Biblical Places Spiritual Spaces Thessaloniki Berea

Thessalonica & Berea

 

 

Ministry should be an adventure - a risky undertaking but a remarkable experience! When you give God control of your life, and decide to walk with Him in the small decisions of your life, then begins to open doors that you never expected.

 

Paul and Silas left Antioch with the plan to revisit those communities where they had established churches on Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey and carry the letter from James regarding if the Gentiles who became Christians had to follow the dietary and other Jewish laws (Acts 15). As they did visit those communities and deliver the letter, and those congregations were great encouraged that they could be part of God’s family without becoming Jews. But God has much more for them than they expected.

First, they decided to add a young man named Timothy to their missionary team. Next, as they a planned to go to into the Western Asia Minor provinces  of Mysia, Asia and Bithynia, the Holy Spirit said “No!”. Instead they journeyed west to the Aegean coast. There at Troas, they took on another teammate, a Greek physician name Luke. Paul had a vision of a Macedonian man saying “Come over to Macedonia.” Thus they boarded a ship for Neopolis, on the European side of the Aegean and traveled on to the Roman colony of Philippi.  A Risky Undertaking……they had no plan to go to Europe.

In Philippe they had a remarkable experience- ministry at the stream where Lydian, the purple cloth merchant from Thyatria, who became the first European convert to Christianity, then the fortune telling slave girl in the market, whom Paul cleaned of demons. That earned Paul and Silas a beating and trip to the jail, where an earthquake miraculously opened to doors to the cells and their chains were released. This caused the Roman jailer to realize something extraordinary was going on, as these two literally saved his life by not escaping, and he too became a follower of Jesus. Now the first congregation in Europe was composed of Greek women, a slave girl (and possibly some of her friends) from a conquered Roman province, and a Roman legionnaire and his family. What a diverse group worshiping together- men and women, free and slave, Greek, Roman and another culture all together sharing meals! This was something unheard of in Roman culture.

Because of their Roman citizenship, Paul and Silas are escorted out of the prison by the chief magistrate of Philippi, where they departed the city, continuing on the Via Ignatia to Thessaloniki.

A risky undertaking, but a remarkable experience.

Principle: God has prepared an adventure for each of His family members. He is preparing you and watching to see if you are obedient in the small things of life so that he can entrust you with bigger things.

With its large natural harbor and the Via Ignatia that went all the way to Rome, Thessaloniki was a prosperous city. Much cotton and produce from Egypt and Asia Minor passed through the city. The Roman mint supplied coins for commerce. Trade contracts provided opportunities for investment and financial rewards. Now much has changed in modern Thessaloniki. Ships still fill the harbor. It is the major commercial and educational center of Macedonia.

Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3  explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”

 4  And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.

5 But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people.

6 When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset  the world have come here also; 7  and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”

 8 They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. 9 And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.

 

Jews who lived in Greco-Roman cities were usually not the religious Pharisee type Jews of Judea, but were more influenced by the surrounding culture. Still, they understood the Hebrew Scriptures, and were open to hear about the Messiah Jesus.

 

10  The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

12 Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.

 

The Jews of Berea heard the message of Paul and then did their own research to see if the Hebrew Scriptures actually did point to Jesus of Nazareth as the expected Messiah. They discovered many prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus. Some scholars point to over 300 Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures. Here are some of them:

Genesis 49:10, 2 Samuel 7:12–13, Psalm 2:6-12, Psalm 22:1-18, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:1–2, Isaiah 35:4–6, Isaiah 42:1–4, Isaiah 53:1-12, Isaiah 61:1, Hosea 11:1, Micah 5:2, Zechariah 9:9,  Malachi 3:1.

What are the chances that all these prophecies could apply to one man?

Peter Stoner (June 16, 1888 – March 21, 1980) was the Chairman of the Department of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena College and chairman of the science division at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. He studied the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah, and calculated the probabilities of one man fulfilling only eight of the prophecies.  In his book Science Speaks, now available online at (http://sciencespeaks.dstoner.net), he concluded that there would be one chance in 1017 for anyone to fulfil these eight prophecies. Peter describes it like this:

"Let us try to visualize this chance. If you mark one of ten tickets, and place all of the tickets in a hat, and thoroughly stir them, and then ask a blindfolded man to draw one, his chance of getting the right ticket is one in ten. Suppose that we take 1017 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state.

"Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote using their own wisdom."

The Jews of Berea were diligent and searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul was telling them was indeed true. As a result, their faith in Jesus was based on Biblical Truth, rather than just convincing preaching. These Bereans set an example for all of us to follow when we hear of things spoken of in the Bible. We must do our own research! We must read it for ourselves. We must understand the historical, cultural, political, and often geographical context of a passage to get its accurate meaning and true application to our own lives.

In our culture there are many who teach things they claim are in the Bible, but in fact are not. Here are a few of the more common ones:

The Lie: “The Bible says that God helps those who help themselves.”

The Truth:

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3 NLT

The Lie: “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

The Truth:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life.  2 Corinthians 1:8

The Lie: “When you become a Christian the bumps in your road will disappear and life will be smooth.”

The Truth:

21 After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, 22 where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Acts 14:21-22

The Lie: “God is Love. He will never send anyone to Hell.”

The Truth:

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.  On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-23

The Bereans set the example for all of us to follow. We must ourselves put in the effort to understand the Scriptures, so that we will not be deceived. Paul expressed this principle to his disciple Timothy later in a letter:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15

Paul’s stay in Berea was cut short by the arrival of some Thessalonian Jews, who began to speak out against him, obviously in a very threatening manner.

13 But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. 14 The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15 Those escorting Paul went with him all the way to Athens; then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him.  Acts 17:10-15

 

13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens;                                                                       and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left.                Acts 17:1-15

 

Paul, Luke, Timothy & Silas (Silvanus) Team Evangelism

How do the ministry team bring the Message of Hope to these Greeks and Hellenistic Jews, and make make disciples?  

From the narrative in Acts 17, we see this pattern.

  • Speak to the Jews, showing them that Jesus is the Messiah as proclaimed by the Hebrew Prophets.
  • Many Jews as well as Greeks and Romans, men & women become believers.
  • Those Jew rejecting Jesus initiate a riot forcing the Team to leave town.
  • At Berea the team encounters eager and more noble-minded men and women, with much fruit.

    But what was happening in the white spaces between the verses in Acts? What as going on in the times when the team was not in the Synagogue or the Agora This is a good question if we want to be effective in making disciples in our own neighborhood. 

    Fortunately Paul wrote a letter to his friends in Thessaloniki during his year and a half ministry in Corinth, which was could have been only a few months after he was run out of town. Its worth reading Paul thoughts and his concern and care for his friends there. Let's take a look and understand some significant principles in our own discipleship.

    1 Thessalonians Chapter 1   The Power of a Testimony                                             

    1  Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

    2  We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and  steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, 4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

    The Power of a Testimony –

    • You encourage others by your walk.
    • You are being transformed.
    • You became a target.
    • God takes your testimony way beyond your boundaries.

     6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

     8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. 9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a  reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve  a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.

    Chapter 2    A Model of Relational Discipleship


    1 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our  coming to you was not in vain, 2 but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know,

    (1)  we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God

    (2)  amid much  opposition. 3 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or

     (3) by way of deceit; 4  but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak,

    (4)   not as pleasing men, but God who  examines our hearts. 5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness—

    (5)   6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.

    (6)  7 But we proved to be  gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.

    (7)   8 Having so fond an affection for you,

    (8)   we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
    (9)   9For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

     (10)   10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;

    (11)   11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and  imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
     (12)     13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. 14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, 15  who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, 16  hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.

    17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. 18  For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul,  more than once—and yet Satan hindered us. 19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His  coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy.                                            1 Thessalonians 1:1 - 2:20

     

    How the Team Made Disciples in Thessalonica & How We Can Make Disciples

    1)  Speak Boldly

    2) Be obedient, whatever the cost

    3) Don’t deceive or manipulate

    4) Trust Jesus to build His church

    5) Point disciples to Christ

    6) Show genuine love

    7) Develop intimate relationships

    8) Give freely

    9) Be diligent and hardworking

    10) Model the Christian life

    11) Encourage and Exhort

    12) Pray for your disciples & thank God for them

    Chapter 3   Caring for your disciples

    Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and

    1) we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ,

    2) to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, 3

    3) so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. 4 For indeed when we were with you,

    4) we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction;  and so it came to pass, as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.
    6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that

    5) you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, 7 for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; 8 for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. 9 For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account,

    6) 10 as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?
    11  Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; 12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;

    7) 13 so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the  coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

     How to Care For Your Disciples

    1) Maintain Contact

    2) Strengthen & Encourage Them

    3) Be Sensitive to their Needs

    4) Anticipate the enemy’s tactics

    5) Express Affection

    6) Pray for Specific Things for your Spiritual Children

    7) Cast Vision and Communicate the Big Picture

     

    The Fabric of God’s Creation –

    Why we should do the things He commands us.  Proverbs 8

    For wisdom is better than jewels;  And all desirable things cannot compare with her.
    12I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And I find knowledge and discretion.   Proverbs 8:11-12

    “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old.
    23 “From everlasting I was  established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.
    24 “When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no springs abounding with water.
    25 “Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills I was brought forth;
    26 While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, Nor the first dust of the world.
    27 “When He established the heavens, I was there, When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,
    28 When He made firm the skies above, When the springs of the deep became fixed,
    29 When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command,
    When He marked out the foundations of the earth; 30 Then I was beside Him, as a master workman;
    And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 31  Rejoicing in the world, His earth,
    And having my delight in the sons of men.
    32 “Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, For blessed are they who keep my ways.
    33 “Heed instruction and be wise, And do not neglect it.
    34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at my doorposts.
    35 “For he who finds me finds life And obtains favor from the LORD.     Proverbs 8:22-35

    Chapter 4  - Practical Steps of Faith- What Disciples Should Do

    Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to  walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

    3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is,

    1) that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own  vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in  lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that

    2)  no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
    9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for

    3) you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 11 and to

    4) make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will  behave properly toward outsiders and  not be in any need.

    13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

    5) 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a  shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

    1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then  destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

    6) 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you  like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as  others do, but let us be alert and  sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10  who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.

    11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
    7) 12 But we request of you, brethren, that you  appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

    8) Live in peace with one another. 14

    9) We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly,

    10) encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15

    11) See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.

    12)  16Rejoice always;

    13)  17pray without ceasing;

    14)  18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

    15)  19Do not quench the Spirit;

    16) 20 do not despise prophetic utterances.

    17)  21 But examine everything carefully;

    18)  hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
    23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24  Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
    19)   25 Brethren, pray for us.
    20)   26  Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

    21)  27 I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.
    28  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.                                             1 Thessalonians 4:1 - 5:28

     

     

    What Disciples Should Be Doing to be Effective Disciples and Disciple makers

    1) Keep Sexually Pure

    2) Be honest in relationships

    3) Show genuine Love

    4) Be focused, Listen, Work toward personal goals, Earn a living!

    5) Live this life in view of eternity with Jesus.

    6) Be ready for Jesus’ return.

    7) Honor your leaders.

    8) Be Peaceful People!

    9) Make a stand for righteous living.

    10) Help the weak.

    11) Repay evil with good.

    12) Rejoice with a faithful attitude!

    13) Pray conversationally and continually.

    14) Maintain a thankful attitude.

    15) Be alert for moves of the Spirit. Don’t quench them!

    16) Receive Prophetic words.

    17) Be discerning.

    18) Don’t open a door to evil.

    19) Pray for your leaders.

    20) Greet each other in an appropriate manner.

    21) Read and meditate on Scripture.

     

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