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New Testament Survey: The Book Of First Thessalonians

Written By: Steve Shirley

The Book Of First Thessalonians

Author:

  • Paul (1 Th 1:1)(1 Th 2:18)
    (For more on Paul see: Survey: Biography Of Paul)
  • Both the internal and external evidence points to Paul writing this Epistle. The personal details shared all match what we know of Paul from other New Testament books. The doctrine, style, language used, and manner of thought are all Pauline.
  • The early church fathers (Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Eusebius) agreed that Paul authored this book.
  • A majority of scholars believe that this was the 2nd of the 13 Epistles that Paul wrote, however, some believe it was the 1st.

The Stats:

  • Chapters: 5
  • Verses: 89

Date Written:

  • Likely 51 A.D.
  • According to an inscription found in the temple of Apollos in Delphi, Gallio was the proconsul in Corinth from May of 51 A.D. to April of 52 A.D. Paul stayed in Corinth for 18 months (Acts 18:11), and was brought before Gallio while there (Acts 18:12-17). Since Paul wrote 1st Thessalonians shortly after he left Thessalonica (1 Th 2:17), and we know that Paul wrote this from Corinth shortly after Timothy and Silas returned from Thessalonica with news (1 Th 3:6)(Acts 18:1-5), it was likely written in early 51 A.D., probably before or shortly after Gallio came to power in 51 A.D.

Place Written:

  • Corinth

Written To:

  • Christians at the church in Thessalonica.

Key Verses:

(1 Th 1:4-7)(1 Th 2:12-13,18)(1 Th 3:12-13)(1 Th 4:3-5,13-18)(1 Th 5:1-3,8,11)(1 Th 5:14-22)

Purpose:

  • To encourage and strengthen the young believers.
  • To commend them for their faith and endurance in the midst of persecution.
  • To defend his ministry.
  • To give them instruction concerning the second coming of Jesus, and the fate of those who had died before it.
  • To teach them some foundational truths of the Christian faith.
  • To testify of his love for them, and encourage them to love one another.
  • To exhort them to holiness and purity of life.

About The City:

  • In the first century, Thessalonica was the largest city in Macedonia (population about 200,000). It was made the capital of the Roman second district of Macedonia in 167 B.C. (there were 4 Roman districts). About 20 years later, Macedonia became a single Roman province, with Thessalonica becoming its capital.
  • It was given its name in 315 B.C. when Cassander (son of Antipater), a general of Alexander The Great rebuilt and enlarged the city of Therma. He then renamed it after his wife Thessalonica (Greek = “victory of Thessalians”), who was the step-sister of Alexander The Great. She got her name because her father Philip II first heard of her birth on the day of his gaining a victory over the Thessalians.
  • Thessalonica had a very spacious and prominent harbor, which was the main seaport for Macedonia. It was situated on the northernmost point of the Thermaic Gulf (Gulf Of Salonica) at the head of the Aegean Sea. In addition, it was located on the great Roman road called the Egnatian Way (Via Egnatia), the major east-west trade route connecting Rome to the east, and also had a trade route leading north from the Aegean Sea to the Danube. These things made Thessalonica, along with Corinth, the two most important and wealthy commercial centers in Greece.
  • It was a “free city,” meaning its citizens could govern themselves (those who governed called Gr. = “politarches“) (Acts 17:6,8).
  • As with most major cities, they had a stadium, forum, public baths, a gymnasium, and a number of temples (i.e. the temple of Serapis). A mint has also been found in the ruins of the city, meaning they created their own currency. Mt. Olympus, where the famous Greek Parthenon was located, could be seen from the city.
  • Thessalonica has never ceased being a city. Today it is called Salonica or Saloniki. It is still the capital of Macedonia, and a prosperous city, with a population of over 350,000, the vast majority being Christians. Most of the ancient city is covered by the current city, with only few remains visible (i.e. parts of the wall which surrounded the city, and parts of the forum).

About The Church:

  • It is helpful to see a timeline of Paul’s relationship with the Thessalonian church.
    • On his 2nd missionary journey, Paul (along with Timothy and Silas), traveled about 100 miles from Philippi to Thessalonica, taking the Egnatian Way.
    • As was his custom, Paul sought out the synagogue and began “reasoning with them out of the Scriptures” that “the Christ” who had been prophesied had come, and had “suffered and risen from the dead” (Acts 17:3). At his preaching, some (Jews, but not many) believed along with a large number of Greeks, and some very prominent women (Acts 17:4). This was the beginning of the church at Thessalonica.
    • The unbelieving Jews became envious of what Paul and Silas were doing, and formed a mob to attack the house of Jason, where they had been staying. When Paul and Silas were not found there, they dragged Jason and some other brethren before the city magistrates (politarches), accusing them of harboring men who had “turned the world upside down,” and were doing “contrary to the decrees of Caesar” by “saying there was (is) another king, named Jesus.” The magistrates decided there was not enough evidence for this, and released them (Acts 17:5-9).
    • As a result of this uprising, the brethren sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea (Timothy may have been sent ahead: Acts 17:14). Again, Paul went to the synagogue and preached, with many Jews, Greeks, and prominent women believing. However, the unbelieving Jews from Thessalonica heard what was going on in Berea, and went there to stir up the people as well. This forced Paul to go to Athens, but he left Silas and Timothy behind in Berea (Acts 17:10-14).
    • While Paul was in Athens, he heard about the persecutions that the Thessalonians were facing (1 Th 2:14)(1 Th 3:3), and he yearned to return to them (1 Th 3:5). Twice he tried to do so, but Satan prevented him (1 Th 2:18).
    • After Timothy rejoined him in Athens, Paul sent him back to Thessalonica to strengthen and encourage them, and to find out about their faith (1 Th 3:1-5). In the meantime, Paul moved on to Corinth for a year and a half (Acts 18:1,11). During this time, Timothy, as well as Silas, joined Paul in Corinth and Timothy brought “good news of their (your) faith and love” and that they longed to see him just as he longed to see them (1 Th 3:6)(Acts 18:5). This gave Paul great comfort (1 Th 3:7) and glory and joy (1 Th 2:20)(1 Th 3:9).
  • Responding to Timothy’s report, Paul wrote 1st Thessalonians. (He wrote 2nd Thessalonians a few months after.)
  • Apparently, the church was made up mainly of Gentiles (1 Th 1:9)(Acts 17:4).
  • Some of the more prominent converts from Thessalonica were: Jason (Acts 17:5), Gaius (Acts 19:29), Aristarchus (Acts 20:4), and Secundus (Acts 20:4).
  • Aristarchus became one of Paul’s most constant companions. He was: with Paul at Ephesus (Acts 19:29), with Paul’s near the end of his 3rd missionary journey (along with Secundus) (Acts 20:4), on Paul’s journey to Rome (Acts 27:2), and Paul’s fellow prisoner (Col 4:10)(Phile 1:24).
  • Based on (Acts 17:2), where it says “and three sabbath days (Paul) reasoned with them out of the Scriptures,” some believe that Paul was in Thessalonica for less than a month. However, logic seems to dictate that Paul was there longer:

1. Philippi was more than 100 miles away, and the church at Philippi sent two separate financial gifts to help Paul while he was in Thessalonica (Phil 4:16).

2. Paul (and Silas) worked “day and night” (1 Th 2:9)(2 Th 3:7-9), probably making tents (Acts 18:1-3), to support himself while there. In other words, he likely ministered mainly on the Sabbath days. Three Sabbath days would not have been enough time to effectively build and instruct the new church.

3. Paul describes his relationship to the church as: a nursing mother (1 Th 2:7), and an exhorting and comforting father (1 Th 2:11). He had developed a close bond with them (along the lines of his relationship with Philippi)(1 Th 3:6). This seems unlikely to have formed in just 3 weeks.

  • Most scholars believe that Paul was there for at least 3 months.
  • It seems likely that Paul returned at some point during his 3rd missionary journey while he was in Macedonia (Acts 20:1-3).
  • Overall, the Thessalonian church was a strong and thriving church with a wonderful history.

Special Emphasis:

  • The second coming of Jesus is the primary emphasis of this letter. It is mentioned in each chapter: (1 Th 1:10)(1 Th 2:19-20)(1 Th 3:13)(1 Th 4:13-18)(1 Th 5:1-11,23-24).
  • The word “labour” (Gr: “kopos“) is used 4 times (1 Th 1:3)(1 Th 2:9 [2x])(1 Th 3:5) in 1st Thessalonians, tied for most times used in the New Testament with 2nd Corinthians.
  • The words “holiness/sanctification” (Gr: “hagiasmos“) are used more in 1st Thessalonians than any other book in the New Testament (3 times).
  • Paul uses the word “coming” (Gr: “parousia“) more times in 1st Thessalonians than any other Epistle he wrote (4 times).
  • Again, as in Philippians, while not an emphasis, it is interesting to note that there are no Old Testament quotes used in 1st Thessalonians.

Survey:

  • The divisions of the Epistle are sufficiently indicated by the Chapters.

1. The model church, and the three tenses of the Christian life, 1:1-10.

2. The model servant and his reward, 2:1-20.

3. The model brother, and the believer’s sanctification, 3:1-13.

4. The model walk, and the believer’s hope, 4:1-18.

5. The model walk, and the day of Jehovah, 5:1-28.

(Survey from Scofield Reference Notes [1917 ed.]: Public Domain) 

Copyright: https://JesusAlive.cc © Steve Shirley