Friday, June 4, 2010

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday June 6, 2010
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YOUR WITNESS IN ACTION
(A practiced faith is a noticed faith)
(1 Thessalonians 1)

Paul’s first Doctrinal letter to the Thessalonians was written around A.D. 50-51, while he was residing in Corinth, and not long after he had left Thessalonica, during his second missionary journey. Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke had made the journey to Philippi from Troas, after Paul had received a vision of a man from Macedonia calling for help. Responding to this call, they crossed over into Europe and preached at Philippi, before making the 100-mile journey on to Thessalonica, by traveling west along the Egnatian Way, the main Roman road, from Rome to the Orients.
Thessalonica, during New Testament times, had a population of about 200,000, with a very diverse makeup of inhabitants, including Greeks, Romans, Orientals and Jews, with the Greeks accounting for the bulk of the populace. It was one of the most important centers of trade, both by land, and by sea, and also occupied a strategic location from both a governmental and military standpoint.
Thessalonica, was built by Cassander in 315 B.C., and named after his wife, Thessalonica, who was the half sister of Alexander the Great. Cassander was a General in Alexander’s army. The city was captured by the Romans in 146 B.C. They re-organized Macedonia, and made Thessalonica it’s Capital a short time later.
In 42 B.C., Thessalonica was given the “free city” status by Anthony and Octavian (Caesar Augustus), because the Thessalonians had helped them defeat their adversaries, Brutus and Cassius, who had murdered Julius Caesar and taken control of Rome two years earlier.
When Paul and the others reached Thessalonica, they visited the Jewish synagogue in order to find those citizens who shared in their faith. Being a well- trained teacher, Paul was allowed to speak in the synagogue. His message consisted of two points: He spoke of the Old Testament concept of the Messiah, which is that of a suffering, dying, and resurrected CHRIST; He then showed how Old Testament Prophesy was fulfilled in JESUS of Nazareth. Paul continued his evangelizing out of the house of Jason (Acts 17:7), and as a result, many people were converted, especially Gentile Greeks.
Through his Thessalonian Epistles, Paul sought to answer questions that had been brought up by his teachings, and to encourage the Thessalonians to persevere in their beliefs, despite their many persecutions from non-believers. He also wanted to correct, or dispel misinformation and false accusations that had circulated about him after he left Thessalonica, among those being, that he was preaching for financial gains, and, that he had left because he was a coward and a hypocrite. In addition, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to see, first hand, how the new Christians were holding up under the pressures of their suffering and persecution. Timothy was able to return with a report of good news, that the Church at Thessalonica remained strong in their faith.
It is of the utmost importance to note that, in those days, the New Testament had not yet been written. The only way the Thessalonians had to learn, besides Paul’s teachings, was by watching how Paul and his companions acted, towards themselves and others. What they saw, they imitated. Paul and the early Church leaders were “Role Models”, in the purest sense of the words.
Being an example was an important element in the early Church, and that still holds true today. The Church at Thessalonica went on to become a shining example for other Churches already in, and, coming into, the Christian Faith. There is something very inspiring about the defiance of the early Church. The easiest thing in the world for them to do, to avoid the suffering and persecution they endured, was to pack it up and go home, but instead, they blazed on, by way of their strong faith. They were never ashamed, or afraid to show, who they belonged to, and who they served. Remember, the Christian is called to first, serve in the world, and then wait on the glory and mercy of JESUS CHRIST.
Paul was a great teacher who put the best of himself into his work. When a teacher has taught someone and put something of him self into it, he becomes anxious to see how that training will stand the test of life. The same holds supremely true with JESUS CHRIST. JESUS staked so much on men, when HE visited us in HIS incarnate state. HE loved and taught us with a sacrificial love, and now waits anxiously to see how we will use HIS teachings, and HIS love to help one another. There is nothing like the joy of a parent, who can point to a child he has taught, who has done well. The help, anxiety, and joy of teaching are, altogether, a wonderful thing. But ultimately, when we can serve people no other way, like JESUS, and, like Paul, when we are unwillingly separated from the people we teach, there is one thing we can still continue to do. We can still, pray for them.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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