1 Thessalonians 1


Thessalonians are wonderful letters to Christians to remind them and us that the Lord will return one day as He promised when He ascended into heaven.

“After saying this, he was taken up to heaven as they watched him, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”

They still had their eyes fixed on the sky as he went away when two men dressed in white suddenly stood beside them and said, “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.” Acts 1:9-11

With this promise in mind, this should encourage us and motivate all Christians to live holy and godly lives until the Day of His return.

One of the questions asked within the letter to which Paul responds to is how should we live in the meantime? In every single chapter, there is some mention of the Lord’s return along with very practical direction about how we should live until that time. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 / 1 Thessalonians 2:19 / 1 Thessalonians 3:13 / 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 / 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

The Thessalonian epistles are unique in many aspects. The letters are inspired of God and are, therefore ‘the word of the Lord’ 1 Thessalonians 4:15

They are among the earliest, if not the earliest, of the New Testament epistles written by Paul. The emphasis in the letters is profound: Christ is coming! The accession of Jesus Christ to heaven is recorded in Acts chapter one. Upon this momentous occasion, an announcement was made: Christ is coming again!

In fact, the first thing said about the ascending Saviour was: He is coming again. The angels said to the Lord’s apostles: ‘This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.’ Acts 1:11

The Thessalonian epistles echo this theme: “Christ is coming! These inspired epistles answer many questions concerning the Lord’s return. The truth of these books refutes many baseless speculations about the Lord’s return.” (Thomas H. Holland)

Thessalonica, The Place And People

Paul with Silas and Timothy came to Thessalonica from Philippi on his second missionary journey, stopping in Amphipolis and Apollonia before arriving at Thessalonica, Acts 17. He preached in the city’s synagogue, the chief synagogue of the region, for at least three weeks. His ministry was strong, and he established a Jewish-Gentile church, although it was more heavily Gentile, 1 Thessalonians 1:9. When Paul faced great persecution at the hands of the mob, he fled to Berea, but the Thessalonians eventually forced him to leave there also, Acts 17:13-14.

The city of Thessalonica was the capital and largest city of the Roman province of Macedonia, located on the Ignatian Way, which was a major road from Rome to the eastern provinces. The city was named after the wife of Cassander, who built the city. Those in Thessalonica adored many gods, particularly Jupiter, as the father of Hercules, the alleged founder of its ancient royal family.

The city also boasted a celebrated amphitheatre, where gladiatorial shows were exhibited for the amusement of the citizens, and a circus for public games. Thessalonica’s location and use as a port made it a prominent city. In 168 B.C., it became the capital of the second district of Macedonia and later it was made the capital and major port of the whole Roman province of Macedonia (146 B.C.). In 42 B.C., after the battle at Philippi, Thessalonica was made a free city.

Thessalonica was the capital of one of the four Roman districts of Macedonia. The church of the Thessalonians was established, Acts 17:1-9, on Paul’s second journey, where he and his fellow workers had just left Philippi. Travelling through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they arrived at Thessalonica where Paul immediately located the synagogue and used their Sabbath gathering as an opportunity for evangelism.

For three weeks, he reasoned with the Jews, converting some and several prominent Gentiles but some unbelieving Jews soon caused a disturbance, forcing him to leave. But despite all threats by God’s grace a good strong congregation was planted and established. The church quickly gained a good reputation, 1 Thessalonians 1:8 and was made up mostly of Gentiles, 1 Thessalonians 1:9. Some of its members included Jason, Acts 17:9, Aristarchus, and Secundus, Acts 20:4.

Archaeology Very little has been uncovered at ancient Thessalonica because Thessaloniki sits atop the remains. Excavators found a bathhouse and mint dating to the 1st century A.D. below pavement surrounding an odeum. An inscription (30 B.C. to 143 A.D.) from the Vardar gate bears the word politarches, the word Luke used in reference to the officials of the city before whom Jason was brought by the mob, Acts 17:6. The word does not appear in any other Greek literature but does match the archaeology of the site.

The Politarch Inscription can be viewed in the British Museum in London. Discovered in 1835 this is a Greek inscription from a Roman gateway in Thessalonica. It lists officials of the town in 2nd century A.D. beginning with six Politarchs. In Acts 17:6-8 the author, Luke, refers to the “politarchs,” translated in the ESV as the “city authorities” of Thessalonica. Acts record Paul and Silas in Thessalonica being brought before the politarchas – ‘rulers of the city’ accused of being troublemakers.

The Authors

There is no doubt as to the authors of the letters. “From Paul, Silas, and Timothy…” 1 Thessalonians 1:1 / 2 Thessalonians 1:1

Both letters are from Paul, Silas (also known as Silvanus) and Timothy. Of these three, the apostle Paul was the main author. We do not know how much of the letter Silas and Timothy wrote, but all three of them were in agreement with what the letter contained.

Paul who was formally known as Saul of Tarsus was a ‘persecutor of the church’, Acts 9:1-2 and became to be known as the ‘apostle to the Gentiles’, Acts 9:15.

He was an educated man who is credited as being the author of half the New Testament books.

Silvanus is also known as Silas was originally a messenger from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, Acts 15:22 / Acts 15:27. He was recognized as a prophet, who encouraged the brethren in Antioch, Acts 15:32. He stayed in Antioch until he became Paul’s travelling companion, Acts 15:34. Acts 15:40-41. He suffered with the apostle Paul whilst they were in prison in Philippi, Acts 16:19-25, and together with Paul established the church in Thessalonica, Acts 17:1-4.

Timothy, also known as Timotheus was a young disciple who travelled with Paul, Acts 16:1-3, and is mentioned in many of Paul’s letters. He received two letters from Paul, 1 Timothy 1:1 / 2 Timothy 1:1. Just like Paul and Silas he suffered being in prison, Hebrews 13:23. He has just returned from a trip to Thessalonica himself, 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 / 1 Thessalonians 3:6.

Both Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy (at least by inference) appear in the records of Acts as Paul’s companions during his first visit to Thessalonica, Acts 17:1-9. For a short time after Paul departs from Thessalonica the three were separated, but they were reunited in Corinth, Acts 18:5 / 2 Corinthians 1:19. Corinth thus suggests itself as the place from which the letters to the Thessalonians church were sent.

Since Paul, Silvanus and Timothy are named together as joint authors of the letters, it is, at first sight, conceivable that Silvanus and Timothy played a responsible part along with Paul in the composition. Timothy indeed was Paul’s personal assistant and is named along with Paul in the precept of some other letters, 2 Corinthians, Philippians Colossians, Philemon, certainly because he was in Paul’s company when these were written and possibly because he served Paul as amanuensis.

Silvanus, on the other hand, occupied a more independent status in relation to Paul. He was not a convert of Paul’s (as Timothy was); he was a member of the church of Jerusalem, enjoying the confidence of the leaders of that church, being himself one of the “leading men among the brethren” there, Acts 15:22. The a priori likelihood that such a man would be joint-author of the letters in which he is named as one of the senders, in a substantial and not a merely nominal sense is borne out by internal evidence.

When Paul in other letters expresses his thanks to God for those to whom he writes, he usually does so in the first person singular “I give thanks …” even when others are associated with him in the prescript, 1 Corinthians 1:4 / Philippians 1:3 / Philemon 4.

(Colossians, sent in the name of himself and Timothy to a church not personally known to him, is an exception. Colossians 1:3 begins, We always thank God…” in both the Thessalonian letters the first-person plural is used: “We give thanks to God always …” 1 Thessalonians 1:2. “We are bound to give thanks to God always….” 2 Thessalonians 1:3

The use of the first-person plural is maintained throughout both letters, apart from certain places where the singular suddenly appears, 1 Thessalonians 2:18 / 1 Thessalonians 3:5 / 1 Thessalonians 5:27 / 2 Thessalonians 2:5 / 2 Thessalonians 3:17. In two of these five places, the first personal pronoun is accompanied by the name “Paul”, 1 Thessalonians 2:18 / 2 Thessalonians 3:17.

All of them are best explained by the supposition that they are Paul’s personal additions, whether inserted by him orally as the letters were being dictated or appended, possibly in his own hand, when they were being read over after completion. The inclusion of his name in the prescripts and especially his signature at the end of the second letter would provide evidence enough that the contents as a whole were approved by him, whoever was responsible for the actual composition. (F. F. Bruce Word Biblical Commentary Volume 45 1&2 Thessalonians)

The Authenticity of 1 Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians claims to be from Paul, 1 Thessalonians 1:1 / 1 Thessalonians 2:18, and its Pauline both in language and in ideas. The author’s associates, Silas and Timothy, we know from Acts to have been with Paul on his second missionary journey. The letter must be early for various reasons. Church organisation is apparently in a very early stage.

It is difficult to think of anyone writing after Paul’s death putting forth in Paul’s name a statement that might be understood as meaning that the Parousia (second coming of Christ) would take place during the Apostle’s lifetime, 1 Thessalonians 4:15. The question of the fate of believers who died before the Parousia must have been answered fairly early in the church’s life. Yet it is impossible to think of anyone but Paul putting it out in early times.

How could it possibly gain a circulation while the Apostle was still engaged in vigorous work, travelling among the churches and well able to denounce it? (Yet we must bear in mind that the possibility of forgery seems to be implied by 2 Thessalonians 2:2, and the explanation of the autograph in 2 Thessalonians 3:17.)

Moreover, the letter is as well attested as we could reasonably ask. It is not the kind of letter which would be quoted often. This explains its absence from the sub-apostolic writings that have come down to us (though there are some similarities in language which may be more than coincidence). But it was accepted as sacred Scripture by Marcion (c. 140 A.D.) it is included among the canonical books in the list given in the Muratorian Fragment (a list of the books accepted as canonical some time after the middle of the second century, probably at Rome). The Epistle is definitely quoted by Irenaeus (c. 180 A.D.) and later writers.

It hardly seems the kind of letter which would be forged. Why should anyone produce a letter like this? What did he aim to do thereby? The letter reads naturally as the reaction of Paul to the situation we outlined earlier. But it seems completely out of character as a forgery foisted on the church to serve some devious purpose of the forger.

Nothing very considerable can be set over against all this. Some of the Tubingen school regarded the Epistle as unauthentic, but they stand practically alone. Their reasons for rejecting the Epistle fail to commend themselves. Thus, we find the objection that it is not doctrinal enough, or again, that it shows too close dependence on 1 and 2 Corinthians. These two surely cancel each other out, for the former means it is not Pauline enough, and the latter that it is too Pauline! Neither carries conviction nor do others that are alleged.

No more convincing is the suggestion that the letter cannot be an authentic writing of the Apostle because there are a series of discrepancies between it and Acts. For example, 1 Thessalonians 2:7ff gives us a picture of Paul working at his trade, and this is said to be incompatible with the statement of Acts 17:2 that he preached in the synagogue at Thessalonica on three Sabbaths.

We have already considered the circumstances of the first preaching in the city, and we have seen no necessary contradiction. Paul may have stayed in Thessalonica no longer that Acts indicates. Or, if we feel that a longer period is required, Acts may give us the length of his synagogue preaching.

It is the same with the allegation that the two contradict each other since Acts 17:4 speaks of the converts as both Jews and Gentiles, while 1 Thessalonians 1:9 / 1 Thessalonians 2:14 refers to Gentiles only. Or that Acts 18:5 speaks of Silas and Timothy as coming to Paul at Corinth, whereas 1 Thessalonians 3:1f shows that Timothy was with Paul for a time in Athens.

As B. Clogg says, “Discrepancies of this nature prove little except that the authors of Acts and of 1 Thessalonians wrote independently of each other.”

Neither is giving the complete story, and we must make use of both. But to say that both must in all points tell all they know is so obviously false as to need no refutation. We conclude, then, that there is no real reason for doubting the authenticity of this epistle. (The new international commentary on the New Testament. The first and second epistles to the Thessalonians. Leon Morris).

The Authenticity

As is the case of the First Epistle there are good reasons for thinking of 2 Thessalonians as authentic. It has early attestations, for Polycarp, Ignatius, and Justin all seem to have known it, possibly also the writer of Didache. It if found in the Marcionite canon and in the Muratorian Fragment, it is quoted by name by Irenaeus and later writers.

As with 1 Thessalonians, the mention of Silvanus and Timothy as associates of the author and the obviously early date of the writing favour Pauline authorship. 2 Thessalonians emerged into church history associated unequivocally with 1 Thessalonians. It claims to have been written by Paul, and the language and theology are Pauline.

It is difficult to think of a suitable motive for a forger (notice that, since 2 Thessalonians 3:17 claims to be Paul’s signature, forgery is the only alternative to authenticity. We cannot think of someone putting out in good faith a sample of Pauline teaching).

It is difficult to think of a reason for making the letter resemble 1 Thessalonians so closely. It is difficult to think of a forger entering so fully unto the mind of Paul as to produce a writing so redolent of the Apostle as this one.

There is also the point that had we, not 1 Thessalonians we would hardly call in question the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians. It is rather strange to call in question an Epistle that has all the hallmarks of a genuine Pauline writing on the grounds that it is similar to another Pauline writing.

For reasons such as these most scholars have not hesitated to accept this writing. In recent times, however, attention has been focused on certain matters which raise doubts. While not many would go so far as to pronounce the Epistle non-Pauline, several scholars feel perplexed. The principal points are the following.

1. There is what Neil speaks of this: “The problem of the letter is one of accounting for the similarity to and difference from a letter written by the same hand, to the same people, only a short while before”

Sometimes 2 Thessalonians repeats 1 Thessalonians not only in general ideas but also in the actual words that are employed. The objection is that such an outstanding man as Paul would not find it necessary to repeat himself. He would, if he had to say the same thing, say it in different words so that deliberate imitation is the explanation.

At the same time, there are differences such as those on eschatology, (The branch of theology that is concerned with the end of the world or of humankind) which we shall notice in the next section. The thought then is that the ideas are not the ideas of Paul, and they are expressed in language which is a deliberate imitation of that of the great Apostle.

In the first place, it must be re-joined to this that the general similarity to Pauline style is very close indeed. It is very difficult to envisage a forger who could imitate Paul’s language so very closely. Pauline words and phrases and constructions are everywhere. So are Pauline ideas.

If Paul write 2 Thessalonians not so very long after 1 Thessalonians it would not be surprising if sometimes words and phrases were repeated, especially if, as Neil thinks possible, he read through “the customary draft copy of his first letter before writing the second.” This would be the more likely in that he had to bear in mind what was written in 1 Thessalonians because some of it had been misunderstood.

It must also be borne in mind that the extent of the resemblance is easy to exaggerate. It is natural for there to be close resemblances in such places as the opening and the close, and indeed, in the general structure of the letters. It is natural also for an author to come close to repeating himself when he is writing on the same subjects twice within a matter of weeks or even months.

But the suggested parallels do not cover more than about one-third, which is strange in a deliberate imitation. And even so, more or less identical language is used in different ways. For example, there are marked resemblances between how Paul describes his hard-manual labour in the two letters. But in the first, he does it to show love for his converts, while in the second it is to bring out the force of his example. This kind of thing is more likely to slavish imitation by a forger.

There is, moreover, the point that the resemblances are to 1 Thessalonians. Why should a later imitator confine himself to this Epistle and to make use of Paul’s major writings? The differences are no more conclusive. Thus, Paul’s comments on the Man of Sin (or Lawlessness) in the second letter are different from anything he has to say in the first. But the difference does not amount to incompatibility. It is no more than a man might add as a supplement to what he has already said on the subject. It is the same with the other differences that are brought forward.

This combination of likeness and difference is interesting, and there may be more to it than at present appears. But the point is that it does not prove the difference in authorship. Such a man as Paul was quite capable of both.

2. The eschatology of 2 Thessalonians is said to be different from that of 1 Thessalonians.

The simplest way of putting this is to say that in the First Epistle the coming of the Lord is thought of as about to take place very soon and very suddenly. But in the Second Epistle, it will be preceded by signs, like a great rebellion and the appearance of the Man of Lawlessness.

But to state, this hypothesis is virtually to refute it, for it is a commonplace in apocalyptic literature that the Lord’s coming is to be sudden, and yet that it will be preceded by signs. We find this in the Gospels and in Revelation, to name no other. It should also not be overlooked that Paul’s warning in 1 Thessalonians 5 not to be unprepared when the day comes may well imply a knowledge of premonitory signs.

A similar objection is that the people to whom 2 Thessalonians was written knew a good deal about the Parousia, for even the teaching about the Man of Lawlessness is given them only by way of reminder, and not as communicating new information, 2 Thessalonians 2:5.

Such people would hardly be in ignorance of such fundamental teaching on the subject as is given in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff. But again, the objection does not get us far. In the short time that he was in Thessalonica Paul could not give all the teaching on the second coming that he would have wished.

Many matters were certainly left un-grasped by the Thessalonians. It is entirely natural that eager new converts should have fastened their attention on such an outstanding figure as the Man of Lawlessness without appreciating the fact that some of their number would die before the great day. Indeed, they may well not have given this matter any thought at all before the decease of some of their number forced it on their notice.

Other objections turn on the Man of Lawlessness

Thus, some urge that this figure does not appear elsewhere in Paul and therefore we cannot accept the idea as Pauline. To say this is to refute it. We cannot dismiss an idea because Paul produces it once only. For that matter, it does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. Nut Paul had an eager, questing mind. He is more likely to have seized on the truth concerning this being than some at least of his contemporaries. There is no real objection here.

A variant of this objection dates the origin of the idea of the Man of Lawlessness too late to put it within the time of Paul. This objection maintains that the whole idea of the Man of Lawlessness is based on the Nero redivivus myth. After Nero’s death in 68 A.D., there appeared a number of people who claimed to be that emperor come to life once more. They were discredited, but the idea persisted that one day Nero would come back to life. Then he would put himself at the head of the forces of evil. The myth came to have a super-naturalistic tinge.

Nero was held to be demonic as well as human. Now if the portrait of the Man of Lawlessness was drawn from the Nero redivivus myth, obviously, Paul could not have drawn it. The idea did not gain currency till after his death. But the idea of the anti-Christ is far older than the Nero redivivus myth, as Bousset, for example, has shown. It goes back long before the time of Paul, and there is no reason for holding that 2 Thessalonians 2 is based on the late myth. Consequently, the objection falls to the ground.

Thus, we see that there are various ways of putting the objection from eschatology, but none of them is decisive. The eschatological teachings in the two epistles are not contradictory, but complementary.

1. There are some who think that a difference in authorship is indicated by the fact that whereas 1 Thessalonians is warm and friendly in tone, 2 Thessalonians is cold and rather formal.

The difference is difficult to sustain. Frame points out that the vehement self-defence in the Fist Epistle accounts for a good deal of its warmth, and that if this were omitted the differences in tone “would not be perceptible.”

Again, the coldness alleged in the tone of 2 Thessalonians is very largely due to a few expressions. Thus Paul says, “We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren,” and adds, “even as it is meet” 2 Thessalonians 1:3.

But this is probably to be understood as a protestation that his praise of them in the First Epistle was no more than was right.

Again, the objection that we meet authoritative commands, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, and elsewhere, overlooks the fact that throughout that whole section there is an undertone of genuine brotherly warmth. Paul is very concerned to bring back into full fellowship some whose conduct had raised a barrier. But he is just as loving as he is authoritative.

Thus, while admittedly 2 Thessalonians is slightly cooler in tone than the First Epistle, it does not seem as though the difference amounts to much. Even if we were to grant all that the objectors put forward it still would prove little. Writers are not always in the same mood, and we have no reason for thinking of Paul as an exception.

Moreover, as we saw earlier, there is good reason for thinking that when he wrote 2 Thessalonians Paul was experiencing a joyful reaction from a time of discouragement. It would not be surprising if a later letter failed to reproduce such a mood, especially if it revealed that some had failed to give heed to instructions given in that first letter. Moreover, we know from 2 Thessalonians 3:2 that Paul was in a somewhat difficult situation when he wrote that letter.

Thus, it does not seem as though any of the objections is compelling. There is none for which an answer does not lie ready to hand. There is, accordingly, no reason why we should not accept the positive evidence and accept this Epistle as an authentic writing of Paul. (The New International Commentary on the New Testament. The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians. Leon Morris.)

The letter (the date and purpose of the letter) There is no doubt as to who this letter was intended.

“To the people of the church in Thessalonica ….” 1 Thessalonians 1:1

The letter itself indicates it was not written long after Paul’s departure as he had only been gone a short time, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18. Paul had sent Timothy from Athens, who had returned. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6 From Luke’s record in Acts, it is evident Paul wrote this letter soon after arriving in Corinth on his second missionary journey.

For Paul did not stay long in Athens, Acts 17:16-18:1, and Timothy came back from Macedonia after Paul arrived in Corinth, Acts 18:5, so the place of writing is most likely Corinth. As the place of writing was after his arrival in Corinth, this would place the date sometime around 50-52 A.D. This would make 1 Thessalonians one of Paul’s earliest known writings, if not the first.

The purpose of the letter comes from Paul being worried about the condition of the church as he had to leave so quickly, Acts 17:10, he longed to return but was hindered, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18, and so his worrying about the church prompted him to send Timothy to encourage them, 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3, who brought back good news, 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8, of their faith, love, and desire to see Paul again which brought Paul a great deal of comfort.

As we read through the letter we can clearly see that Paul had three items on his mind.

1. He wanted to encourage them to continue to be faithful under the persecution they were receiving.

2. He wanted to encourage them and direct them on how to live holy lives for God.

3. He wanted to set their minds at ease in regards to any misleading ideas concerning Jesus’ return.

Time Line From The Book Of Acts

The year is around 49-51 AD we find Paul coming near to the end of his second missionary journey and after being joined by Timothy, Acts 16:1. Paul and Silas had been badly treated by being beaten and jailed in Philippi, Acts 16:22-24. Paul, Silas and Timothy with the help of the Lord establish a church in Thessalonica where they preached the gospel and as a result, many people were saved, Acts 17:1-9, but once again we find Paul being driven out of the town.

They then travelled to Berea, Acts 17:16-34, where we find Paul debating with the so-called wise men and philosophers of the day. Paul himself refers to his time in Athens in 1 Thessalonians 3:1. It was also during this time that Paul and Silas sent Timothy back to see how this new congregation was doing, 1 Thessalonians 3:2, and after Timothy returned with a report, the three of them during their time in Corinth wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians.


Before we begin I just want to take a moment to say, you’ve done really well to get to this point in your journey of studying God’s Word and I want to encourage you to keep going.

The letters written to the Thessalonian brethren are both very uplifting as Paul tries to encourage them to keep doing what they are doing and gently pushes them to do even more in love. He tells them that their faith, hope and love are pleasing God and should continue to do so.

After Paul, Silas and Timothy had planted this congregation they had to leave because of trouble and they were really concerned about this young church so they sent Timothy to find out how they were doing and to encourage them whilst he was there. When Timothy returned with the report Paul’s concerns left him and his concern turned into joy because they were doing so well despite all the persecution they were receiving.

Their faith in God is making a difference, their love for each other and the love they show to others is really making a difference even to the point where Paul informs them that people all around the region and beyond are noticing that they are Christians just not in word but also in deed. In act, Paul calls them an inspiration for other churches.

As with all of God’s word Thessalonians are a good study, it’s exciting and dramatic and mysterious when it talks about the man of lawlessness and difficult to understand in places. And with so many theories going around which have been for centuries about what happens at death and concerning Jesus’ return this will really help us in our understanding of future things.

The church that met in Thessalonica is one the best examples for churches today to follow and try and imitate them as they followed Christ’s example. We can also learn a whole lot from Paul himself about how he dealt with false accusations and people trying to pretend they are someone else.

As we go through this study I really want to encourage you to enjoy it and be uplifted by it as you go through each chapter and verse. Take note of the theme of the letters where Paul reminds them to continue to live holy lives for God whilst they await the arrival of Jesus.

The Text

“Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:1

It’s interesting when we write letters to people today we usually sign the letter at the end to inform the recipient who wrote it but here in New Testament times I think it’s worth pointing out that the author(s) started by informing the recipients who the letter is from. (Paraphrased from William Kendriksen New Testament Commentary 1&2 Thessalonians page 37)

In this case, the authors are Paul who was also the author of half the books in the New Testament and formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, Acts 9:1-2 he was a great persecutor of the church. A little later in Acts 9:15 he became known as the ‘apostle to the Gentiles.’

Silas who was also known as Silvanus was a messenger from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, Acts 15:22 / Acts 15:27, he was also a prophet who encouraged the saints in Antioch, Acts 15:32. He went on come to become Paul’s travelling companion, Acts 15:34 / Acts 15:40-41 and suffered alongside Paul whilst in Philippi, Acts 16:19-25. The persecution and imprisonment didn’t stop him from being devoted to serving the Lord as together with Paul they established the church in Thessalonica, Acts 17:1-4.

Timothy who Paul mentions in many of his letters was also known as Timotheus and was a travelling companion of Paul, Acts 16:1-3. Timothy himself was a recipient of two of Paul’s letters, 1 Timothy 1:2 / 2 Timothy 1:2.

He also understood what it meant to suffer for the cause when he was imprisoned, Hebrews 13:23. And it was Timothy who had just returned from Thessalonica with a report for Paul, 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 / 1 Thessalonians 3:6.

The recipients of the letter were the church that met in the city of Thessalonica which we know was the capital and largest city of the Roman province of Macedonia. Christians like Jason, Acts 17:9, Aristarchus, and Secundus, Acts 20:4, were all members of this congregation.

We know from Acts 17:1-9 that Paul whilst on his second missionary journey arrived at Thessalonica and went straight to the local synagogue and used gathered for the Sabbath as a way to evangelise to the Jews to which he had some success even amongst the Gentiles.

Notice also that all Christians are in two places at the same time, physically these saints were in Thessalonica but spiritually they are ‘in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’

This is a theme that Paul speaks a lot about in his letters, for example when you read through the Ephesian letter you will find that the phrase ‘in Christ’ is mentioned 15 times. When you read through the letter to the Philippians 164 times Paul reminds us that we are ‘in Christ’ in one form or another.

As we are about to see this congregation which was mostly made up of Gentiles became a strong church that quickly gained a great reputation throughout Macedonia and beyond, 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9.

Now remember that Paul had become a little anxious about this newly planted church because he had to leave under difficult circumstances, Acts 17:10, he so much wanted to return to find out for himself how they were getting on but was hindered from doing so 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18.

His concern was so great that he sent Timothy to go along and encourage them 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3 but thankfully Timothy brought back some great news concerning their faith, love and their own desire to see Paul again which greatly gave Paul a great deal of comfort. 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8.

And so when Timothy returned with this great news the apostle Paul wanted to praise them for their faithfulness, especially under the persecution they were receiving. He wanted to encourage them to keep on keeping on living the kind of life which pleases God and also to lay aside any misconceptions concerning Jesus’ second coming.

As we go through this letter please take note of the number of times Paul refers to the Lord’s coming, at the end of every chapter Paul says something about Jesus’ second coming. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 / 1 Thessalonians 2:19 / 1 Thessalonians 3:13 / 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 / 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

 “Grace and peace to you.” 1 Thessalonians 1:1

Along with much more, grace and peace are what a Christian has when they are in Christ. Charis which is the Greek word for grace is that unmerited favour that we receive from God; it cannot be earned, deserved or merited. As we don’t have anything to pay for it, it is a gift from God.

Grace is God’s active favour by which he bestows his greatest gift on those who deserve the greatest punishment. Remember grace isn’t just about saving us, grace also sustains us.

Eirene is the Greek word for peace, in Hebrew, it would be shalom is what all Christians have because of that grace that God gives us. It means a lot more than just being in the absence of trouble in our lives although that would be included, it also means being at peace within ourselves, with God and our fellow man.

Remember that grace and peace both come from God and cannot be found anywhere else. 1 Peter 5:10 reminds us that God is the Father of grace and Hebrews 13:20 reminds us that God is a God of peace. We know that grace and truth are from Christ according to John 1:17 and Jesus Himself is our peace according to Ephesians 2:14.

 “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2

So often when we speak to God in prayer we put in our requests time and time again and forget to simply stop and say ‘thank you, Father.’ The apostle Paul always thanked God for many things but especially for those who he had a part in sharing the gospel with.

Prayer is one of the most underestimated weapons we have as Christian soldiers, Ephesians 6:17-18 and a total privilege. Prayer not only reminds us of who God is as the source of all good things but it also reminds us of who we are as His servants. It benefits not only ourselves but those to whom we pray for.

 “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3

We don’t have to wonder what the Thessalonian church was like as Paul is about to describe to us their spiritual condition in Christ, especially in terms of their faith, love and hope. Keep in the back of your mind that this is a very young church with young converts which makes it all the more inspiring to read.

Now, these again are terms that Paul uses in his writings. He mentions them in Colossians 1:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 13:13, Colossians 3:14 he mentions them as being very important. We know that all three are graces that should be seen in our Christian lives as Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us.

Notice first of all that their faith was a working faith, it was faith with legs attached, a faith which was very much alive and active, the kind of faith which James describes in James 2:20 / James 2:26. It was real genuine faith and remember faith in the Bible always prompts us to do something with ourselves, it’s never passive. Real faith helps us live right for God, speak right for God and serve right for God.

“Their faith had worked to make of the Christians; it had continued to work to keep them in Christ” (Robert R. Taylor, Jr., Studies in First and Second Thessalonians, p. 35).

Second, notice their labour of love, again real love always prompts us to do something with it, it too like faith has legs attached, Galatians 5:22 love is mentioned first as a fruit of the Spirit, so people should see our love for God in our lives and hear it in our words. And remember this love is not just for our fellow brethren but for others too as 1 John 3:18 reminds us.

Real love is a motivating love that glues us together so to speak with Christ. This is what is behind the most quoted Bible passage in the world, John 3:16, a love which prompted God to give His Son to die for us and it’s Christ’s love for us that prompted Him to die for us as Ephesians 5:25 tells us. And love is not an optional extra; it’s a command, Colossians 2:2 / 1 Peter 1:22. And so it is love that prompts us into action.

Thirdly, Paul, had a hope that gave them patience which is exactly one of the reasons we have hope as Romans 8:25 reminds us. Hope is one the great themes that run through the Bible, especially in the New Testament. In 1 Peter 1:3-4 Peter reminds his readers that their hope is an inheritance that is “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” A little later Paul himself will encourage the Thessalonians to wear hope as a helmet in 1 Thessalonians 5:8.

The Greek word for patience is the ‘hupomone’ which means to remain under. Again this has legs attached, patience doesn’t mean just sitting around waiting for something to happen, patience should prompt us to keep going and surely if we know we have this hope why wouldn’t we want others who are not Christians to have the same hope.

Now again notice where the source of our faith, love and hope lays, Paul says they are all rooted in Christ Jesus. And remember if we want to glorify God with any of these, they must be done in Christ as Ephesians 3:21 / John 14:6 / John 15:1-8 and 2 Timothy 2:5 remind us.

The apostle Paul is thankful for the saints in Thessalonica as their faith had legs attached and is evident in the fact that they were working with and in faith. Their love also had legs attached and was evident in their labour for each other and others around them and finally, their hope had legs attached, which was also evident in their patience in striving forward.

 “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4

1 Thessalonians 1:4 “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” KJV The word ἐκλογή translated election comes from the Greek word ekloge (ek-log-ay’) which simply means selection (in this case a divine selection). It carries with it the idea of being picked out.

 “because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5

Paul says the gospel is ‘our gospel’ not in terms, ‘it’s ours and belongs to us only’ but in terms of how blessed they were in being able to proclaim the gospel to others. 2 Thessalonians 2:14. The reason the gospel is so powerful is because it came from heaven and was proclaimed with the help of the Holy Spirit which was one of the reasons the Holy Spirit was sent John 16:8-10 and through His words, we as Christians can know for a certainty that what we believe through the inspired Scriptures is absolutely true. 2 Peter 1:19 / 2 Timothy 3:16-17

There are two types of Christians, those who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk and those who practice what they preach. The authors of this letter had backed up what they were preaching by their conduct, not only did they practice what they preached but others around them knew that they were doing so too. It’s so easy just to talk the talk, isn’t it?

But as Christians, it’s vital that people see Jesus in our lives and the way we live, hear Jesus in our speech and feel the love of Jesus when we serve others. We need to make sure we don’t become like the Pharisees and the Teachers of the law who proclaimed one thing but practised another. Matthew 23:3.

“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10


What an encouraging start to a letter, this very young church, which Paul was so proud of was making great progress in living and sharing the gospel. This shows us what can happen when Christians fully commit to being Christians and living the Christian life by turning from the world, even when we are being persecuted.

It’s obvious they were following the example of Jesus and His apostles and allowing the promise of His return to motivate them in everyday living. I wonder what Jesus and His apostles would think of our congregations today?

Go To 1 Thessalonians 2