|1 THESSALONIANS |
(thehss ssuh loh' nih uhnss) Thessalonica was the largest city in first century Macedonia and the capital of the province. It was a free city. See Macedonia. Paul, Silas, and Timothy evangelized the city against the strong opposition of the Jews; but, though their stay was short, they were successful in establishing a church (Acts 17:4). There was not time to give much instruction to the new converts, so it is not surprising that questions arose as to the meaning of some aspects of the Christian faith and of the conduct demanded of believers.
To help the new church, Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians not long after Timothy came to him (1 Thessalonians 3:6). This probably means not long after Timothy's arrival at Corinth (Acts 18:5) rather than his being with Paul in Athens (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2), for the shorter period scarcely allows enough time for the problems with which the apostle deals in the letter to have arisen. An inscription referring to Gallio (Acts 18:12) enables us to date that proconsul's time in Corinth as the early fifties. Scholars reason from this that Paul probably wrote 1 Thessalonians early in A.D. 50 (though in view of the uncertainties this must be regarded as no more than approximate). Plainly, this is one of the earliest of Paul's letters and one of the earliest Christian documents surviving.
The authenticity of 1 Thessalonians is almost universally accepted. It is Pauline in style and is mentioned in early Christian writings such as the lists of New Testament books given by Marcion in the first half of the second century and by the Muratorian Canon a little later. Some of the problems with which it deals must have arisen quite early in the life of the church (for instance, what will happen to believers who die before Christ returns?).
Among the problems the Thessalonian church faced was persecution by pagans (1 Thessalonians 2:14) and a temptation for believers to accept pagan sexual standards (1 Thessalonians 4:4-8). Some of the Christians seem to have given up working and to have relied on the others to supply their needs (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). There was uncertainty about the fate of believers who had died, and some of the Thessalonians appear to have thought that Christ would come back soon and take them all to be with Him. What would happen to those who had died before the great event (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)? Paul's reply to this gives us information about Christ's return that we find nowhere else. Again, some of the believers seem to have been concerned about the time of Jesus' return (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). So Paul wrote this pastoral letter to meet the needs of inexperienced Christians and to bring them closer to Christ. See Paul.
I. The Church Is Founded on Past Faithfulness (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10).
A. Signature, address, and greeting (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
B. Past faith, love, and hope inspire thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3).
C. Election, power, conviction, and the Spirit brought the gospel (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5).
D. Model Christian living resulted from the gospel (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7).
E. Zealous witness and far-reaching Christian influence spread the gospel (1 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
F. Earnest hope in the resurrection marked the church's life (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
II. Opposition and Persecution Cannot Halt the Gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:1-20).
A. Suffering and insult do not deter Christian witness (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
B. Sincerity of method and purpose stand behind gospel witness (1 Thessalonians 2:3-6).
C. Love, not personal greed, motivates witness (1 Thessalonians 2:6-12).
D. Steadfastness and endurance mark Christian converts (1 Thessalonians 2:13-16).
E. The gospel creates enduring fellowship and love (1 Thessalonians 2:17-18).
F. A new church becomes the reward for a Christian witness (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
III. Concern for the Church Dominates the Minister's Heart (1 Thessalonians 3:1-4:12).
A. Sacrificial love leads the minister to show concern even under personal persecution (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5).
B. The church's faithfulness gives the minister encouragement and joy (1 Thessalonians 3:6-10).
C. The concerned minister prays for the church's future (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13).
D. The concerned minister teaches the church righteous living (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8).
E. The concerned minister leads the church to grow in brotherly love (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12).
IV. Problems Related to the Lord's Return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11)
A. Living and deceased believers have equal hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
B. The time is uncertain (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).
C. The church needs to be alert (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8).
D. Believers have assurance (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11).
V. Concluding Exhortations (1 Thessalonians 5:12-28)
A. Respect Christian leaders (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
B. Care for fellow Christians (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).
C. Always be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
D. Test prophetic utterances to God (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).
E. Commit yourself to God, who is faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
F. Closing requests and benediction (1 Thessalonians 5:25-28).