I recently started a new sermon series titled “The UNSTOPPABLE Church!”  The study is an exposition of the book of 1 Thessalonians.  We learned that the Apostle Paul had a special place in his heart for the church at Thessalonica calling it the “model church.”  There are some pretty interesting facts that may help you understand the city and people of Thessalonica a little better as we continue to examine it on Sunday mornings:

  • Paul is addressing a church planted amongst a very well off, very Graeco-Roman secular culture with a few Jews here and there.
  • The city was named for Thessalonike.  She was the sister of Alexander the Great and the wife of the city’s founder King Cassandros, a student of Aristotle who is also referenced as Cassander.[1]
  • Thessalonike’s father, King Phillip II of Macedon (also the father of Alexander the Great) named her shortly after the end of the bloodiest battle in Ancient Greek history, the Battle of Crocus Field in which Phillip’s Thessalian troops defeated the enemy, the Phocians, and gave way to Macedon’s rise to prominence in Greece as well as Phillip’s authority over it[2].  In celebration, he named his infant daughter “Thessaly’s Victory” or “Thessalo Nike” (Nike, of course, being the Greek word for victory).
  • Thessalonica became a free state under Marc Antony (Rome) in 41 BC,[3] and it has been a prominent city throughout history.
  • It was one of four capitals in Rome after it was divided into a tetrarchy at the end of the second century.
  • This noted city was strategically located at a bay with a key seaport that made it a hinge pin of commerce in the Balkans, allowing for much easier trade between Europe and Asia throughout the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and current independent eras. Also, It has been a major political and commercial center for thousands of years because of its placement along the Via Egnatia.
  • It was home to the famous “Hagia Sophia” church.
  • A Roman hippodrome (stadium for horse and chariot racing) was featured in Thessalonica.
  • It is currently – and has for millennia been Greece’s number 2 city referred to as the “co-capital” of Greece,[4] and according to the world’s largest travel guide publisher Lonely Planet, it is the fifth best party city in the world[5].

In short, the city was patriotic from its inception and founded by a Greek king and secular philosopher.  THIS IS IMPORTANT because in the salutation of 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8, Paul mentions the church’s effective outreach to Macedonia, their more immediate area, and Achaia, the outlying Greek areas. Paul remained in this location for a long time, and according to Acts 17, a handful of Jews and multiple Greeks turned to Christ and spent time learning from Paul. It is evident that they imitated their teacher by following God and teaching others all around them about Christ.

This shows us that the Thessalonians were very missional and effective throughout their culture; Paul commends them by recognizing their mission focus and acknowledges their repentance from their former sinful way of living.

Question: What would Paul say to our church about its missional living and about our repentance from our former sins? Has our faith gone forth in every place that it could? Would Paul be full of advice and correction for Cottonwood Creek or would he have no need to tell us anything?

[1] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, First & Second Thessalonians, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 2001).

[2] Peter Lewis, Ron Bolden, and Wakefield Press., The Pocket Guide to Saint Paul : Coins Encountered by the Apostle on His Travels (Kent Town, S.Aust.: Wakefield Press, 2002).

[3] Richard Wallace and Wynne Williams, The Three Worlds of Paul of Tarsus (London ; New York: Routledge, 1998).

[4] Harry Coccossis, Regional Analysis and Policy (New York: Springer, 2008).

[5] ^ Greg Elms. “Ultimate Party Cities – Travel Tips and Articles”. (Lonely Planet, 2012).