Book 13 - PAUL'S FIRST LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS
With people, places, definitions, map ......
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
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
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
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.
PAUL MISSES THEM AND IS OVERJOYED WITH TIMOTHY'S REPORT ON THEIR CHRISTIAN PROGRESS
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 - 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!
1 Thessalonians 3:1-10 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 we 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?
PAUL'S LOVE AND ANXIETY FOR THEM
A PRAYER FOR THE THESSALONIANS
This is our prayer for you
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 - 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
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 4:3-8 - God's plan is to make you holy, and that entails first of all a clean cut with sexual immorality. Every one of you should learn to control his body, keeping it pure and treating it with respect, and never regarding it as an instrument for self-gratification, as do pagans with no knowledge of God. You cannot break this rule without in some way cheating your fellow-men. And you must remember that God will punish all who do offend in this matter, and we have warned you how we have seen this work out in our experience of life. The calling of God is not to impurity but to the most thorough purity, and anyone who makes light of the matter is not making light of man's ruling but of God's command. It is not for nothing that the Spirit God gives us is called the Holy Spirit.
LOVE - ITS PREEMINENCE
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 - .... as regards brotherly love, you don't need any written instructions. God himself is teaching you to love each other, and you are already extending your love to all the Macedonians. Yet we urge you to have more and more of this love, and to make ot your ambition to have no ambition!
WITNESSES TO CHRIST
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 - Be busy with your own affairs and do your work yourselves. The result will be a reputation for honesty in the world outside and an honourable independence.
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
THE FATE OF THOSE WHO DIE BEFORE THE RETURN OF JESUS
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 - Now we don't want you, my brothers, to be in any doubt about those who "fall asleep" in death, or to grieve over them like men who have no hope. After all, if we believe that Jesus died and rose again from death, then we can believe that God will just as surely bring with Jesus all who are "asleep" in him. Here we have a definite message from the Lord. It is that those who are still living when he comes will not in any way precede those who have previously fallen asleep. One word of command, one shout from the archangel, one blast from the trumpet of God and the Lord himself will come down from Heaven! Those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then we who are still living on the earth will be swept up with them into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And after that we shall be with him for ever.
God has given me this message on the matter, so by all means use it to encourage one another.
THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF KNOWING THE TIMES AND DATES OF JESUS' RETURN
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 - But as far as times and seasons go, my brothers, you don't need written instructions. You are well aware that the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a burglary to a householder. When men are saying "Peace and security" catastrophe will sweep down upon them as suddenly and inescapably as birth-pangs to a pregnant woman.
But because you, my brothers, are not living in darkness the day cannot take you completely by surprise. After all, burglary only takes place at night! You are all sons of light, sons of the day, and none of us belongs to darkness or the night. Let us then never fall into the sleep that stupefies the rest of the world: let us keep awake, with our wits about us. Night is the time for sleep and the time when men get drunk, but we men of the daylight should be alert, with faith and love as our breastplate and the hope of our salvation as our helmet. For God did not choose us to condemn us, but that we might secure his salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. He died for us, so that whether we are "awake" or "asleep" we share his life. So go on cheering and strengthening each other with thoughts like these, as I have no doubt you have been doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13a - We ask you too, my brothers, to get to know those who work so hard among you. They are your spiritual leaders to keep you on the right path. Because of this high task of theirs, hold them in highest honour.
1 Thessalonians 5:13b-22 - Live together in peace, and our instruction to this end is to reprimand the unruly, encourage the timid, help the weak and be very patient with all men. Be sure that no one repays a bad turn by a bad turn; good should be your objective always, among yourselves and in the world at large. Be happy in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be.
If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God expressed to you in Jesus Christ. Never damp the fire of the Spirit, and never despise what is spoken in the name of the Lord. By all means use your judgment, and hold on to whatever is really good, Steer clear of evil in any form.
MORE CALLS TO LIVE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
A FINAL BLESSING
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 - 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.
1 Thessalonians 5:25-28 - 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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