1 Thess. Introuction

1 Thessalonians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The Apostle Paul
Very seldom questioned to letter from the Apostle
1 Thessalonians 1:1 ESV
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
1 Thessalonians 2:18 ESV
because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.
The language and style are consistent with the Apostle Paul’s writings.
What about Silvanus & Timothy?
In addition to 2 Thess., the letters of Philippians and Philemon include another name (Timothy) in the greeting.
It is worth noting that what is unique to 1 & 2 Thess. is that the majority of the 1 person verbs are plural (96% & 89.5% respectively according to Green).
There are only 3 verses in which the 1 person verb appears singular.
1 Thessalonians 2:18 (ESV)
because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.
1 Thessalonians 3:5 (ESV)
For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
1 Thessalonians 5:27 (ESV)
I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
In light of these considerations, it is seems likely that these plural verbs are meant to show the full support of Paul’s companions, as MacArthur suggests. Some suggest however that that this may suggest that while the Apostle Paul should be understood as the only inspired author, that Silvanus and Timothy participated in the composition of these letters (1 & 2 Thess.) under the oversight of Paul.
Bottom line: the Apostle Paul should be considered the inspired author of this epistle. Whether or not Timothy and Silas provided any contribution to the letter is unclear.


Timothy’s report
We know Paul wrote 1 Thess. after Timothy provided him a report (in Corinth) about the Thessalonian church:
1 Thessalonians 3:6–7 ESV
But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.
The timing of Paul’s 3rd missionary journey
We know that Paul write this letter from Corinth where Timothy and Silas were reunited with him during his 2nd missionary journey.
1st Missionary journey: Cyprus, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe
2nd Missionary journey: Syria, Cilicia, Lystra, Phrygia, Galatia, Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, Bereaa, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Caesarea, Jerusalem and Antioch
3rd Missionary journey: Galatia, Phrygia, Ephesus, Corinth, Macedonia, Greece, Achaia, Troas, Miletus, Tyre, Ptolemais, Caesarea and Jerusalem
We will see in Acts 17, that Paul’s experience in Thessalonica was not all pleasant. Much fruit was granted, but there was trouble to the point where Paul needed to be smuggled out of the city.
Question: what does the fact that Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica to check up on the church suggest about Paul’s relationship with the Thessalonian church?
This, combined with the timing of his missionary journey to Macedonia with Timothy and Silas, dates this epistle around 50 or 51 AD.

Religious Context

The beginning of the Thessalonian mission
Acts 17:1–9 ESV
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
Converted out of idolatry
Those who became Christians that day, and all others in Thessalonica who placed their faith in Christ through Paul’s ministry, forsook their idols as a result of their new life in Christ.
About idol worship in Thessalonica
The Letters to the Thessalonians (V. Religion in Thessalonica)
“The union between religion and government reached its climax in the imperial cult. The worship of the king as a god enjoyed a long history in the East. In Macedonia itself, Alexander the Great received divine honors that were related to the “revelations” he received concerning his own divinity at Delphi in Greece and Siwa in Egypt.”
This is the backdrop to the instruction regarding the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thess. 2.
2 Thessalonians 2:3–4 ESV
Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
Many of the Thessalonians who responded to the preaching of the gospel repented of this form of idol worship.
The Letters to the Thessalonians (V. Religion in Thessalonica)
“In his extant epigrams, Philip of Thessalonica, for example, makes mention of more than twenty deities who played more than a formal role in people’s lives...”
Their relationship with the gods
The relationship with these gods was often transactional in nature: do this for me and I’ll do that for you.
The Thessalonians did not always think of the gods as benevolent
13 Lives - Main religion is Buddhist - apologizing to their god.
Seems extreme, but in what ways have you observed this transactional posture show up in a relationship with the true God? Why is this so egregious?
Thessalonica was a city full of idolatry that revolved around sexual immorality, so it’s no surprise that those who were converted out of that religious landscape needed pointed instruction concerning sexual purity (See 1 Thess 4:3-8)
Repenting of idol worship came with a price
Those who responded to the gospel did so in opposition to the culture, which considered the practice of the religions of the day to be not just a personal act, but also a civic one.
To break from any of the accepted religions would have provoked strong reaction from the community because the gods they worshipped were regarded as integral to the stability of the families of that culture.
This makes clear the significance of Paul’s statement when he says
1 Thessalonians 1:9 (ESV)
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
The conversion of the Thessalonians to the living God also caused confusion regarding their future. They were questioning if they had cause for any real hope.


Mission Interrupted
After completing his first missionary journey, Paul intended to visit the churches he had planned on another missionary journey and then travel to nothern Turkey to proclaim the gospel and plant more churches.
Before he could travel northward, he received what is often called the Macedonian vision, in which a man said, “come.... help us.”
Acts 16:9 ESV
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
Founded in 316 BC and was named after the sister of Alexander the Great.
After the Alexander’s conquests, it was thought that Macedonia needed a more prominent city, so Thessalonica was built.
Problems from time cut short
Despite Paul’s short visit to Thessalonica, there was a significant amount of fruit though his ministry in the city.
Acts 17:4 ESV
And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.
He was run out of town (see Acts 17:5-10), but despite his hasty exit from the city, Paul continued to be mindful and in prayer for this young church.
And because the church was so young, and because Paul’s teaching was cut short, some problems arose that required Paul’s attention:
Just an observation: we must remain vigilant for theological clarity and precision even when we see good things happening.
Some from the city opposed Christianity and sought to discredit it by making accusations against Paul. They accused him of being money-hungry and self-serving.
There also arose a concern regarding one’s death and the return of Christ. Essentially, some worried that if a person died before Christ returned, that person would be lost forever.
Question: Many of the church experienced distress because of a faulty belief. The same can be true today in the church, so what is crucial to be true in our church to help guard against this. What needs to be true of us?
So Paul wrote this letter to address some of the personal attacks, the confusion that arose regarding Christ’s return and how the gospel impacts daily living.

The Day of the Lord

The encouragement in the 2nd coming of Christ
The second coming of Christ is encouraging
The Thessalonians were taught that Jesus would return, but they did not understand what impact Christ’s second coming should have on their understanding of those who die before He returns. This resulted in their grieving that was no different than the grieving of unbelievers.
Paul’s Pastoral Response
1 Thessalonians 4:13–15 ESV
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
Hope is based upon the death and resurrection of Jesus
Jesus will bring the dead in Christ with Him when He returns
The dead in Christ who return with Him, will precede those who are alive.
Paul’s further clarification on Christ’s return
1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 ESV
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Christ’s second coming is all about Christ. Not an antichrist, not what what took place just before He returned, not how long events before and after His return may last, not the 144,000, not the mark of the beast. When it comes to the second coming of Christ, the center of His second coming is Christ Himself.
Of course, all the other issues mentioned above matter, and should be considered and thought through, but our hope is in the fact that, one day, Jesus will return.
When Christ returns, the dead in Christ will accompany Him and living Christians will meet Him in the air. What is made clear here is death will no longer be a separator among God’s people.
The second coming of Jesus marks the beginning the Christians’ eternal state. We will always be with the Lord
The Lord’s second coming is meant to be an encouragement for Christians now.
Judgement & Preparation
1 Thessalonians 5:1–11 ESV
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
The images of the thief in the night and labor pains that come upon a pregnant woman makes clear that the second coming of Christ will be a shocking, terrible surprise to unbelievers.
But Christians are not in darkness, so that day will not be a surprise to Christians. No one knows the day and time, but Christians know Jesus is coming again.
The certainty of Christ’s second coming is meant to be a comfort and hope for the people of God, but is also meant to encourage them to live faithfully now, with full assurance that our efforts to please God are not in vain.
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