Paul Encourages His Thessalonian Friends

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While ministering to the people in the Greek city of Corinth, Paul wrote two letters to the new church which God had used him to start in the Greek city of Thessalonika.

The first letter was written when Timothy rejoined Paul in Corinth, bringing with him a good report on the church in Thessalonika (305).

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Paul began by sending greetings from himself, Silas & Timothy.  Then he praised the Thessalonian believers for turning away from the worship of ungodly idols, and turning toward the worship of the one true God.  Everywhere it was made known, their miraculous transformation was a powerful witness for Jesus.

Paul fondly remembered how the Holy Spirit had inspired his Thessalonian friends to receive eagerly the good news of God’s kingdom.   He had loved sharing the good news about Jesus with them.  But Paul also loved them, as dearly as a mother loves her nursing baby.  Paul saw his love for the Thessalonians as a direct extension of his love for God.

Next, Paul reminded the Thessalonians that persecution by unbelieving Jews was the common lot of Christians — in Thessalonika as in Jerusalem & elsewhere.  And he expressed great pleasure & satisfaction with their faithful endurance — saying he would be glad to present them to Jesus when they would all meet in heaven.

Because he had been concerned for them, Paul had sent Timothy to see how the young church was faring in his absence.  Hearing from Timothy that the Thessalonians continued to stand firm in God, Paul exulted, “Now I really live!”

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LORD, please help us to love Your people as You do.

(305) 1 Thessalonians 1-3

Greece, Turkey, Israel & Syria

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One night in Corinth, Paul received a vision from the Holy Spirit (304).  God said to him, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking the truth about me.  Do not give up.  I am with you; no one will be able to harm you.  There are many people in this city whom I have chosen to be mine.”

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Paul was inspired by this vision to stay in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching the people about Jesus from the word of God.

When Gallio was made the Roman governor of Greece, some unbelieving Jews seized Paul & took him into court. “This man,” they said, “is trying to persuade people to worship God in a way that is against our law!”

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Paul was about to defend himself when Gallio said to the Jews, “If this were a criminal matter, it would be reasonable for me to hear you. But since it’s only an argument about Jewish law, you must settle it yourselves.”  So Gallio sent them out of his court.

The frustrated Jews then grabbed Sosthenes, the new leader of the synagogue, who also seemed sympathetic to Paul, and they beat him in front of the court. But Gallio ignored them.

Eventually, Paul left the believers in Corinth & sailed off from the port city of Cenchreae toward Syria, together with Aquila & Priscilla.  Before sailing, Paul had his head shaved, signifying the conclusion of a specific period of fasting & praying to God.

The party arrived in the Turkish city of Ephesus.  Paul taught in the local synagogue and was well-received.  But when the people asked him to stay longer, he would not consent. Instead, he told Aquila & Priscilla & the rest of them, “If it is the will of God, I will come back to you later.”

And so Paul sailed from Ephesus. When he arrived at Caesarea, he went to Jerusalem & greeted the church there, and then he went to back to Syrian Antioch – bringing to an end his second extended mission trip.

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LORD, please help us to love Your constant presence in our lives.

(304) Acts 18:9-22

From Athens To Corinth

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Paul concluded his testimony before the Athenian city council (303).  Some in the audience didn’t believe in resurrection from the dead, so they made fun of Paul.  But others said, “We want to hear you speak about this again.”

When Paul left the meeting, some people joined him & believed; among them were Dionysius (a member of the city council), a woman named Damaris, and some other people.

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Before leaving Athens, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonika, to see how the new church there was holding up in the face of persecution from unbelieving Jews.

Then Paul left Athens and went on to the Greek city of Corinth. Living there was a Jew named Aquila; he was originally from Pontus in northeastern Turkey, but he had later lived in Italy.  When the Emperor Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome, Aquila had moved to Corinth with his wife, Priscilla.

Upon his arrival in Corinth, Paul lived with Aquila & Priscilla; he also worked with them, since they all earned their living by making tents.

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Every Sabbath, Paul held discussions in the local synagogue, trying to convince both Jews & Greeks to follow Jesus.

When Silas & Timothy arrived in Corinth from Macedonia, the Holy Spirit led Paul to begin preaching the message full-time, testifying to the local Jews that Jesus is the Messiah.

Some of these Jews opposed Paul & said evil things about him.  Paul protested by shaking the dust from his clothes & saying to them, “If you are lost, you yourselves must take the blame for it; I’m not responsible. From now on I will minister to the Gentiles here in Corinth.”

So Paul then began teaching next door in the house of Titius Justus, a Gentile who had been converted to the worship of God.

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Many people in Corinth heard the message, believed & were baptized – including Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, together with all his family.

LORD, please help us to love serving You, wherever You send us.

(303) Acts 17:32-18:8

The New King Of Athens

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The citizens of Athens & the many foreigners who lived there always loved to debate the newest philosophical ideas.  Throughout the city there were various intellectual groups (302).

One group was the Epicureans – who resisted God, believing that pleasure in life comes simply from living as peacefully & as painlessly as possible.  Epicureans believe that humans have the free will to control their own destinies.

Another group was the Stoics – who also resisted God, believing that calm cooperation with fate was the key to happiness.  Stoics believe that free will is an illusion & that humans cannot control their own destinies.

Sometimes, Epicurean & Stoic teachers debated with Paul.  These people were perplexed by Paul’s teaching about Jesus & the resurrection. So they asked Paul, “What is this philosophy that you’re teaching? Your ideas sound strange to us, and we would like to know more about them.”

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Subsequently, Paul was invited to speak to the city council of Athens.  In his address, the Holy Spirit prompted Paul to say, “I see that you Athenians are very religious. In fact, as I walked through your city & observed the places where you worship, I even found an altar dedicated ‘To An Unknown God.’

“I can tell you about this God whom you do not know.  God made the world & everything in it.  He is master of heaven & earth, and he doesn’t live in man-made temples. He doesn’t need anything that we can offer him.  On the contrary, God gives to all of us everything we need — including our very life & breath & everything else.

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“From one man he created all races of mankind; he determined beforehand exactly when & where each of us would live on this earth. He has created us to look for him & to find him.

“And, in fact, God is actually not far from any one of us.  It has been said that, ‘In him we live & move & have our being.’ Some of your own poets have said, ‘We too are God’s children.’

“So if we are God’s children, then we definitely should not suppose that his nature is anything like an image of gold or silver or stone, shaped by the art & skill of man.

“God has previously overlooked the times when people didn’t know him.  But now God commands all people everywhere to turn to him. He has set a day when he will judge the whole world with perfect justice.  This will be accomplished by means of a man whom he has chosen — his son, Jesus. Most amazingly, God has given all of us proof of his choice & plan, by raising that man, Jesus, from death!”

LORD, please help us to love praising You as God over all other gods.

(302) Acts 17:18-31

On To Berea & Athens

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As soon as night came, the Thessalonian believers sent Paul & Silas on to the Greek city of Berea (301).  When they arrived, they went to the local Jewish synagogue, as usual.

The people in Berea were more open-minded than the people in Thessalonika. The Holy Spirit prompted them to listen eagerly to Paul’s messages.

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Every day they studied the inspired scriptures to see if what Paul said about Jesus was really true.  Many of them believed – including many Greek women of social standing & many Greek men of the city.

But when the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonika heard that Paul had preached the word of God in Berea also, they came there & again stirred up a mob. For his protection, the believers sent Paul away to the coast, while Silas & Timothy remained in Berea to care for the new church.

Paul’s escorts took him on to Athens.  Then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas & Timothy to join Paul as soon as possible.

While Paul waited for them in Athens, he noticed how full of idols that city was.

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So he began teaching in the synagogue, proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom  to the Jews & converted Gentiles who worshiped God.

But Paul also spent time in the public square every day, proclaiming Jesus to any people who happened to come by.

LORD, please help us to love telling all people about You.

(301) Acts 17:10-17

Farewell To Philippi

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The morning after ministering the love of God to the Philippian jailer & his family, Paul & Silas were greeted in their jail cell by Roman officers  They had been sent by the governing Roman officials of Philippi with an order to release the two prisoners (299).

Perhaps gracefully, Paul said to the officers, “We are Roman citizens.  We were not found guilty of any crime, yet they whipped us in public & then threw us in jail.  And now they want to send us away secretly?  No, brothers. The governing officials themselves must come here & let us out of this jail.”

Immediately, the officers backed off!  Throughout the Roman empire, citizenship was the special status of a minority of the population.

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It was unheard of for any Roman officer ever to beat a Roman citizen!  So the officers returned & reported this unexpected turn of events to the Roman officials.

When the Roman officials in Philippi heard that Paul & Silas were Roman citizens, they knew they had made a big mistake, and they were very afraid . . .

So, very politely, they went & apologized to Paul & Silas.  Then they led them out of the jail & politely asked them to leave the city.

Paul & Silas left the jail, but the Holy Spirit prompted them to go back to Lydia’s house, where they encouraged the believers.

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Only then did the witnesses for Jesus leave the Macedonian city of Philippi.

LORD, please help us to love our enemies.

(299) Acts 16:35-40

Grace For The Jailer

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About midnight Paul & Silas were praying & singing hymns to God in the Philippian jail, and the other prisoners were listening to them (298).

Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, which shook the entire prison building.  All the doors of the cells opened & all the chains fell off all the prisoners!

When the jailer got up & saw the cell doors open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped.  Three thoughts flashed through his mind:

  • The prisoners had been under his watch.
  • Their escape would be blamed on him.
  • He would be executed for letting them escape.

In horror, the jailer pulled out his sword & was about to kill himself!

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But Paul shouted, “Don’t kill yourself! We’re all still here!”   The jailer called for a light, rushed in & was amazed to find all the prisoners!  Immediately, he fell trembling at the feet of Paul & Silas; the jailer knew he was in the presence of a power greater even than that of his superior officers.

Rising, he led Paul & Silas out of their cells & asked, “How can I be saved?”  They answered in a way the jailer did not expect: “You & your family members will be saved by believing in & following Jesus.”

The jailer wanted to understand this, and he wanted his family to understand it, too.  So he took Paul & Silas to his house, where they explained the word of God — to him, to his family and to all the others in his house.

The Holy Spirit caused everyone there to receive gladly the good news about Jesus.  The jailer washed the wounds of the two witnesses for Jesus.  Then, he & all his family were baptized.

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And then, they all shared a meal together as brothers & sisters in Christ.  The jailer & his family were filled with joy, because they now knew that God truly loved them.

At dawn, Paul & Silas returned to their jail cell, in order to spare the jailer from certain death.

LORD, please help us to love Your grace.

(298) Acts 16:25-34