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.

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105 thoughts on "Paul’s Ministry in Thessalonica"

  1. Lois Wilson says:

    I just love reading of how the Holy Spirit was completely in charge of where they went, who they ministered to (even in jail – reminding us that we must see even our trials as an opportunity to let the Light shine in our darkness) and whose hearts were opened and whose weren’t. This SAME Spirit lives in US today

  2. Courtney Cates says:

    Looking forward to doing this Bible study! I’m doing this Bible study along with a Women’s Bible study at my church.

  3. Nikki Fuller says:

    I noticed a couple of times (that I had never seen before) that the phrase “not a few women” I didn’t realize how many women were coming to faith at that time. I love how even during a time when women were not valued culturally that God values them (he always has and still does today)

    1. Erin Dobbs says:

      Yes! Such an incredible realization. The love and value God gives us is all that we need!

  4. Leslie VanNess says:

    This is a reminder to me/us that the same Holy Spirt that spoke to and directed Paul and his companions is the same Holy Spirt for me/us today❤️ I do confess that the static of Life distracts me and that I need to be more intentional is seeking the will and direction of from the Father, Son & the Holy Spirt.
    Less of me more of the “3”

  5. Stephanie Thorp says:

    I keep thinking about how Paul’s heart and mind were in tune with Gods leading in his life. Had he stopped listening to God he may have gone to a city that resulted in his death or people that needed to hear the truth may not have heard it.. but he was so in tune with God, that he was able to determine and detect his promptings. How often do I miss what God has in front of me because I am busy with my own agenda?

    1. Emily B. says:

      Ooh, that’s good. Thank you for sharing those convicting thoughts!

  6. Elizabeth L says:

    It struck me in the reading today how many different ways we see people receiving Paul’s message. Lydia’s heart was opened by God and she believed. The magistrates in Phillipi ordered them beaten with rods and jailed for the message they shared, yet their message was received by their jailer (and his household) who asked how he could be saved and rejoiced in his newfound belief. In Thessalonica, it says the Jews were jealous and stirred up a mob, yet there were some who believed, along with a great many devout Greeks and leading women. Then the Berean’s “received the word with all eagerness”… and many believed. Finally, in Athens, they were at least willing to hear him speak at the Areopagus because he was speaking “something new”. It’s really interesting to see all the ways our hearts and minds respond to the message of the Gospel- I have gone through some serious struggles in my belief the past couple years and I just pray God would keep my heart tender and open to His message, receiving it with eagerness instead of being resistant.

    1. Ruth Lorentz says:

      So true! As I grew up in the church and became a believer when I was young, I look back and see that there were seasons when my heart no longer trusted, especially during college years, when I could not “reason” my belief out the way Paul was reasoning with his fellow Jews. My prayer is that my heart will always receive and trust his word no matter how culture might try to persuade me otherwise. And that my sons would learn to provide a reason for their belief when challenged.

  7. Kerry Campbell says:

    My first day reading with you (Annie F. Downs sent me), and I’m reading through a bit of a Catholic lens. In a practice called Lectio Divina, we read until a phrase floats up to the surface that is speaking to us as living word. Today, mine was in Acts 17:32 “We will hear you again about this.” I relate to them, hearing the truth over and over in parts of my life, specifically about how I can trust God, but needing to hear it one more time, hoping this time it sticks. In the scripture, we’re told in response that Paul “went out from their midst,” having apparently lost patience. I don’t want to miss my chance. I know I need to just “join and believe”, to take that leap of faith today in a real way, mirrored by my words, thoughts and actions.

    1. Elizabeth says:

      Love what you shared here Kerry. I relate to this very much too.

      1. Kerry Campbell says:

        Thank you, Elizabeth. So good to know we’re not alone.

    2. Susan B says:

      Welcome, Kerry!

      1. Kerry Campbell says:

        Thanks very much!

  8. Becky Cochran says:

    God opened Lydia’s heart to hear and respond. Lord open the hearts of people today! Let your voice speak through me. Break away the barriers that are keeping people from hearing Your Truth!

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