Acts 17:1-4 (NIV)
When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.
Paul and company always sought God’s guidance as they moved forward. They kept moving west until they came to Thessalonica and were pleased to see that there was a synagogue in town.
Jews and gentile “God-fearers” were always seen as “low-hanging fruit” for evangelistic efforts, because they knew the Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament today) and they were actively waiting for the Messiah. So, it made things much easier if there was a synagogue in the city they were targeting.
Two big stumbling blocks for the Jews were Jesus crucifixion and death, and His resurrection. The resurrection mostly struck them as incredible. After all, who ever heard of someone spontaneously rising from the dead? But many had been taught that when the Messiah came, He would be immortal and all-powerful. So, a Messiah that could be overcome and killed didn’t fit into their theology. Paul worked through the Scriptures, especially the prophecies of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) to show them that their theology was erroneous, and that the Scriptures really did show that the Messiah would suffer and die, be raise, and THEN be immortal, always living and never dying again.
Many of the worshipers believed in Jesus, but the majority of those were gentile God-fearers and quite a few of the women in the group. This was quite typical of Paul’s efforts. The Jewish men were much more set in their theology, and were difficult to sway from their beliefs, even when they were shown to be scripturally inaccurate.
Paul wasn’t concerned. The first fruits were just that: the first wave of believers through whom more would come. He would work with them, teach them the ways of the kingdom, and help them to grow so that they were ready to reach out to those around them with their new faith.
Father, it is easy to become discouraged by small beginnings and give up. But all Paul needed was a toehold to show him that he was working in the right place. Help me, Lord, to work hard, to look for even small fruit, and to let that encourage my heart to push me even more vigorously forward in the work of Your kingdom. Amen.
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