A Study of 1 Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians

I. Thessalonica

A. History
1) Cassander, a former general of Alexander the Great and later king of Macedonia, founded the city in 315 BC and named it after his wife, the half sister of Alexander.
2) 167 BC it was captured by the Romans and named the capital of one of their four newly created districts
3) 42 BC the city was rewarded for helping Mark Antony and Octavian in the Roman civil wars by being mead a “free city.” This favored status resulted in such privileges as a measure of autonomy over local affairs, the right to mint its own coins, freedom from military occupation, and certain tax concessions.
4) This freedom also allowed them to their own democratic civil administrators that were not “Roman.” These authorities were called “politarchs” the NIV calls them “city officials” The office of politarch, mentioned twice by Luke in his description of Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica, is unique to the province of Macedonia. Archeologists have so far discovered twenty-eight references to this distinct office in Thessalonica.
Read Acts 17:5-6
            5) Women had a larger role of responsibility in Macedonia than in many other areas. Statues of women leaders have been excavated in the area.
B. Location
Thessalonica quickly became the most populous (100,000 people), wealthy and important city in Macedonia. Two geographical factors resulted in this growth.
            1) It had the best natural harbor in the entire Aegean sea
            2) The city was located on the juncture of the Via Egnatia (the major east-west highway that extended from Asia Minor to Rome) and the road north to Danube.
            3) Paul had a pattern to pass through the less important cities and focus upon the important metropolitan areas.
C. Religion
1) Thessalonica was a religiously pluralistic society. The worship of idols was very prevalent in this society. The most important deity was Cabirus- the patron god of the city. This Cabirus figure was a martyred hero, murdered by his two brothers, buried with symbols of royal power, and expected to return to help the oppressed poor in general and the citizens of Thessalonica in particular. The similarities between Cabirus and Jesus might be attributed to the success of Paul’s ministry in this city.
2) There was a large population of Jews and a synagogue in Thessalonica. Also, there were many God-fearing Greeks who converted to Judaism but would not be circumcised as well as numerous prominent women.
3) The imperial cult with its worship of Rome and the emperor helped to ensure the ongoing favor of the Roman emperor. Understanding this, it is not surprising that Paul’s preaching about “another king . . Jesus” would alarm civic sensibilities and lead to the accusation that he was violating Caesar’s decrees (Acts 17:7). Similarly, the refusal of Thessalonians to continue to participate in the imperial cult and in the worship of other pagan deities aroused the anger of their fellow citizens and quickly led to the persecution of this newly planted church.

II. Occasion and Purpose

A. Paul in Thessalonica
            1) Paul began his evangelistic activity in the local synagogue where he preached for three Sabbaths resulting in the conversion of “some of the Jews . . . and a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women” (Acts 17:4). The word protos indicates they were both leaders and wealthy.
            2) Paul worked as a tentmaker which: a) raised money so that the people could not say he was winning converts only for financial gain; b) as witnessing opportunities (people would come by and talk about this new philosophy).
            3) Most of the converts were Gentiles converts from paganism. However, many of the God-fearing Greeks (who gave tithe to the synagogue) hurt the pockets of the priests and they came after Paul. Moreover, the wealthy women were converted to worship a leader other than Caesar caused much concern among the city officials. The unbelieving Jews acted first and, with the help of some troublemakers, managed to start a city riot against the infant church. The crowd sought Paul, Silas, and Timothy, but instead grabbed Jason (Acts 17: 5-9).
            4) Paul fled to Berea and was treated well until the Jews from Thessalonica came. He then went to Athens and then to Corinth. In Corinth Timothy and Silas brought money from the young Thessalonican church and Philippian church thus enabling Paul to devote himself to full-time preaching of the Gospel.
            5) Paul always had a special “love” for the Macedonian churches.
            6) Paul was probably discouraged. Many theologians believe Paul was a discouraged man when he came to Corinth. Fanatical opponents had brought about his forcible ejection from three successive preaching places, in each just when it seemed his work was to be crowned with success. After than he had gone to Athens, the capital of Greece, and was met with mockery and few converts. He then arrives in Corinth “in weakness, and in fear, and much trembling” (1 Cor 2:3).
B. The Letter
            1) This is the probably the first recorded letter we have of Paul . . . it dates around 50 AD by most theologians (although some date it as early as in the early 40s). Thus, this letter was written very shortly after the resurrection of Christ.
            2) Timothy was sent to Thessalonica to find out the plight of this young church. The report brought back by Timothy was so encouraging that the missionary sent off a letter there and then, expressing his joy and relief.
            3) This letter was written:
                        a) To strengthen and encourage this early church.
                        b) To ground them in the doctrines of the Christian faith, particularly the reference to Christ’s return.
                        c) To encourage them to live holy lives
                        d) To correct some weaknesses
1 Thessalonians 1

III. How the Church Spreads the Gospel (1:1-10)

            1. The church of God (1:1b-4)
a) The church is a community which lives in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1b)
b) The church is a community which is distinguished by faith, love, and hope (1:3)
-Remember before our God (actually in the presence of our God). Paul believed that he dwelled in the presence of the living God. God’s eye was upon him and he was in the courts of God.
– This triad emphasizes hope. This is a young church. Paul is ending on his assurance that they will be completed in Christ (see Phil 1:6: 1 Cor 13:13)
Each of these is outgoing– faith is directed towards God, love towards others, and hope towards the future (especially the glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ).
-Similarly, faith rests on the past; love works in the present, and hope looks to the future (See Revelation 1:4)
John Stott says, “The new birth means little or nothing if it does not pull us out of our fallen introversion and redirect us towards God, Christ and our fellow human beings.”
-Each is productive- faith works, love labours and hope endures. A true faith in God leads to good works (without which faith is dead); a true love for people causes one to labor for them (kopos which is denotes a fatiguing nature); and true hope, which looks for the return of Christ, leads to endurance (hypomone)John Calvin said that this triad is “a brief definition of true Christianity.”
c) The church is a community which is loved and chosen by God (1:4)
-salvation is evidenced by a changed life. Paul saw the change in their lives so he knew they were Christians (2 Cor 5:17). Grandmother Ruth.
-God has chosen you, and me. This fact is a humbling thought. We deserve to die eternally, but by his love He has chosen us to live. What is the basis of this choosing? His love. The same God who chose Abraham (Neh 9:7) and his offspring, the people of Israel to make Himself known to all of humanity, has chosen you and me. This calling embraces believers from every nation, there is no longer any distinction. Everyone who repents and believes the Gospel will be saved. You are special with God. (See Acts 15:13-18)
            2. The Gospel of God (1:5-10)
                        a) Our Gospel came to you (1:5)
1) with words only- when we share the gospel, it is not simply a word, but the Words. You must share Christ with Words. They are not mere words, but it is necessary that we communicate this Gospel to others around us.
2) . . . also with power. There is a power that we cannot comprehend that is available when we proclaim about God’s Son. When we brag on God’s Son, He is present glorifying His Son. The Smiths were beaming when I was talking about their son, Dr. Smith. Think how much more the Father of all things beams when we brag and tell people about His Son. Venezuela
3). . . with the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who empowers. We are not alone when we are witnessing, God’s Spirit is with us in every witnessing encounter.
4) . . . deep conviction- this is one element that made Paul’s Gospel so compelling . . . he believed when he spoke and spoke it passionately and with boldness. This confidence and courage are what some modern preachers seem to lack. It was like I heard a few weeks ago, an atheist was watching a preacher on television. His friend ask him, “Has he convinced you yet? No, but I am convinced that he is convinced.”
5) . . . you know how we lived. Paul did not preach with only words, but also his life preached. He was authentic. This is what has separated Billy Graham from many contemporary evangelists, authenticity!
b) You welcomed the message (1:6-7) They imitated Paul and the Lord (Jesus) by suffering for the Lord. How did they welcome the message even though it might cost them everything? It is because the Holy Spirit will keep those who belong to God.
            1) In spite of severe suffering
            2) . .. with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. Don’t miss this second reference to the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit who gave power to those who preached the gospel gave joy to those who received it.
            3) . . . became a model to Macedonia and Achaia (v7) Achaia was the province of Greece South of Macedonia. Corinth was the Capital of this province. The word about their suffering was encouraging believers all over the world.
3. The Lord’s message rang out from you (1:8-10)
The word execheo  we get the word echo. The word is used a thunder that would echo throughout the hills and mountains and be heard everywhere. Their suffering is not only encouraging the Christians, but has become a loud explosion promoting the Gospel all over the world. There are two types of evangelism seen: 1) the proclamation of the Gospel (direct preaching); 2) the faith of the people being known everywhere (an indirect report). This is what I desire for Central: 1) we will become a body sharing the Gospel, 2) the entire world will hear what God is doing in our midst and be taken back.
            This verse is beautifully summarized by this: here is an important lesson to learn here. We are a very media-conscious generation. We know the power of the mass media on the public mind. Consequently, we want to use the media in evangelism. By print and tape, by audio and video, by radio and television we would like to saturate the world with the good news. And rightly so. In principle nobody should quarrel with this ambition. We should harness to the service of the Gospel every modern medium of communication available to us.
            Nevertheless there is another way . . . which is neither organized nor computerized; it is spontaneous. And it is not expensive; it costs precisely nothing. We might call it “holy gossip.” It is the exited transmission from mouth to mouth of the impact which the good news is making on people. ‘Have you heard what has happened to so and so? Did you know that such and such a person has been completely transformed?” Something extraordinary is going on in Thessalonica: a new society is coming into being, with new values and standards, characterized by faith, love and hope.”
Verses 9-10 give a three-part analysis of Xn conversion: It indicates a conversion involves: 1) a decisive break with idols; 2) an active service of God; 3) a patient waiting for Christ. You turned . . . to serve . . . and wait.
a. You turned to God from idols (1:9)
This was a profound statement. People believed that if you turned from the idols you would be cursed and destroyed.
b. . . . to serve the living and true God (1:9)
Positive! We serve the living King.
c. . . . and wait for His Son from heaven (1:10)
waiting and serving cannot be separated.
From this chapter, we receive the “secret” symbol the early Christians used. In verse 10 he calls him both Jesus (his human name) and God’s Son (his divine dignity), adding that he is the Saviour who rescues us and the Christ (1,3) whom the Scriptures foretold. Putting these four epithets together we have “Jesus (Isus) Christ (Christos), Son (huios) of God(Theos) and Saviour (soter)” or the Greek acrostic ICTHUS, the word for fish which the Xns chose as their early symbol.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-3:13

Christian Ministry

I It’s Not About Me (2:1-2)

1 Thessalonians 2 and 3 give us a glimpse into the heart and soul of Paul. He reveals his emotions and bears his soul to us.
V1 Paul uses the word kenos which means empty. The NIV assumes that it means “empty of results.” As you have seen throughout Paul’s letters, he is not concerned as much with results (he leaves that to God). Instead, I agree with Lightfoot who translates it “empty of purpose.” Paul was on a mission from God. Even though he had been personally persecuted everywhere he went, he was willing to undergo that persecution for the sake of spreading the gospel.
2 But (alla) and important word that the NIV chooses to omit to make the passage read easier. Paul was saying that his visit was not of one thing but of another. It was not empty of purpose, but in spite of suffering, we came anyway (knowing that we would suffer again for the Gospel). Paul was saying . . . It is not about me!
See Acts 16:9-12, 19-30, 36-37 (a purpose . . . the salvation of souls and edification of the body of Christ. These people would not have the Roman citizenship to help them to avoid suffering. Paul wanted to suffer if the people had to suffer).
The spoke with boldness. The word means openness and boldly. They did not hide what they thought. God, give us men and women today who will speak the name of the Lord without fear. We will be persecuted. Christianity now runs against our “political correct” society. We must be people who unashamedly speak the name of Christ.

II. Paul defends his visit (2:3-16)

A. It’s all about God (2:3-4)
            1)Therefore it is true
2) It is not with impurity. Greek word used here is not really motives, but sexually immorality. Remember, a number of the prominent women had come to faith. Traveling “spiritual salesmen” often traveled the via egnatia and would attempt to lure women into a type of sexual cult. Paul is undoubtedly accused of this error.
3) God approved (tested him first) and then entrusted him with the Gospel to share to everyone. Therefore, Paul was not seeking to win the approval of men. He only sought to please God. In other words, even the sharing of the Gospel is all about God.
B. A love of a mother (2:5-8)
            1) Paul’s motives were pure
2) When you are only seeking to please God, you do not worry about impressing others.
3) When we only seek God, true love is given. The same is true in our lives. When we seek to serve God and worship Him, a by-product is true love. Thanks be to God for this love from God. If you want to love your neighbor more, then fall in love with God more.
C. A love of a father (2: 9-12)
            1) Paul could have asked for money . . . it was his right. However, he chose not to.
Like a father, he chose to work to support them (soon the Thessalonians would be supporting him).
2) v10 you needed two witnesses for something to be held up in a court of law. Both the Thessalonians and God were witnesses.
3) v11-12 the triad most important is urging you to live lives worthy of God
4) It is God who calls you into His kingdom and glory (not something you deserve).
D. The Very Words of God!
1) v 13 The very words of God. We need more preachers and Sunday School teachers to understand that when we open this book it is the very words of God and has power to transform an individual and keep on working in him or her. (See 1 Peter 4:11; Eph 6:19).
-The Word of God continues to work on our lives. The more we read and hear, the more we are transformed into His image. (2 Cor 3:18; Romans 12:2).
2) v14 The efficacy of the Word of God can be seen in the fact that they became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus.
3) vv15-16
-People must share in order for people to be saved (Romans 10:13-15; Matthew 28:18-20).
The Word of God would ensure that those who attempt to stand in God’s way will be destroyed. The wrath of God came upon Jerusalem twenty years later with Jerusalem being destroyed. Paul believed the prophesies of Christ to come to fruition (Mt 21:43; Mt 23:37-39; Luke 23:26-30) Romans 11:25-36 . . .God still has a plan for the Jews.

III. Paul Explains his absence (2:17- 3:13)

            A) Torn away (v17) is the Greek verb aporphanizomai where we get the word orphanos. Paul had used the analogy of a father and mother, now he says that he was torn away from them to leave them like an orphan. He didn’t want to leave them, like his distracters were saying, but he made every effort to come back.
            B) Satan stopped us (v18). Do not be deceived, the evil one is alive and will attack everything that God is attempting to do. Whether it be sending someone walking down the aisle when the Spirit begins to move in a service or cause someone to get their feelings hurt and so forth. Do not be surprised, the evil one and his allies will be working against the advance of the kingdom (Eph 6:10-13). The full armor of God is “put on” through the Spiritual Disciplines.
            Satan: 1) He was an object of beauty. He was an angel of the very highest order. He fell through pride. We often hear that Satan’s hatred for God has led him to attack and mislead humans. General tenor of Scripture indicates quite the contrary, namely, that Satan’s jealousy and hatred of men has led him into antagonism to God and, consequently, to goodness. As I have mentioned before, angels were created as ministering spirits for humans (See Hebrews 1:14). Satan and angels were not happy with this creation of humans and revolted (Jude 6).
            2) The beauty was turned to ugliness. When God’s love was removed he only knew lies and evil. Void of God leads only to evil. Satan became the first liar and the first hint of evil in all of God’s creation. Until this revolt, there was no evil in all of God’s creation. Where did evil come from? The absence of God is evil. John 8:44 Satan became the father of lies.
            3) He does not understand Scriptures (John 12:40; Mark 4:11; 1 Cor 2:7; Col 1:26-27). For this reason, Satan can quote Scripture, but he doesn’t understand. He truly thought he could defeat the Christ. If he could cause Christ to stumble, he would have power over God (Col 1:19).
            4) He is not omnipresent . . . God is omnipresent (see Ps 139:7-10; Jer 23:23-24).  Rev 12:7-9. That means that Satan can only be at one place at a time. He is limited. He has many demons. Satan, however, is not omnipresent.
            5) He is not omniscient . . . only God is all knowing. Rev 2:23 only God knows the hearts and minds of people (Is 66:18). Only God knows the future (Isa 46:9-10). Demons can observe and then draw conclusions. For example, a demon can introduce a temptation to you to overeat. He can tell when you start eating the cake that you have succumbed to the temptation. James 4:7 says to resist the devil and he will flee from you.
            6) The devil is not all-powerful (omnipotent). In fact, Jesus has given us power over the demons (Luke 9:1; Luke 10:19; Acts 8:7 (Philip); Acts 16: 18; 1 John 4:4-20; 1 John 4:4).
            7) Satan is limited and cannot act without God’s permission in dealing with God’s children (Job 1:6-12)
            8) Is constantly frustrated (Romans 8:28; Jesus’ crucifixion)
            9) The devil will not win! You and I have the victory in Christ (Col 2:15; Rev 20:10)
            10) Satan works against God’s people:
            a) He causes persecution (Rev 2:10)
            b) He places counterfeit Christians in the churches alongside the genuine people of God (Mt 13:24-30).
            c) He disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). In other words, he plants thoughts in the minds of people that divide because it too sounds good.
            d) Satan roams among God’s people seeking to destroy those who have become vulnerable through not watching and praying for protection from temptation (Mt 26:41; 1 Peter 5:8).

III. Paul explains his absence (continued 1 Thes 3:1-13)

            C) Timothy was sent:
1) Paul didn’t think of himself, but for the betterment of the church. Think about it, he could have been killed, robbed, beaten and no one would have known anything. Instead, he continued to think about what was best for the church. I want to encourage you to think about what is best for the church!
2) v2 We are God’s co-worker. To the Jew, this would be blasphemy worthy of death. . . . later scribes did not like this and so they softened and took way God’s co-worker. We are co-working with God to strengthen the body. God is looking for men and women who will co-labor with Him. How will this world hear unless you and I tell them? Get involved in co-laboring with God.
3) Strengthen and encourage. Strengthen is a technical term to build up new converts (Establish) . . . found them in their faith. Encourage is parakaleo we get the wordparaklete one who walks along side of them. This co-laboring is to establish and exhort. We need to begin to disciple each new member who joins our church. Lord, help us to accomplish this task
4) Suffering is a part of the Christian life.  unsettle is saino get from a dog wagging its tail. Falter, shift back and forth. You were destined for this (Acts 14:22; Rom 8:17; Phil 1:29; 2 Tim 3:12) Jesus taught on suffering (Mt 5:11; John 15:20; 16:33).
D) Praise lifts the Spirits of the Body (3:6-10)
                        We need to be sharing with one another in praise.
            E) He had been praying for them all the time (3:11-13)
                        1) v11 They understood that it is God who leads. Therefore, they sought to respond to what God wants. Acts 16:6-10
God Speaks to His Children (taken from Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God)
            How Do I know When God Speaks?
                        1) When God speaks, the person knows it is from God
                        2) The key to knowing God’s voice comes from an intimate love
            Encountering God
                        1) When God speaks to you, this is an encounter with God.
                        2) The Holy Spirit enables you to understand spiritual truth
            Immediately Respond
                        1) When God speaks, what happens next is crucial
                        2) Our problem is when God speaks, we want to question His directions
            God Speaks at the Right Time
                        1) The moment God speaks is the moment He wants you to respond.
                        2) When God speaks, you need to believe and trust God.
            God Develops Character to Match Assignment
                        1) When God speaks with purpose, you need to trust what God is doing
2) If you are God-centered, you will adjust your circumstances to what God wants you to do.
            God Gives Specific Directions
                        1) The Holy Spirit gives clear directives today.
                        2) Don’t try to skip over the relationship to get on with doing.
Rob Jackson
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