite a  few definitions as set  forth  by various sources..

  1. In the class The Church, at Cincinnati Bible College (now Cincinnati Christian University), Tom Thurman gave  us this  definition: “Saved people serving in the Divine pattern.”
  2. Thomas Campbell, writing in the Declaration and Address, wrote these words: ” That the Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one; consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to the Scriptures, and that manifest the same by their tempers and conduct, and of none else; as none else can be truly and properly called Christians.”
  3. The mystical body of Christ of  which  he is the  Head (Eph. 1:22-23)

The  quotes  above define  the  church in  its  universal sense. We want   to center our  attention on the  church in the local  sense. We will be  discussing the Church at Thessalonica.

First of all let’s consider some  background material. What is  the  history of Thessalonica? It was called in ancient time Therma. The  name  Thessalonica  came from the wife of the   builder, Cassander.   When the Romans took over what remained of the  Greek Empire, they  divided  Macedonia into four parts, Thessalonica being  one of them.

The  geographic location of Thessalonica was very important in the ancient  world. We know the  Romans had a practice of  building  great roads. One of these, the Via Egnatia, came  right through Thessalonica. The  road stretched to the  regions  north of the  Aegean Sea.

In Acts  17:1, Luke writes that there was a  Jewish Synagogue in Thessalonica. This was  important because J. W. Mcgarvey, in his  commentary on Acts  wrote these words, “It was doubtless the synagogue in this  city that drew the  apostles on  without  stopping  to preach in Amphipolis or Apollonia,  for a  synagogue in a  city indicated the  presence of a  considerable Jewish population, with a nucleus  of Gentile proselytes abut it, and  furnished an  open avenue for the  introduction of the Gospel.”

How and by  whom was the  church of Christ established in this great metropolis? The church there was founded by Paul on his second missionary journey. Paul’s visit to Thesslonica is mentioned in the  following  passages: Acts 17:1-4; Acts 20:1-3; and in 1 Thessalonians 1:9

Were there any problems  that  arose in the  church there? Merrill F. Unger, in Unger’s Bible Dictionarylists  three problems that  arose. They were:

“1. Carelessness about their daily  work, evidently under the  impression that the  second coming  would  shortly take place.

2. A concern among them lest their Christian friends who died would suffer loss at the coming of Christ for  His own.

3. Friction between church officers and those  who possessed miraculous spiritual  endowments.”

We know that Paul dealt with these issues and problems  when  he wrote the  two epistles to the  church.

In closing, how can we today benefit form a  study of the  Church at Thessalonica? I  believe it would  be  fitting to close  with the  words of Paul in  1 Thessalonians 2:13: “And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the Word of God’s  message you accepted it nit as the  word of men, but for what it really is, the  Word of God, which  also performs its work in  you who believe.” (NASV 1977)

Note: This article was  prepared for a class at  Cincinnati Bible College.  It  appeared in the January 1978 Word and Work.

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