Are you finding it hard to experience self-motivation right now? This is not a new human issue (surprise!) As the Good News of Jesus explodes to the entire world there are three movements, all based upon the life-changing Coming of the Son of God. The first begins in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (the beginning of harvest gathering) and covers chapters 1-12. Peter is central to this eyewitness mobilization, and personally makes a huge transition in chapters 10-12. His Jewish mind would have trouble getting this – but the Good News of Jesus was not merely for the Jews, it was for the Gentile nations as well. The Good News comes to the Gentiles via Peter (10:23-48) and Peter reports to his companions in Jerusalem what has happened. He is then arrested and released by an angel, while James (brother of John and disciple of Jesus) is killed by Herod (12:20-24). The letters of James (the brother of Jesus) and Galatians (from Paul) were much needed roots for establishing the Kingdom in the world.
Next Paul emerges among the apostles as chief proponent for launching the Kingdom message beyond the Jewish community and into the Gentile nations. Paul makes a decided pivot in 13:44-52. You will notice there were Jews who troubled Paul at every turn. They were part of the diaspora, or those who were dispersed into all the nations of the world – just as the Jews are today (apart from those who began returning to the Beautiful Land in 1948).
From Antioch are launched several “missionary journeys.” Now there was a Jerusalem effort and another to the north in Antioch. One was Jewish in focus, the other Gentile. It is important to note Paul’s heart for the Gentiles eclipsed his concern for his own position or safety. It has taken him a decade to transition from a zealot among Jews who persecuted Christians to a man who answered to no one but God’s Son Jesus – Whom he had met on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). What began in 13:44 would now continue to the ends of the earth – just as Jesus had promised (John 10:16). Rather than viewing these merely as destination in nature, it would be good to note that from beginning to end Paul was following Jesus’ own relational message of the Kingdom. These new churches were filled with sincere, vibrant disciples of the Kingdom. Paul and Peter viewed them as family.
It is here we encounter the letters to the Thessalonians. While James and Galatians are targeted to the church emerging from Jerusalem, Thessalonians was Antioch to the core.