My post “Hypothetical Situation… what do you think?” from Tuesday was based on a true story. Here is the full report as I received it:
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea… (Acts 17:1-10 ESV)
There were a few details that I left out of my “hypothetical situation”. 1) The “religoius people” were Jews. 2) Paul and Silas did not have New Testament Scriptures to leave with the new believers. 3) The new believers were already facing persecution before Paul and Silas left.
Paul and Silas probably visited Thessalonika around 49-50 AD. We don’t know specifically what happened to the group of believers in Thessalonika after Paul and Silas left. But, we do know that the church – and Paul did consider them a church – continued to grow in both numbers and maturity. Notice what Paul says in his letter to this church, which he probably wrote only a year or two after visiting the city for the first time:
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. (1 Thessalonians 1:4-8 ESV)
So, I’ll answer my own questions concerning my “hypothetical situation” now:
1) What things do you think are most important that you would have taught them over theÂ last few weeks? According to Acts, the most important information that Paul communicated to the Jews was the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that Jesus is the Messiah. For the new believers – those to whom the gospel and the Holy Spirit had come – the most important thing for Paul was that they imitated his way of life.
For myself, I probably would not trust the Spirit as much as Paul did. I would think that I would have to present a systematic set of teachings and made sure they understood and agreed with everything.
2) What concerns would you have about this group of disciples? It seems that Paul’s main concern was that they would remain faithful in spite of persecution.
My concerns would be that they would not do or believe the things that I do or believe.
3) Would you consider this group a church? Why or why not? Paul did consider them a church because the Holy Spirit had come to them.
I would consider them a church, because they had received the Holy Spirit.
4) Do you think you left them with everything they need after only a few weeks? Paul thought that they had everything they needed.
I’m learning that they had everything they needed.
(Note: “Everything they needed” does not mean that these believers were completely mature. But, then, no believer or group of believers is completely mature. Thus, we continually need the presence of the Spirit and the help from other believers.)
5) If so, how could this be enough? Paul was satisfied that if they had the Holy Spirit, then he would provide everything they needed. This is a constant and consistent theme with Paul.
See my answer above.
6) If not, what is missing? Nothing is missing.
Next week, I will publish one more post concerning this “hypothetical situation”. In that post, I will discuss the point of these posts.