The Model Church
It was approximately one hundred and five miles to walk from Philippi to Thessalonica. In the first Century, Thessalonica had a population of about 200,000 people. Thessalonica had a port to the Aegean Sea and was situated on the Egnatian Way making it an excellent trading center. Although it was a “free city” it had a military garrison. A “free city” meant it was allowed to rule itself. But, in Truth, Thessalonica was about to get its first taste of real freedom.
Some have referred to the believers in Thessalonica as the model church. Why would anyone think any church was THE model?1
Consider these scriptural points.
2 Timothy 3:16
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
This is what God inspired Paul to write concerning all scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. But as I have pointed out in numerous teachings, different books line up with different administrations. For the Administration of Grace, we have Romans through 2 Thessalonians as the church epistles, meaning they are addressed to all who believe in our administration. Then, we have leadership epistles, or letters, to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. If you are a leader, these are addressed to you. If you are not a leader, these letters teach you how to be a leader or simply teach you how to incorporate more godly principles into your life and walk.
The Book of Acts shows us the transition into the Administration of Grace and the transition away from the Revealing Administration. Transition points are both, a transition into and a transition away from. The Book of Acts also shows us a small glimpse of the life of the Apostle Paul as he introduces the right way to believe in our administration.
Second Timothy told us the Word of God is profitable along the lines of doctrine, and reproof, and correction, and instruction in righteousness. All these aspects are designed toward the right way to believe in each administration. Part of the profit of these aspects is to fully equip a believer in God for the good (agathos = good) works He will ask of you.
For the Administration of Grace, we have Romans, and Ephesians, and Thessalonians as doctrinal epistles. For Romans we have the reproof Epistle of Corinthians to address their practical error that crept into their church in relationship to the Epistle to the Romans. Then, we have the correction Epistle of Galatians to address their doctrinal error that they allowed to creep into their church. For Ephesians we have the reproof Epistle of Philippians to address their practical error, and we have the correction Epistle of Colossians to address their doctrinal error.
To see Dr. E.W. Bullinger’s explanation of the Pauline Epistles see Appendix 192 in his Companion Bible and his opening thoughts on the Pauline Epistles before the book of Romans, also in the Companion Bible.
The purpose of Romans is to provide believers with the right way to believe God. Romans redirects our lives away from the false idols of the world to believe the living God. The purpose of Corinthians and Galatians is to bring the churches back to the right practice and doctrine held forth in Romans. The same outline is true for Ephesians, its doctrine is the right way to believe, its practice of walk in love, walk in light, walk circumspectly is the right way to act. Then, Philippians and Colossians bringing believers back to the right practice and doctrine of Ephesians. Finally, Thessalonians is the right way to believe without follow up epistles of reproof and correction. There is no reproof and correction for the doctrine of Thessalonians because to genuinely walk in the doctrine and practice of Thessalonians is to walk fully in the doctrine and practice of the Administration of Grace.
To genuinely believe the doctrine of Thessalonians, which is the gathering together of Christ’s Body, when he returns and we meet him in the clouds, you first must believe the doctrine of Romans and Ephesians. In Romans you must believe your identification in Christ of Justification and Righteousness. In Ephesians you must believe you are risen with Christ and seated in the heavenlies, holy and without blame. If you do not believe the doctrine of Romans and Ephesians, you will never genuinely believe that Christ is returning to gather YOU as part of the Body of believers. Without first believing the doctrine of Romans and Ephesians, you will not patiently wait, with the expectation of, hopefully today!!!
So, why is Thessalonica the model church? Because they believed their identification in Christ (Romans – work of believing), and that they were risen with Christ (Ephesians – labor of love), and that they will be gathered unto Christ (Thessalonians – patience of hope). This was their witness. This is what sounded out from these believers. It was an excellent trading center with its seaport and position on the Egnatian Way, for these same reasons it was an excellent city for outreach to the world.
1 Thessalonians 1:7-8
So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
They were examples, tupos in the Greek, to all who believed in Macedonia and Achaia. Tupos means, “strike, smite with repeated strokes, literally refers to a visible mark or impression made by a stroke or blow from an instrument or object. What is left after the stroke or blow is called a print, a figure, or an impression…Stated another way tupos properly means a model, pattern or mold into which clay or wax was pressed (or molds into which molten metal for castings was poured), that it might take the figure or exact shape of the mold.”3
The Thessalonians were the example, the pattern to follow, to imitate, for they were the model.
Perhaps I should let Paul, and Silas, and Timothy arrive in Thessalonica before I continue.
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
We learned in a previous teaching that to have a synagogue Judeans needed ten adult males. Therefore, it is not surprising that enough Judeans lived in a city as large as Thessalonica to have a synagogue.
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
The phrase “his manner was” is the Greek word etho and means his custom or his habit. As we have seen since Acts 13, when a synagogue was present, that is where Paul begins his preaching in a city. Why a synagogue when he was sent to the Gentiles?
But the Lord said unto him, go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
Although Paul was primarily sent to the Gentiles, he also had a ministry to Israel. This is reason enough to preach in a synagogue. But Paul also went to the synagogue because men who feared God and are looking for God, came to a synagogue.
Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.
This was in Antioch in Pisidia and the following Sabbath almost the whole city came to that synagogue to hear Paul preach.
And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
So, when Paul, and Silas, and Timothy entered Thessalonica, they went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. Then, for three sabbath days Paul went to the synagogue and reasoned with the people there out of the scriptures.
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
So, Paul’s habit or custom was to reason with others out of the scriptures.
1 Thessalonians 1:5
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:9
For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
1 Thessalonians 2:1
For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:
God makes a strong point of the manner of entering in of Paul, Silas, and Timothy. What was their manner, their walk, like during these three weeks they were in Thessalonica?
1 Thessalonians 2:3-4
For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
They did not come with a power point presentation. There was no group of musicians traveling with them to warm up the crowd. I am not saying anything is wrong with these things. My point is simply, the simplicity with which they reached out to the men and women of the cities they visited. Paul’s primary tool, the scriptures, to demonstrate the goodness of God and His abundance of grace.
Acts 17:2 said that they reasoned with people out of the scriptures. The Gospel they preached, was the Gospel of the Grace of God (Acts 20:24). Although, there are no scriptures written at this time explaining the Gospel of the Grace of God, but God’s grace has been abundantly on display since man’s time in the Garden in Eden.
1 Thessalonians 2:5-6
For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
The word “exhortation” in verse 2:3 is paraklesis, the noun form of parakaleo, meaning, to call alongside for encouragement. From 1 Thessalonians 2:3 through verse 12, Paul’s manner is laid out for the Thessalonians to see and to emulate.
“Reasoned,” in Acts 17:2, is the Greek word dialegomai. This compound Greek word consists of dia, which means through or throughout, and lego, which means saying. Lexicons define dialegomai as, “to discuss, to address, to preach.”4 Blue Letter Bible adds in, “to converse, discourse with one.”5 We get our English word dialogue from this Greek word.
The best way to understand this Greek word, dialegomai, is to see it as a conversation. What happens when you have a conversation with one or more people? In an average conversation, questions are asked and answered, and declarative statements are made. In a conversation there is give and take, it is an exchange of thoughts and ideas, it is a spontaneous interaction between two or more people.
For Paul, his habit was to enter a synagogue and then to engage in conversations with other Judeans or anyone who respected God. You have heard of a sermon I see? This is how the Thessalonians received God’s Word and this is how “from them it sounded out,” conversations. This dialogue Paul would engage in was “out of the scriptures.”
First Thessalonians 2:5 speaks of a “cloke of covetousness.” God is discussing Paul’s manner, his habits. Paul was not looking for greedy gain financially. He did not covet their money. Could he have gone in that direction? Consider Acts 17:4
And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.
“Of the chief women not a few” is speaking of people, high up in the social structure of Thessalonica. Like today, the upper social structure equated with money. Paul was not looking to make money off of these wealthy people. A church’s greatness is not based on the amount of money given or received. This second chapter of Thessalonians is demonstrating Paul’s character, his manner among the people. Then how did Paul live for these weeks without an income. First, he worked.
1 Thessalonians 2:9
For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
Besides working, Paul received gifts of shared abundance from the believers in Philippi.
Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.
Then, God’s Word continues speaking about Paul’s manner of entering in, to the Thessalonians.
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
Look at the tenderness, the compassion, the affection, the agape love of God in manifestation. They imparted not only the Gospel of Grace, but also their own souls, psuche. Psuche is you, it is the sum, the totality of who you are. To be a leader for God, you lay out your entire heart for God’s family, as God lays out His entire heart to His family.
This is how Paul reasoned in the synagogue. This is how Paul approached his dialogue, his conversations with all who were interested in a conversation. This is what the Thessalonians saw and imitated as God’s Word sounded out from them.
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
“Out of” is the Greek preposition apo, meaning out from, and scriptures is graphee.
There are three main Greek words that are translated scriptures or that which is written. There is grapho, graphee, and gramma. Grapho is the root of both graphee and gramma. Grapho means to write (see Matthew 4:4,6, 7 and Romans 1:17). Gramma deals with something written that is the object of study (see John 7:15 and Acts 26:24 and 2 Timothy 3:15). Then we have graphee, the word used in Acts 17:2. Graphee means that which is written in relationship to the authority it holds. (See 2 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Peter 1:20).
So, Paul as his custom or habit was, went in unto the people in the synagogue, and for three weeks had conversations, a dialogue, whereby he showed them things out of the scriptures, and some had “What about?” questions.
What, you ask, is a “What about?” question? A “What about?” question is generally asked after a declarative sentence is proclaimed. A declarative sentence makes a statement, it makes a point. For example, “The sky is blue.” This is a declarative sentence. It can be followed by a “What about?” question. “But, what about those days the sky is completely overcast?” Which would be followed by another declarative sentence. “The sky is still blue; you just cannot see it.” Another term for this would be a conversation.
Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
Paul’s declarative sentences, or statements, were about the Christ, the Anointed One. Since Paul used the Greek word graphee, he was speaking about the authority of the scriptures. Further, Paul was declaring that this man Jesus was the Anointed One. This is what three weeks of conversations were about.
“Opening” is the Greek word dianoigo. This Greek word means, to open thoroughly what had been closed, to cause to understand a thing.6 I know, I thought of the same person, Ezra.
And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also, Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So, they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
How could Ezra do this after seventy years in captivity in a pagan land?
For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
New International Version
This is what Paul was doing in the synagogue in Thessalonica, for three weeks. Paul was opening the scriptures concerning the Anointed One, the Messiah, and giving those present the understanding that these verses had been fulfilled in Jesus.
The word “alleging” is the compound Greek word paratithemi, which means, to set beside, or near, or set before, to explain.7 So, Paul is opening the scriptures, then giving them an understanding, and then, setting it beside them or before them. One thing Paul handled is the suffering that the Christ would endure.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
I do not know if these are some, or even, if they are any, of the scriptures Paul went to in making a declarative statement. We do not know because God did not share with us the places in the Old Testament Paul used to frame his conversation. Over the course of three weeks, I have no idea how many different places Paul could turn to in the Old Testament. But I know, like Ezra (Ezra 7:10), the Apostle Paul studied the scriptures.
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness, which is in the law, blameless.
These are some of Paul’s physical credentials. Now, this is the learning schedule of the scriptures for a child in Judaism from the book, “Sayings of our Father’s.”
“At five years old, Scripture; at ten years, Mishnah; at thirteen, the commandments; at fifteen, Talmud…
But the Rabbis felt that a child was never too young to begin hearing, learning and being impressed with the words of Scripture, and in fact recognized that this process of learning was most beneficial at an early age, “Rabbi Abujah said: ‘He who learns as a lad, to what is he like? To ink written on fresh paper. And he who learns when he is old, to what is he like? To ink written on paper that has already been used.”8
Paul had been studying the scriptures since he was a young child. So, out of the scriptures he could hold a conversation, and set before those in the synagogue an understanding of the scriptures.
explaining and pointing out [scriptural evidence] that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I am proclaiming to you, is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed).”
The response to these conversations was two-fold, first, the amazing response.
And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.
This is an amazing response, “a great multitude” believed. “Of the chief women” is speaking to the impact on the society of Thessalonica. These were the wives of influential men or just influential women of Thessalonian society. A.T. Robertson translated this phrase, “and of women the first not a few. That is, a large number of women of the very first rank in the city…”9
But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.
Here is the other of the two responses. Once again unbelieving Judeans are motivated by envy and so they cause a riot. It seems to be the main tactic of the Adversary, when you do not get your way, cause a riot. A riot, the illegality, of which is not mentioned by the rulers when Jason is before them.
The Greek word for “believe not” is apeitheo which means, they heard enough of the scriptures to have the right way of believing, but they refused to believe, to be persuaded. The Greek word for “envy” is zeloo. It is used in a good sense or an evil sense. Obviously, this is the evil sense. It means, they burned inside with an anger and a hatred. Like a pot of boiling water, its heat increased on the inside until it boiled over into a riot.
These unbelieving Judeans could not prove Paul wrong from the scriptures in any of their conversations. We have already seen, from 1 Thessalonians 2, the manner of Paul, Silas, and Timothy during these conversations. But what was the manner of the Judeans motivated by their anger and hatred. During the three weeks their anger and hatred continued to heat up inside of them, until finally, it boiled over! Then, they went and found themselves some “lewd fellows of the baser sort.” That sounds bad on the surface of their description alone.
Of course, you need a certain type of person to lead the crowd and keep the crowd incited. The unbelieving Judeans would not lead the crowd themselves, that would be unseemly. So, they “…took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort...” Lewd is the Greek word poneros of which Strong’s Concordance says, “hurtful, evil properly, in effect or influence…” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon adds this, “in an ethical sense, evil, wicked, bad…” The best word to define lewd would be evil.
“Baser sort” is translated from the Greek word agoraios. You can see the word agora in this word. It is referring perhaps to some retailers who sold in the agora. But since they were first “lewd fellows” the part of the definition that would apply is, “hucksters, petty traffickers, common sort, low, mean, vulgar.” Or perhaps other men that just hung out in the agora, but “lewd” nonetheless.
Strong’s Concordance says of the Greek word, thorybeo, translated “uproar,” means “disturb greatly, terrify, strike with panic.”10 Blue Letter Bible adds the words, “throw into confusion” to their definition. That is exactly what these riots are designed to accomplish! Consider what happened in Antioch in Pisidia, and Philippi, and now Thessalonica.
Do they care about the city?
Do they care about other retailers in the agora?
These guys led the city into a riot, even breaking into the home of Jason, while looking for Paul. Like the riot, the city rulers also failed to mention this illegal action at Jason’s home. What do you think the response would have been if some of the believers broke into their home with a riotous crowd behind them?
1 Timothy 1:9a
Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient…
The righteous need no law and the unrighteous obey no law!
Why do the righteous need no law? Because we are Ambassadors for Christ! We conduct our lives as representatives of Christ. Our standard is a heavenly standard and that is higher than any law man could invent.
But these guys that broke into Jason’s home once again, have enough manpower to lay hold of grown men, at least three grown men, and bring them to the marketplace, inciting the populace along the way.
And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, these that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.
The word “drew” is syro and means to drag. So, they have the manpower to drag at least three grown men to the agora.
There is a variation in definition of the word drag, between helko of Acts 16:19 and syro of Acts 17:6, but I could not see it. But there must be a difference because God used two different Greek words. For example, in an old western movie, a mob could drag a man, who is standing upright, over to a tree with the intent to hang him. Or you could drag a man behind a horse. My point is that since there are two different Greek words there should be two distinct definitions. But for now, I will just have to leave it at drag.
Remember, Thessalonica was a free city, entitled to self-rule. Here the Greek word used for rulers is politarches. The basic meaning is political leaders.
The complaint, “these that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.”
Mace New Testament, “…these that have been everywhere the disturbers of the publick peace, are come hither also, and have been entertain'd by Jason.”
Weymouth New Testament, “…these men," they said, "who have raised a tumult throughout the Empire, have come here also.”
Worrell New Testament, “…these who turned the inhabited earth upside down are present here also.”
When trouble started within the cities of Antioch in Pisidia, and Iconium, and Lystra, and Philippi, and now Thessalonica, it was never caused by those who believed the Gospel of the Grace of God.
How then did they turn the world upside down?
If they turned the world upside down, then this is what they did: they turned people who worshipped men and myths as gods to worship the One True God. They took people that the world said had no worth nor value and showed them how the One True God said they were priceless. They took the Truth and Light of the glorious Gospel of Grace and dispelled the darkness of lies the Adversary had spread across the world. They exchanged the false freedom of the world for the true freedom found when a person believes and stands with God.
Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
This is their evidence to back up their complaint.
The Apostle Paul wrote 13 epistles and/or letters in the New Testament. He uses the word for king, basileuo, three times in his letters to Timothy. Twice referring to God as King and once saying to pray for kings and all who are in authority.
Paul uses the word for king once in 2 Corinthians when speaking of the governor of Damascus under King Aretas. In the book of Acts Paul uses the word King six times when he is personally addressing King Agrippa.
Finally, in Paul’s first teaching in Acts 13, he uses the word king twice. Once when speaking of King Saul and the other, speaking of King David.
What is the reason Paul does not use the word king in relationship to Jesus and pertaining to the Administration of Grace? Because Jesus is not our king!
In the Administration of Grace Christ is the Head and we, the believers, are his Body.
And what is the exceeding greatness of his [God’s] power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Jesus is our Lord. He is the agent through whom God, by His grace and mercy, gave us redemption, and salvation, and adoption as His children. You could call Christ our big brother and our joint heir from Romans 8. But in the Administration of Grace, we would never call Jesus our King.
This spokesman, already described as lewd (evil), opens with a deliberate lie. Paul never, in recorded writings, spoke of Jesus as king of anything. So, it seems unlikely that Paul would ever speak of Jesus as our king. Again, the reason for this is simple, Jesus is not our king in the Administration of Grace. Christ Jesus is the head, and we are his body.
And they [the lewd fellows] troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
The opening of verse eight, who troubled the people?
Acts 17:5, who “set all the city” in an uproar?
It was the lewd fellows of a baser sort!
The Greek word for “security” is hikanos, which means, “…in this context refers to a pledge, bail or bond representing an amount of money needed for release from custody and which would be forfeited by Jason should Paul and his companions cause more trouble.”11
So, Jason had to post bail for the Apostle Paul. If the life or preaching of Paul stirred up the city again, the bail would be forfeit. What exactly did Paul do wrong? It certainly was not teaching Jesus is king above Caesar. It also was not putting the city in an uproar; the lewd men have that responsibility. Yet the crimes committed by these lewd men, to prove their false point, go unpunished, even unrecognized or unacknowledged.
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
They immediately sent away Paul, Silas, and Timothy because emotions were already running to high for Paul to show himself. If Paul would show himself again, the city would immediately cause the lewd men to rise once again and trouble the city.
So, Paul, Silas, and Timothy leave Thessalonica, but only physically, and travel about 50 miles to a city named Berea.
Later when Paul arrives in Athens he sends for Silas and Timothy.
And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.
We will come back to Berea in the next teaching. But for now, I am looking at the timeline of Silas and Timothy. Paul left Berea and went to Athens, while Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea.
And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.
Those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible, they departed.
Holman Christian Standard Bible
When Paul arrives in Athens, he sends a message back to Silas and Timothy to join him. However, not recorded in the Book of Acts, or in First Thessalonians, is a change of direction. Either before Silas and Timothy arrive in Athens, or right after their arrival in Athens. Paul changes direction and sends both men back into Macedonia. We are not sure where Silas went in Macedonia, but we know Timothy went back to Thessalonica.
1 Thessalonians 3:1
Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone.
The compound Greek word translated “thought” is eudokeo. The prefix eu means good, or well pleasing. While dokeo means opinion. In Paul’s good opinion he needed to know how the believers were doing in Thessalonica.
1 Thessalonians 2:17
But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
Paul left them physically, but his heart never left them.
1 Thessalonians 3:2
And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
You remember what just happened. The envious Judean unbelievers got “lewd fellows of the baser sort” to grab Paul. Failing as they did, they grabbed Jason and a couple of unnamed other believers and proceeded to cause a riot. Paul understood there was intense pressure on the believers to return to the way of the world.
1 Thessalonians 1:6
And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.
The Greek word for “affliction” is thlipsis, which means mental pressure. However, Helps Word-studies draws a more vivid picture of thlipsis.
Helps Word-studies says, “thlípsis – properly pressure (what constricts or rubs together), used of a narrow place that "hems someone in"; tribulation, especially internal pressure that causes someone to feel confined (restricted, "without options"). ("compression, tribulation") carries the challenge of coping with the internal pressure of a tribulation, especially when feeling there is "no way of escape" ("hemmed in").12
Paul understood the pressure they were under, so his heart was to strengthen them, establish them in the right way of believing. Of course, that meant he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to establish the believers in the right way of believing.
1 Thessalonians 2:14-16
For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
The Thessalonian believers were being killed because they believed God! Just as the Judean leadership persecuted believers unto death, so too the Thessalonians suffered the same from their own countrymen. The mystery of iniquity, the mystery of lawlessness, is already at work. It was true in the first century and it is still true in the twenty-first century.
The next time you read Thessalonians recognize the chronology as you read. It was in Athens that Paul changed his opinion and sent Timothy back to Thessalonica, and Silas to an undetermined location, but also in Macedonia.
First Thessalonians chapters 1 and 2 are written before the return of Timothy. These two chapters are filled with praise and thanksgiving for the lifestyle of the believers in Thessalonica. If you are still unsure as to why the Thessalonians are the model church, let the qualities of these believers envelop your heart and mind.
Timothy and Silas finally meet up with Paul when he was in Corinth.
And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.
In Acts 18:1 Paul arrives in Corinth; this is where Silas and Timothy finally catch up to the Apostle Paul. What was Timothy’s report about the Thessalonians?
1 Thessalonians 3:6-8
But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.
Timothy’s report brought comfort to Paul. The Greek word translated “comforted” is parakaleo. Parakaleo means to call to one’s side to encourage.
The phrase, “if ye stand fast in the Lord,” is a first-class conditional clause and as such the “if” is assumed correct and would be translated, “since.” A more accurate translation would be, “For now we live, since you stand fast in the Lord.”
What does it mean that they stood fast in the Lord?
It means within the heart of every believer in Thessalonica lived the doctrine of Romans and Ephesians, so that they could enter each new moment anticipating and expecting the imminent return of their Lord and savior.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so, shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
“Hope is for the soul what breathing is for the living organism.”13
With the dawning of each new day their hope was renewed. In the next moment Christ could appear, in the clouds, calling them home. Elpis is translated hope. Hope is a confident expectation, a confident anticipation. Hope is always future, the next moment. When your hope is in words that God has uttered, it is assured. When your hope is in a promise God has made, it is guaranteed. For they knew whom they had believed.
© Auxano Ministry 2022
1. Church at Thessalonica – A Model The Church - Precious Seed | A UK registered charity working to encourage the study of the scriptures, A. Naismith
Expository Sermon on 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 - A Model Church for Today (drjustinimelsr.com), Dr. Justin Imel Sr.
3. 1 Thessalonians 1:5-7 Commentary | Precept Austin
4. Strong's Greek: 1256. διαλέγομαι (dialegomai) -- to discuss, to address, to preach (biblehub.com)
5. G1256 - dialegomai - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
6. G1272 - dianoigō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
7. G3908 - paratithēmi - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org)
8. Ancient Jewish Education of Children and Use of Scripture | World History
9. Acts 17 - Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament - Bible Commentaries - StudyLight.org
10. Strong's Greek: 2350. θορυβέω (thorubeo) -- I disturb greatly, terrify, strike with panic (biblehub.com)
11. Acts 17 Commentary | Precept Austin
12. Strong's Greek: 2347. θλῖψις (thlipsis) -- tribulation (biblehub.com)
13. Gabriel Marcel 1 Peter 1:3-4 Commentary | Precept Austin