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.