Study No. 20 – A Church to ‘Die For’ (I Thess 2:8) Acts Chapter 17:1-15
Paul and Silas leave Philippi after a relatively short stay there.
Summary of the ‘church planting’ in Philippi:
There appears to have been no Jewish synagogue in the city. On a Sabbath day the team gathers at the riverside where Jewish believers had a custom of meeting for prayer.
A Woman named Lydia heard them speaking and she and her household came to believe in Jesus. They are baptized and welcome Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke to stay with them. This would be the humble beginning of the Philippian church.
As the team continued to preach by the riverside and elsewhere, they were preceded by a woman who announced publicly that these men were servants of God and had come to show the way of salvation. She did this for many days. Paul perceived that this ‘gift’ of hers was not from God, but was actually an evil spirit. He cast out the spirit. The result was that Paul and Silas are arrested and locked up in prison. It turned out that this woman was ‘owned’ by a group that made money through the ‘gift’ that she had. Now their source of profit is gone.
Beaten and bleeding, locked in a prison, Paul and Silas continue to speak and as midnight approached they were singing hymns. At this point the jailor had fallen asleep. God caused an earthquake to open the prison doors and loose all of the stocks.
When the jailor realizes what has happened, he decided to take his own life but is stopped by Paul, who tells him that all prisoners are still here.
The jailor had heard enough all evening to be convinced that what these men had was real … and now asks what he must do to be saved.
He and his household hear the way of salvation, are saved, baptized and become part of this new church.
If you decided to do the ‘extra study’ this week, were you able to list a few of the positive traits that stand out to you as being marks of a healthy church?
Having been asked by the Roman officials to leave the city , Paul complies and they have a final meeting with the new believers and leave for other places.
Amphipolis – about 30 miles (a day’s journey) southwest of Philippi.
Apollonia – about the same distance further southwest
Thessalonica – about 28 miles west of Apollonia.
The first two cities are ‘passed through’. They likely do not have a synagogue, but may have been the places where they would have spent the night.
Next ‘Ministry Point’: Thessalonica
For 3 Sabbaths Paul ‘reasons’ with the Jews and Devout Greeks in the synagogue.
Ac 17:3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ." (NKJV) [note- the NIV says, ‘… explaining and proving’. No other translations use the word ‘proving’, and although it is a good word, it probably is a little too strong.]
The simple message: The Messiah who was long ago prophesied as the coming One, … HAD to suffer, die, and be raised back to life the third day.
What are the positive results after three weeks of preaching this message?
- A few of the Jews become believers
- A great multitude of ‘devout Greeks’believe.
- Many of the ‘leading women’ become believers.
The persons listed above … joined Paul and Silas.
Note- there was no church to ‘join’ yet. This sounds like quite a crowd.
What are the negative results?
- the ‘un-persuaded’ Jews look for a supporting crowd to assist them in getting rid of Paul.
- They form a ‘lynch mob’ and attack the house where they think Paul and Silas are
- Discovering that they are not there, the mob hauls Jason (the homeowner) and some of ‘the brethren’ to the city authorities, making accusations regarding Jason’s harboring this criminal called Paul.
- The authorities take ‘bail’ money as security and let them go.
- Paul and Silas are sent away in the night.
So, where does this leave Thessalonica?
- A large multitude of believers
- A very short ‘church development’ stage. – just over three weeks.
- The missionary team, Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke, sent away.
- With spoken words from Paul that may soon fade from memory.
Paul and Silas go to Berea.
We will talk about this in a future study, but I want to skip ahead just a bit. After a short time in Berea, Paul is sent to Athens … without the rest of the team. When he gets off the ship in Athens he tells the brothers who accompanied him to go back and tell Timothy and Luke to get to Athens as quickly as they can. While Paul waits for them there, he spends some time walking around in Athens, and finally opens some discourse with people in the market place. Although it is not mentioned, apparently Timothy and Silas arrive, report on the condition of the Thessalonian church and he sends them right back to spend time with them, teaching and preaching. Paul moves on to the city of Corinth and will wait for them there. When eventually they return, Paul writes them a letter … First Thessalonians. About six months later, still in Corinth, he writes a second letter to correct their mistaken conclusions about the second coming.
By reading excerpts from the letter we get to learn something about that three to four week period which was the formation of the church there. We get a ‘picture’ of Paul’s heart of love and concern for them.
Consider the following excerpts from the letter: Let’s read 1 Thess chapter 1 to chapter 2:12.
- Paul’s thankfulness for them. The three-week (plus) ministry actually took root!!!
o He has heard evidence of lives based on faith
o He has heard about work, hard work that is taking place, springing out of hearts filled with love for each other, and probably for the lost.
o Paul is feeling blessed to hear that these new believers are talking about the second coming of Christ and are living expectantly.
- Paul assures them … that what he is seeing is evidence that they are God’s elect. They are genuine. If we take a short re-look at Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed, Paul would be saying … you are not the result of seed planted in the hard ground, planted where there is no depth for rooting, nor planted where weeds and the cares of world choked you out. You are producing fruit … and that is evident!
- You followed us – and we are honored in that … and we commend you for that.
o You followed us even in the sense of receiving and accepting persecution for your newfound faith .. and accepting it joyfully!!
o People throughout Macedonia and Achaia are talking about you … and have heard the Word because of you, and your great faith is being talked about.
- You are well aware (and may I remind you) of our basic approach we used while we were there.
o We came as men who lived what they preached … and were persecuted for it … as you know.
o We were open and transparent if every way … no hidden agenda (as Judaizers often have)
o We came as God’s representatives … apostles. (2:4) We did not use flattery. We were not seeking glory or popularity.
o We used the gentleness of a mother to a child.
o We worked night and day and did not take or expect pay from you.
2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
1 ¶ Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone,
2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith,
3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. 4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.
5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.
6 ¶ But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you—— 7 therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. 8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.
What do you think of Luke’s mentioning Aquilla and Pricilla in 18:1? Who were they and what do we know about them?
(See Acts 18:26, Romans 16:3, I Cor 16:19, )