Summary: In this introductory sermon, we learn about the beginning of the church at Thessalonica.
A. The story is told of two preachers who were standing by the side of a highway holding up two signs. One read, “The end is near!” The other held a sign that said, “Turn around before it’s too late!”
1. As a car approached, they lifted their signs, pointing to the words, they tried to get the driver’s attention.
2. The driver slowed down enough to read the sign and then yelled out the window at the preachers, saying, “Leave us alone you religious fruitcakes!” Then he sped back up down the highway.
3. A few seconds later the preachers could hear the screeching of tires and a big splash.
4. The two preachers looked at each other and one said to the other, “Do you think we should just make a sign that says, ‘Danger! The Bridge is Out?’ ”
B. Today we begin a new sermon series that I’m calling “Be Ready – A Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians.”
1. One of the main themes that Paul addressed in the letters of 1 & 2 Thessalonians is the Second Coming of Christ.
2. So, at the risk of sounding like a “religious nut,” I will be talking about the fact that the end is near and that we must be ready.
C. It appears that 1 & 2 Thessalonians were Paul’s first letters, or at least some of his first – the letter to the Galatians may have been his first.
1. 1 &2 Thessalonians were letters written to real people, who had real questions, and were facing real problems in a world that was not friendly to their Christian faith.
2. It sounds like you and I will be able to easily identify with them, right? We are real people, with real questions, and face real problems in a world that is not friendly to our faith.
D. So let’s spend a few minutes this morning being introduced to the church at Thessalonica.
1. Let’s notice some things about the background, the burden, and the blessing of these two letters.
I. The Background
A. Believe it or not, you can visit Thessalonica today, only the travel guide will call it Thessaloniki.
1. It is an important industrial and commercial city in modern Greece and is second to Athens in population.
2. Today it has a population of 400 thousand, and is one of the few cities that has survived from the New Testament era.
B. Thessalonica is an ancient city, originally named Therma because of the many hot springs found there. This picture shows the ruins of the market place in Thessalonica that existed in Paul’s time.
1. In 315 B.C., Therma was renamed Thessalonica after the half-sister of Alexander the Great.
2. In Paul’s day, 200 thousand people lived in Thessalonica.
3. Most of them were Greeks, but there were also many Romans and a strong Jewish minority.
4. Thessalonica was a commercial center for two reasons – (1) it was a seaport, and (2) the Egnatian Way, the major east-west highway of the Roman Empire went through the city.
5. William Barclay, the commentator, wrote: “It is impossible to overstress the importance of the arrival of Christianity in Thessalonica. If Christianity was settled there, it was bound to spread East along the Egnatian Road until all Asia was conquered and West until it stormed even the city of Rome. The coming of Christianity to Thessalonica was crucial in the making of it into a world religion.”