Why God’s Work Will Always Be Opposed

1 Thessalonians 4:1 – Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.

The ancient city of Thessalonica, which I visited with our family some years ago, is a well-established historical site. Founded in 315 BC, and later overtaken by the Romans in 167 BC, it became the capital city of the Roman province of Macedonia. Because the city was at the intersection of two major highways (the Via Egnatia), as well as deep port harbors on the Aegean Sea, it was a strategic location for commerce, travel, and church planting. 

A Bible commentary says, “Ancient Thessalonica’s population included native Macedonians, Greek immigrants, Latin-speaking people, and likely a significant number of Jews. The city’s religions included the cults of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and joy, and of Cabirus, a Thracian god believed to protect sailors and aid fertility…Worship of Greek deities such as Zeus, Aphrodite, and Demeter also was common, and, as loyal citizens of the Roman Empire, the inhabitants of Thessalonica would have worshiped the emperor, as well… This prevalence of religious cults meant that Thessalonica was ‘replete with sexually suggestive activity and imagery’…a factor that sheds light on the letter’s call for holiness in 4:3–7.” (1)

Paul arrived at Thessalonica with Timothy and Silas, preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, and many people were saved, but a riot of opposition arose in response, forcing him to leave the city or face death. 

The mention of a synagogue indicates that there were at least ten Jewish men, along with their families, who were regularly meeting to worship the God of the Old Testament and await the coming of the Messiah. The fact that Paul preached there for three successive sabbaths, teaching that Jesus was God who died for our sin and rose for our salvation in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, resulted in some becoming worshippers of Jesus Christ who served as the founding families of the new church. 

The presence of God-fearing Greeks who converted to Christianity also indicates that there were non-Jews who had begun to believe the Old Testament. God was preparing both Jew and Gentile in Thessalonica to be saved and for Thessalonica to be an outpost for missions and church planting throughout the entire region. 

When the Holy Spirit and God’s servants do ministry, unholy demonic spirts and evildoers do anti-ministry. This is precisely what happened as a revival was followed by a riot forcing Paul to flee for his life, leaving the new church and new Christians confused, scared, lacking leadership, and needing love and leadership. Paul’s absence from the new Christians and new church caused confusion and a leadership vacuum. 

Where have you seen anti-ministry happen as a direct opposition to God’s ministry?

  1. Jason C. Kuo, “Thessalonians, First Letter to the,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

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