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Paul's 1st Letter to the Thessalonians





BOOK : 1 Thessalonians

Description : Having had to leave Thessalonica prematurely, and not being able to get back to them, the apostle Paul writes to encourage the new converts, in the face of persecution, to live out their lives in Christ ready for whenever their Lord returns.

Author: The apostle Paul

Date written : Probably about AD51

Chapters 5



Brief Synopsis:

•  The letter reinforces the bond established between Paul and his new converts here in Thessalonica, after he had to leave them rapidly because of persecution.
•  He explains how he had wanted to return to them but has been prevented.
•  He encourages them to live out the teaching they have received and be ready whenever Jesus returns.



Outline :


Ch. 1 The Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians

1:1-4 The Grounds for the Thanksgiving

1:5-10 The Genuineness of the Grounds

Ch.2 & 3 The Defense of the Apostolic Actions and Absence

2:1-16 The Defense of the Apostolic Actions

2:17-3:10 The Defense of the Apostolic Absence

3:11-13 The Prayer

4:1 – 5:22 The Exhortations to the Thessalonians

4:1-12 Primarily concerning Personal Life

4:13-5:11 Concerning the Coming of Christ

5:12-22 Primarily concerning Church Life

5:23-28 The Concluding Prayer, Greetings and Benediction


Some Key Verses:


Paul's unity with this church

1:2,3 We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ


A reminder of their work with them

1:4,5 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.


He reminds them of their integrity in bringing the Gospel

2:10-12 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.


He anted to return but has been prevented (see later notes)

2:18 For we wanted to come to you--certainly I, Paul, did, again and again--but Satan stopped us.


Thus they took steps to support them by sending Timothy to them

3:1-3,5 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens . We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials…. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.


A reminder, as in most of his letters, to live out the faith diligently

4:1 Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.



Verses in Respect of Jesus Second Coming


This letter and his second one to this church, has a large number of references to the Lord's return.


1:9,10 They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven


2:19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?


3:13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones


4:13-17 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.


5:1-3 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.


5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.



The Mystery of Paul being delayed by Satan (2:18)


Amazingly Paul shared that he had intended to return to this church but Satan had stopped him. How? The following is an extract from our meditations in 1 Thessalonians:


Trying to piece together the apostle's journey we find from Thessalonica he went to Berea (Acts 17:10) and then on to Athens (Acts 17:15). There he was joined by Silas and Timothy and according to this letter Timothy was then sent back to Thessalonica to check on them. Paul then moved on to Corinth (Acts 18:1) and it was to there that Timothy came with the news of the Thessalonians (Acts 18:5) that we find being referred to in this letter: “But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love.” (3:6) He thus presumably wrote this letter in Corinth. Now of course we know from the letter to the Corinthians that Paul received both opposition and encouragement there (see Acts 18:6-10) and ended up having to stay there for a year and a half (Acts 18:11) but while there received even more opposition from the Jews (Acts 18:12,13) Now of course we don't know when in that year and a half that Paul eventually realised he was just not going to be able to get back to the believers in Thessalonica and so wrote this letter.

So now we begin to see the agency that Satan used that Paul was blaming – the unbelieving Jews in every place whose hostility rose up against him wherever he went. Now our question, why did God allow him to do this begins to get an answer. The price God pays, if you like, for allowing Satan access to His world is that he captures the minds of unbelievers. Thus the apostle John was able to write, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 Jn 5:19) Unless God overrides the free will that He gives every person, then Satan is going to be able to stir up and use the minds and lives of ungodly people. The book of Job shows us this very clearly when he clearly stirs up the ungodly to come and destroy Job's family and possessions.

As Paul clearly shows us in the verses we have to live in a battle, a fallen world where the enemy has access to unbelievers and uses them to seek to thwart the work of God through His people. From our perspective sometimes this seems very frustrating as we long for one thing but are hindered getting it. Indeed Paul went on, “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.” (3:10) We have to say he didn't get an answer to that prayer, or if he did it was, “No!” He never, it seems managed to get back to them. Was his ministry thus a failure? Definitely not! The Lord used him in Athens and Corinth and so on, just simply not back in Thessalonica, but in many ways they seem, to be getting on quite well without him! Timothy, at least, had been back there and no doubt encouraged them and had in turn been encouraged and brought a good report back to Paul in Corinth . Does God always give us everything we ask for? No. Does that mean we are failures and wrong for asking? No. It just means we are in a battle in a fallen world and the Lord deems it best that we go other ways. Rest in that and rejoice in it. He IS Sovereign even though at times it seems Satan is getting his way. If he does, it is still within the plan of God. Our question has to be, what next?



Concluding Comments


To understand this letter and its motivation we have to be aware of what had been happening to Paul (see notes immediately above).

•  He had had to leave prematurely because of persecution
•  He had not been able to get back to them
•  He had sent Timothy to support them and report back
•  And so now he was writing to encourage them.

There are two particularly important facets of this letter:

•  The awareness of the persecution of the Jews that made life difficult for the new Christians who needed encouragement to press on, and
•  The thought that one day Jesus would be returning and this should always act as a mtopivating force to encourage us to be living faithful lives.



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