THE BOOK OF ACTS
ACTS 18:1-18; First Epistle to Thessalonica
NO CHURCH FOUNDED IN ATHENS
After all that had happened to Paul in Athens he departed
from there and went to Corinth.
Paul was not able to start a church in Athens, only to
convert a relatively few to accepting Jesus as Savior and Messiah
and to walk in the way of the Lord.
What was it about Athens that netted only a few converts
(putting aside the foundation that it is God's doing and calling
in the first place, to bring anyone to repentance and
conversion). Athens was quite the city for massive heathen
worship of false gods, and for human philosophy. The city was
named after the patron goddess Athena, and the capital of the
important Greek state of Attica, which became the cultural
center of the ancient pre-Christian world. It grew up around the
512-foot-high Acro-polis and was connected with its seaport
Piraeus by long walls in the days of its glory. The city
was captured by the Romans in 146 B.C. and was under Roman rule
when Paul came to it. They were well known for going about in the
marketplace asking "What news?" They were a "religious" lot of
people as we have seen from Paul's remarks. It is recorded by
some historians that the people of Athens surpassed all other
states in the attention that they paid to the worship of gods. So
the city was crowded in every direction with temples, altars, and
other sacred buildings. Mars' Hill or the Areopagus was at the
west approach to the Acropolis. As we have seen Paul preached
there to the devotees of three current at the time, philosophies
- Platonism, Stoicism, and Epicureanism (see your
Encyclopedias for information on those philosophies).
Paul made use of his Hellenistic culture by quoting from a
familiar verse taken from an invocation to Zeus, written by a
minor Cilician poet, Aratus (312-245 B.C.). Paul may have visited
the great music hall or Odeion of Pericles (cf.1 Cor.13:1) and
the great Tower and Waterclock of Andronicus (cf.5:16). He may
also have visited the "keramikos" or pottery-making section of
the city, which was famous (cf.Rom.9:21).
The aforementioned facts of history were taken from the "New
Unger's Bible Dictionary " - Moody Press.
Now we can see from a human point of view why it may have
been so difficult for Paul to convert people to the Gospel of
Christ, for the city was deeply entrenched in much pagan god
worship and humanistic philosophies.
Paul moved on to Corinth. Now Corinth itself was quite the
city. Corinth was Greece's most splendid commercial city. Its
strategic situation made it the mecca of trade between the East
and the West. The city derived rich income from transport of
cargo across the narrow isthmus, about five miles in width. The
Romans completely destroyed the city in 146 B.C. But Julias
Caesar restored it in 46 B.C. It grew so rapidly that it was
made Achia's capital (from "the New Unger's Bible Dictionary" -
From "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament" we learn this:
"...the city of Corinth was built at the foot of a high
hill, on the top of which stood a citadel....The
circumference of the city proper was about forty stadia, or
five miles....The city of Corinth, thus became the mart of
Asia, and Europe, covered the sea with its ships, and formed
a navy to protect its commerce.....Its population and wealth
was thus increased by the influx of foreigners.....It was
the mart of the world. Wealth flowed into it from all
quarters. Luxury, amusements, and dissipation, were the
natural consequences, until it became the most gay and
dissolute city of its time....There was another cause
which contributed to its character of dissoluteness and
corruption. I refer to its religion.
The principal deity worshipped in the city was Venus....Her
shrine appeared above those of other gods; and it was
enjoined by law, that one thousand beautiful females should
officiate as courtesans, or public prostitutes, before the
altar of the goddess of love....the effect of this on the
morals of the city can be easily understood. It became the
most gay, dissipated, corrupt, and ultimately the most
effeminate and feeble portion of Greece....Though Corinth
was thus dissipated and licentious in its character, yet it
was also distinguished for its refinement and learning.
Every part of literature was cultivated there.....By the
Romans, the whole of Greece was divided into two provinces,
Nacedonia and Achaia. Of the latter, Corinth was the
capital; and this was its condition when it was visited by
Paul had quite the task ahead of him, if he wanted to
establish a church in this city of Corinth, but as we shall see,
he succeeded, and succeeded in a mighty way, and those who came
after him added to the increase of the membership of the
congregation. But we shall also find that they had many serious
problems which Paul had to correct later in his epistles to them.
But we are getting ahead of our story. Back to when Paul first
went there and Acts chapter 18.
Just about immediately Paul found a Jew in the city by the
name of Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently moved there with
his wife Prescilla. They had left Rome when Claudius the Roman
king of the time, commanded all Jews to leave Rome. Paul was
naturally drawn to Aquila and Prescilla because they and him were
of the same secular trade, they were all tentmakers. He then
abode or lodged with them.
As usual Paul was in the synagogue teaching and preaching
about Jesus as the Christ. When Silas and Timothy arrived from
Macedonia, Paul was stirred even more to forcefully testify to
the Jews that Jesus was the Christ or Messiah. We are often
lifted up when our closest friends of the same mind are with us,
the encouragement to do God's work is contagious, and so it
seemed to be for Paul when his Gospel companions and fellow
ministers arrived to be with him once more.
Yes, as before, there were those Jews who were against
Paul's teaching, and got so angry they started to blaspheme, and
argue among themselves. Paul then shook his clothes (a common
practice to tell people you were out of patience and through with
them) and said to them, "Your blood be upon your own heads; I
know what is correct, and I an clean from sin. I will from now on
put by efforts into going to the Gentiles."
This is the mark in time that established Paul as MAINLY a
teacher and preacher to none Jews. We are not told in so many
words but we can safely assume from the context of the chapter,
that Aquila and Priscilla were converted to the Christian Gospel
in some way before Paul came to Corinth, or that Paul himself was
the instrument to bring them to the saving knowledge of Jesus
Paul left the synagogue after turning his back on the
unbelieving Jews and entered the house of one called Justus, a
man that worshipped God, whose house was actually joined to the
synagogue. We are told also that Crispus, the chief ruler of the
synagogue, believed on the Lord and so did all his household, as
well as many of the Corinthians, who heard the Gospel message.
They believed and were baptized. So it was that the Corinthian
Church of God was formed.
One night the Lord came to Paul in a vision saying, "Paul,
be not afraid, but speak, and do not hold your tongue, for I am
with you, and this time no man is going to hurt you in any
physical way; for I have decided to call many people to accepting
me in this city."
Was Paul ever overjoyed at this revelation. He was like a
child with a brand new toy that he'd desired for ages and now had
obtained. He continued in Corinth for about one year and six
months, teaching the word of God among the people.
The time came that a new governor by the name of Gallio was
over the region of Achaia. Some of the unbelieving Jews thought
that they perhaps had a "political religious" governor who would
side with them, or it may have been they had been told by the
leader of the synagogue that Gallio would side with them against
Paul. Which ever way it was those Jews brought Paul before the
judgment court of this new governor of Achaia. They accused Paul
of "persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to
Paul was about to make his defense. But Gallio turned to his
accuses and said, "Listen, you Jews, if this were a case of
someone involved with genuine wrongdoing or a serious crime, I
would be obliged to have to hear what you say. But since this is
merely a question of words and names and things that concern your
Jewish laws, then you look after it, I refuse to get involved in
this kind of judgement. So get out of here!"
The Jewish mob on leaving, grabbed hold of Sosthenes, the
leader of the synagogue and beat him up, right in the courtroom,
but Gallio just pretended he saw nothing, and paid no attention
to their actions.
We can again assume two reasons for the mob beating up this
Jewish synagogue leader. Either he was initially on their side
and had persuaded them that Gallio would listen to them and even
judge in favor of condemning Paul, or he was on Paul's side and
they thought he had some "influence" with Gallio to throw them
all out on their ear. Which ever way it was, the Jewish mob beat
him up right in front of Gallio, who simply paid no attention.
Paul continued to stay in Corinth for some time after that
event in his life. We are not told for how long he remained in
Corinth, but he finally said goodbye to the Christians there, and
sailed for the coast of Syria, taking Prescilla and Aquila with
him (Acts 18:1-18).
THE TWO LETTERS TO THE
CHRISTIANS AT THESSALONICA
While living in Corinth, it is thought by most scholars,
that Paul wrote his two letters to the Christian brethren in
Thessalonica. We shall then look in an over all way, with a
basic commentary, the contents of Paul's letters of First and
Here is an introduction to 1 Thessalonians from the "New
King James Bible - Personal Study Edition" published by Nelson,
1990 and 1995.
AUTHOR AND DATE
On his second missionary journey, as related in Acts 17:1-9, Paul
and his companions came to Thessalonica. There they went into the
synagogue and, three Sabbaths, "reasoned with them from the
Scriptures, ... saying, 'This Jesus whom I preach to you is
the Christ'" (Acts 17:2,3). Paul's stay at Thessalonica was
brief, at most only a few months. From there he went to Berea
(Acts 17:10), on to Athens (Acts 17:15), and then to Corinth
From Athens Paul sent Timothy to encourage the Thessalonians.
When Timothy returned to him at Corinth, the apostle was
overjoyed at the news of the strong faith of the Thessalonians.
From Corinth he wrote the first Thessalonian letter in late A.D.
50 or early 51. The second letter was written several months
First Thessalonians is one of the earliest of Paul's letters and
thus also of the New Testament books.... Paul was joined in
writing 1 Thessalonians by his missionary companions, Silvanus
(the Silas of Acts 15:22) and Timothy.
Thessalonica, now called Salonika, was an ancient Greek city, the
capital of the Roman province of Macedonia.
Paul began his ministry there in the Jewish synagogue. However,
the church that resulted included not only Jews, but also a
number of devout Greeks and many leading women.
These Greeks had been attracted previously to the Jewish
monotheistic faith but had not submitted completely to its
ritual - particularly circumcision. Many Jews of Thessalonica
did not become believers, and the synagogue rulers eventually
rejected Paul and drove him from the town (Acts 17:1-10).
The majority of the people in the Thessalonian church had been
converted from idolatry (1:9) and lives of gross immorality. From
this past they had turned to Christ. Paul had not had time in
Thessalonica to instruct his converts as thoroughly as he would
Thus, in this letter he wanted to express his joy at their
steadfastness, encourage them in the midst of suffering, instruct
them in the way of holiness, and correct misconceptions about the
In this letter Paul emphasizes the "Second Coming" of the Lord
Jesus and the "second blessing" of full sanctification in the
life of the believer. Mention is made of the "Second Coming" at
the end of each chapter. Paul prays for their sanctification and
tells them now to five holy lives.
The apostle begins by describing the thorough conversion of the
The change in their lives was well known throughout the churches
(1:7-10). Then he reminds them of his conduct: he had preached to
them from pure motives and demonstrated his love for them
(2:1-12). They had suffered for their faith (2:13-16). How
he desired to see them (2:17-20)!
Because of his anxiety for the church, he had sent to then
Timothy (3:1-6), who later returned bringing good news of their
steadfastness (3:6-10). Paul begins his instruction by praying
for their sanctification (3:11-13). Next comes admonition on two
aspects of the life of holiness - sexual purity and brotherly
love (4:12). The apostle then turns to the subject of Christ's
return. They need net fear. At the Lord's return Christians who
have died will be united with those still alive (4:13-18).
The Christian's task is to watch and be always ready for that great
event (5:1-11). Next are important instructions for daily life
(5:12-22). Paul concludes with a prayer for their sanctification
(5:23,21), followed by greetings and a benediction (5:25-28).
OUTLINE OF 1 THESSALONIANS
1. Salutation 1:1
2. Paul's concern for the Thessalonians 1:2-3:13
Paul's visit 1:2-2:16
The conversion of the Thessalonians 1:2-10
The integrity of the missionary Paul 2:1-12
The suffering of the Thessalonians 2:13-16
Timothy's visit 2:17-3:10
Paul's anxiety for his converts 2:17-20
Timothy sent to Thessalonica 3:1-5
Good news from the Thessalonians 3:6-10
A prayer for holiness 3:11-13
3. Paul's instructions for the Thessalonians 4:1-5:22
A life that pleases God 4:1-12
Sexual purity 4:1-8
Brotherly love 4:9-12
The coming of the Lord 4:13-5:11
Christians who have died will rise first 4:13-18
Christians who are alive must be ready 5:1-11
Daily Christian living 5:12-22
Living with the brethren 5:12-15
Your own spiritual life 5:16-18
Discerning good and evil 5:19-22
4. A prayer for entire sanctification 5:23,24
5. Greetings and benediction 5:25-28
End of quotes
Chapter one is Paul's praise to them for their turn from
idols to serve the true God, their steadfastness and for their
efforts to spread the truth through example and word .
Chapter two Paul reminds them of how he and others taught
them, with simple plain words, and with kind gentleness, and how
they worked at secular jobs so they would "not be chargeable unto
any of you." He reminds them how they were like blameless
loving fathers caring for their children, so they could walk
worthy of God. Example is often the very best teacher. They
received the Gospel not as if from men but as it was the
word of God.
Chapter three Paul reminds them that trials and afflictions
may come upon Christians, we are to expect it, but he tells them
how pleased he was to hear from Timothy of their steadfast faith,
and what joy they had before God for them. He prayed for their
increase in love.
Chapter four Paul talks about them being sanctified and pure
in sexual matters (verse 2 and 3). The Greek word for
"fornication" is "pornaia" and means any sexual misconduct of any
kind. Verse 4 gives some problems for many to understand what
Paul is talking about. Albert Barnes in his commentary on this
section gives some insightful comments:
"The word 'vessel' here probably refers to the body....the
word 'vessel' also....was used by later Hebrews to denote a
wife...1 Peter 3:7.....as the apostle was giving directions
to the whole church, embracing both sexes, it is hardly
probable that he confined his direction to those who had
wives. It was the duty of females, and of the unmarried
among the males, as well as of married men, to observe this
command. The injunction then is, that we should preserve the
body as pure....5. Not in the lust of concupiscence. In
gross gratifications. Even as the Gentiles. This was, and
is, a common vice among the heathen....6. That no man go
beyond. This word means, to make to go over, as e.g. a
wall or mountain; then, to overpass, to wit, certain limits,
to transgress....And defraud. Margin - oppress or overreach.
This word properly means, to have more than another; then to
have an advantage, then to take advantage of any one.....It
is the word commonly used to denote covetousness....In any
matter. Margin or "the." According to the reading in the
margin, this would refer to the particular matter under
End of quote
The context of Paul here is sexual immorality of any kind.
Barnes noted well that Paul was speaking to the whole church,
men, women, married or unmarried. If Paul wanted to speak only to
the married, he most likely would have used the specific language
that he used when talking to the Corinthians, and being exact as
to whom he was addressing for special advice given from himself,
see 1 Cor.7:8,10,12,25.
Paul is telling the mainly Gentile membership of the church
at Thessalonica that God's desire and command is that our bodies
be kept pure and clean from sexual misconduct. This is not to say
the Jews did not have any trouble in this regards, they did.
So indeed it is a directive to everyone who has accepted God's
calling. Verse 7 shows God has called us to holiness and not
uncleanness as we govern our body in sexual matters.
If we are married and we are not sexually faithful to our
mate then we have overreached the bounds of God's command, and
not only gone beyond what God would have for us in the marriage
union, but we have overreached what is good for our mate,
and gone beyond what our mate would want. Intimate sexuality
between married people is most precious. Even in our modern,
often immoral world of sexuality, there is still a moral
agreement with most married couples that sexual practices will
stay within the marriage and not go outside of the married
partners. Many a marriage has suffered greatly, if it held
together at all, because of sexual infidelity.
If we are single God desires and commands that we keep our
bodies sexually pure for marriage. God does not want single
people having sex before marriage, or one-night-stands, or
sleeping around with whoever and whenever we desire. If we do
live this way we have defrauded and overreached and taken
advantage of our fellow human being.
Having sex before marriage means our marriage partner is
defrauded if they have remained pure and a virgin, for marriage,
and we have not.
It is God's desire that every person should know how to
possess their body in honor and purity and not in sexual lust and
immorality. For as Paul told the Thessalonians, God has called us
not to uncleanness, but unto holiness. And in verse 8, Paul
finished this context with "And therefore he that rejects this,
rejects not the ideas of man, but the will of God, who has also
given to us His Holy Spirit."
TO BE CONTINUED