1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.
- As is Paul’s usual custom, the epistle begins with salutations from Paul and others in his company, a naming of the recipients, and a short blessing.
- Interestingly, 1 & 2 Thess. are the only epistles in which Paul does not add a description of himself or those with him (Compare to Colossians 1.1). Perhaps this is due to the early writing of these epistles or his comfort level with the church.
- The writing also suggest that the epistle’s authorship is actually shared between the three men listed. The first person plural pronoun “we” is used throughout the book.
- “Silas” – see Acts 15.22-34. An abbreviated form of the longer, Silvanus. Leader in the church in Jerusalem. Also ministered at the church in Antioch. Accompanied Paul on his 2nd missionary journey (Acts 15.40).
- “Timothy” – Originally from Lystra. Mother was a messianic jew and his father was a non-believing Greek. Constant companion to Paul throughout his ministry, Paul’s “son in the faith”.
- “church” – the term church, in it’s broadest meaning can simply refer to an assembly of social, religious, or political gatherings.
- However, Paul gives the reader a couple of qualifiers which sets this group apart from others. “In God the Father” – 1) “God” – meaning the God of the Old Testament, whom both Jews and Christians worshipped, and 2) “the Father” – carries the ideas of authority and benevolence. “and the Lord Jesus Christ” – Jesus is designated as “the Christ” the promised one from the Old Testament and as “Lord” or Master. Jesus’ designation as “Lord” become more widely used after his resurrection, though it isn’t completely absent in gospel narratives.
- “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2.9-11)
- Paul lists two blessings which flow from knowing Christ: grace and peace.
- Paul’s epistles follow the same format of a common Hellenistic style of letter. However, the usual greeting of “be glad” (chairein) is replaced with “grace” (charis) and “peace” (shalom).
2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.
- Paul begins, as is his custom, with a thanksgiving/prayer for the recipients. (In Galatians, this is notably absent.) This thankful prayer will carry through the remainder of the chapter.
- APP: Be thankful for fellow believers. Pray for fellow believers.
- Paul’s adverbs of “always” and “continually” add a bit of conviction in the way we should pray, while also adding encouragement that God hears. Paul believed in prayer and we should as well.
3 We 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.
- Paul expressed thanksgiving for the church’s unwavering kingdom work.
- Although “faith, hope, and love” are not the focal point of this verse, Paul often mentions these three together as pillars of Christian character (1 Cor. 13.13). Faith, hope, and love serve as catalyst for us to participate in God’s work. (“work produced by faith”, “labor prompted by love”, “endurance inspired by hope”). It is the Spirit who works within us which results in our gospel work. We cannot minister apart from the Spirit.
- Our faith, love, and hope are in the Lord Jesus Christ. The object of our affection often determines the focus of our lives.
4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.
- Within the context of this letter, Paul’s primary objective is not to expound theologically upon God’s election, but use it as a tool to promote encouragement and a since of genuine belonging. Romans 9 deals with the topic theologically.
- APP: to be chosen means we are “loved by God”.
- In verse 5, Paul addressed the question, “How do we know that verse 4 is true for us?” Paul’s answer, in short, you believed the gospel.
- QUES: What causes someone to hear and respond to the gospel of Christ?
- 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Cor. 4.3-6)
- 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” 41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” 43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6.35-40)
- Paul’s argument is that the gospel words they spoke were empowered by the Spirit, which resulted in conviction of sin, resulting in trust in Christ. Paul has experiential knowledge of this from past experience (“For we know” v4).
6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
- Adding further assurance, the Thessalonians believed and lived out their faith within a hostile context.
- “Conviction is invisible without action.” – D. Michael Martin. NAC: 1 Thessalonians. p. 59.
- Paul gives us all great advice here. Find someone in the faith who is further along than you, make sure they love the Lord, and do what they do.
- The only plausible explanation for joy in the midst of persecution is the super natural working by the Spirit.
- Some modern theologies hold out the gospel and faith to be the source of escaping suffering and the vehicle for blessing. This notion is contrary to the teachings of Jesus and of the New Testament. Instead, the gospel may indeed be a source of temporary suffering, but more importantly, one of eternal joy.
7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
- Not only should we model our lives after those firm in their faith, but our lives should also serve as models to others.
- We see within verse 6 and 7 a principle of discipleship that has often been ignored in American Christianity. Be invested in and invest your life in others.
8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it,
- Not only did the Thessalonians believers serve as models of conduct, they also communicated the “Lord’s message”.
- A quote often used today is “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” We have adopted this into our lives as a justification to simply live our our faith and never share the gospel message literally with words. This is dangerous.
- “14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10.14-15)
- APP: “your faith in God has become known everywhere” – if there is only one thing we are known for, may it be our faith.
- “rang out” – lit. “a resounding report that is widely heard”
- APP: “we do not need to say anything about it” – We should live a life that preaches our own funeral.
9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
- In verses 9 and 10 Paul pays their reputation two complements. The first here is their turning from idols to serve the true God.
- Paul continues to encourage their perseverance, earlier because of God’s genuine work within them, now because of their genuine work for God.
- In many ways, Christianity is a life lived in continually turning from idols to serve God. The word “serve” carries with it the current condition of the church, not something that they had did in the past. Faith is to be continually lived out in the lives of believers, not something that is exercised at one moment in our past.
10 and to wait for his Son from heaven,whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
- Second, while the church served, they also waited. The biblical word “wait” has imbedded within it, the idea of anticipation or a looking forward to. The return of Christ excited the church, which manifested itself in service.
- They await a resurrected Son of God.
- Jesus’ resurrection validates Him as legitimate
- It ensures that he is able to rescue.
- They await a rescuing Son of God.
- Jesus rescues all believers from the divine justice of God against all sin.
- Seldom do we think of or speak of the wrath of God, but it is a valuable characteristic of God, a just reaction flowing from the holiness of God against sin. (Rom. 1.18)