Thursday: Home Churches
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Read Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; and Philemon 1, 2. What do all these texts have in common?

In the Roman world there were two main types of residences. There was the domus, a large, single-family home built around a courtyard, typical of the wealthy. Such a home could provide a meeting place for 30-100 people. The other type of residence was the insula, with shops and workplaces on the ground floor facing the street and apartments (flats) on the floors above. This was the primary [...]

Wednesday: Paul, the “Street Preacher”
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The first-century Greco-Roman context experienced a proliferation of popular philosophers who, in public forums, sought to influence individuals and groups-similar to what street preachers might do today.

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These philosophers believed that people had an inner capacity to change their lives (a form of conversion). Philosophers would use public speech and private conversation in order, they hoped, to produce change in their students. They sought to create in their listeners doubts regarding their current ideas and [...]

Tuesday: The Gospel as a Point of Contact
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Given what we learned yesterday, it is not difficult to see why-when the gospel came to Thessalonica-many non-Jews of the city responded positively. Whether or not Paul was aware of the Cabirus cult before arriving in the city, his Messianic approach in the synagogue resonated with the unique spiritual longings of the local pagans.

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When the gospel came to Thessalonica, the working classes of the city were ready for it, and they responded in large [...]

Monday: A Pagan Response to Rome
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The pagan response to the powerlessness many Thessalonians felt was a spiritual movement scholars call the Cabirus cult. The cult was grounded in a man named Cabirus who spoke up for the disenfranchised and was eventually murdered by his two brothers. He was buried along with symbols of royalty, and the cult came to treat him as a martyred hero.

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The lower classes believed that Cabirus had exhibited miraculous powers while alive. They also believed [...]

Sunday: The Romans Arrive in Thessalonica
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Read John 11:48-50. How were the political and religious decisions regarding the ministry of Jesus impacted by the arrival of the Romans in first-century Palestine and Jerusalem? Think through the logic expressed here. In what frightening ways does it make sense?

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In the context of a civil war among the Greek city-states, the Thessalonians invited the Romans to take over their city and protect it from local enemies around 168 b.c. The Romans rewarded Thessalonica for [...]

Sabbath: Thessalonica in Paul’s Day
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Read for This Week’s Study: John 11:48-50, 1 John 2:15-17, 1 Cor. 9:19-27, John 3:3-8, 1 Cor. 16:19.

Memory Text: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible” (1 Corinthians 9:19, NIV).

Key Thought: A short study of the context of ancient Thessalonica demonstrates that Paul’s approach to the citizens of Thessalonica was unique and carefully crafted.

The primary focus of this lesson will be a summary of what history, literature, and archaeology tells us about Thessalonica.

This [...]

Further Study: Preserving Relationships
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“If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful(emphasis supplied), there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one. But, though professing to be converted, we carry around with us a bundle of self that we regard as altogether too precious to be given up. It is our privilege to lay this burden at the feet of Christ and in its place take the character and similitude of [...]

Inside Story: Lighthouse on an Island
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Laura and Paulo live in town on the island of Madeira in the Mediterranean Sea. Paolo had once been an Adventist, but he had stopped attending church before he married. However he often read from Acts of the Apostles, a book he treasured.

One day an Adventist pastor visited them. Laura and Paulo were pleased, and the pastor continued visiting every week, even though the roads were treacherous and no other Adventists lived nearby.

The family began attending the only church on [...]

Thursday: Paul Reveals His Heart
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Read 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:10. What does this passage tell us about Paul’s emotional attachment and relationship to these believers? What can we learn from it regarding how we should relate with those to whom we minister?

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Paul’s depth of thought and confrontational tone (see, for example, Gal. 1:6, 7; 3:1-4; 4:9-11) sometimes make him appear dismissive of feelings and personal relationships. But this delightful interlude in 1 Thessalonians shows otherwise. He was an intensely relational evangelist along the lines of the Great [...]

Wednesday: Arrival in Corinth
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Acts 18:1-18 contains two major intersections with secular history. The first is the expulsion of the Jews from Rome during the reign of Claudius (Acts 18:2). Information from extra-biblical sources locates this event in A.D. 49. The other major intersection is the mention of the proconsul Gallio (Acts 18:12). Because proconsuls in Corinth were appointed for one-year terms, information from inscriptions and other data accurately dates Gallio’s term of office to a.d. 50-51. Critical scholars often doubt the historicity of [...]