Day 1

Paul’s Ministry in Thessalonica

from the 1 & 2 Thessalonians reading plan

Acts 16:1-40, Acts 17:1-34, Acts 18:1-5

BY Amanda Bible Williams

Scripture Reading: Acts 16:1-40, Acts 17:1-34, Acts 18:1-5

Editor’s note:
The Scripture reading for today is longer than the others and comes from the book of Acts. These chapters in Acts provide context for our study of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and give us a foundation for understanding the Apostle Paul’s relationship with this church.

My grandmother had five siblings, and by the time I came along, the six had married to become twelve. I grew up around their vegetable and flower gardens, in their kitchens that smelled of soup beans and cornbread. I listened to them tell stories late into the night, sat by as they played cards amid uproarious laughter, even stood outside in my pajamas after dark as they howled old songs by the light of the moon.

I rarely think of one of them without thinking of all of them. In my mind they were a set—always connected. That’s not to say they were always together over the years. They saw wars and endured moves and raised children in different states. But when life separated them, they built bridges with letters. They wrote letters home from overseas, sent postcards when they traveled, mailed handwritten pages of updates from one address to the other.  Even now that only two of the twelve remain, they write letters to us, their family. They keep us connected still.

Letters encourage in a way email never will. They speak to a part of the soul that social media comments can’t quite reach. When I read the letters from the Apostle Paul to the church at Thessalonica, I hear the earnestness of words written by hand and carried on foot. I hear a weary pastor, a brother in the faith, longing to see his congregation—his family.

Today’s Scripture reading gives us context for our study of the letters of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Acts 16 and 17 tell how Paul visited Thessalonica on his second missionary journey—a journey that included many other cities and countless trials along the way. The apostle faithfully preached the gospel to anyone in earshot, and they ran him out of nearly every town he dared enter. But Paul’s work was not in vain because the Holy Spirit was at work. Families of faith formed along his route—one of them in Thessalonica.

Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian believers are like so many of his other letters, filled with instruction on how to live the Christian life. But these letters do more than clarify theology; they are filled to the brim with affection and encouragement for the men and women whose belief in and hunger for the gospel encouraged him, their teacher. Paul wrote to build up his Thessalonian faith family, not with empty platitudes, but with a hope rooted one truth: “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah” (Acts 17:3).

As you walk through 1 and 2 Thessalonians in the coming weeks, read with a heart for the present and an eye to the future. We are here on this earth for a time, connected as sisters and brothers in the faith. But we are only here for a time. The greatest encouragement we have to offer one another is the hope of Christ.

Post Comments (105)

105 thoughts on "Paul’s Ministry in Thessalonica"

  1. lynne says:

    Christ is our hope!!

  2. McKenna Esper says:

    I am excited to read this 14 day reading plan. This reading and this day showed me that God is always working in my life. It may not look like it at the time but He is. I feel like I am at a standstill moment in my life and I was so worried that I wasn’t fulfilling my purpose and I need to just focus on God because I know that He has an amazing plan for my life to serve Him.

    1. McKenna I feel the SAME exact way!!!!

  3. Amanda Henderson says:

    Are we supposed to mimic this way (as Paul did) of spreading the Good News in our churches today?

    1. Linsey Peterson says:

      I think everyone is called to spread the Good News of Christ in some way, but not all have the gift of teaching and instruction as Paul did—we each have been given gifts by the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News in a way that fits the personality that God gave us!

    2. Leslie Clement says:

      I think so…I’m seeing that he “reasoned” from the scriptures in places where he knew God’s Word was known as well as in places where it wasn’t. So my take is we need to know God’s Word and we need to use his word when we try to “reason”/share/witness to others.

    3. Rachel says:

      Some are called to plant churches – but some are also called to be members of a local church. If everyone was like paul we wouldn’t have any churches – just a bunch of pastors! Some of us need to be Dionysius, Damaris, Pontus, Priscilla, Lydia’s! Faithfully follow where God has called you in this season, where he has placed you and use the gifts to bless and serve your local church!

    4. Bonne Nagle says:

      We’ve started to share the Good News based on Acts 1:8. Locally in our city, then states, then nationwide, then worldwide.

    5. Annie Croft says:

      I would actually say, probably not. First, Paul was ministering in Jewish Synagogues in much of this passage. This was a very unique time in our history as Christians. Jesus was being proclaimed and the Jews had to decide if they wanted to believe he was the Messiah or not. So if you happen to have a Jewish Synagogue close to you that you would like to attend and discuss Jesus with the leaders, then this type of ministry may work for you.
      Second, he was preaching to many people who have NEVER heard of God or Jesus before (Athens). If you are in the U.S., most people know about Christianity. They may have totally misconstrued ideas about God and Christianity, but they have heard of it. Because of that, I think that God directs each us with his Holy Spirit on ways to witness to our current culture and area. We can use Paul’s example as motivation and encouragement for witnessing though. Someone earlier referenced Acts 1:8- “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” In this passage we are certainly reminded that we need to be witnesses for God. Just like Paul, we can share our stories, we can share with others about how God has changed our lives. Paul also regularly eats and spends time with other believers and I think that is something that we can learn from as well. Wow- sorry- that got way long!

    6. Kelly Schulz says:

      Leslie Clement, AMEN!!!

  4. Kelly Chataine says:

    These readings got me thinking of those that brought God’s plan of salvation to my ears and heart. Thank you, Grandpa Harbaugh and Pat, my bus driver. God be praised and His message spread through each believer, not in action only but also in the spoken truth.

  5. Kristen says:

    I heard a pastor/missionary talk about what I believe to start in Acts 17:26 that we read today. He said people question God and why He lets things happen. He said that through scripture (and I’m sure the Holy Spirit) that God put everyone where they should be and the circumstances they endure at the perfect time for them to most be able to accept Him, Jesus, and be saved! Wow! We don’t understand, but He knows each heart intimately. His will is that none should perish! This gave me such a peace! By the way, we question why people are starving. There is plenty of food, but we are to be God’s hands and feet. Corruption and greed can also prevent people providing. A man from Africa told me the millions that are spent on costumes for animals to wear on Halloween. Imagine if people chose to help others. I know I’m not talking about everything from the reading, but when reading Acts it reminded me of what the missionary said and how great and sovereign God is!

    1. Kelly Chataine says:

      Yes, that is what God does. When my husband fell and spent 5 1/2 weeks in ICU, I proclaimed our faith to the doctors, nurses and I blogged about God’s work in our life. Then when he was moved to rehab, two hours from our home, I was determined to tell everyone that entered his room about Jesus. God’s Spirit provided me with the courage to proclaim. Through our extreme situation, God’s plan of salvation was shared with many. My husband is now home and continues to recover.

      1. AliceV says:

        Kelly- I hope and pray that your husband is continuing to recover from his injury and that the Lord is strengthening and encouraging you. Blessings to you today.

  6. Molly says:

    Reading through Acts 16, I noticed that there’s a point of view switch in verse 10 to 20. The POV switches from 3rd person to 1st person and back. Anyone have any idea why this is?

    1. Meredith says:

      In Verse 10, Luke, the author of Acts, joined Paul, Silas and Timothy.

    2. Samantha says:

      There is a footnote in my bible that says “Luke, the writer of this book, here joined Paul and accompanied him on his journey.”

    3. Kelly says:

      Hi Molly. The note in my Life Application Bible states: the use of the pronoun we indicates that Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke and of this book, joined Paul, Silas and Timothy on their journey. He was an eyewitness to most of the remaining incidents in this book.

    4. Molly says:

      That makes a lot of sense! Thanks, everyone!

  7. Churchmouse says:

    My father was a man of contradiction. He was not an overly affectionate man. He was not one given to spontaneous hugs or an expressive “I love you.” That was not him and it made me a bit sad all my life as I tend towards being both. But when I went all 30 miles away to nursing school he wrote me one letter nearly every week. My mother never wrote, no doubt too busy caring for my five brothers and two sisters. His letters were short and described daily family events, nothing earth- shattering and none with profound or lofty encouragement. But he always signed them “love, Dad” and that was my favorite part. So hand written letters are poignant to me. There’s a permanence to them because they can’t be erased with a quick press of a delete button. The penmanship is somehow personal in a way the type written word is not. My dad’s letters are treasures now since he has died. How too are these letters written by God to us through Paul. Personal. Poignant. Permanent. And signed with love. I am eager to read them with all of you.

    1. Laura says:

      That’s a lovely story.

    2. Nads says:

      I love that.

    3. ~ B ~ says:

      I never heard my father say that he loved me until I went away to college. I always knew, he was a wonderful father, but hearing it and like you seeing it in writing, was blissful. I can so relate to this. So beautiful, Churchmouse.

    4. Mari says:

      My daddy, wasn’t affectionate either. However his actions and words were enough for me. He loved Jesus with his whole heart! He was a very quiet and a “gentle” man. Everyone loved him. I miss him so much! And most important he loved to tell others about Jesus!

  8. Kristen Clavey says:

    Why would the Spirit of Jesus not allow them to speak in certain areas?

    1. Kirsten LaShure says:

      Maybe to prevent persecution? I’m also unsure, but that could be a reason.

    2. Lori Lalonde says:

      My guess would be that God knew it could mean their lives would be sacrificed and he had a long purpose for Paul’s life. To me this is very similar when Joseph was directed to flee to other cities with Jesus to protect His life. It is a beautiful thing to be lead by the Holy Spirit!

    3. Kaitlyn Reed says:

      Yes, what Lori said! God’s purposes may have been greater than even Paul himself could understand, but he trusted God’s direction. My hunch is that it was to avoid persecution to the point of death, or the time for that specific area just hadn’t come yet.

    4. Leslie Clement says:

      I know that God’s timing is always perfect. As i read about the people who were evangelized, i have to believe that God knew their hearts were ready to receive his message. Perhaps it was those people that grew the church so Paul’s evangelization had greater effect in those areas.

    5. Stephanie Mann says:

      Paul does later return and preach in that area, so I agree, maybe God knew their hearts weren’t ready, or that there was a more pressing need in Europe at that moment. If I understand the commentary I read correctly, Pauls arrival in Europe was the 1st time the gospel had ever reached them, how amazing!

    6. Christine Balgord says:

      God is all knowing. He would know if the time wasn’t right and lead Paul somewhere else where people were ready to hear his message. Our lives are like this too. God knows what is best and will direct our paths if we pray and listen like Paul.

    7. Kristen Clavey says:

      Thanks! These suggestions are all helpful.

    8. Lucila says:

      The Holy Ghost that is, God has always a plan for each thing we do. Even in moments of sharing the Gospel, God has a plan for. Sometimes God puts limitations for a specific reason, just like in that case with Paul. The specific reason He didn’t let Paul in those certain areas I don’t know, but what I do know is that Paul listened to him and fulfilled his porpose, even after all the things he had to go through and the doors that closed in his face.

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