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4. The Gospel in Europe

Second Missionary Journey

Before entering upon a detailed study of Paul's second missionary journey—which will be the main concern of this lesson—it may be well to recall how this journey opened up an entirely new field for Christian activity. Earlier, Paul had carried the Gospel into Asia Minor, where several Christian groups were established, as mentioned in the previous lesson. But on this second missionary journey Paul and his companions traveled beyond the boundaries of Asia, and were successful in establishing Christian churches in several large cities on the continent of Europe. The second journey, therefore, marks a great advance in fulfilling the commission to "make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19). Indeed, this journey may be regarded as the beginning of a spearhead movement which was to carry the Gospel message to the ends of the then-known world. It should be noted that the extended frontier thus gained became of great strategic value in later years; for when the rising tide of Mohammedanism swept the Christian churches from Asia and North Africa, European Christianity managed to stand firm and maintain its identity. Thus the establishment of Christianity in Europe on this second missionary journey not only opened up a new continent for Christianity, but also proved to be a veritable lifesaver for the early Church! Several other important developments arising out of this momentous journey will be discussed later.

Before proceeding further, some consideration should be given to a series of happenings at Antioch, just prior to the start of the second missionary journey.

read the passage
Gal. 2:1-14

The opening verses of this Scripture passage apparently refer to the Jerusalem council, which was fully discussed in the preceding lesson. Verse eleven indicates that, shortly after Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, Peter decided upon a visit to that city. No special reason is given for the visit, but the Christians at Antioch undoubtedly regarded it as a great honor conferred upon their church. The account mentions that during the early part of the visit Peter showed himself as being in full accord with the decision of the council, and he mingled freely with both Jewish and Gentile members of the church, even partaking of Holy Communion with the Gentile converts.

However, after a few days, several well-connected Jews from Jerusalem arrived at Antioch. Apparently the visitors were members of the aggressive group "Judaizers" mentioned in the previous lesson, whose activities had brought about the convening of the Jerusalem council. The Galatian passage states that upon the arrival of these visitors, Peter immediately withdrew from the Gentiles and had no further contact with them, associating only with the Jewish Christians. Furthermore, Peter persuaded Barnabas to follow his example, and have no further dealings with the Gentiles. This proved too much for Paul. He sternly denounced such proceedings, as being contrary both to the decree of the Jerusalem council, and to Christian teaching; and he publicly rebuked Peter for his duplicity. No further information is given regarding this regrettable happening, and perhaps for this reason the matter is seldom discussed. Nevertheless, what took place at that time should be carefully considered, since it throws light upon several important matters. Note the following:

(1) This happening indicates that the "Judaizing controversy" was not fully settled by the Jerusalem council. (This will be discussed further in a later lesson.)

(2) This happening also furnishes background for the "sharp contention" between Barnabas and Paul, just as they were about to start on the second missionary journey. Evidently, there were other reasons, besides Mark, for this parting of the ways. (See Acts 15:36-40.)

(3) Here also is the explanation for the sharp break between Paul and Peter, which continued through succeeding years. Indeed, this may have been a foreshadowing of the decline of Jewish influence in the early Church, and the forthcoming parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity. In this connection, it is significant that with the passing of the Apostles, leadership in the Church was taken over by Gentile Christians.

(4) In a metaphysical sense, Peter's actions at Antioch are sometimes duplicated in our experience. Faith (Peter), inspired by the word of Truth, leads us into new ventures, and urges us forward to new horizons. But at times we may become alarmed at our own temerity and its possible consequences, and we may seek a hurried return to what may be regarded as safer, or more conservative, positions—just as did Peter. The vision of greater freedom gives place to a renewal of bondage; the projected reforms or expansions of consciousness are abandoned; and we fall back on the forms and ceremonies of the traditional past. Perhaps this is why the well-known hymn urges all Christian soldiers to march "onward" (not "backward").

read the passage
Acts 15:36-41; 16:1-5

(1) Metaphysical Foreword

Reference has already been made to the historical importance of Paul's second missionary journey, but here an additional word regarding its metaphysical significance may be in order. In the second lesson of this course mention was made of Paul's early activities in persecuting the Christian Church, and it was explained how hethen symbolized the personal will. Later on, following his conversion, when all his energies were channeled into the service of Christ, Paul represented the consecrated will. But in Paul's missionary activities something further should be recognized, for there we have the symbology of the consecrated will carrying the freeing word of Truth to the various levels or phases of consciousness. The first missionary journey represents the start of this activity, while the second journey is symbolical of carrying Truth to those areas of consciousness where it has never before been realized. If somehow this important metaphysical teaching can be grasped right at the outset, the study of Paul's second missionary journey will immediately take on new present-day meaning and value.

(2) The Start

From a casual reading of the New Testament passage cited above, it might appear that Paul's purpose was merely to revisit the Christian groups organized during the first missionary journey. But later happenings indicate that the apostle's plans were of a more extensive nature. However, before a start could be made, a change in personnel seemed necessary. Barnabas again desired to take along young John Mark as assistant, despite the earlier failure. But Paul would not agree to this, apparently reasoning that Mark's previous record proved him unsuitable for the longer and more strenuous journey now projected, and the two apostles parted company. Paul then chose Silas to be his associate for this second missionary journey. Silas (also called Silvanus), it will be recalled, was appointed earlier by the Jerusalem council to accompany Paul and Barnabas on their return to Antioch. The name Silas seems to indicate a sturdy physique, plus perception and understanding, which would accord well with the strenuous activities and experiences awaiting the missionaries on this second journey.

Asa replacement for John Mark, Paul had in mind a young man named Timothy, who lived at Lystra, and who had been converted when Paul and Barnabas visited that city on their first missionary journey. Mention is made that Timothy's father was "a Greek." Apparently the father was deceased, and Timothy had been brought up in the Jewish faith by his mother and grandmother. (See II Tim. 1:5 and 3:15.) A very close attachment developed between Paul and Timothy, the apostle referring to him as "my own son" (I Tim. 1:2 A.V.); and the New Testament indicates that Timothy rendered important service, both in missionary work and also in the development of the early Church.

It should be noted that Barnabas, following the separation mentioned above, took with him John Mark and sailed across to Cyprus, where he engaged in further missionary work. Tradition tells that Barnabas eventually suffered martyrdom on the island of Cyprus, and was buried there. However, Barnabas' death must have occurred several years after the activities mentioned in this lesson, since reference was made to him in Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians. (I Cor. 9:6.)

read the passage
Acts 16:1-10

Leaving Antioch, Paul and Silas journeyed overland toward the cities in Asia Minor where Christian groups had been formed on the first journey. At Lystra a short stay was made, enabling Timothy to join the missionary party, as already indicated. Then Paul and his companions directed their steps towards the continent of Europe. There are indications that Paul intended to make the city of Byzantium (later called Constantinople, and now Istanbul) his port-of-entry into Europe. However, the New Testament states that when the missionaries sought to pass through the province of Bithynia, "the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them" (Acts 16:7). Paul therefore proceeded toward Troas, a seaport on the northwest coast of Asia Minor, where connection could be made by ship with Europe.

At this point an important question arises: Why did Paul desire to carry the Gospel message to Europe? What, or who, influenced the apostle thus to enlarge the sphere of his missionary activities? Undoubtedly this was made the subject of prayer as was the case with the first missionary journey; and possibly there were other considerations. But recognition should be given to the important part played by Luke in thus bringing the Gospel to Europe; for there are some indications that Luke's influence may have been the deciding factor in this momentous undertaking. Consider the following:

(1) The New Testament indicates that Luke came to Troas, and met Paul and his companions shortly after the apostle's arrival at that city. But at that time Luke lived at Philippi (some two hundred miles distant from Troas), and was active there as a practicing physician. It would seem, therefore, something more than a coincidence that Luke should journey to Troas just at the time of Paul's arrival. There are some suggestions that the two had been in communication prior to this. Certainly Luke's arrival at Troas was very timely, for his appearance gave immediate interpretation to Paul's vision regarding the "man of Macedonia." (Acts 16:9.) Furthermore, up to this time there had been some uncertainty regarding the route, but following Luke's arrival the missionaries immediately headed straight toward Philippi, thus carrying the Gospel message into Europe.

(2) That Luke actually came to Troas is clearly shown by the wording of the New Testament passage. Prior to the arrival at Troas the account deals with the activities of Paul and his companions; but Acts 16:10 reads, "When he [Paul] had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia." The "we" indicates, of course, that the writer of this account (Luke) had then arrived, and was himself taking part in the activities. These "we" references continue as far as Philippi, but are then dropped—indicating that Luke stayed in Philippi, while Paul and the others pressed forward to the cities ahead. Later, however, Luke rejoined Paul in his apostolic activities, and at that time the "we" reappears. (See Acts20:5-16; 21:1-18.)

(3) There are also some interesting traditions regarding earlier meetings between Luke and Paul— possibly at Tarsus and Antioch; and these may have been followed by some correspondence, as suggested above. This is readily understandable, since Luke was a physician, and the early Church placed considerable emphasis on healing. Possibly Luke recognized the effectiveness of this Christian healing, and some of his letters to Paul may have contained the now-familiar appeal, "Come over and help us!"— having special reference to healing work. There also seems a possibility that Luke's visit to Troas had a similar purpose, viz: to entreat Paul to bring the message and practice of Christian healing to Macedonia, where it was so greatly needed at that time.

read the passage
Acts 16:11-40

The New Testament states that the missionary party, which now included Luke, departed from Troas and sailed toward the mainland of Europe. A short voyage took the missionaries to the port of Neapolis, via the island of Samothrace. Soon afterward they arrived at Philippi, which is referred to as "the leading city in the district of Macedonia" and which was also the home of Luke, as already noted. Three happenings at Philippi should now be given special attention.

(1) The first convert. Reference was made in an earlier lesson to Paul's method of procedure. When visiting a city, the apostle would contact the Jewish synagogue and seek and opportunity to present the Gospel message at the regular Sabbath service. This course was followed throughout the first missionary journey, as already discussed. But there was no synagogue at Philippi, for there were very few Jews living in the city at that time. However, after diligent search, Paul managed to locate what nowadays would be designated as a small "prayer group," meeting in an out-of-the-way place near the river; and it was to this small group that the apostle faithfully presented his message. This presentation resulted in the conversion of a well-to-do business woman named Lydia, together with her entire household, as related in the New Testament passage cited above. Later, from this small beginning, there was formed the Christian group which is usually referred to as the church at Philippi, and to which Paul's Epistle to the Philippians was addressed.

(2) Healing work. While at Philippi, Paul was instrumental in healing a demented slave girl, who was possessed by "a spirit of divination." Apparently, the girl was employed in some form of fortune-telling, and a disturbance arouse. Paul, upon being appealed to, rebuked the evil spirit, saying, "I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her"—and the girl was immediately healed. However, this healing brought the girl's fortune-telling powers to a sudden end, and there was a resulting loss of revenue for her owners. The outcome of all this will be discussed later.

Meanwhile, an important matter connected with this healing calls for some attention. It will be noted that at this point the "we" references are dropped from the narrative. The healing story mentioned above starts with the statement that "as we were going to the place of prayer" but following this, only Paul and Silas are mentioned. There is no further mention of "we" until the writer records some happenings taking place several years later. What, then, could have happened to Luke meanwhile? There is the possibility, of course, that Luke's own medical work occupied all his time, and he was therefore unable to leave Philippi. But some suggestions have been made that Luke was dissatisfied with the Christian work at Philippi, since Paul had devoted his energies to teaching, rather than the anticipated healing work. (Indeed, the record indicates that the only actual healing work undertaken in Philippi resulted disastrously!) However, it should be noted here that Luke rejoined Paul some years later; and it is significant that at that time the apostle was actively engaged in the work of Christian healing. Reference will be made to this later.

(3) Imprisonment and release. Following the healing mentioned above, the owners of the slave girl seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the local magistrates, charging that "these men are Jews and they are disturbing our city." The hostile crowd then began to attack the Apostles, while the magistrates ordered that "these Jews" be severely beaten and thrust into prison. The record states that the jailer, believing that he was dealing with desperate criminals, thrust them into an inner dungeon, where they were securely fettered and their feet held fast in the stocks. Then follows the story of the apostles' miraculous release, and the subsequent conversion of the jailer. Paul's insistence upon a personal apology from the magistrates on the following morning should be specially noted. Perhaps the apostle's attitude on this occasion may not be regarded as a good example of the "turn-the-other-cheek" philosophy; but his action must have gained some respectful recognition for the Gospel in Philippi.

Metaphysical meaning: Philippi derived its name from Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, and the city was closely associated with the rise of the Macedonian Empire. The name Philip means, literally, "a lover of horses," and is frequently used as a symbol of power. This symbology was explained in Lesson Two, in connection with the activities of Philip the Evangelist. But the happenings at Philippi place special emphasis on several phases of spiritual power, and since these have an important bearing upon present-day life and affairs, they should be given careful attention. Note the following: (a) Healing power—made manifest in the healing of the slave girl; (b) Strengthening and sustaining power—enabling the apostles to hold steady when they were persecuted and cast into prison; (c) Freeing power—the prison doors were thrown open, and the apostles set free; (d) Saving power—indicated in the jailer's agonized cry, and Paul's assuring response, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."

read the passage
Acts 17:1-9

After leaving Philippi, Paul and his companions pressed on to Thessalonica, passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia. The New Testament states that the missionaries stayed at Thessalonica for "three weeks" ("three Sabbath days," A.V.) but there are indications that their activities continued for a somewhat longer period. In all probability, what actually happened was this: Paul spoke in the synagogue on three successive Sabbaths, but then the inevitable opposition arose, and Paul was compelled to con tinue his teaching work with the Christian converts at some other place. The two Epistles to the Thessalonians show that a very close relationship existed between Paul and hisThessalonian converts, and this would have taken longer than the mentioned "three weeks" to establish. However, all this will be made clear later in this lesson, when considering these two Epistles.

The missionary activities of Paul and Silas at Thessalonica seem to have been very successful, for the converts included a number of Jews, together with "a great many devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women." But all this good work was brought to a sudden end when some violent attacks upon the apostles developed into a general riot. The city authorities took immediate action to quell the riot, and sought to arrest Paul—regarding his teaching and activities as the main cause of the disturbance. But when the authorities were unable to locate the apostle, they compelled a wealthy convert named Jason to give legal security against any further disturbances. Unfortunately, this action had the effect of stopping all further missionary activity by the apostles in Thessalonica, and Paul was compelled to leave the city without having further contact with the converts.

Metaphysical meaning: The name Thessalonica means "billowy; tossed by the waves"—and arises out of the ancient name Thermae—indicating the many hot springs found in that vicinity. (See Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 653.) And all this is quite significant in the light of Paul's experiences in Thessalonica. In present-day experience also, there are times when zealous activities in connection with the presentation and practical application of Truth principles precipitate us into "hot water"! The sudden changeover from old ways of thinking into new ways, and the letting go of old habits and methods of living, often bring about inner disturbances, such as are symbolized by the happenings at Thessalonica. At such times, it may be well to give careful consideration to the statement of Jesus, regarding "not. . . peace, but a sword." Jesus said, "A man's foes will be those of his own household" (Matt. 10:34-42). This may well refer to the "Thessalonica" within our consciousness, as mentioned above.

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Acts 17:10-15

Departing hurriedly from Thessalonica, Paul and Silas pressed on to Beroea, where they were well received. Indeed, the apostles' visit to the Beroean synagogue seems to have been highly successful, and the fine tribute to the synagogue membership, as given by the writer of Acts, should be specially noted: "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the words with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:11). However, some members of the opposition party at Thessalonica followed the apostles to Beroea, with the resulting disturbances. Apparently at this time Paul's life was in danger so some of the converts took him to the seacoast, and conveyed him to Athens. Silas and Timothy remained for a while at Beroea—for the bitter opposition was not directed toward them—but later they followed Paul, taking an overland route to Athens.

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Acts 17:16-34

While Paul was waiting at Athens for the arrival of Silas and Timothy, he was by no means idle. He visited the local synagogues, engaged in religious discussions at the marketplace, and was finally called before the city council to explain the new teaching he was presenting. The New Testament refers to this council as the "Areopagus," and the place of meeting was a building on "Mars Hill." During Roman times the Areopagus was empowered to appoint lecturers for the Athenian University, and therefore Paul's appearance before this august body would be regarded as a highly important occasion. Apparently, however, the council did not respond very favorably to the apostle's message, and the meeting came to a rather unceremonious conclusion. Nevertheless, an influential member of the council, named Dionysius, together with a woman named Damaris, and some others, were converted. Tradition indicates that Dionysius made some important contributions to early Christianity, and some writers identify him with St. Denys, who carried the Gospel to France.

Paul's sermon before the Areopagus should be carefully studied, since it contains several important statements. The following explanations will prove helpful.

Verse 18: babbler, literally, "Seed-picker," a slighting term, indicating a person who gathers scraps of knowledge, like a bird picking up seed dropped from a wagon.

Verse 22: very religious (A.V. superstitious)— actually a complimentary term, better rendered as "devout worshiper," since it refers to the many objects of worship in the city.

Verse 23: The inscription should read, "To the unknown god"—for this would be in agreement with what follows. Recently several similar inscriptions have been discovered, and the reference seems to be to some catastrophe, or unusual happening, which could not be identified with any known deity. Apparently, the worshipers desired to placate the responsible power, but were also guarding against directing their offering to the wrong god! Paul quoted this inscription in an effort to make the true God ("there is one God, the Father" I Cor. 8:6) known to his hearers.

Verse 28: "In him we live and move and have our being." This is usually regarded as a quotation from the Stoic poet Aratus. However, Paul is here placing emphasis on God's omnipresence, and also on our intimate relationship with Him.

Verse 32: Note that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was always a vital part of Paul's presentation of the Christian doctrine.

Metaphysical meaning:

"Acts 17:16-31 shows in symbols how the word of Truth (Paul) commands the intellect's attempts at religious worship, yet proclaims its shortcomings. The intellectual concept of God is always relative. The Athenians were purely intellectual; the more than three thousand images and statues of gods and demigods or heroes in the city testified to the material concepts of the Deity. Such conceptions are typical of the mind that is not enlightened as to the true character of God. Yet, notwithstanding all these concrete concepts of God, there is a yearning to know the unrevealed Spirit, and the mind isever reaching out for a fuller realization of its source. This yearning is symbolized by the altar with the inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.'

"Paul did not call the Athenians ignorant; he said to them: 'What therefore ye worship in ignorance (not understanding its name, attributes, and nature) this I set forth unto you.' When Truth has been declared and has been received by the intellect, a new state of consciousness is set up. A day, or open state of mind, has been established. When Truth becomes active in our mind, the seed germ of our being, which is the Christ of God, is resurrected; then we have within us that assurance that this uplift is for the whole of our being - spirit, soul, and body — 'all men,' 'all things,' 'all life.' (See verses 24, 25,26,31.)

"The thoughts of the intellect do not fall into line with Truth at once; some mock, and others defer the acceptance to another time. But there are the elect few that form the nucleus of a strong church—a new state of consciousness where spiritual thoughts gather" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary pp. 78-79).

read the passage
Acts 18:1-22

Metaphysical note:

"Corinth (ornament, beauty), forty miles west of Athens, contained the Greek temple of Venus, which was dedicated to the worship of love. So we discern that it was at the love center in consciousness that the Truth sought to do a work. Paul is here referred to as the word of Truth, and Corinth is the love center. Paul wrote his matchless poem on love to the Corinthians. But this center was largely given over to licentiousness. Under the guise of religion, more than a thousand courtesans were attached to the temple of Venus at Corinth as assistants, says secular history. So the need of purification, and the lifting up of the affections here at the love center in human consciousness, is very great when the word of Truth first enters to do its redeeming work.

"Paul's going from Athens to Corinth (Acts 18:1) signifies the withdrawal of the power of the word of Truth from the intellectual center (Athens) and its entrance into the love center (Corinth)" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 156).

Paul remained in Corinth for about eighteen months, and was able to organize a sizable Christian group, or church, there. It was to this group that Paul addressed some very important letters, some years later, which we now refer to as the First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians. These will be fully discussed in a later lesson. Meanwhile the activities of Paul, while he was in Corinth, should now be given careful attention.

(1) Paul's association with Aquila and Priscilla: The New Testament states that this couple had "lately come from Italy"—probably Rome—and were engaged in tent-cloth making. It will be recalled that this was the trade in which Paul had been instructed, so he was able to work with them, and also live with them during his stay in Corinth. There is an interesting tradition which tells how Paul became very ill while at Corinth, and how Priscilla nursed the apostle back to health.

(2) Paul's visit to the synagogue: This follows the regular pattern, with the presentation of the Christian message, and the division of the congregation. However, in this instance, a large section of the congregation accepted Paul's teaching—and among the converts was the minister of the congregation! The account tells how the converts were forced to leave their place of worship, and how they quickly formed a new assembly in a building "next door to the synagogue."

(3) Paul before Gallio: Following the division at the synagogue (as mentioned above), a personal attack was made upon Paul, and the Apostle was dragged before the proconsul, Gallio, and charged with inciting citizens to act contrary to law. Apparently, this attack was instigated by the newly-appointed ruler of the synagogue, a rabbi named Sosthenes. However, Gallio refused to consider the charges laid against Paul, and drove the complaining Jews from the tribunal. Thereupon the infuriated mob—now restrained from injuring Paul—turned upon Sosthenes, and beat him unmercifully. The New Testament writer comments, "And Gallio cared for none of those things" (Acts 18:17 A.V.). The reader may infer that Gallio had been forewarned (possibly by the magistrates at Philippi) regarding the consequences of unlawfully dealing with "a Roman citizen named Paul"—and Gallio was not taking any chances! (See Acts 16:38-39.)

Toward the close of Paul's activities at Corinth, his friends Aquila and Priscilla decided to remove to Ephesus, in Asia Minor. Apparently, business conditions in Corinth had changed, and there were greater opportunities at Ephesus. Paul journeyed with his friends as far as Ephesus, making a brief visit to the synagogue there. However, word had reached Paul that his presence was urgently needed elsewhere; so, promising to return to Ephesus at a later date, he headed toward Syria, and after brief stops at Caesarea and Jerusalem, he finally arrived at Antioch, his starting point. Thus Paul's momentous second missionary journey was finally brought to a close.

9. TWO LETTERS TO THESSALONICA: (I and II Thessalonians)

Before attempting to study Paul's First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, it is well to know when and why they were written. Actually, the historical background may be regarded as an integral part of these Epistles. Therefore, at this point the student should refer back to the section of this lesson dealing with Paul's visit to Thessalonica, and subsequent happenings. The following details will then help to make the sequence of events quite clear.

While Paul was waiting at Athens for Silas and Timothy to arrive, he became deeply concerned about his converts at Thessalonica. As already mentioned, a very close relationship had developed between Paul and his Thessalonian converts during his three-weeks-plus stay with them; and now he desired to know how they were faring. Were they standing fast in the Christian teaching? Or was the pressure of persecution proving too much for them? The suspense was more than he could bear. (See I Thess. 3:1.) When Silas and Timothy at length reached Athens, Paul instructed them to return at once to Thessalonica, so that they could bring him a firsthand report of the situation there. Meanwhile, Paul himself pressed on to Corinth, bidding Silas and Timothy join him there when they returned.

The report that was brought to Paul at Corinth was a very encouraging one. The converts at Thessalonica continued to hold Paul in highest esteem, and they were holding fast in their faith, despite much bitter persecution. However, one problem had arisen, and this was sorely disturbing the converts. Some of the Christians at Thessalonica had died since Paul's departure; in some instances this was the result of the persecutions, while other converts had passed away through natural causes. But Paul, during his ministry at Thessalonica, had taught that the Messiah would be soon returning, and His coming would be the time of fulfilling all the glorious expectations of Jewish teaching. This important question therefore arose: Would death rob these dear departed ones of all the joys and glories of the Second Coming? Indeed, many of the converts were saying, "How can this promised Parousia be a joyous event to us, unless we can share it with our dear ones?" Paul thereupon dictated his First Epistle to the Thessalonians, which was carried by Timothy to Thessalonica. This Epistle contains the apostle's answer to the converts' all-important question. Actually, the Epistle is a great message of assurance, stressing two outstanding points.

(1) Paul assures the Thessalonian converts of his deepest regard for them, and highly commends them for their steadfastness in the face of such bitter persecution.

(2) Paul further assures the converts that death will not rob their dear ones of the joy and glory associated with the Second Coming. Indeed, those who have died "in Christ" are to be given first place in meeting the returning Lord. The details of this outstanding passage should be carefully studied:

"But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall be always with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words" (I Thess. 4:13-18).

Updated Scholarship
Although it is possible that Paul wrote Second Thessalonians as described by Dr. Hunt, many scholars today are skeptical of Paul's authorship. There is a "weak consensus" among scholars that the letter was written after 75 CE to address false teachings about the second coming that arose out of the destruction of Jerusalem.

As already mentioned, this letter of assurance was carried to the Thessalonians by Timothy. But soon Timothy returned to Paul with a newly-arisen problem. Some of the Thessalonian converts had become so enamored with the promise of this Second Coming that they were neglecting the ordinary duties of life, and idly awaiting the Messianic return. Paul immediately dispatched a second letter (Second Thessalonians), couched in stern terms, telling the converts that there must first be a "falling away," and that the Lord would not appear until the appointed time. Meanwhile, the apostle commands that there shall be no idleness or wasting of time among the converts, for "if any one will not work, let him not eat" (II Thess. 3:10).

After reading this explanation, the student should now study first the Second Thessalonians, using as a guide the outlines given in the appendix to this lesson. (See Appendix "A" and "B.")

These two Epistles to the Thessalonians give added distinction to Paul's second missionary journey—for they were written about A.D. 50, and therefore constitute the earliest writings in our New Testament. Of course, at the time when Paul wrote, there was no idea of the New Testament; but as events worked out later, these Epistles actually formed the nucleus of this precious volume. Unfortunately, in the present arrangement of the New Testament, Paul's Epistlesare not given chronologically, but are placed according to size—and consequently these little Thessalonian Epistlesare well back in the list. However, later on in these lessons, Paul's Epistles will be listed in chronological order; and then it will be both interesting and instructive to notice how the earlier teachings, given in Thessalonians, were developed and enriched, as Paul himself matured in spiritual consciousness.

Questions for Lesson 4

Historical Questions:
  1. Why is Paul's second missionary journey regarded as being of great historical importance? Mention three outstanding developments which emphasize the importance of this journey. (See first and final paragraphs in the lesson.)
  2. Using your own words, explain briefly what happened during Peter's visit to Antioch. (Gal. 2:11-14.)
  3. Which was the first important European city visited on this second missionary journey? Tell very briefly, in your own words, what happened at that time.
  4. Explain briefly why Paul wrote to the converts at Thessalonica. Why was the Apostle compelled to write a second Epistle?
  5. With whom did Paul stay while he was at Corinth? Tell very briefly about Paul's activities at Corinth.
Metaphysical Questions:
  1. Explain briefly the metaphysical significance of Paul's second missionary journey. Why must the word of Truth be carried to every part or phase of our consciousness?
  2. How are Peter's actions at Antioch (Gal. 2:11-14) sometimes duplicated in our experience today? Can you suggest any way of overcoming these retrograde possibilities? (See Luke 22:31-34.)
  3. What is the metaphysical meaning of Philippi? Mention, and briefly explain, several types of spiritual power exemplified by the Apostle Paul during his stay at Philippi.
  4. What is the metaphysical meaning of Thessalonica? How does this apply to our present-day experiences?
  5. Give the metaphysical meanings of Athens and Corinth. Also explain very briefly why it is necessary for us, in our spiritual development, to leave "Athens" and press on to "Corinth."


Introduction (I Thess. 1:1)

Personal greeting from Paul and his fellow workers, Silvanus and Timothy.

First Section (I Thess. 1:2; I Thess. 3:13)

1. (1:2-2:20) Some words of commendation regarding the faithfulness of the converts, and its far-reaching influence. The apostle recalls his activities among the converts at Thessalonica, and also sympathizes with them in their sufferings under persecution. He tells how he desired to return to them, but was "hindered by Satan."

2. (3:1-13) Paul explains how Timothy has acted as a loving messenger, enabling the apostle to keep in close touch with the converts. Timothy is continuing this good work by carrying the present letter.

Second Section (I Thess. 4:1-12)

This short section acts as a brief "refresher course," regarding instructions given by the apostle during his stay at Thessalonica. He reminds the converts to practice Christian principles in their daily living, always acting in ways that command the respect of their fellow citizens.

Third Section (I Thess. 4:13; I Thess. 5:11)

This is really the "heart" of the Epistle. Some converts at Thessalonica had died since Paul's departure; some as the result of persecution, and others through natural causes. Relatives were therefore asking: "Would death rob these dear departed ones of the joys and glories of the Messiah's coming? Or was there some way whereby the promised 'Parousia'would be shared by all?" The apostle here gives his assuring reply. Note how this early teaching is presented in three sections:

  1. (4:13-18) All who are "in Christ"-both the living and the dead—will have a place in this glorious event.
  2. (5:1-5) The "day of the Lord" will come sud- denly, and possibly when least expected.
  3. (5:6-11) The necessity for watchfulness by the converts, and proper preparation.

Conclusion (I Thess. 5:12-28)

Some final words of exhortation, and a closing blessing.


(Explanatory note: Apparently, the Thessalonians misunderstood Paul's statements regarding the nearness of the Lord's return, as mentioned in the First Epistle. This misunderstanding led the converts to neglect the ordinary duties of life and enter upon erroneous religious practices. Therefore, to correct this misunderstanding and to urge the Christians to calmness, fortitude, and right work habits, this Second Epistle was written.)

Introduction (II Thess. 1:1-2)

Personal greeting from Paul and his fellow workers.

First Section (II Thess. 1:3-12)

The apostle again converses with his converts, in a manner somewhat similar to the First Epistle. He commends them for the development of their faith and their fortitude under persecution, assuring them of his constant prayer on their behalf.

Second Section (II Thess. 2:1-17)

Paul deals directly with the converts' misconceptions regarding the "Parousia." He warns them against becoming unarrived—indicating that some forged letters regarding this event and purporting to come from him may be in circulation. The apostle recognizes that there are many "anti-Christ" activities, but the utter destruction of "wickedness incarnate" will not take place until some future time. However, everything will be made clear when the Lord eventually appears.

Careful reading of this section indicates that Paul had in mind the persecuting activities of the Jewish leaders—both locally and also from headquarters in Jerusalem. But there is also a possibility that the apostle here foresaw, in some measure, the later persecutions by the Roman government.

Third Section (II Thess. 3:1-16)

The apostle gives some personal counsel and exhortations. He sternly rebukes those converts who are idle, and who have become "mere busybodies," repeating his earlier command: "If any one will not work, let him not eat."

Conclusion (II Thess. 3:17-18)

Personal greeting, in Paul's own handwriting, and a closing blessing.