Monday, November 10, 2008

Thessalonians Intro

The Thessalonian letters could really do with some context. For most readers Thessalonica is just a short stop on Paul’s second journey and a couple of the real short letters somewhere in the middle of the New Testament famous only for having that favorite verse of so many children trying to memorize some scripture… 5:17.

After a careful trek through the book of Acts (and a little background study), Thessalonica takes on a more impressive role in the history of Christianity. It came as a part of that famous early stretch of Paul’s second trip where the team is called into Macedonia in a vision. They hit three cities in very brief succession and get out of the region almost as quick as they got in. Actually, they are kicked out after barely starting a couple churches. Paul is very concerned for the health of these “baby” churches that are unable to benefit from his teaching.

Not only that, but Thessalonica is a big deal on its own. Even today it is the second largest metropolis in all of Greece, but in Paul’s day it was already a century’s old, huge, regional leading metro area. The Macedonian Empire really ranked up there with Greece and Rome in history. By the First Century they had waned, but had remained influential. This is where Paul chose to work. We tend to imagine all the old cities as villages. They weren’t. Thessalonica in today’s world would be like a Chicago, not the largest or most powerful city in the empire but on the short-list.

As one reads the Thessalonian epistles, there is not a lot of obvious theology. Likely the first of Paul’s many letters in the New Testament, it is a good look into the mind of the missionary as he works with one of his many church plants. But it does have a lot to teach as well…

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