Fruits of the Christian Life
There were great difficulties in some of the nascent New Testament churches! One can imagine the extraordinary differences in lifestyle between the typical Greek-Roman citizen and the typical convert to Jesus Christ. The Christian eschewed sexual immorality, idol worship, violent entertainment, gluttony and drunkenness, just to mention a few of the overt sins of the typical first century citizen in the Mediterranean world. As new people came into the church, they were sometimes reluctant to fully embrace a totally different lifestyle and the leaders in the churches had to deal with that intransigence. One church, however, stands out. One church is absolutely head and shoulders above the others in their witnessing, behavior and devotion. That church is the one established in Thessalonica during the Spring of A.D. 52 by the Apostle Paul. Read on to learn the amazing story-behind-the story of this amazing church and note that the next two “closer look” articles will go into more detail.
Monday…Alexander the Great had a half-sister named Thessalonice. She married one of Alexander’s generals, Cassander, and he gave her a city, Therme, for a wedding present. The city was re-named Thessalonica after Thessalonice. The word, “Thessalonice/Thessalonica” means, “Victory on the Sea.” Paul had visited this city nearly 400 years after Alexander’s death (be sure and read Acts 17:1-9) and established a church there. Let’s learn more….
Tuesday…You have read the first nine verses of Acts 17 and you know that Paul may have only been in the city for 2-3 weeks before he and his entourage were run out of town by an angry mob. What chance would a church have of surviving when its founder was run out of town after only three Sabbath days’ worth of teaching about Jesus? Amazingly, this church thrived and grew! There is not one word of criticism leveled at this church even though many other churches come under sharp criticism from the great Apostle. Students of the Bible have isolated seven reasons why this church drew such terrific commendation from Paul. We will look at those seven reasons in ensuing articles and paragraphs.
Wednesday…Scholars have noted that if one wishes to learn the history of the church, Acts is to be studied. For the theology of the church, read the first eight chapters of Romans and the first three chapters of Ephesians. To find the best church in the New Testament, and why it is regarded to be the best church, read I Thessalonians. To note: this church was established in a town of about 200,000 people which was located on the Via Egnatia and was near Mt. Olympus. A north-south road went clear up to the Danube. In other words, this was a large city, a good place for trade and tourism and a wonderful beachhead for the Gospel as large numbers of people came and went. See Paul’s remarks in I Thessalonians 1:7,8 regarding the type of church this was.
Thursday…Let’s begin our look at the seven reasons why many students of the early church regard this church as the best one mentioned in the New Testament. Note how Paul addresses these folks in the very first verse: he says that they are “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ah, yes…they are IN God and IN His Son, Jesus. More than 100x in his writings, Paul uses this type of language to describe the saved condition. This church is to be admired because they follow correct doctrine and, as a result, are saved!
Friday…In verses 2,3 Paul continues to commend these dear brothers and sisters as he mentions the great triad of Christian virtues: faith, hope and love, and notes that these folks are living out these Christian virtues in their everyday lives. But don’t all who say they are Christians live in a saved state and exhibit these cardinal virtues? Unfortunately, they do not.
By Dale Holzbaue