Book 13 of 27 - PAUL'S FIRST LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS
Writer: The apostle Paul, probably his earliest surviving letter. Both 1 & 2 Thessalonians are known as "eschatological" books from the Greek for the "last things", as they include teaching about the end-times and the second coming of Jesus
Date: c AD52 during his Second Missionary Journey
Where written: Corinth (Acts 18:11) during his 18 month stay
Readers: The church of mainly Greek converts established in Thessalonica by Paul earlier during this, his Second Missionary Journey (Acts 17:1-9)
Why: Paul, concerned that the Thessalonians are rejecting the Gospel, sends Timothy to encourage and strengthen them. Timothy returns to Corinth from Macedonia (Acts 18:5) with a favourable report, and Paul writes his First Letter
Map Paul Writes his Two Letters to the Thessalonians
Map Key: Letters sent from 1 to 2
7.1 PAUL GIVE THANKS FOR THE LIFE AND WITNESS OF THE THESSALONIAN CHRISTIANS
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 - To the church of the Thessalonians, founded on God the Father and Jesus Christ the Lord, grace and peace from Paul, Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy.
Your faith cheers us and encourages many others
We are always thankful as we pray for you all, for we never forget that your faith has meant solid achievement, your love has meant hard work, and the hope that you have in our Lord Jesus Christ means sheer dogged endurance in the life that you live before God, the Father of us all.
We know that God not only loves you but has selected you for a special purpose. For we remember how our Gospel came to you not as mere words, but as a message with power behind it - the effectual power, in fact, of the Holy Spirit. You know how we lived among you. You remember how you set yourselves to copy us, and through us, Christ himself. You remember how, although accepting the message meant bitter persecution, yet you experienced the joy of the Holy Spirit. You thus became examples to all who believe in Macedonia and Achaia (north and south Greece respectively). You have become a sort of sounding-board from which the Word of the Lord has rung out, not only in Macedonia and Achaia but everywhere where the story of your faith in God has become known. We find we don't have to tell people about it. They tell us the story of our coming to you: how you turned from idols to serve the true living God, and how your whole lives now look forward to the coming of his Son from heaven - the Son Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, and who personally delivered us from the judgment which hung over our heads.
PAUL AS AN APOSTLE
7.2 PAUL DEFENDS HIS MOTIVES AND CONDUCT AS AN APOSTLE
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 - My brothers, you know from your own experience that our visit to you (earlier in this Second Journey) was no failure (Acts 17:2-4). We had, as you also know, been treated abominably at Philippi (beaten and illegally imprisoned for driving a clairvoyant spirit from a young girl, Acts 16:16-24), and we came on to you (in Thessalonica, before moving on to Berea, Acts 17:1-10) only because God gave us courage. We came to tell you the Gospel, whatever the opposition might be.
Our message to you is true, our motives are pure, our conduct is absolutely above board. We speak under the solemn sense of being trusted by God with the Gospel. We do not aim to please men, but to please God who knows us through and through. No one could ever say, as again you know, that we used flattery to conceal greedy motives, and God himself is witness to our honesty. We made no attempt to win honour from men, either from you or from anybody else, though I suppose as Christ's own messengers we might have done so. Our attitude among you was one of tenderness, rather like that of a devoted nurse among her babies. Because we loved you, it was a joy to us to give you not only the Gospel of God but our very hearts - so dear did you become to us. Our struggles and hard work, my brothers, must still be fresh in your minds. Day and night we worked so that our preaching of the Gospel to you might not cost you a penny. You are witnesses, as is God himself, that our life among you believers was honest, straightforward and above criticism. You will remember how we dealt with each one of you personally, like a father with his own children, stimulating your faith and courage and giving you instruction. Our only object was to help you to live lives worthy of the God who has called you to share the splendour of his kingdom.
PAUL'S LOVE AND ANXIETY FOR THEM
7.3 PAUL PRAISES THEIR BEHAVIOUR AS THEY ARE PERSECUTED BECAUSE OF THE GOSPEL
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 - And so we are continually thankful that when you heard us preach the word of God you accepted it, not as a mere human message, but as it really is, God's Word, a power in the lives of you who believe.
You have experienced persecution like your Jewish brothers
When you suffered at the hands of your fellow-countrymen you were sharing the experience of the Judean Christian churches, who suffered persecution by the Jews. It was the Jews who killed their own prophets, the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus, and the Jews who drove out us, his messengers. Their present attitude is in opposition to both God and man. They refused to let us speak to those (the Gentiles) who were not Jews, to tell them the news of salvation. Alas, I fear they are completing the full tale of their sins and the wrath of God is over their heads.
7.4 PAUL MISSES THEM AND IS OVERJOYED WITH TIMOTHY'S REPORT ON THEIR CHRISTIAN PROGRESS
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20; 3:1-13 - Since we have been physically separated from you, my brothers (though never for a moment separated in heart), we have longed all the more to see you. Yes, I, Paul, have longed to come and see you more than once (from Athens, and later Corinth) - but somehow Satan prevented our coming.
Yet who could take your place as our hope and joy and pride when Jesus comes? Who but you, as you will stand before him at his coming? Yes, you are indeed our pride and joy!
(Chapter 3 ......) And so at length, when the separation became intolerable, we thought the best plan was for me to stay in Athens alone (... Paul had arrived there from Macedonia, after being forced to leave Berea, Acts 17:13-15), while Timothy, our brother and fellow-worker in the Gospel of Christ, was sent to strengthen and encourage you in your faith. ....
- Timothy and Silas had stayed at Berea before joining Paul, probably in Athens. They then returned to Thessalonica on their mission of encouragement -
.... We did not want any of you to lose heart at the troubles you were going through, but to realise that we Christians must expect such things. Actually we did warn you what to expect (as Christians), when we were with you, and our words have come true, as you know. You will understand that, when the suspense became unbearable, I sent someone (Timothy) to find out how your faith was standing the strain, and to make sure that the tempter's activities (Satan's) had not destroyed our work.
The good news about you is a tonic to us
But now that Timothy has just come straight from you to us (Thessalonica back south to Corinth) - with a glowing account of your faith and love, and definite news that you cherish happy memories of us and long to see us as much as to see you - how these things have cheered us in all the miseries and troubles we ourselves are going through. To know that you are standing fast in the Lord is indeed a breath of life to us. How can we thank our God enough for all the joy you give us as we serve him, praying earnestly day and night to see you again, and to complete whatever is imperfect in your faith?
This is our prayer for you
So may God our Father himself and our Lord Jesus Christ guide our steps to you. May the Lord give you the same increasing and overflowing love for each other and towards all men as we have towards you. May he establish you, holy and blameless in heart and soul, before himself, the Father of us all, when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all who belong to him.
CALLS TO SEXUAL MORALITY, LOVE, AND EXAMPLE
7.5 PAUL INTRODUCES A SUMMARY OF PRACTICAL TEACHING
1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 - To sum up, my brothers, we beg and pray you by the Lord Jesus, that you continue to learn more and more of the life that pleases God, the sort of life we told you about before. You will remember the instructions (some of which follow) we gave you then in the name of the Lord Jesus.
1 Thessalonians continues
in Part 61 with verses teaching about "Christian Life & Worship"
4: 3-8 Sexual immorality 4: 9-10 Love 4:11-12 Witnesses to Christ and concludes with:
in Part 38 with verses preaching the "Gospel of Jesus"
4:13-18 Reassurances about those who die before Jesus returns 5: 1-11 Times and dates can not be known; continue to live the Christian life
in Part 61 with verses teaching about "Christian Life & Worship"
5:12-13a Christian leaders 5:13b-22 Christian conduct
7.6 FAREWELLS & BLESSINGS
1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 - May the God of peace make you holy through and through. May you be kept in soul and mind and body in spotless integrity until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is utterly faithful and he will finish what he has set out to do.
Pray for us, my brothers. Give a handshake all round among the brotherhood. God's command, which I give you now, is that this letter should be read to all the brothers (in Thessalonica).
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
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continuing the Apostle's "Travels and Acts", on to Part 8, 2 Thessalonians OR back to Harmony of Jesus & Early Church