Paul and Silas traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica about one hundred miles from Philippi. Thessalonica was an important commercial city on the southern coast of Macedonia. There was a synagogue in this city and Paul preached there three Sabbaths.
Many of the Gentiles and leading women and some of the Jews were receptive to Paul’s preaching. Their obedience to the gospel led to the establishment of a congregation of the Lord’s church in Thessalonica.
Paul and Silas met the same kind of opposition in Thessalonica as they had experienced in the other places they had preached. The unbelieving Jews went into the marketplace and gathered a group of unruly men and incited a riot.
The Jews charged that Paul and Silas had turned the world upside down and that they were saying there was another king instead of Caesar—Jesus. Their anger was so strong against Paul and Silas, that they also attacked the house of Jason because he had provided lodging for them.
Paul and Silas were able to remain in Thessalonica for only a short time. They were sent away by night because of the danger of being seen during the day.
Berea, a city west of Thessalonica was the next stop for the traveling preachers. Again, they went to the synagogue to teach the people. They found a receptive attitude that was different from the other places they had preached. The Bereans searched the Scriptures daily to see if the things Paul was teaching were so. One should not take the word of another person without studying the Bible for himself. That person may be sincere, but also be sincerely mistaken.
Things were going well for Paul and Silas. Many of the Jews, Gentiles and prominent women believed and obeyed the gospel. Timothy had also rejoined them.
Again opposition from unbelieving Jews became an obstacle. Word that they were preaching in Berea had reached the Jews in Thessalonica. These Jews came and stirred the crowds to the extent that Paul again was forced to leave a fertile field.
Paul left Berea to go as far as the sea, but with a change in plans, he traveled as far as Athens in Achaia. (Ancient Greece) Silas and Timothy had remained in Berea, but since his plans had changed, he sent word for them to join him immediately.
While Paul waited for the arrival of Silas and Timothy, he preached in the synagogues and marketplaces. The people of Athens were inquisitive regarding anything new and spent much of their time telling and learning about new things. They worshipped many gods and Paul seemed to be introducing them to a new god, “Because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.”
A group of philosophers took Paul to the Areopagus (A hill known as Mars’ Hill) to hear him speak. His sermon on Mars’ Hill was different from most of his lessons. The people of Athens were so corrupt in their worship of heathen idols, that they did not know the true God whom they worshipped in their synagogue.
Paul began by observing that they were a very religious people. They had erected idols to all of the gods they knew and in fear of omitting one, they had an altar inscribed: “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” He then introduced them to their unknown “God, who made the world and everything in it.”
As Paul continued his presentation of the true God, he pointed out the contrasts between God and the gods whom they worshipped. He stated that God had previously overlooked this ignorance, but then He was bringing it to their attention and that they must repent of their past ways of living. In overlooking their ignorance, God had not excused it. He had only ignored it.
Paul also informed the Athenians of the judgment and the Man (Christ) who would be the Judge—A Man whom God had ordained and raised from the dead.
Some of the people interrupted Paul’s sermon and began to mock him when he mentioned the resurrection of the dead. Others said that they would hear him again.
With the conclusion of his sermon disrupted, Paul left and went away. Even with the sudden end of his teaching, there were some influential individuals who believed and the church was established in Athens. It is likely that after Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul in Athens, that he sent them to Thessalonica to encourage the young church there. Possibly, Silas had remained in Berea and Timothy had gone alone.
After being somewhat disappointed by his reception in Athens, Paul traveled a short distance to the west to Corinth. This was an important commercial city on the Mediterranean coast, but like other places he visited, he found very low morals among the people.
There were many Jews in Corinth because of the city’s business opportunities and also because Claudius Caesar had expelled all of the Jews from Rome. Among those from Italy was a Jew named Aquila with his wife, Priscilla.
It was a financial necessity at times for Paul to work at his trade of making tents. Aquila and Priscilla were also tentmakers and Paul stayed for a time in their home. He related later in a letter back to the Corinthian church that this had been a difficult period during his ministry. Even though he made tents during the week, he continued to preach in the synagogue every Sabbath and many Jews and Gentiles were converted.
After several weeks, Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul in Corinth. With their arrival, he had a renewed vigor in his preaching—so much that the Jews increased their opposition to his message. He then said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
Even after this declaration, some prominent Jews along with many Gentiles believed and were baptized.
One night during Paul’s ministry in Corinth, he saw the Lord in a vision. This came at a time when he really needed encouragement. The Lord said, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”
Armed with this declaration and the encouraging news from Timothy regarding the church in Thessalonica, Paul, Silas and Timothy remained for another year and one-half preaching and teaching the people of Corinth.