Thessalonica (modern Salonica) lies near the ancient site of Therma on the Thermaic Gulf at the northern reaches of the Aegean Sea. This city became the capital of Macedonia (c. 168 B.C.) and enjoyed the status of a “free city,” which was ruled by its own citizens (Acts 17:6) under the Roman Empire.
The city was located on the main east-west highway, Via Egnatia, and served as the hub of political and commercial activity in Macedonia. It became known as “the mother of all Macedonia.” The population in Paul’s day reached 200,000 people. It would be comparable in population to the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Paul had originally traveled 100 miles from Philippi via Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica on his second missionary journey (A.D. 50; Acts 16:1–18:22). As his custom was upon arrival, he went to the synagogue in which to teach the local Jews the gospel (Acts 17:1–2).
He spoke with them from the OT concerning Christ’s death and resurrection in order to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the promised Messiah (Acts 17:2–3). Some Jews believed and soon after, Hellenistic proselytes and some wealthy women of the community were also converted (Acts 17:4). Among these converts there was Jason (Acts 17:5), Gaius (Acts 19:29), Aristarchus (Acts 20:4), and Segundus (Acts 20:4).
Because of their effective ministry, the unbelieving Jews had Paul’s team evicted from the city (Acts 17:5–9),. So, they went south to evangelize Berea (Acts 17:10). There, Paul had a similar experience to Thessalonica with conversions followed by hostility. Therefore, the believers sent Paul away.
He then headed for Athens, while Silvanus and Timothy remained in Berea (Acts 17:11–14). They rejoined Paul in Athens (cf. Acts 17:15–16 with 1 Thess. 3:1), from which Timothy was later dispatched back to Thessalonica (3:2). Afterwards, Silas traveled from Athens to Philippi while Paul journeyed on alone to Corinth (Acts 18:1). It was after Timothy and Silvanus rejoined Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:5), that he wrote 1 Thessalonians in response to Timothy’s good report of the church.
Take the opportunity to read I Thessalonians 2 today. I particularly like I Thessalonians 2:1-4 and Paul’s unswerving commitment to the Gospel. “For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”
My each of us, as followers of Christ continue to view the Gospel of god as a sacred trust.
Soli deo Gloria!