1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
2 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.
6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. 9 For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
- After Galatians, 1 Thessalonians is Paul’s earliest letter, written about 50 AD.
- The letter is written by three men:
- The apostle Paul, mentioned 162x in the N.T. (Just for reference, Jesus is named over 900x.)
- Silvanus, often simply called Silas. He is mentioned 17x in the N.T.
- Timothy, whom Paul recruited sometime not too long before his visit to Thessalonica on his Second Missionary Journey. He is mentioned 24x in the N.T.
- This does not count the scribe, who is unnamed.
- It appears to have been written from Corinth. See Acts 17:14-15, 18:4.
- Paul prayed for his friends (v.2).
- "Pray" words appear 43x in the letters of Paul!
- He remembers their conversion to Christ (v.5).
- See Acts 17:1-9.
- This was not just an intellectual conversion. They were deeply convicted.
- The Thessalonians imitated the faith of Paul and Silas, then became a model for believers throughout Greece (vv.6-8).
- They completely left idolatry (v.9).
- This is not the worship of fame or money or any other “idol,” but actual idols: three dimensional images of god and goddesses.
- In the world today, such idolatry is still extremely common. For example, members of Hinduism, Buddhism, and the animistic religions still account for nearly one third of world population!
- The Thessalonians looked forward to Jesus’ return (v.10).
- Jesus promised to return to take us to heaven (John 14) when he returns to the earth. This will happen in the year 2012.
- Probably I should say, "Just kidding about the last bullet point." If ever I predict when the end will come, stop visiting my website, give me no support, and run away in the opposite direction as fast as you can! (More on this in chapter 5.)
- Paul doesn't minimize the wrath of God. Wrath is as much a characteristic of the “New Testament God” as of the “Old Testament God,” since they are one and the same.
- The letter was written to address confusion in Thessalonica over the end of the world. Apparently some were claiming that there was little point in working or leading a useful life, since the judgment day was going to happen any day.
- Even after 1 Thessalonians, and all the clarifications Paul made, there was still confusion. For this reason, 2 Thessalonians had to be sent, probably a few months later.
- For a brief discussion of Pauline authorship of the letters traditionally attributed to him, click here.
- If the North Galatian hypothesis is correct (Galatians in this case being written about 55 AD), then 1 Thessalonians would be the first letter and perhaps the first N.T. document to be written. However, a large number of conservative scholars reject this hypothesis, since it requires a partial rejection of the chronology of Acts.
- Paul refers in several chapters of this epistle to his close emotional relationship with the Thessalonians (v.2ff). But Paul had preached on only three successive Sabbaths (Acts 17:2)! There are two possibilities.
- This period was his entire time in Thessalonica. In this case he bonded extremely quickly with the new believers.
- This was the only the end of this time there. This makes more sense based on the relational evidence, though it seems to read something into Luke’s account in Acts.
- Macedonia is roughly the northern part of Greece, Achaia the southern. For a map of the region, scroll down.
- For more on the wrath of God in the N.T., see Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7, 21:23; John 3:36; Romans 1:18, 2:5, 2:8, 3:5, 4:15, 5:9, 9:22, 12:19, 13:4-5; Ephesians 2:3, 5:6; Colossians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 2:16, 5:9; Hebrews 3:11, 4:3; Revelation 6:16-17, 11:18, 14:10,19, 15:1,7, 16:1,19, 19:15.
- Initially, I welcomed the message with both conviction and joy. Is this still my response to scripture? Is it a pleasure to read, and to I deeply believe in the principles of the Word?
- Am I looking forward to the return of Christ? Or is this something I have blocked out of my mind? Do I realize how integral a teaching it was in the early church?
- Am I tempted to minimize the wrath of God, as though it were unbecoming of the Almighty? If so, what things in my life may have caused this reaction? Can I see that wrath (1:10) and grace (1:1), sternness and mercy (Romans 11:22), are true characteristics of the God of the Bible?