Complete Study Of 1 Thessalonians


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 (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.


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 trouble-makers.

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. From 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’s departure 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 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).

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Complete study of 1 Thessalonians