Introduction to 1 Thessalonians

The book of 1 Thessalonians (according to Vance page 75) has 5 chapters, 89 verses and 1,837 words.

     The apostle Paul wrote this epistle either from Athens (see the “Postscript” found in many King James Bibles) or from Corinth.  It was his first epistle and was written around 49-52 A.D.

     Paul had founded this church on his second missionary journey after he and Silas were released from jail at Philippi (Acts 16:35-17:1).  As their habit was, they went first and preached in the synagogues (Rom. 1:16) where they preached for at least three weeks (Acts 17:2).  They had many converts, but they were mostly Gentiles (Acts 17:4).

     The unbelieving Jews, however, out of envy (Acts 17:5) and rage tried to capture Paul and Silas.  When they couldn’t find them they took the believers that were boarding them (“Jason and certain brethren– Acts 17:6).  After obtaining a “security of Jason(Acts 17:9) they let them go.  This “security” seems to have been an agreement to send Paul and Silas on their way.  For they “immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea(Acts 17:10).  This “security” may have also included a stipulation to keep Paul out of Thessalonica (see 1 Thess. 2:18).

     While in Berea the Jews from Thessalonica came there and stirred up the pot again, so much so that Paul left Silas and Timothy and went to Athens (Acts 17:13-15).

     While in Athens Paul sent word for Silas and Timothy to join him (Acts 17:15).  In Athens, Paul decides to send Timothy back to Thessalonica to “establishand “comfortthem in their faith (1 Thess. 3:2).  Evidently he sent Silas somewhere as well, because they both later join him in Corinth (Acts 18:5), where it seems likely Paul wrote this epistle.  Note that Paul, Silas (“Silvanus”) and Timothy are all together when Paul writes this letter (1 Thess. 1:1 and 3:1-6).

     Thessalonica was originally named “Therma” (meaning “hot springs”) because of the hot springs in the area.  It was later named “Thessalonica” in 315 B.C. after the half sister of Alexander the Great.  “In Paul’s day 200,000 people lived there, most of them Greeks, but also many Romans and a strong Jewish minority.” (Wiersbe, 156)  Today, it is known as “Thessaliki” and is “the second biggest city in Greece.” (Zondervan Handbook page 728)

     We concur with Ruckman (vii) that “[t]he two epistles to the Thessalonica are the most important Pauline epistles for a new convert to Christ to read” because they lay a foundation of basic doctrine and practical living.  McGee (368) states that the epistle has a “threefold purpose” (similar to Scofield’s intro notes – page 1267):

1.       To confirm young converts in the elementary truth of the gospel.

2.       To condition them to go on unto holy living; and

3.       To comfort them regarding the return of Christ.

     Doctrinally the theme of the return of Christ is dominant.  Paul mentions it at the close of every chapter.  Consequently a few good outlines would be:

Philipps (page 5):

Part 1: Introduction (1:1-2)

Part 2: The Lord’s Coming: A Saving Truth (1:3-10)

Part 3: The Lord’s Coming: A Stimulating Truth (2:1-20)

Part 4: The Lord’s Coming: A Stabilizing Truth (3:1-13)

Part 5: The Lord’s Coming: A Strengthening Truth (4:1-18)

Part 6: The Lord’s Coming: A Sanctifying Truth (5:1-22)

Part 7: Conclusion (5:23-28)

McGee (pages 368, 369)

I.         Coming of Christ is an Inspiring Hope: Chap 1

II.       Coming of Christ is a Working Hope: Chap 2

III.     Coming of Christ is a Purifying Hope: Chap 3:1-4:12

IV.     Coming of Christ is a Comforting Hope: Chap 4:13-18

V.       Coming of Christ is a Rousing Hope: Chap 5

Sources:

McGee, J. Vernon., Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee Volume 5. Pasadena:           Thru the Bible Radio, 1983

Phillips, John. Exploring 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2002

Ruckman, Peter S., The Books of First and Second Thessalonians and Philemon. Pensacola: BB Bookstore, 2005

Scofield Reference Bible. New York: Oxford, 1909

Vance, Laurence M., King James, His Bible, and its Translators. Pensacola: Vance Publications, 2006

Wiersbe, Warren W., The Bible Exposition Commentary/ New Testament Volume 2. Colorado Springs: Cook, 2001

Zondervan Handbook Oxford: Lion Publishing plc, 1999

 

About the Author: Pastor David Walker