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Acts 17:1−4; 2 Corinthians 5:14−15; 1 Thessalonians 1:2−10comment (0)

May 24, 2012

By James R. Barnette

Related Scripture: Acts 17:1-4

Bible Studies for Life 
Associate Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Samford University

A Legacy of Love

Acts 17:1−4; 2 Corinthians 5:14−15; 1 Thessalonians 1:2−10

Love Compelled (2 Cor. 5:14−15)
Read enough of Paul and you realize that the reason for doing something was as important as what was done. Jesus stressed this principle in His Sermon on the Mount, where He rebuked those who did good things for the wrong reasons (see Matt. 6:1−18). Paul was raised in a religious culture that glorified the deed and ignored the motive. But in his relationship with Jesus Christ he came to realize that fear, guilt, a sense of duty or a desire to impress God or others were inadequate as a reason for sharing the gospel. In verses 14 and 15 he reveals the inner urge that drove him to spend his life the way he did. The five words, “For Christ’s love compels us” say it all: above all else this is what Paul wanted the Corinthians to believe about him.

When the implication of the statement “He died for all” began to get hold of Paul, it changed permanently his feeling about every person in the world. The fact that every person he met was loved unconditionally by God and was one for whom Christ died defined Paul’s ministry. This is why Paul’s evangelism never exploited or manipulated people. Rather he loved them the way Christ did and hoped for their conversion to Christ’s love.

Interestingly the other place where Paul uses the particular Greek expression for “Christ’s love” is Romans 8:35. The reality that nothing can separate us from Christ’s love (Rom. 8:39) compels us all the more to share this greatest of news with others.

Love Communicated (Acts 17:1−4)
Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke left Philippi more convinced than ever that Christ alone was their central message (see chapter 16). They made their way through the mountains of Macedonia along the Egnatian Road, through the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica, the capital city of the Macedonian province. They stayed in the city long enough to found a new church. Thessalonica was made a free city by the Romans in 42 B.C. The message on which the church was founded is made plain in 1 Thessalonians 1:9−10, which was to turn from idols and serve “a living and true God.”  

Paul first made known the gospel in the synagogue for three successive Sabbaths, showing from the Scripture lessons that Jesus was the Messiah. Among the “God-fearing Greeks” were a number of influential women. Women were known to have considerable social and civic prominence in Macedonia. It is also worth noting the prominence of Silas in this section, particularly in connection with the synagogue witness (see also verse 4 and 10). He is usually in the background, with the focus being on Paul. 

Love Continued (1 Thess. 1:2−10)
Paul, Silas and Timothy had preached in Thessalonica, and those who had responded to the gospel were now enduring harassment and persecution for their faith (see 1:6, 2:14). Yet Paul does not thank them for their response but rather gives thanks for God. “He has chosen you” is a key theme of the letter (2:12, 4:7, 5:24). It is not a matter of God arbitrarily choosing some individuals for salvation and some for damnation, nor is it a denial of human responsibility, but an affirmation of God’s initiative in forming the community of chosen people.

Paul notes that the Thessalonians “became imitators of us.” This is not egotism. Paul is presenting himself as an example (see also 1 Cor. 11:1), which reflects the Hellenistic pattern in which teachers set forth their own life before their students as an example of their philosophy.  

Verses 9 and 10 reflect an early creed developed in the Antioch church and adapted by Paul. The three verbs in the first stanza summarize the Christian experience: “turn,” “serve” and “wait.” These three verbs correspond to the virtues of “faith,” “hope” and “love” noted by Paul in verse 3. All three of the verbs are active, including the active waiting for the final triumph of God.

James Barnette is the teaching pastor of Brookwood Baptist Church, Birmingham.

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