A Study of 1 Thessalonians

Thanksgiving for the Outcome

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5 SCC 3/9/14

            In Acts 17: 1-10: they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews…But the Jews, becoming jealous…and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them…They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.

1. This incident took place in 49 or 50 ad on the second missionary journey of the apostle Paul, when Silas and Timothy accompanied him.

2. Early in Paul’s ministry his strategy was to enter a city and visit the synagogue. Being a Jewish male Paul could stand and speak in any Synagogue.

3. Concerning Thessalonica we read: And some of them [Jews] were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.

4. Paul and his friends apparently had been staying with a man named Jason. It is reasonable to suppose that either he was already a believer, having been converted from Peters initial ministry in Jerusalem (Acts 2:7-11), or he was one of these early converts who were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas.

5. When things heated up, as they usually did when Paul began to speak, the new believers hid Paul, Silas, and Timothy. The Jews formed a mob and set the city in an uproar.

6. Paul’s strategy and methods are significant here. Notice:

·         Paul stayed at least 3 weeks. He stayed until he was forced to leave.

·         His method was to reason and explain from scripture, and give evidence of Christ’s resurrection.

·         The converts were not converted by emotion, or religion, but by being persuaded with reason.

·         The new believers were not left to themselves but joined Paul and Silas.

7. If Paul was in Thessalonica only 3 weeks, then he was busy during the week speaking to gentiles. It seems the Thessalonian church was mostly gentile.

8. From Thessalonica Paul, Silas, and Timothy went to Berea where they had an experience similar to that in Thessalonica. Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea while Paul went on to Athens (Acts 17:11-14). They rejoined Paul in Athens (Acts 17: 15-16). And from Athens Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1) because he was concerned for them.

9. It was after Timothy returned, and joined Paul in Corinth with an encouraging report about the Thessalonians, that Paul wrote this letter. It was 51ad.

10. It is clear that Paul was thrilled with the report from Timothy, excited about their spiritual progress, and wanting them to know about his own circumstances. They are growing and spiritual, but not mature. They have only been believers a short time and Paul wanted them to be tied closely to himself and his team.

11. Paul wrote these letters to tell them about the future. He wrote to warn of false teaching and clarify the truth about the rapture, the resurrection of the body, and the events leading to the second coming of Christ. Every chapter ends with a focus on the future return of Christ.

1:1 Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

1. Notice that this letter is clearly Pauline in authorship. Paul says he wrote it. It has his signature greeting Grace to you and peace. Its style is clearly that of Paul and he recounts the history of Paul and his colleges on the second missionary journey.

2. Also notice that Paul includes Silvanus (the long form of the name Silas) and Timothy. This indicates not only that they are working as a team, but also that Silas and Timothy had returned to Paul from their travels to see the Thessalonians and the other Macedonian believers.

3. We have a good definition of a local church. The term “local church” is never used in the New Testament but this is as close as we get to it. Paul writes to the church of the Thessalonians. So the church is believers; all the believers in the city of Thessalonica. A local church, if we choose to use that phrase, is a city church. Paul never tolerated breaking up the believers in a city into more than one church (1 Corinthians 1:11-13, 3: 3-7, Galatians 2:11-14). A network of people in relationship with Christ.

4. There are many problems involved with breaking up a city into independent “local churches”. There is the tendency to follow a human leader, as in the 1 Corinthians. There is the ‘Jim Jones’ effect where the followers drank the cool aid and died. This would have been avoided if they had been engaged in more than one group or saw the church as all the believers in a community or region, or a network of believers. Of course most perversions are not this devastating but the danger of perversion always exist when we restrict our involvement to only one group to exclusion of all others. Saying something like “It’s approved by my local church has supported many false doctrines and immoral practices.

5. Also, it would probably be better if the Greek word was simply transliterated “ecclesia” (like the word “baptism” and “deacon”, “hallelujah ”, and “amen”) rather than translated. This allows the context rather than our traditional usage of the word to define it. The word itself is a combination of the word for “called” and “out of” or “from”. So it is any collective group of people called out of the rest of the people for some reason or cause. In this case it is those people in the city of Thessalonica called out of all the other people in the city to be believers in Jesus Christ.

6. The description of God as Father connotes security, love, care, and strength.

So we have a heavenly Father who is intensely and intimately aware of our needs, our concerns, our prayers, our lives.

1:2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; 

PT: This 4-verse-long sentence is presented in the form of a prayer of thanksgiving.

There are two words for prayer in verse 2, both are very common.

(1) We give thanks means thanksgiving. It is where we get the word Eucharist, which was the prayer of the bishop for the Lord’s Supper in the early centuries of church history.  

(2) The second word prayers, is the most common word for prayer. When you put this together with the last word of verse 2, without ceasing, you have the same two words used in 5:17 pray without ceasing.

So, constant praying for and giving thanks to God on behalf of our disciples is sparked by a disciplers gratitude for the work of God that is being accomplished in their disciples lives.

1:3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,

Verse 3: states Paul’s basic virtues, faith, hope, and love. But here Paul adds the concept of effort with each one. So, instead of telling them he is proud of them, Paul prays a prayer of thanksgiving for their,

(1) Work of or produced by faith. Namely, they had turned to the true God from idols.  Faith in Christ had produced repentance.  

(2) Copious work of love. Serving the living and true God v 9 in midst of persecution v 6.

(3) Perseverance (or enduring work) of hope. Specifically they were waiting for God’s Son from heaven.

So faith, hope, and love are virtues that produce eternal value for us as we live our lives here on earth.

1:4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;

Verse 4: he says all that work is evidence of the fact that God both loved them and chose them. In other words, the Thessalonians response to the gospel message was evidence that God had chosen them for salvation. We also see their 100 % free will choice of faith, hope, and love, being paralleled with the 100 % sovereign election of God. Free will and sovereignty are both 100% true 100% of the time.

So there is a consistency between what I claim to believe and what I do. What I believe is what I do. If I believe in Christ I will do what Christ says, want what Christ wants, and live as Christ teaches.

1:5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

Verse 5: Paul says their gospel (meaning their message of the good news of Christ’s resurrection and it’s implications) was not just a verbal sermon. It was indeed a verbal message, but it was substantiated by power (probably referring to miracles Paul performed), and the Holy Spirit (the one who supplied the power for those miracles). It was also with a full conviction (that is a full assurance that the message was completely true, and the power was from God). That his message would change their lives as it had radically changed his. He was confident in its power to do so.

So people cannot be reformed or reengineered for change. There is no power available there to change and transform anyone. This is all the world has to offer—manipulate your environment; alter your response mechanisms. Paul was confident in the gospel message to redeem not reform. You must believe in the power of the gospel to radically, redeem and transform people.

The last phrase literally says: knowing what sort we were (or became) among you on account of you. So Paul appeals to their personal conduct as evidence of the truth of their message.

So not only did Paul and his companions preach a convincing message they also lived lives consistent with that message. So the Thessalonians were redeemed and transformed by the gospel authenticated by the lives of its messengers.

So What?

1. When you commit yourself to the gospel you are committed to a life changing powerful message that if and when believed alters and transforms a person’s life completely.

2. A proper response to the evidence of this transformation is honest gratitude and appreciation to God for the power that effect this change, which is clearly demonstrated in one’s life.

3. Evidence of this transforming power in one’s life by faith in the gospel reveals that he or she has been chosen by God, specially and individually to be his son or daughter.

4. Participating in the life transforming power of the gospel ministry is a privilege God has given to us to serve in a way that pays dividends in the eternal realm with ramifications that go on forever.