Thessalonians: A Preview

  1. Lessons from I Thessalonians, 1:1-10, 2:1-8, 2:9-20, 3:9-4:2, 4:13-18, 5:1-11, 5:12-28. Lessons from II Thessalonians 1:1-12, 2:1-17, 3:1-5, 3:6-13
  2. Stuff
    • Historical Thessaloniki
      • Located in Macedonia, founded in 316 BCE, part of Alexander the Great’s empire, named after sister
      • 167 BCE enthusiastically became a part of Roman Empire. Declared Age of Augustus and started a cult of Roman rule. They were rewarded with investment, a main city on the road to eastern colonies and independence.
      • Mid level city, not a backwater and not Athens or Rome. No evidence of Jewish population in the first century.
      • Paul’s language challenges the cult of Augustus, a new king, brings lasting peace, arrives and saves, etc…This would have made this cult suspicious along with the exclusionary nature of Christianity.
    • Paul’s creation of this church
      • Paul was ambitious and worked with a plan to establish the church westward. converting Gentiles
      • Started this church after some mistreatment in nearby Philippi, likely with help from them financially
      • Acts 17 says he encountered Jews there who chased them out, but the letter, I Thes. 2:14-16, seems to indicate there are only Gentiles. Historians and archaeologists concur. However, Acts dating would put the letter written about 50 to 51 CE. Probably first of the letters
    • Paul’s work with Gentiles
      • Radical for a Gentile to convert and become exclusionary, lose status, family, possibly livelihood
      • Even without being persecuted, and some were, they would be under a lot of pressure
      • Jews too were not happy with Paul’s mission
      • Thessaloniki seemed to be a completely Gentile church
    • Paul’s Apocalyptic Vision
      • Jewish vision of two ages
      • Paul’s vision of old age cracked open in Jesus to reveal the new age. We see in him what the new age will look like while living still in the old age.
      • Already/not yet tension, the between times
      • The rules of the old age don’t apply to us, status, cultural norms around honor and shame, Jewish laws, death
      • We live radical lives of the new age in the old age by the power of the Spirit in the work of sanctification
        • The power of the Spirit gave people the power to live more fully in the new age, more mature believers were more powerful in the Spirit-well respected
        • Suffering with Christ achieved greater Spirit vision, if I conform his death, I will be conformed to his resurrection
    • The Occasion of these letters
      • Paul wrote all of his letters because he was concerned about something
      • He also wanted to encourage them to live as he taught them, trusting the Spirit of the New Age.
      • The problem here is not clear,
        • possibly some were too spiritual and claiming status and power,
        • possibly ignoring this age as they tried to live more fully in the new age,
        • possibly just needed encouragement for radical new life
      • Order seems to be Paul started church, then moved on South and West (Athens in Acts) heard of problems and sent Timothy, Timothy reported to him and he wrote the letter
      • Debate over which letter is earlier and whether II Thessalonians is actual Paul

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