A Message From The God Of Grace And Peace
Thessalonica lay south west of Philippi, one hundred miles along the Roman Via Ignatia road. Paul and Silas made that journey, still suffering from the beating and imprisonment in Philippi, soon to face another barrage of opposition in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). That ancient city, now covered by the modern Thessaloniki, was a sophisticated trading hub where the Via Ignatia met the north-south road from, what is now, Serbia to Athens. Surrounded by a semicircle of mountains to the north and west, and a natural harbour to the south and east, it was prosperous and felt secure: a safe haven for migrants. Paul and Silas, probably accompanied by Timothy, taught about Jesus in the synagogue for three weeks and some of the Jews believed along with many more God-fearing Greeks (Acts 17:2-4). And so a church was formed. However, jealous religionists stirred up trouble and forced the missionaries to leave (Acts 17:5-10).
Paul wrote two discipling letters to them from Corinth. They were still being persecuted (2 Thessalonians 1:4) and needed encouragement if they were going to live as faithful servants of Jesus Christ until He should return (2 Thessalonians 2:1). So Paul addresses them as the church of the Thessalonians 'in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ'. 'Church' simply means 'gathered people', and the rest of the sentence was a business term: they were a branch of a huge international enterprise, incorporated in God the Father and God the Son (Ephesians 1:13). God is the owner of the church and has the power to ensure that it achieves all He plans. The Thessalonian church was more secure surrounded by God than the city surrounded by mountains and sea.
Although the religionists wanted to take away their identity as a church, God had given them His own seal of approval as they had received His grace (2 Corinthians 1:22). When the city authorities disturbed them, God gave them peace and grace. It had been that way from the beginning of the church, and God remained the only source of grace and peace. Grace encompasses all that Jesus has done for us in removing our sins and imputing His righteousness. Peace comes from the confidence that we are no longer enemies of God, because Jesus has mediated for us (1 Timothy 2:5).
More Christians are being persecuted today than ever before. Religionists and secularists alike resist the grace of Christ. They seek peace, and may find some temporary inner composure, but do not have eternally lasting peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). But believers have all been given that peace when they received His cross-won grace. We all need the encouragement of being reminded that His peace and grace are still powerfully effective giving us confidence to continue loving and serving Him despite opposition and troubles (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). The fact remains that if you are 'in Christ' you are 'in God'. He has the power to protect you and make you productive.
© Dr Paul Adams