Summary: This morning we’re going to look at three building blocks that helped to construct the church in Thessalonica.
Building Blocks for a Healthy Church
First Thessalonians 1:1-4
Introduction: Well, here we are. Hopefully you’re not too stressed out or haggard from our first experience in setting up for Sunday morning worship. Let me encourage you. It will get easier. Not only will we get better at it, but also it won’t be long before we will have more people helping out. Before I go any further, I want to thank each of you for all you’ve done–not just this morning, but from the day each of you joined the team. Whether you’ve been with the team since the beginning, or have joined us recently, each of you is important to the team and are very important to Mahria and me.
We are just a few weeks away from opening our doors to a world in need of our Savior. My original plan for these first few preview services was to use this time after worship to debrief how the set-up of the facility had gone. But that idea was short-lived. To be honest with you, I can’t wait until the 22nd to begin bringing you God’s Word. As your pastor, my primary concern is your spiritual growth and spiritual health. The word “shepherd” is much more than a colorful adjective to me.
Our greatest source of nourishment is the Word of God. Would any of us go three weeks without a meal? Can you go three weeks without food? Well, neither should we wait three weeks to begin enjoying the meat of God’s Word together.
For the next three weeks we’re going to draw encouragement from another infant church, a church plant if you will. In the process, we’re going to see what a healthy, young church looked like in the first century and some of the attributes of this early church that we should try to model at Pico Canyon. So turn with me in your Bibles to First Thessalonians. Let’s read chapter one.
This first letter to the church in Thessalonica was one of the warmest letters written by the apostle Paul. The Thessalonians occupied a special place in Paul’s heart. The tone of the entire letter is exhorting and consoling. Paul had a genuine affection and sense of protectiveness for the believers in Thessalonica.
By way of background, let’s take a brief look at the city of Thessalonica and the people who made up the fledgling church in that city. In order for us to really relate to the Thessalonian church and draw from their experience, we need to spend some time getting to know them.
When we study God’s Word, we should never overlook the historical context of what is written. Knowing the background of a letter or a book can really help to make the pages come alive and make the text that much more practical.
At the time this letter was written, Thessalonica was the largest city in all of Macedonia, with an estimated population of 200,000. Most of the population was Greek. But there were also a significant number of Romans, Asians, and a host of other nationalities calling this large metropolis home.
There were also quite a few Jews in the city that would eventually make a concerted effort to disturb the harmony within the young church. Thessalonica sat on the main road connecting Rome with its eastern territories. In fact, this main highway went through the city walls. Thessalonica had a beautiful and very busy harbor. The city ranked alongside Corinth and Ephesus in strategic and economic importance to the Roman Empire.
Many of the wealthier Roman citizens chose Thessalonica as their home. But as in any big city, then and now, Thessalonica had its share of poor people. Interestingly, many of the people in the city, who were involved in the typical forms of big city idolatry, were dissatisfied with their pagan practices and were searching for something more.
Prior to Paul’s arrival in Thessalonica, the Jewish synagogue was drawing a lot of people who were interested in the morality and the worship of one God within the confines of Judaism. Thessalonica is still an important city in Greece and has a population of more than 400,000 people.
Let’s look at the first two verses of chapter one again.
Paul and Silvanus and Timothy . . . (1:1a).
As was typical of letter writing in Paul’s day, Paul introduces himself as the author of the letter. He also introduces two of his companions–Silvanus (or Silas) and Timothy. Now, these two men were so much more than administrative assistants to Paul. They were his ministry partners.
Silas was considered to be a leader in the Jerusalem church and a prophet. He was given the task by the Jerusalem council to accompany Paul on his second missionary journey. In II Cor. 1:19, we learn that Silas was a valuable teacher. Silas was also a valuable part of Peter’s ministry. Turn to I Peter 5:12. Not only did Peter consider Silas to be a faithful brother, he also allowed Silas the privilege and responsibility of serving as the scribe of Peter’s first epistle.