Thursday: A Church Is Born
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According to Acts 17:1-4, 12, what classes of people made up the core of the Thessalonian church plant?


A part of Paul’s missionary strategy was “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16, ESV). During Paul’s ministry, the Jews regularly received the first opportunity to hear and accept the gospel. And the fact is that, according to the Bible, many Jews in Paul’s time did accept Jesus as the Messiah. Later, as the church started to apostatize and reject the law, especially the Sabbath, it became harder and harder for Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah because, after all-what Messiah would nullify the law, especially the Sabbath?

As the texts show, some of the Jews in Thessalonica were persuaded by Paul’s exposition of messianic texts in relation to the story of Jesus. One of these, Aristarchus, was later a coworker with Paul and even, at one point, a fellow prisoner (see Col. 4:10,11; Acts 20:4). Another, Jason, was apparently wealthy enough to house the church at his home after they were no longer welcome in the synagogue, and he also provided at least a portion of the bond needed to prevent Paul’s arrest (see Acts 17:4-9).

The “God-fearing Greeks” (Acts 17:4, NIV) are usually thought to be Gentiles who became enamored with Judaism and attended the synagogue but did not convert. This was a widespread phenomenon in Paul’s day. These Gentiles became a natural bridge for Paul to reach those Gentiles who had no knowledge at all of Judaism or the Old Testament.

The Jewish, and relatively wealthy, character of the original church plant in Thessalonica is emphasized in Acts 17 (such as in verse 12), in which “prominent” Greeks also became believers. It is clear, however, that by the time 1 Thessalonians was written, the church to which Paul was writing was largely made up of Gentiles (1 Thess. 1:9) from the laboring classes (1 Thess. 4:11).

What we can see here is the universal character of the gospel-that it is for all people, all classes, all races; rich or poor, Greek or Jew, it doesn’t matter-Christ’s death was for the whole world. That’s why our message, as Seventh-day Adventists, is for the whole world (Rev. 14:6) – no exceptions based on ethnicity, nationality, caste, or economic standing. How important it is that we keep that mandate always before us. How important it is that we not become insular, self-absorbed, and more interested in sustaining what we have than in reaching out beyond the comfortable boundaries that we, perhaps even subconsciously, have set for ourselves.

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Thursday: A Church Is Born — 2 Comments

  1. I would like to comment on one paragraph in the lesson:

    The Jewish, and relatively wealthy, character of the original church plant in Thessalonica is emphasized in Acts 17 (such as in verse 12), in which “prominent” Greeks also became believers. It is clear, however, that by the time 1 Thessalonians was written, the church to which Paul was writing was largely made up of Gentiles (1 Thess. 1:9) from the laboring classes (1 Thess. 4:11).

    First of all Luke's testimony was, "And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas" (Acts 17:4 NKJV). Meaning some of the Jews were persuaded not most of them and that is set against his statement about "a great multitude of the devout Greeks." Along with that, more than a "few" of the leading women joined. So what was the makeup of the Thessalonian church at the start? A few Jews, mostly Gentiles and a number of prominent women perhaps both Jew and Gentile is the picture that I get from these verses. Thess 17:12 doesn't even come into the discussion here because it is talking about Berea not Thessalonica.

    To be honest about it I really don't understand how the lesson author came to believe that the early Thessalonian church was made up mostly of Jews some Gentiles and was wealthy. Furthermore, his use of 1 Thess 4:11 is a stretch of the imagination to support that a shift in church demographics had taken place in 10 - 20 years from one of wealth to relative poverty. Paul's point was that they should stop being busybodies and should mind their own business. Besides, the Jewish culture of that time expected all male Jews to have skills in some trade regardless of their social status which is why Paul (who came from a family that had means) supported himself as a tent maker (Acts 18:3).

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  2. I am inclined to agree with Tyler's analysis of 1 Thess 4:11. When the entire chapter is read, particularly verse 12 it becomes clear that the writer's intention is to encourage us to mind our business, work for ourselves so that we will not be dependent on others. By living in this manner our daily lives will win the respect of outsiders.

    However, a more important point was made in the last sentence of the lesson: "How important it is that we not become insular, self-absorbed, and more interested in sustaining what we have than in reaching out beyond the comfortable boundaries that we, perhaps even subconsciously, have set for ourselves". Let us expand the horizon of our minds and reach beyond these "comfortable boundaries" that we have set for ourselves. There is so much that God can and will do through us, if only we let Him.

    If we enlarge our level of expectancy we will enlarge our vision.God is very interested in what we see through our spiritual eyes.

    So often we limit ourselves and our abilities to the extent that we limit God by our lack of faith.

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