Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. 1 Thessalonians 1:1.
A few more words, please, about the opening to this letter. Notice that it speaks for three people: Paul, Silas, and Timothy (as does the opening to 2 Thessalonians). As mentioned yesterday, all of Paul’s letters open with a flourish, and all of them open by naming (at least) the apostle. Romans opens with Paul only (as do Ephesians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus), Paul and Sosthenes open 1 Corinthians, Paul and Timothy in 2 Corinthians (also Philippians, Colossians and Philemon), and Paul and “all the brothers with me” begin Galatians.
What does this mean? To me, it speaks of the honesty of a growing movement. Put yourself back in the First Century Mediterranean world dominated by Rome. It was a barbaric culture spread across three continents. Paul wrote many of his letters to churches in modern day Turkey (Corinth, Galatia, Colosse, and Ephesus are there) while Timothy was from that same area. Philippi and Thessolonica are in Greece (with Thessalonica actually being in Macedonia), and it is believed Philemon was from Colosse. All these churches grew out of Paul’s missionary efforts that began on the road to Damascas (in modern day Syria). If you look at a map you see that Paul’s missionary journeys took him north from the Transjordan, around the Mediterranean coast, and even as far west as Rome (where he was eventually martyred). That’s a distance of hundreds, even thousands, of miles: all of it by foot, wagon or boat.
That doesn’t happen without reason.
All along the way, people listened. Many listened, some rejected, but others believed. Enough people believed to start churches, formal underground groups of followers committed to this new message of Jesus Christ, Himself only recently crucified. The movement grew in spite of Roman physical oppression and Jewish ecclesiastical persecution. It grew across languages, cultures, and boundaries. Indeed, the three men who wrote just this letter were all from vastly different backgrounds with Paul being Judean, Silas a Greek, and Timothy from what we consider to be Turkey.
Again, that doesn’t happen by chance. The fact that three men from different countries could come together to evangelize a radical new belief system that preached real non-violence, peace, and love towards enemies speaks volumes. Even with 24/7 global communications, that rarely happens even today. Yet that’s what happened in Paul’s day, in Paul’s life. Before now, maybe you didn’t consider the implications of a simple though eccentric greeting in an obscure letter. Hopefully after this, you’ll never forget it.
For further reading: Read the first verses of the first chapters of Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.
Lord, thank You for the spectacular nature of Your church and the diverse leaders who started it.