Originally in the 1978 Word & Work Magazine  

First of all, I would like to cite for you the words written in Matthew 16:13-18: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, ‘Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” (N.A.S.V.)

Yes, Jesus kept His promise, and the church was established on Pentecost. Arthur F. Fogartie, wrote these words: “The Church’s preoccupation must be Christ. Jesus did not say, I will build your Church, or you will build my Church.’ He said, Ί will build my Church.” Yes, the church of Christ is Christ’s, bought by His own blood that was shed on the cruel cross of Calvary.

Who comprises the church that was established on the day of Pentecost? We want to cite a few definitions.

  1. In the class The Church, at the Cincinnati Bible Seminary, Bro. Tom Thurman gave us this definition: “Saved People serving in the Divine Pattern.”
  2. Thomas Campbell, writing in the Declaration and Address, wrote these words, “That the church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one; consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to the scriptures, and that manifest the same by their tempers and conduct, and of none else, as none else can truly and properly be called Christians.”
  3. The mystical body of Christ of which He is the head (Eph. 1:22-23).

We have shown the church in its universal sense. We want now to center our attention on the church in its local sense. We will be discussing the church at Thessalonica.

First of all, let us consider some background material. What is the history of Thessalonica? Thessalonica was called in ancient times Therma. The name Thessalonica came from the wife of the builder Cassander. Cassander was the one who rebuilt the city. When the Romans took over what remained of the Empire of Alexander the Great, they subdivided Macedonia into four parts, Thessalonica being one of them.

The geographic location of Thessalonica was very important in the ancient world. We know that the Romans had a practice of building great roads. One of them, the Via Egnatia, came right through Thessalonica. This road stretched between Rome to the regions north of the Aegean Sea.

In Acts 17:1, Luke says that there was a Jewish synagogue located in Thessalonica. Why was this important? J. W. McGarvey, in his commentary on Acts wrote these words, “It was doubtless the synagogue in this city which drew the apostles on without stopping to preach in Amphipolis or Apollonia, for a synagogue in a city indicated the presence of a considerable Jewish population, with it furnished an open avenue to preach and teach.

How and by whom was the church of Christ established in the great metropolis of Thessalonica? The church there was founded on Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul’s visit to Thessalonica is mentioned in the following passages: Acts 17:1-4; Acts 20:1-3; and in 1 Thessalonians 1:9. 

Were there any problems that arose in the church there? Merrill F. Unger, in Unger’s Bible Dictionary, lists three problems that arose there. “They were:

  1. Carelessness about their daily work, evidently under the impression that the second advent would very shortly take place.
  2. A concern among them lest their Christian friends who died would suffer loss at the coming of Christ for His own.
  3. Friction between church officers and those who possessed miraculous spiritual endowments.” We know that the Apostle Paul dealt with these issues and problems when he wrote the two letters to the Thessalonian church.

In closing, how can we today benefit from a study of the church at Thessalonica? I believe it would be fitting to close with the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”

         Larry Miles is Co-Editor of Word & Work and attends Cherry St. Church of Christ

           in New Albany, IN.