June 9, 2006

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

St. Paul: His Churches in Macedonia

If Paul had a favorite Church, it was in Philippi—his first Church in Macedonia and one that would help support him later.

Philippi was a small town, only 167 acres inside a 2-mile wall, with a population less than 10,000.

On the first Saturday he was there, Paul tried to go to the synagogue, but there was none. He learned that some Jewish women gathered by the river for prayers, so he went there and had the good fortune of meeting Lydia, a wealthy businesswoman. When she invited him to use her home as his base, he was quick to accept.

Lydia wasn’t the only woman to take an active role in the Church there. In a later letter, Paul was to mention Euodia and Syntyche by name as co-workers. Unlike the customs of Roman society, Paul took it for granted that women were equal to men and these women became leaders of house-churches in Philippi.

Paul remained in Philippi for about a year—in 48 and 49 A.D. But he was becoming too successful at making converts among the Romans. After he expelled an evil spirit from a slave girl, her owners seized Paul and Silas, and took them before the magistrates, complaining that they were advocating customs that were unlawful. The magistrates had Paul and Silas beaten with rods and thrown into prison.

That night, there was an earthquake and the jailer thought his prisoners had escaped. He began to commit suicide, but Paul called to him that they were still there. Paul converted him and his household.

The next morning, Paul complained, for the first time, that they had been beaten without a trial—despite the fact that they were Roman citizens. This frightened the magistrates, and they quickly apologized, but asked Paul, Timothy and Silas to leave town.

They did, and walked about 90 miles to Thessalonica, a thriving port city. Paul didn’t find a wealthy patron there, as he had in Philippi, so he had to work making and repairing tents and other leather articles. He probably found employment in a workshop. But he also continued to be subsidized by the Church in Philippi.

His preaching in Thessalonica lasted from the summer of 49 A.D. to early spring in 50. There, he was able to preach in a synagogue, proclaiming that Jesus was the Messiah. He won some converts among both Jews and Gentiles in the city, but eventually some of the Jews recruited a mob that beat up some of his converts. Paul and his companions went into hiding, then left the city, going inland to Beroea.

They had some success in Beroea, but soon the Jews of Thessalonica learned that they were there and chased after them. By this time, Paul decided it best for him to get out of Macedonia.

He and an escort of converts headed for Athens. They found a ship and sailed the 300 miles to Athens. Timothy and Silas remained behind for a short time, but then joined him. †


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