Summary: Paul centres his message on the historic Jesus, arguing from Scripture that he’s the Messiah. He persuades people by careful argument, opening the Scriptures to allow people to discover the truth for themselves. And he works as a leader of a team, includi
It’s interesting that we think of Paul as someone who stands out on his own. He’s the great apostle to the Gentiles, a man who stands head and shoulders above the rest. Yet in reality he was a man who loved to work as part of a team. He started out with Barnabas, then joined up with Silas, then he invited Timothy to join them and somewhere around Troas, Luke appears to have joined them for a time. So Paul was far from a solo agent. In fact by the end of this section we find him alone, but urging Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
But we begin the chapter with Paul, Silas and Timothy travelling from Philippi to Thessalonica, about 160km south west of Philippi. It was a port and capital of Macedonia, so a centre of trade and therefore a strategic place for preaching the gospel.
When they got there, despite having decided he’d now go to the Gentiles, Paul still goes first to the Jewish synagogue. As we saw last week in Philippi, Paul obviously took the approach that if he wanted to preach the gospel the place to start was with those who were already on their way to knowing God. So he starts at the synagogue. And what did he do there? He did three things.
First, he "argued with them from the scriptures, 3explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead."
That word "proving" means literally to lay alongside. That is, he laid the Old Testament Scriptures alongside the events of Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection. And in a moment we’ll think about what it was that he might have pointed them to.
Secondly he proclaimed Jesus. See v3: "This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you." He would have both taught them about Jesus life and teaching, his miracles, his ministry, and about the fact that he had died but then had risen again. In a sense Jesus was the sole content of his proclamation. As Peter said back in Acts 4: "there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved."
But thirdly, Paul proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ. The Jesus of history is the Messiah of the Old Testament Scriptures. This of course is what the Jews in the next town, Berea, spend their time checking out. Look at v11: "11These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so." Luke describes these Jews as more receptive. In fact you could say it’s even more positive than that. They don’t just come on the Sabbath to hear Paul. They come every day to listen and study the Scriptures that point to Jesus as the Christ.
Now what was it that they might have studied? Well, it’s interesting to remember what Jesus did on the first Easter Day when he met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Do you remember? He said "how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures." Later, when he appeared to the disciples in the upper room he said: "’These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you -- that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, ’Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’" But still that doesn’t exactly answer the question does it? So perhaps we can look at 1 Cor 15: Here’s what Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: "Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, ... 3For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." This was the core message of the gospel that he proclaimed wherever he went. Jesus, the historical Jesus who died and rose, who was seen by countless witnesses, was the one the Scriptures point to as the one who would come to take away our sin. So you can imagine him opening up Isaiah 52 and 53, to the so-called ’servant song’ and showing how it referred to Jesus: "52:14Just as there were many who were astonished at him --so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals-- 15so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; ... 53:3He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. 4Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted." Or he might have referred to the writings of Zechariah: 9:9: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth." Or 12:10: "I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn." 13:1: "On that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity." We could go on and on. If you were here on Easter Day you’ll remember that we spent the whole sermon that day looking at a series of Old Testament passages that had a parallel in Jesus’ life.