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Founding Missions (2)

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Founding Churches in Macedonia

From Galatia Paul would have traveled westward toward the Aegean coast, and thence by ship to Macedonia, where his first stop was Philippi. 

The Mission to Philippi

The gospel that he preached there would not have been much different from what he had proclaimed earlier in Galatia, and later in Thessalonica and Corinth. In Philippians we find echoes of that preaching in references to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his end-of-time return.

Philippians 2:8-9   8. . . [Christ Jesus] became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. 9Therefore God also highly exalted him . . . .
Philippians 3:10   I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death . . . .
Philippians 1:10 . . . so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless. . . . 
Philippians 3:20  . . . [From heaven] we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 
Philippians 4:5   . . .  The Lord is near. 

Philippi was one of the great success stories of Paul’s career. A special relationship developed between Paul and these believers, as the conspicuous tone of affection and joy that we find in the Philippian letter reveals. They gave generous financial support to Paul when he was in Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus. Thus they became partners in his apostolic work. Any proposed chronology needs to allow for an extended stay during the founding visit of some months or even years, for this relationship of love and support to mature.

Philippians 1:5, 7, 8   5 [I thank my God] because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. . . . 7 . . . You hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me . . . . 8 . . . For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion [en splangchnois] of Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4:15-16   15You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. 16For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. 

Earlier, perhaps even at the founding visit, Paul had offered moral advice, often repeated, and reiterated at the time of writing the letter: to behave in conformity with the apostolic model, and to beware of the enemies of Christ’s cross, those whose end is destruction.



The dots to be connected between Galatia and Macedonia are fewer and less certain than in tracing his later movements. Click on travel.


Philippians 3:17-19   17Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 

The dark cloud hanging over Paul and the Philippian congregation during his first visit was persecution. However many months or years he stayed, his departure may well have been speeded by actions that inflicted on him both suffering and humiliation, in all of which the believers in Philippi were privileged to share.

1 Thessalonians 2:2   But though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 
Philippians 1:29-30  
29For [God] has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. 


The Mission to Thessalonica

From Philippi, Paul traveled to Thessalonica, a journey of some one hundred miles to the south and west, where he settled in for a stay of perhaps six months to a year. At this founding visit, he was likely in the company of Silvanus and Timothy, who were to join him in sending 1 Thessalonians, and who assisted him at a later time in the founding of the congregation at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:19).

1 Thessalonians 1:1   Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 

The Thessalonians were also a gentile congregation; they gave him a warm welcome, responding with joy to the gospel proclaimed by Paul, a message centered upon serving the one true God, and upon the death and resurrection of Jesus and his imminent return from heaven.

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10   9[Paul recounts] what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. 
1  Thessalonians 5:9-10  
9For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.  





More briefly, Paul writes, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again . . . ” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

Along with the gospel, they received from Paul moral instruction, regulating family life and the work place. 

1 Thessalonians 4:1-4, 6   1. . . [We exhort you] that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; 4that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, . . . 6that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.

Paul also warned them during this founding visit that there was no way of knowing when the end-of-time events would happen.  (Compare Mark 13:32 and Luke 12:39-40.)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-2   1Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 

From this period likely dates the expectation on the part of the Thessalonians that they would not experience death, but would still be alive at the coming of the Lord. This understanding may have rested upon explicit words of Paul, or it may have originated as an inference from his proclamation that the Lord might come at any moment. But the result was the same: when after Paul’s departure some in the congregation did die, the Thessalonians were understandably anxious about whether these would participate in the joys and triumphs of the last days. It is to these concerns that Paul responds, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.


Mark 13:32   But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Luke 12:39-40  
39But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

In the meantime, Paul was laboring at his trade to support himself. Unhappily, his income was not sufficient to meet his needs (and perhaps the needs of his companions, Silvanus and Timothy), and he was obliged to receive aid from Philippi on several occasions.

1 Thessalonians 2:9   You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 
Philippians 4:15-16  
15You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. 16For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. 

Despite his warm reception from the Thessalonian believers, he seems to have departed earlier than he might have wished, due perhaps to the persecution that he suffered, as did also the congregation.

1 Thessalonians 1:6   And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit. 
1 Thessalonians 3:4   In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. 






During this period there is the possibility of his having engaged in a mission to Illyricum, on the Adriatic coast, but all we have is a passing reference in Romans 15:19, which entitles us to do little more than speculate. Romans 15:19    . . . From Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ.

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Revised March 11, 2003

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