1 Thessalonians: Introduction – 1 Thessalonians 1

Read the Passage: 1 Thessalonians 1

Authorship and Date – The book of 1 Thessalonians was written by the apostle Paul (1 Thess. 1:1; 2:18) while he was on his second missionary journey. This letter was likely penned between AD 51–52 from the city of Corinth. Continue reading 1 Thessalonians: Introduction – 1 Thessalonians 1

Paul in Rome – Acts 28

Read the Passage: Acts 28

Ministry in Malta (28:1–10)

With his arrest in Jerusalem in Acts 21, Paul began his fourth missions journey, which culminated in him preaching the gospel in Rome (cf. Acts 19:21; 23:11; 27:24). In Acts 22–26 Paul defended himself before a Jerusalem mob, the Jewish Sanhedrin, Governor Felix, Governor Festus, and King Agrippa. Each of these five trials ended without a conviction, and Paul had appealed his case to Caesar. Continue reading Paul in Rome – Acts 28

Paul’s Continued Journeys – Acts 18

Read the Passage: Acts 18

Corinth (18:1–17)

As Acts 17 concluded, Paul was still in Athens. After teaching at the Areopagus, Paul departed Athens and made the short 65 mile westward trip to Corinth. While Athens was the cultural capital of Macedonia, Corinth was the commercial capital. Corinth is located on an isthmus that connects northern and southern Greece. Both land travelers going north and south in Greece, and sea travelers going east and west from the Aegean Sea to the Adriatic Sea, would pass through Corinth. Among other things, the city of Corinth was known for its transient population, the sinful vices available, and the temple of Aphrodite, which is said to have  housed 1,000 temple prostitutes. In Acts 18:2 Paul met a couple named Aquila and Pricilla, who shared both his occupation and his Christian faith. Aquila and Pricilla would become Paul’s close friends, and are mentioned by name 5 additional times in Scripture.

When in Athens, at Acts 17:15 Paul had sent for Silas and Timothy from Berea. Paul had then sent Timothy back to Thessalonica (cf. 1 Thess. 3:1–2) and Silas to the same general area, possibly to Philippi. They then re-joined Paul in Corinth. As was his pattern, Paul began his ministry in Corinth by reasoning in the synagogue (cf. Acts 18:4). When his message was rejected, Paul declared his intent to minister to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 18:6). This is a significant event in Paul’s ministry, for we only read of one additional time when Paul reasoned in a synagogue, and that was at his next stop in Ephesus (cf. Acts 18:19). Paul lodged with a Gentile convert named “Justus,” who may be the same man whom Paul calls Gaius at Rom. 16:23. Through Paul’s effective ministry, the ruler of the synagogue, whose name was Crispus believed and was soon baptized (cf. 1 Cor. 1:14).

At Acts 18:9–10 we read that Paul received a vision from the Lord, directing him to continue on with his ministry in Corinth. Note that this is the third of six visions Paul received, which are mentioned in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 9:3–6; 16:9–10; 22:17–18; 23:11; 27:23–24). This event also signifies a change in Paul’s ministry pattern. Earlier, Paul’s general pattern was to stay in a city for a relatively brief period. After this vision, however, Paul resided in Corinth for 18 months (cf. Acts 18:11) and would later stay in Ephesus for three years (cf. Acts 20:31). At Acts 18:12–17 Luke records an occasion when Paul was brought before the proconsul, by the Jews, and charged with unlawful acts. The case was dismissed, which resulted in the Greeks assaulting a Jewish man named Sosthenes, who was later converted and became a friend of Paul (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1).

Antioch (18:18–23)

After the public unrest in Corinth, Paul departed the city—although not immediately—and headed toward Jerusalem. Luke records that Aquila and Pricilla accompanied Paul, and that he cut his hair off at Cenchrea. This was likely an indicator that Paul had earlier taken a Nazarite vow, perhaps related to his ministry in Corinth (cf. Num. 6:5, 18). The traveling party then arrived in Ephesus, the largest city in Asia Minor. For the last time on his mission journey, Paul entered the city synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. Luke does not record the effect of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus; however, he does indicate that Paul’s stay here was brief, as he desired to reach Jerusalem before the Passover. Apparently, Aquila and Pricilla remained in Ephesus, for a church later met in their house (cf. 1 Cor. 16:19). Paul traveled to Jerusalem, and then Antioch, marking the end of his mission journey.

Ephesus (18:24–28)

Acts 18:23 marks the beginning of Paul’s third missions journey, the details of which are reported through Acts 21:16. This journey occurred between AD 53–57 and would entail Paul re-visiting many of the cities he visited on his second mission journey. After traveling though Galatia and Phrygia, Paul eventually arrived in Ephesus (cf. Acts 19:1). Aquila and Pricilla had been ministering in Ephesus since Paul’s earlier visit to the city. Luke reports that in Ephesus they had encountered an eloquent speaker named Apollos, who had been instructed in the way of the Lord, yet was a disciple of John the Baptist. Aquila and Pricilla furthered Apollos’ theological education. Apollos then departed for Achaia and eventually taught in the church in Corinth (cf. 1 Cor. 1:12). He would later become one of Paul’s ministry companions (cf. Titus 3:13).

Application Questions:

  1. In what ways are Paul’s mission trips in the book of Acts an example for believers? How ought we to determine if we should participate in a missions trip?
  2. Like Paul, have you ever had the experience of having a fellow believer in your place of employment? If so, how did this affect your work?
  3. How can we know when, if ever, it is appropriate to cease or to redirect gospel ministry? What are the determining factors in regard to effective ministry?
  4. As is reported in Acts 18:17, why do you think the Greeks attacked the ruler of the synagogue after the failed attempt to charge Paul with civil crimes?
  5. Given that Apollos was an eloquent speaker (cf. Acts 18:24), and Paul was not a good speaker (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1), how were they both effective ministers?

Macedonian Journeys – Acts 17

Read the Passage: Acts 17

Thessalonica (17:1–9)

After Paul and Silas were released from prison in Philippi, they and Timothy headed southwest along the coast of Macedonia, traveling through the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia, and settling in Thessalonica. Note that Luke likely stayed in Philippi, as he is not mentioned again until Paul returns to Philippi at Acts 20:5–6. As Paul had done on his first missionary journey (cf. Acts 13:14; 14:1), once he arrived in Thessalonica, Paul preached the gospel in the local synagogue, speaking on three separate Sabbath days. Paul’s reasoning from the Scriptures about Jesus’ death and resurrection resulted in many of the Greek proselytes, as well as some of the women coming to faith. However, just as had happened at Antioch (cf. Acts 13:42–45) and Iconium (cf. Acts 14:1–2), so here in Thessalonica, after some of his hearers believed, the unbelieving Jews stirred up trouble.

Acts 17:6–9 records the trouble caused by those who heard Paul’s message and did not believe. As was the case at Antioch (cf. Acts 13:45), so here Luke notes that the persecution was caused because the unbelieving Jews were “envious” (Acts 17:5). The uproar instigated by those who rejected the gospel message resulted in a mob attacking the house of Jason, who is otherwise unknown, but whom later became a traveling companion of Paul (cf. Rom. 16:21). Church tradition identifies Jason as one of Jesus’ 70 disciples (cf. Luke 10:1); however, there is no proof of this identification. Ironically, the unbelieving mob accused the Christians of doing exactly that of which they themselves were guilty—that is, “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). However, since the crowd was unable to locate Paul, the rulers ultimately had to let Jason and the other believers go.

Berea (17:10–15)

Following the uproar in Thessalonica, Paul and Silas continued traveling southwest, arriving in Berea. As was his pattern, Paul taught in the synagogue in Berea. Luke reports that the Jews in Berea “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica” (Acts 17:11). Luke records three characteristics of the Bereans that led him to this conclusion. First, he notes that “they received the Word with all readiness” (Acts 17:11a). Second, Luke observes that the Bereans “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether” Paul’s teachings were true (Acts 17:11b). Third, and most importantly, Luke writes that “many of them believed” (Acts 17:12). As was the case in Thessalonica (cf. Acts 17:4), it seems that the majority of converts in Berea were Gentile proselytes and prominent women. Unfortunately, though, certain unbelieving Jews arrived in Berea and caused trouble.

Athens (17:16–34)

After the uproar in Berea, Paul was ushered away, via boat, to the Greek metropolis of Athens. While he had initially left Silas and Timothy in Berea, once he saw the opportunity for ministry in Athens, Paul sent for them to join him. Luke records that when Paul witnessed the rampant idolatry in Athens “his spirit was provoked” (Acts 17:16). As was his pattern, in Athens Paul began to teach in the synagogue; however, he also took the new step of teaching daily in the marketplace (cf. Acts 17:17). Perhaps this change in ministerial tactic was the result of Paul’s awareness that those who responded to his teaching in the synagogues were largely Gentile proselytes, not Jews. In any event, Paul’s street-preaching was heard by certain philosophers, which resulted in Paul receiving an invitation to speak to the leading philosophers in Athens at the Areopagus.

Acts 17:22–34 records Paul’s message in the Areopagus, as well as the philosophers’ reaction to the gospel. Several facets of Paul’s message are worth noting, as here Paul did not appeal to the Old Testament, but argued within the Athenians’ own context. First, Paul builds a bridge to the gospel, by appealing to the religious culture of Athens (cf. Acts 17:22–23). Second, Paul identifies the nature of God, mentioning that God is the creator and sustainer of all things, as well as noting His imminence and transcendence (cf. Acts 17:24–28). Third, after quoting an Athenian poet, Paul delivers the gospel message, specifically mentioning the need to repent of sins and the fact of Jesus’ resurrection (cf. Acts 17:29–31). As was the case in Paul’s earlier mission work, so at the Areopagus, many rejected his message, some wanted to hear more information, and others believed.

Application Questions:

  1. In his mission work, why was Paul not deterred by physical hardship, personal violence, and rejection of message? What discourages you in ministry?
  2. How would you explain the details of the gospel message, as Paul did, using only the Old Testament? Have you ever been envious of the ministerial success of another?
  3. Why do you think the majority of converts in both Thessalonica and Berea were Gentile proselytes and prominent women (cf. Acts 17:4, 12)?
  4. Like Paul, when you witness rampant idolatry and false religion in the world, is your spirit provoked? How have you interacted with other religions?
  5. What can we learn from the way in which Paul shared the gospel in Jewish synagogues, versus the way in which he spoke to Gentiles at the Areopagus?