MP3: The Rapture Road Thru 1 Thessalonians 1
Hosts: Nathan Jones & Vic Batista
Since the first installment of The Truth Will Set You Free podcast series titled “The Rapture Road,” Vic Batista of Miami’s Calvary Chapel Broward and Nathan Jones of Lamb & Lion Ministries have been teaching through the biblical prophetic book of 1 Thessalonians in a verse-by-verse study. We will now begin at the very beginning with Paul’s greeting to his newfound church.
Nathan Jones: Let’s start back up by reading the Apostle Paul’s greeting in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and continue on from there.
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Vic Batista: Paul’s writing to the church he planted in the town of Thessalonica, where we get the letter’s title Thessalonians. Let’s jump over to Acts 17 and read verses 1-10 to get a grasp of the trials Paul endured in planting this church.
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went into 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.”
We read the name Silvanus in 1 Thessalonians 1:1, which is another way of saying Silas, Paul’s faithful co-laborer. And, continuing on:
“But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, ‘These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king Jesus.’ And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.”
What a terrific background story for forming a church. I love verse 6 which says Paul and Silas were blamed for “turning the world upside down.” I wish the world would say that about you and me: “Those Christians are turning the world upside through their messages!”
Nathan Jones: Yes, indeed! Turning the world upside down for Jesus Christ requires us to be brave in standing up for the Word of God and in not backing down. Paul and Silas, or Paul and Barnabas, would travel to foreign towns and they would preach the Gospel of Jesus. Often doing so would upset those who were making a living peddling a particular false religion. Remember how in Athens and other Greek and Roman towns that the silversmiths made a living off of selling the idols they made. They sure didn’t like it that Paul was bringing another Gospel that took their customers away.Nathan Jones: Turning the world upside down for #JesusChrist requires us to be brave in standing up for the Word of #God and in not backing down. Click To Tweet
Another challenge to the Gospel was that Caesar worship was really popular then. The Romans were required at that time to worship Caesar, claiming he was both a god and their king. Then Paul and the other missionaries would arrive and proclaim that Jesus is King, and that would get the Caesar worshipers all upset. So, those who challenged the established religions didn’t like Paul coming in and rocking the boat.
Nathan Jones: I love how Acts 17:11 says, “These [Bereans] 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.”
What a difference between the Bereans and the Thessalonians! Although Paul led many people from both cities to the Lord, Paul received a very harsh rejection from those in Thessalonica. In contrast, the Bereans loved the Word of God and thought it was worth studying, and they put their mind to discerning whether what Paul had taught was true or not. They provide us with a good example for Christians today in that we, too, should accept the Gospel like the Bereans, studying everything carefully so that we might test what we are learning to see if it matches exactly what Jesus taught.
Vic Batista: Excellent point! Christians must dig into the Bible because we should wish to be good students of God’s Word. We don’t want to just take what people teach about the Bible at face value, rather we want to look at what the Scriptures have to say and be like those Bereans in being wise discerners.
More than the Basics
Nathan Jones: Amen! So, as we’ve read, Paul had quite a time of it bringing the Gospel to the Thessalonians. Unfortunately, he was driven out of town, but that never really ever stopped Paul from planting a church. Paul had already started up a little church during his brief stay, whether it was three weeks or three months long, as some theologians debate. That was enough time to start a baby church.
The abrupt visit by Paul, Silas and Timothy left the new church without any detailed Gospel information to keep them going past the basics about salvation. The Thessalonians became baby Christians without a pastor to guide them. So, Paul immediately started writing them letters and even sent Timothy back. Timothy was brave enough to go back to that hostile town and continue to share the Gospel. He returned to teach the people the “meat” of the Gospel, which are those teachings beyond the basics of salvation, Christian living, and about keeping themselves morally pure.
Vic Batista: Another event that will turn the world upside down will be the Rapture. When Christ returns for all those who believe in Him and are saved, that’s going to turn the world upside down yet again, right?
Nathan Jones: Yes, it will! How tough it must have been for the new Christians in Thessalonica. I believe today we are living in a society much like the Thessalonians.
Thessalonica was a town that was founded by General Cassander, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Thessalonica was named after Cassander’s wife. Over the years Thessalonica became a major city in the Macedonian region. It was positioned along the Aegean Sea near the Thermaic Gulf. A major road ran through the town called the Egnatian Way. As a result, Thessalonica lay on a major trade route and so became an important port city.
With all that trade comes foreigners bringing their pagan gods and associated immorality. Just like the town of Corinth, the town of Thessalonica suffered from many different pagan religions and ungodly influences such as materialism coming through it. All these ready temptations would pull young believers away from Jesus Christ.
Vic Batista: A lot of that readily accessible carnality challenged the Thessalonians then, and challenges the modern church today. That’s why we find Paul writing to encourage these new believers to live pure and stand strong in the faith. They remind me of those Christians today who when imprisoned in Islamic nations, when finally they are released from prison after a number of years, share their victory stories about how they didn’t cave in and renounce their faith in Jesus. Modern-day persecutions of Christians have been going on since Christ was crucified.
Nathan Jones: The town of Thessalonica still exists still, though it’s now called Salonica. The Nazis during World War II removed 60,000 Jews out of that city and had them executed. Since the exile, there’s been a strong Jewish presence in that region, but it has also unfortunately been a place of great persecution for both the Church and for the Jewish people, even up to this day.
Grace and Peace
Vic Batista: I love how Paul opens 1 Thessalonians with, “Grace to you and peace…” Some call those the Siamese Twins — grace and peace. You can’t have true peace apart from God’s grace, right?
Nathan Jones: Very true! Paul followed the typical letter writing style of his time period. Today we would write, “Dear, Whoever, How are you today? I am doing fine.” That would be the typical boring American letter. In Paul’s time, you would open with naming the author of the letter, then who the audience was that was receiving the letter, and finally a little salutation. That is what we get here. Paul announced who was writing the letter: Paul, Silvanus or Silas, and Timothy. Then he addressed the Church in Thessalonica as the recipient. Finally, we read his salutation: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
What a great way to open a letter, wishing for all our fellow believers in Christ to receive the grace and peace of God. Those are two very important aspects to a Christian’s life.
Vic Batista: Absolutely! So many Christians get caught up in being law-oriented and they forget the grace of God. None of us deserve the grace that God has given to us, and yet He has given it to us, and so we should be gracious to others.
Nathan Jones: Christian Judaizers have a tendency to place themselves under the slavery of Old Testament Law. They believe they have to follow all the Jewish feasts and the Mosaic Law. They neglect the fact that Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the Mosaic Law and through His death freed us by His grace. So, Christians, remember what Paul offered us in the very first verse. We live under God’s grace and God’s peace.
In the third part of our travels along the Rapture Road and our verse-by-verse study of 1 Thessalonians, we’ll move on to verse 2.