It has become popular among many academics to speak of a divide between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith.” According to this thinking, the Jesus of history was simply a great rabbi or prophetic figure, while the picture of Christ in Scripture is the later church’s projection of their own beliefs about Jesus. But according to Paul’s preaching, nothing could be further from the truth.
Having arrived in Thessalonica, Paul went straight to the synagogue and began “reasoning,” “explaining,” and “proving” the message that Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s messianic promises. As Paul summarized, “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah” (v. 3). The Jesus of history was in fact the very same Christ long awaited by God’s people. As a result of this preaching, many came to faith—Jews, God-fearing Gentiles, and several prominent women.
Others, however, opposed this message, stirring up a riotous mob looking for Paul. Notice the accusation: “They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus” (v. 7). The message of the gospel has a political edge to it! Our allegiance to Jesus should be above any other earthly ruler. The Thessalonians understood the claim; they just rejected its truth.
Paul next escaped to Berea, where once again he entered the Jewish synagogue. Here, Scripture tells us, the Bereans demonstrated great earnestness for the truth: they “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (v. 11). Notice the daily—not just weekly— consideration of Paul’s message! The Greek verb translated here as “examine” carries a judicial tone, denoting a serious, impartial investigation into the matter. Once again, not all accepted the gospel, and Paul would have to flee once more. But many did believe: Jews, Gentiles, and a number of prominent women.