Summary: The message this Sunday will look at our attitude towards God’s word, and how we approach it, because that is what determines its effectiveness in our lives. We will look at this through Paul’s missionary travels to Thessalonica and Berea.
The Tale of Two Cities
** Watch at: https://youtu.be/XGSvRuwVCGo
Now, when I came up with the title of today’s message, my immediate reaction was towards the book written by Charles Dickens back in 1879, and the two cities were Paris and London. In fact, while some of you may have never read the book, you know its famous opening sentence, or at least the first few words, because the sentence is at least a paragraph long, or 119 words, I think Dickens was going for the record of the longest sentence ever.
Dickens begins saying, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” and then uses this same dichotomy through out the rest of the sentence, or the remaining 107 words, and what he was doing was comparing the character’s time in each of these cities.
But, while our minds immediately think of Dicken’s novel, the two cities that we are going to be looking at today are the cities of Thessalonica and Berea. And the tale is about their attitude to God’s word, and what we’ll address our own attitude when it comes to the Bible and what is written within, and what and how it is being taught.
Now, an English weekly publication published a letter written by a disillusioned churchgoer.
“Dear Sirs, It seems ministers feel their sermons are very important and spend a great deal of time preparing them. I have been attending church quite regularly for thirty years, and have probably heard 3,000 of them. To my consternation, I discovered I cannot remember a single sermon. I wonder if a minister’s time might be more profitably spent on something else?”
Now here’s someone that I can safely say does not have the gift of encouragement.
Over the next several weeks, a firestorm of responses came on both sides of the aisle. But then came this one response that ended it all.
“Dear Sirs, I have been married for 30 years. During that time I have eaten 32,850 meals – mostly my wife’s cooking. Suddenly, I have discovered I cannot remember the menu of a single meal. And yet … I have the distinct impression that without them, I would have starved to death long ago.”
Like food is to maintaining our overall physical health, so is the word of God to our spiritual health.
In Satan’s temptation in the wilderness, Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4 NKJV)
And so, what I have found is that it is our attitude towards God’s word, and how we approach it that determines its effectiveness in our lives.
And so, let’s take a look at what happened to Paul in both of these cities!
“They (Paul and Silas) came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ." 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 17:1-4)
It then talks about how the Jews who didn’t believe went after them to do them harm, and so those who had come to faith sent Paul and Silas away under the cover of night to Berea, which is where we now pick up our story.
“When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. (Acts 17:10b-12)
Thessalonica was the capital of the province of Macedonia, and was its largest city and most prosperous city, and this was mainly due to its location as a hub for both sea and land travel linking the world to the agricultural heartland of Macedonia.
The church eventually grew and was quite influential in their witness for Jesus Christ, as seen in Paul’s two letters to them.
In his first letter he said how they had become great examples of the faith, not only in Macedonia, but also in Achaia (A’-kia-a), which is where Athens and Corinth were located (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8).
Berea, on the other hand was what we would call, “off the beaten path.” Although it was a prosperous city, it was a good 30 miles off the major highway linking the East to the West.