30/01/2023 – 10/02/2023 Chapter One
Some background and history:
Firstly; what does the Bible mean to you? In other words, what does the Bible have within its pages that you couldn’t get from other books?
Warren Wiersbe said; “A father took his son to a large city museum, thinking that the visit would entertain the boy. But for two hours the lad did nothing but sigh and complain. Finally in desperation he said to his father, “Dad, let’s go someplace where things are real!”
Some see the Word of God as just words on paper. Others can recite scripture verbatim without a clue what God’s Word is conveying. If you or anyone else thinks this way, you are very much mistaken. The Bible is not a museum piece, well not according to (Heb 4:12), “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
You can visit Thessalonica today, only the travel guide will call it Thessaloniki. (It used to be known as Salonika.) It is an important industrial and commercial city in modern Greece and is second to Athens in population. It served as an important Allied base during World War I. In World War II it was captured by the German army, and the Jewish population of about 60,000 people were exterminated.
Thessalonica was the proud capital of the Roman province of Macedonia and had a population of over 100,000. Its natural harbor and placement on the busy east-west Egnatian Way as well as key north-south trade routes meant that it was a flourishing centre of trade and philosophy. It was a free city and was governed by local officials called “politarchs” (Acts 17:6, 8). Religiously, the city was committed to the Greco-Roman pantheon and the imperial cult; Egyptian cults were also prominent. There was a sizable population of Jews in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5).
Paul, Timothy, and Silas preached in the Thessalonian synagogue over three Sabbaths, and a number of Jews and God-fearing Gentiles believed (Acts 17:4). First Thessalonians 1:9–10 suggests that Paul spent some weeks ministering to pagan Gentiles. However, rioters instigated by Jewish opponents dragged Jason (Paul’s host) and some other Christians before the town’s leadership and charged them with treason against Caesar (Acts 17:5–8), forcing the missionaries to leave Thessalonica prematurely (Acts 17:9–10). Paul was concerned for the new Christians, and therefore a few months later he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica (1 Thess 3:1–2, 5; Acts 17:15). Catching up with Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:5), Timothy updated him on the Thessalonian church (1 Thess 3:6).
Timothy reported that generally the church community was doing well. However, not everything at Thessalonica was rosy. Some members of the church had died (4:13), and because they were not fully informed about what would happen to deceased Christians at Christ’s return (3:10; 4:13), some apparently thought that those who had died would miss out on the second coming, and they had plunged into hopeless grieving for them (4:13).
In addition, Timothy related to Paul a Thessalonian question about the timing of the day of the Lord (5:1–2). A number of scholars believe that the query reflected restless impatience or a false sense of security, but this view is countered by Paul’s repeated assurances in 5:4–5, 9, along with the lack of threat or warning in 5:1–11. Paul reassures the Thessalonians that they are destined not for wrath but for salvation on the day of the Lord. Some think that the Thessalonians were concerned that they would be unprepared for Jesus’ return, but 4:3–8 suggests that they were not concerned enough about holy living. Perhaps the simplest explanation is that these new Christians were questioning their own final salvation in view of the recent unexpected deaths (4:13). They may even have wondered whether the deaths were an expression of divine disapproval.
Whatever the specifics, clearly the Thessalonians needed reassurance about those who had died (4:13–18) and about their own destiny at the second coming (5:1–11).
The Thessalonians seem to have been vulnerable in other ways too. They had not expected the initial persecution to continue unabated for so long (3:3–4; cf. 2 Thess. 1:5–7). Moreover, they missed Paul, apparently disappointed that he himself had not yet returned to see them (1 Thess. 3:6–10).
Yet another problem in Thessalonica demanded Paul’s attention: some Christians were bringing the church into disrepute by depending on wealthier Christians to provide for them rather than earning their own living (4:10b–12; 5:14; cf. 2 Thess 3:6–15). It is possible that this problem was a result of the Thessalonians’ erroneous thinking about the future. However, it may simply be that some church members were selfishly and lazily exploiting the charity of wealthier members to avoid having to work.
When Paul heard Timothy’s generally positive report, he was filled with joyful relief and was eager to encourage the embattled and discouraged Christians and to answer their questions. So he immediately began composing 1 Thessalonians (1 Thess. 3:6–8). Paul’s main purpose was to repair the hope of the Thessalonian Christians in the wake of the unexpected deaths of people in their congregation and to reassure them that both the dead and the living were destined to be saved at the second coming (4:13–5:11). Related to this was his desire to reassure the Thessalonians that they were among those elected by God for salvation (1:4; 5:24).
Paul also wished to underline the missionaries’ authenticity as preachers of the gospel of God (1:5; 2:1–12; 2:17–3:10) in the face of real or potential questions relating to his lengthy absence (2:17–3:10), the unrelenting persecution (3:3–4), and the unexpected deaths (4:13). Paul also sought to encourage the Thessalonians by explaining that persecution is normal for the Christian (3:3–4). In addition, Paul is calling the recently converted, predominantly pagan community to sexual holiness (4:3–8) and the idle members of the community to gainful employment (4:9–12).
It also seems that Paul is seeking to undo their heavy dependence on him by urging the church to respect and defer to its own ministers (5:12–13). This can be seen in his forbidding the despising of prophesying (5:19–22), his emphasizing Timothy’s credentials (3:2), and his presenting the missionaries as a team (hence the use of the first person plural through much of the letter).
Are you excited about the return of Jesus? You should be. That imminent event will rock the world. While you’re looking for the Saviour in the skies, however, 1 Thessalonians explains how you should live, and sometimes even face difficulty, as you wait.
When we least expect it we’ll be “caught up together … in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord” (1Thess 4:17). What a wild ride! We can only imagine how that reunion with our Creator will cheer our hearts and thrill our minds.
“Paul and Silvanus and Timothy.” It’s kind of nice how Paul includes faithful servants, especially those who have been ministering with and to Paul. It is nice to be included in things of importance, especially when the known world then was turned upside down.
For some reason Paul makes no mention of his apostolic status, maybe there’s no false teachers, or maybe their faith is strong. For whatever reason Paul doesn’t see the need to insert “apostle” into the text. Silvanus (Latin) Silas (Greek) and Timothy were co-workers with Paul during his second missionary journey. Silvanus, or Silas, was a Judean Christian (Acts 15:22) who joined Paul after he separated from Barnabas (Acts 15:39–40). Timothy, of Lystra in south Galatia, was a son of a Jewish mother and Greek father and became partners with Paul when Paul passed through his hometown early on his second journey (see Acts 16:1–4; Introduction to 1 Timothy). Timothy had just returned from a visit to the Thessalonian church (1 Thess 3:6), and his report is Paul’s major source of information as he writes.
“To the church of the Thessalonians.” I also like the way he makes the Thessalonians at ease by calling them the Church of the Thessalonians and who is totally responsible for the reason they are called and their faith maintained, “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.”
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;” There are other places in Thessalonians that Paul gives thanks “always” meaning “without ceasing, consistently, diligently as well as partitioning God on their behalf in the prayers of Paul and shared by those around him.
In the verses that follow it looks like Paul is building up the Thessalonians with each word he writes. What I mean is phrase after phrase of encouragement. Paul not only thanked God for these brothers and sisters in the faith, he also was not afraid to tell them personally how much he appreciated them. It is a good reminder to all of us to express our “thanks” out loud.
“constantly bearing in mind your work of faith” This is the working faith that James talks about in his epistle, the faith that bears fruit, (James 2:14-26). “and labour of love” Doing something that you love to do isn’t what Paul is saying here. He’s talking about a much deeper love, a selfless love, a love without hypocrisy. I think he’s hinting at the “New Commandment” that Jesus answered when asked “what is the greatest commandment.” He replied “To love the Lord you God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself.”
Believers would benefit by checking their lives and notice what they do for others out of pure love. The church isn’t a club we join, or a retirement village we end up in, or a competition we enter to win a trophy. It’s supposed to be a family of love where we serve one another. This is only possible because of our relationship with God.
- I’ve got to ask this question. “In what ways do we as a believing individual and/or a corporate body, show love to our neighbour?”
- Who is our neighbour was the question of the day!”
“and steadfastness (or perseverance) of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” This is not passive endurance, its active. Paul talks about this in (Rom 8:25, 15:4) where he gives us a bit of a quandary about not seeing something that we eagerly desire “But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”
It’s incredible how hope always looks forward to the future. For the Thessalonians, as for all believers, hope rests in God’s promised eternity. And this assured future makes everything possible. Hope looks to something that is sure, it’s just not here yet.
Our greatest joys and hopes are future. This is not just a triathlon race, or a quick sprint, it’s also a long distance run. If we serve because we feel that God has promised good things only in this life, we will be disappointed and may even give up. One of the most encouraging verses for me is in (Rom 5:3-5) “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
All of this is a direct result of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith, love, and hope are eternal qualities which find their source in God. As Paul later expressed so beautifully in (1 Cor 13), they are the way of excellence for every child of God.
“in the presence of our God and Father,” Nothing is hidden from God and nothing is done without God’s say so. Paul knew this only too well and it’s the reason he did everything in the sight of God. He kept nothing from God, his prayer life, his witnessing, his encouragement of others and his undying love for his Lord.
“knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” Not only are things not hidden before God but all thing are pertaining to God. These beloved Thessalonians are and have been called by God for His service and good pleasure, whatever that may entail. We should all be grateful to God for His gift of life through the sacrifice Jesus made for our benefit. To think, that someone would give His life for me, a filthy rag. Nothing compares to being known by God.
“for our gospel did not come to you in word only,” This is the Word of God preached by Paul and the other apostles. This is the apostolic teaching Paul refers to as the true gospel, not the false teaching that was prevalent then and now.
This teaching was not with eloquent words that dripped honey, no, it was simple truth and to the point. Not only this but was backed up by works of love evidenced in his life, for example (2 Thess 3:8) “Nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labour and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you;”
“but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction;” The power of the Holy Spirit in the believer, to convict of the truth. The truth laid open to the Thessalonians which they fervently embraced. Paul may have been indicating signs and wonders but it is not mentioned here. For a similar demonstration by the Holy Spirit see (Rom 15:19) “in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”
What does Paul mean by “full conviction,” does he mean no margin for error, the truth is the truth, no room for mistakes, or does he mean something similar to (Col 2:2) “That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,”
“just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” Because he lived out the gospel, Paul and the others for that matter, didn’t have to prove themselves as such. Later in chapter two Paul states “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;”
We all know that old saying “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” In other words one needs to show that the Word of God has substance, able to produce the fruit of the Spirit, and is ever so sweet “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps 119:103).
“You also became imitators of us and of the Lord,” After a lengthy address in chapter four of first Corinthians Paul challenges them to imitate Christ just as he was doing.
How many godly men do you know or have observed that you would imitate their walk with the Lord? Imitating someone means you spend time studying them. In this instance it should lead to discipleship, bearing in mind that it’s not the man or woman you’re following but like Paul said in (1 Cor 11:1) “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” It appears the Thessalonians caught on quick and have dealt with the matter of imitating Christ as Paul said in the past tense, “you have become imitators.” Paul stated something similar in (Phil 4:9), “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you”.
“having received the word in much tribulation,” Paul is probably referring to the incident of the city being in an uproar when Paul started preaching the Word. The preaching of the gospel started turning people away from Judaism and as a result some were calling Paul a traitor to Caesar. This of course led many to seek Paul, but when they couldn’t find him at the place he was staying they hauled Jason, the host, of Paul and company out into the street. The rulers held Jason to ransom, the terms being that Paul and company had to leave the city, which they did, (Acts 17:1-14).
Now, that makes you think twice about imitating Paul’s walk with the Lord, doesn’t it? That’s why studying the Word of God gives us the hope we need to endure (which is temporary by the way), because what we endure through trials will come to an end when we cross that finish line.
“with the joy of the Holy Spirit,” Our faith is always going to be tested in one way or another. We may have stirred up some unbelieving family members, or our faith may have caused contention in the workplace. Its only with the Holy Spirit that we can contend with the attitude of the world. It certainly didn’t matter to Paul or the disciples how bad it got “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52).
“so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” Verses six and seven are obviously one sentence, in fact the whole chapter is one sentence. However, six and seven go together to complete one thought.
Firstly they heard the Word and were convinced that this is truth, and they heard it from men who were very different in a way the Thessalonians may not have been able to put their finger on straight away. Paul mentioned in verse six that they believed and became examples in adversity, which could have deterred them.
They proclaimed the Word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place their faith in Christ touched. Unlike the Pharisees who blew their own horns as in (Matthew 6:2), “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honoured by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” No, the Thessalonians sang a sweeter song of salvation to such a degree that everyone in the Greek peninsula heard about their radical faith.
“For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.” Just as the Thessalonians trumpeted the Word of God v8, they also walked the walk by example v7. This was akin to Paul’s heart, so much so, that he asked them for prayer to do exactly the same, (2 Thess 3:1). For a believer, asking for prayer is an absolute must. Our hope, just like the Thessalonians, is to hear that trumpet blast of the “Blessed Hope” that we are patiently waiting for.
If you want a better understanding of the why’s and wherefores’ of the spreading of the gospel, read Romans chapters nine and ten. If you’re familiar with the OT, and you don’t have to be a scholar, you will easily identify here, several reasons for the spreading of the gospel.
Their work of faith made them an elect people, for they turned to God from their idols and trusted Jesus Christ. Their labour of love made them an exemplary and enthusiastic people as they lived the Word of God and shared the Gospel. Their patience of hope made them an expectant people, looking for their Saviour’s return.
In these verses, Paul related the second coming of Christ to their salvation. Because they had trusted Christ, they looked for His return with joyful expectancy and knew that they would be delivered “from the wrath to come” (1 Thess 1:10). Paul repeated this truth in (1 Thess 5:9–10), and he elaborated it again in (2 Thess 1:5–10).
When they worshiped idols, the Thessalonians had no hope. But when they trusted “the living God,” they had a living hope (1 Peter 1:2–3). Before Paul came to them with the Gospel, these people were without hope and “without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). Read Psalm 115 for a vivid description of what it is like to worship an idol.
Christians are “children of the living God” (Rom 9:26). Their bodies are the “temples of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16), indwelt by the “Spirit of the living God” (2 Cor 3:3). The church is “the church of the living God” (1 Tim 3:15); and for His church, God is preparing “the city of the living God” (Heb 12:22). The living God has given us a living hope by raising His Son Jesus Christ from the dead.
Two aspects of the Lord’s return must be clarified. First, Jesus Christ will come in the air for His church (1 Thess 4:13–18). This will usher in a period of Tribulation on the earth (1 Thess 5:1–3). At the close of this period, He will return to the earth with His church (2 Thess 1:5–10; Rev 19:11–21), defeat His enemies, and then set up His kingdom (Rev 20:1–6).
The word translated “wait” in (1 Thess 1:10) means “to await someone with patience and confidence, expectantly.” Waiting involves activity and endurance. Some of the Thessalonian believers quit their work and became idle busybodies, arguing that the Lord was coming soon. But if we really believe the Lord is coming, we will prove our faith by keeping busy and obeying His Word. Our Lord’s Parable of the Pounds (Luke 19:11–27) teaches that we must “occupy” (be busy; in this case, invest the money) till He returns.
Christians are waiting for Jesus Christ, and He may return at any time. We are not waiting for any “signs”; we are waiting for the Saviour. We are waiting for the redemption of the body (Rom 8:23–25) and the hope of righteousness (Gal 5:5). When Jesus Christ returns we shall receive new bodies (Phil 3:20–21), and we shall be like Him (1 John 3:1–2). He will take us to the home He has prepared (John 14:1–6), and He will reward us for the service we have given in His name (Rom 14:10–12).
So why are we to wait? There are some verses in the NT that highlight the reason and importance of waiting:
(Heb 9:28), (James 5:7-8), (2 Peter 3:4, 8-9). So, with everything we have discussed, is Paul talking about the Glorious Appearing (second coming) or the Blessed Hope (tribulation).
A local church that truly lives in the expectation of seeing Jesus Christ at any time will be a vibrant and triumphant group of people. Expecting the Lord’s return is a great motivation for soul-winning (1 Thess 2:19–20, 2 Peter 3:8-9) and Christian stability (1 Thess 3:11–13). It is a wonderful comfort in sorrow (1 Thes. 4:13–18) and a great encouragement for godly living (1 Thess 5:23–24). It is tragic when churches forget this wonderful doctrine. It is even more tragic when churches believe it and preach it, but don’t practice it.
Paul remembered how this church was born (1 Thess 1:3), and he gave thanks for their spiritual characteristics: they were elect, exemplary, enthusiastic, and expectant. But churches are made up of individuals. When you and I speak of the church, we probably shouldn’t say “they,” we should say “we.” We are the church! This means that if you and I have these spiritual characteristics, our churches will become what God wants them to become. The result will be the winning of the lost and the glorifying of the Lord.
What every church should be is what every Christian should be: elect (born again), exemplary (imitating the right people), enthusiastic (sharing the Gospel with others), and expectant (daily looking for Jesus Christ to return). Perhaps it is time for an inventory!