1 Thessalonians
A Bible Study

Outline of 1 Thessalonians
I. Greetings [1:1]

II. Matthers Personal & Factual [1:2-3:13]

A. The Thessalonians: Their Conversion and Cause for Thanksgiving (1:2-10)

1. The gospel received (1:2-3)

2. Election demonstrated (1:4-5)

3. Affliction overcome (1:6)

4. Evangelism widespread (1:7-8)

5. Idols replaced (1:9-10)

B. The Preachers: Their Blameless Conduct a Matter of Memory (2:1-12)

1. The preacher's effectiveness (2:1)

2. Persistence (2:2)

3. Language (2:5)

4. Disinterestedness (2:6)

5. Tenderness (2:7)

6. Devotion (2:8)

7. Toil (2:9)

8. Standards (2:10-12)

C. The Thessalonians: Their Persecution a Proof of Reality of Their
Conversion (2:10-12)

1. The Word of God received and active (2:13)

2. The experience of the churches repeated (2:14)

3. The character of the archetypal persecutors summarized (2:15-16)

D. The Preachers: Their Inquiry an Occasion of Relief (2:17-3:10)

1. A visit prevented (2:17-20)

2. A mission inaugurated (3:1-5)

3. Good news reported (3:6-10)

E. The Preachers and the Thessalonians: Both Parties as Subjects
of Prayer (3:11-13)

1. Prayer for the preachers' journey (3:11)

2. Prayer for the church's growth (3:12-13)

III. Matters Practical and Hortatory [4:1-5:24]

A. Holiness - A Divine Requirement (4:1-12)

1. Preliminary encouragement (4:1-2)

2. Sex (4:3-8)

3. Love, peace, and work (4:9-12)

B. Advent Perplexities Answered (4:13-5:11)

1. The Christian dead suffer no disadvantage (4:13-18)

2. The speculative have no prior information (5:1-3)

3. All should be on the alert (5:4-11)

C. Ethical Exhortations (5:12-13)

a. Duties toward pastors (5:12-13)

b. Duties toward church members (5:14-15)

D. Spiritual Exhortations (5:16-22)

E. Prayer for the Readers (5:23-24)

IV. Final Requests & Blessings [5:25-28]

Background of the Thessalonian Letters
From Thessalonica, Paul and his party went to Beroea, then Paul continued alone to Athens. It seems Timothy joined him there ( 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2) but was almost immediately sent back to Thessalonica for news. Paul was acutely anxious to know what had become of the Christians there.

He was in Corinth by the time timothy returned with good news. 1 Thessalonians, written at this point, is full of relief and joy. Paul answers questions that had arisen, and repeats his teaching on matters where the church was weak.

The second letter followed a few months later, reinforcing the teaching and clearing up misunderstandings, particularly over Christ's return.

These two letters are the earliest of Paul's surviving writings (with the possible exception of his letter to Galations). These letters were written only 20 years after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

It might be helpful to trace the locations of Paul and his companions in outline form that relate to the Thessalonian correspondence. Paul's travels were as follows...

1. Paul and Silas fled from Thessalonica to Berea (Acts 17:10). Since Timothy is not mentioned, it is possible that he stayed in Thessalonica or went back to Philippi and then rejoined Paul and Silas in Berea (Acts 17:15)

2. Paul fled to Athens from Berean persecution, leaving Silas and Timothy in Berea (Acts 17:14)

3. Paul sent word back, instructing Silas and Timothy to come to him in Athens (Acts 17:15)

4. Timothy rejoins Paul at Athens and was sent back to Thessalonica (see 3:1-5). Since Silas is not mentioned, it has been conjectured that he went back to Philippi when Timothy went to Thessalonica.

5. Paul moved on to the city of Corinth (Acts 18:1)

6. Silas and Timothy came to Paul in Corinth (see 3:6; Acts 18:5)

7. Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians and sent it to the church.

8. About six months later [51/52 AD] he sent 2 Thessalonians in response to

further information about the church there.

The Author, Date and Place of the Writing
Both external and internal evidence (1:1; 2:18) support the view that Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians from the city of Corinth (see 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). Early church writers are agreed on the matter, with testimonies beginning as early as 140 AD from a man by the name of Marcion.

Paul's known characteristics are apparent in the letter. See 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2, 8-11 compared with Acts 15:36; and 2 Corinthians 11:28.

Historical allusions in the book fit Paul's life as recounted in the book of Acts and in his own letters. Compare 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 with Acts 17:5-10. Also compare 1 Thessalonians 3:6 with Acts 17:16. Few have ever rejected the authorship by Paul.

The first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica is generally dated 51 AD. Weighty support for this date was found in an inscription discovered in Delphi, Greece, that dates Gallio's reign to 51-52 AD and thus places Paul there at the same time. (See Acts 18:12-17).

Except for the possibility of an early date for the book of Galations (48-49 AD) 1 Thessalonians is Paul's earliest canonical letter.

The City of Thessalonica
Thessalonica was a free city, capital of the Roman Macedonian province which is now Northern Greece. It was a prosperous port on the Aegean Sea, across the bay from Mt. Olympus. It also stood on the Egnatian Way, the land trade - route from Dyrrachium on the Adriatic to Byzantium which is now modern Istanbul.

"Thessaloniki" is today a flourishing modern city, center of government for northern Greece, and second only to the city of Athens.

At the time of Paul its population numbered about 200,000 making it the largest city in Macedonia. It was also the capital of its province.

The Church of Thessalonica
The background of the Thessalonian church is found in Acts 17:1-9. Since Paul began his ministry there in the Jewish synagogue, it is reasonable to assume that the new church included some Jews. However, 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; and Acts 17:4 seem to indicate that the church was largely Gentile in membership.

The church was founded about 50 Ad after Paul (with Silas and Timothy) left Philippi second missionary journey. Paul did not stay in Thessalonica long; three successive sabbaths preaching in the synagogue, followed by a short time based at Jason's house.

Then, Jews stired up trouble. Jason and the other Christians were hauled before the magistrates and bound over to keep the peace. For safety's sake the newly - formed church sent the missionaries away. But persecution continued, from Jews and from others.

The Purpose of the Letter
Paul had to leave Thessalonica abruptly (see Acts 17:5-10) after a rather brief stay. Recent converts from paganism ( 1 Thessalonians 1:9) were thus left with little external support in the midst of persecution. Paul's purpose in writing the letter was to encourage the new converts in their trials ( 1 Thessalonians 3:3-5) to give instruction concerning godly living ( 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8) to urge some not to neglect daily work ( 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12) and to give assurance concerning the future of believers who die before Christ returns.
The Theme of the Letter
Although the thrust of the letter is varied ( see the Purpose above) the subject of eschatology (the doctrine of last things) seems to be predominant in both Thessalonian letters.

Every chapter of 1 Thessalonians ends with a reference to the second coming of Jesus Christ, with chapter 4 giving it major consideration. ( See also 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 2:19-20; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:23-24). Thus, the second coming seems to permeate the letter and may be viewed in some sense as its theme. The two letters are often designated as the "eschatological letters" of the Apostle St. Paul.

And now on to the study of the book of 1 Thessalonians...

1. Greetings [1 Thessalonians 1:1]
The introduction gives the names of the authors and readers, and a salutation. The form is conventional to the type of writing done at this time. However, it has been Christianized. A secular example appears in Acts 23:26. This short form in the Thessalonian letter contains all the essentials: authors, readers, the divine names, and the characteristically Pauline "grace...and peace".

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. Only the names are given, in the barest simplicity. The order of seniority is followed. Note that the word "apostle" is not used, mainly because Paul was on such terms of intimate friendship with the readers that it was only natural to omit it. When a man is sure of his place in the hearts of the people he does not keep on saying "I am the minister". In any case, his apostleship was not disputed in the Thessalonian community.

Paul Paul stands first as the leader. The same order of the three is maintained elsewhere (2 Corinthians 1:19). Paul a proud Pharisee who had once persecuted the church (Philippians 3:4-6) who was also a Roman citizen (acts 22:27-38) encountered the living Christ on the road to Damascus and was transformed from Saul the persecutor into Paul the apostle to the Gentiles.

Silvanus called Silas in Acts, is the Latin form of the name and accords with its owner's Roman citizenship (Acts 16:37). Silas was influential in the church of Jerusalem (Acts 15:22) and was a prophet (Acts 15:32). He was chosen by Paul (Acts 15:40) to accompany him on what is traditionally called Paul's second missionary journey. The fact that he was chosen by Paul gives him a subordinate position from the beginning.

Timothy is the junior, and somewhat of a minor character, though not without importance. Timothy is the product of a mixed marriage he had a religious background and some reputation in his "home church". He joined Paul early in his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-3) and was constantly with him. Timothy appears in the initial greeting in a number of Paul's letters; 1 and 2 thessalonians, Philippisans, Colossians, and Philemon.

We also learn that at times Timothy represented the apostle ( 1 Thessalonians 3:2) He had an innate timidity (1 Corinthians 16:10-11) and was affectionate and emotional ( 2 Timothy 1:4-8). Timothy was Paul's spiritual child (1 Corinthians 4:17) which bound them together and fostered the dynamic leadership of the older man.

These three men together point to the universal nature of the church. Paul and Silvanus are Jews, each possessing Roman citizenship; the name of Timothy is Greek and his father was a Greek. Rome united the world of their day; Greek facilitated universal communication; (as much as English in the world today). The Jew stood for the Old Testament with its promise of the coming Messiah.

The church There was but one in the city and every Christian belonged to it. It was the church "consisting of" Thessalonians, not owned by them. In relation to other groups of Christians in other cities or provinces Paul can speak of "churches" in the plural, as we would call a local congregation. In Thessalonica there was only one congregation, one church.

In God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ The association could hardly be closer. Even the preposition in is not repeated before the Lord Jesus Christ. The almost incidental linking of Jesus with God without explanation and still less without any apology, is highly significant.

The Father expresses not only divine identity but spiritual experience. Men may know God in some measure, but it is only in Jesus Christ that God has given Himself to men as Father and only through the Spirit of Christ that they know Him as such. This is what Christmas is all about.

Lord Jesus Christ is the full title. Jesus is the name of the historic person who was seen in Nazareth, Jerusalem, and elsewhere in Palestine. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua and yet He is not any man this man is both Lord and God.

Lord [Greek Kurios] is the word used in the Greek version of the Old Testament for the divine name traditionally rendered as Jehovah. It is of deepest significance that the word used to translate the ineffable name of God should be applied to Jesus. The name of Jesus is Lord.

Christ is Greek for the Hebrew Messiah, the Anointed One. The king who was the subject of prophecy has actually come in the person of the man Jesus.

Grace and Peace The source and the result.

Grace is one of the great New Testament words. It means to be born again. It moves from the superior to the inferior, from the greatest in character and power to the lesser. It is from God to man and not from man to God. It is entirely undeserved. God is not in any sense obligated to be gracious, a fact which is illustrated in the doctrine of election and in Paul's rejection of the picture of an employer paying wages. Wages must be paid for work done - a - debt. Grace is free - gratis!

Peace is an apparently simple word but one with deep undertones. In the normal Greek sense it is the opposite to war or danger. It contains the idea of completeness, wholeness or welfare. In Jesus Christ the believer has peace with God; he may have the peace of God; and he ought to work for peace among men.

There is no verb in the Greek sentence. We may understand the thought of Paul as a statement, a hope, or a prayer. "Grace and peace are actually yours!" is the thought that Paul wants these Christians to have. This is true in fact. But the hope and prayer are appropriate, for grace and peace may be multiplied in men's experience (1 Peter 1:2)

[2] MATTERS PERSONAL AND FACTUAL [1 Thessalonians 1:2-3:13]
Paul and his companions recalled with thanksgiving their earlier visit and the sound conversion of the Thessalonians. They were sure that the readers would remember the evangelistic zeal and pastoral care of the writers and their own warm response to the preachers and to their message, in spite of persecution.

They had been warned of persecution in advance and had survived it. All the more were the authors longing to see their beloved readers. The epistle gives the impression here that Paul was on the defensive against slander.

1. The Thessalonians: Their Conversion a Cause for Thanksgiving (1:2-10)

Thanksgiving was inspired by the remembrance of the Thessalonians. They had received the gospel, the power of which had demonstrated their election, sustained them joyously in affliction and made them widely known as evangelistic believers. Negatively, they had abandoned their dead idols; positively, they were serving the living God and awaiting the Advent of His Son.

What happened at Thessalonica was the work of god. What else could account for the way this little group persecuted, deprived of their teachers from the word go stood firm? More than that, within months they have become an example of unwavering faith to the rest of Greece (1 Thessalonians 1:7) spreading the good news far and wide by word and life. No wonder Paul had cause for thanks.

(a) The gospel received (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)

Unceasing thanksgiving was being offered to God for all the Thessalonians; the faith had taken deep root and was being shown in strenuous lives.

(b) Election demonstrated (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5)

The preaching of the gospel with spiritual conviction and converting power had shown, but its effect on the listeners, that they were among the elect.

(c) Affliction overcome (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

The pressure which had been put upon the Thessalonians by their persecutors had been neutralized by the joy inspired by the Holy Spirit.

(d) Evangelism widespread (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8)

Because of joy of the Holy Spirit, the Thessalonians had spontaneously shared their faith far beyond their own city, as everybody knew. Such a fulfillment of Christian duty had made them a pattern church.

Verse 7: "So that you became an example". To whom were they an example? "To all the believers" who were in Christ before them, in Macedonia to the North and in Achaia to the South. The flames of piety and faith were fanned by reports of the Thessalonians ( see 1 Thessalonians 4:10)

(e) Idols replaced (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)

They could have only one explanation -- their conversion. On hearing the gospel they had turned from idols to God. They were now serving Him, animated by the expectation of His Son's return from heaven.

The gospel in a nutshell comes to mind (John 3:16). Paul had preached the character of God; Jesus His Son, who died to deliver man from judgment; the resurrection; the return of Christ from heaven.

The promise of the Lord's return is specially precious to all who suffer. These letters are short through with it. Question: What comfort can we give to the one we know who is suffering?

2. The Preachers: Their Blameless Conduct a Matter of Memory (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12)

The readers were aware of the impact of the preachers; Paul, Silus, and Timothy. They were fresh from ill-treatment and insult but never the less overcame opposition to their bold proclamation, sincerely carrying out the task divinely laid upon them.

They did not deceive or flatter, nor did they seek their own advantage, glory or convenience. Tenderly they gave of themselves in their ministry of evangelism and edification. They earned their own living and their lives would bear the closest examination.

It is clear that Paul's enemies have been pursuing a campaign of vilification. The Apostle clears himself of their charges by reminding the Christians of what actually happened when he was with them.

Paul did not come as an itinerant quack teacher peddling dubious wares, and out to deceive (1 Thessalonians 2:3). Nor was he on the make in any sense (1 Thessalonians 2:5). Paul came to give not to get ( 1 Thessalonians 2:8) willing to face more trouble while still smarting from the wounds of Philippi (see Acts 16:22 ff). Paul even refused financial support. (1 Thessalonians 2:9)

(a) The preachers' effectiveness ( 1 Thessalonians 2:1)

The readers were reminded, not informed, of the tremendous events which took place when the preachers came to Thessalinica. What kind of men could they be? All that follows in vv. 2-12 gives us the answer to this important question...

(b) Persistence (1 Thessalonians 2:2)

In spite of their previous experience they were not deterred from taking the risks of preaching still.

The events in question have been recorded by Luke in Acts 16:19-24 and they left their mark on Paul (Philippians 1:30). A few years later he gave to the church in Corinth a summary of his sufferings (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) and a fearful list it is. Even so the apostle gives the impression that indignity affected him as much as, if not more than, pain. He was a sensitive soul, not pompous, but with a lively sense of the respect due to him. He was embarrassed at having to be lowered in a basket through a slit in the city wall at Damascus (see 2 Corinthians 11:30-33; Acts 9:23-25). Paul's nature and background would prevent him from regarding the episode as merely an enjoyable schoolboy prank.

It is not hard to imagine Paul, Silvanus and Timothy's emotions as they made their "entrance" into the city of Thessalonica. Would this be Philippi all over again? We may see here an anticipation of Paul's thought and experience. In every city it was being brought home to him the painful cost of preaching the gospel (Acts 20:23). Many a lesser man would have faltered and even given up the work. But Paul took a strong line with a deserter and did not spare himself any more than he did a man by the name of John Mark ( Acts 12:25; 13:13; 15:38)

(c) Motive (1 Thessalonians 2:3-4)

Far from being deluded or giving way to the sensuality of heathen religions or tricking their listeners, the apostles were obeying the divine commission at any cost.

It should be observed that any charges against the preachers in verse 3 are answered. They are not deceived, because the gospel is of divine origin. They do not act from uncleanness because they have been tested and approved by God and are constantly being tested. They are not guilty of guile and trickery because they are responsible to God and are pleasing to Him.

(d) Language ( 1 Thessalonians 2:5)

They did not flatter, as the readers knew. they did not cover their avarice with specious talk.

(e) Disinterested ( 1Thessalonians 2:6)

They did not seek to gain a reputation. It was enough to be apostles of Christ.

(f) Tenderness (1 Thessalonians 2:7)

The preached Word was a manifestation of power, but the preachers were as gentle as a nurse with children.

The "children" in an unstudied way, preserves the thought of a permanence of the Christian fellowship. Children are always the children of their parents, however far away they may be. Forever the preachers and the Thessalonians would be united in the one family of God.

(g) Devotion (1 Thessalonians 2:8)

They spoke the words of the gospel, but into it they put all their nervous energy, and in personal counseling they did not hold themselves back.

It is extremely doubtful if the Thessalonians had church socials in the modern sense, and it is certain that the apostle Paul would have wanted to use the time to better advantage! "Being one with them" and "being one of them" must mean that the preachers identified themselves with the people and sympathetically entered into their experiences and interests.

They loved them as they were. It does not mean that at any time they laid aside their role or forgot who had sent them. They were always ministers of Jesus Christ.

In fact, as true ministers, they were "one with the people" without being "one of them". Their authority as apostles and preachers was not lost. But it was not the bare and abstract authority of the office. It was steeped in love, because the preachers both gave it and received it. The Thessalonians had become "very dear" to them. Question: How is the pastor and the people one? How is the pastor "one with them" without being "one of them"? Is this possible today? How is this done? etc.

(h) (1 Thessalonians 2:9)

They preached at their own expense, imposing no burden of a financial nature on their converts.

The main activity ( and interest) lies in the phrase "we preached". It does not necessarily imply that they worked twenty-four hours every day. They did not keep "office hours". Paul's practice is reflected in the episode at Troas (Acts 20:7-11).

Many of the members would be free only at night, and they seem to have met at the house of Jason (Acts 17:5-7). The preachers did not want to burden "any one" of the Thessalonians, a fact which shows a concern for individuals. It is not hard to visualize the scene: Paul with the company of young believers about himself in the house, speaking incessantly about the kingdom of God and working with his hands while he did so.

Often it had been told a pastor preaching under strange conditions (barns, open air, theaters) but on few occasions as odd as here. But it gave a demonstration of his love of the congregation. Not a cent from them! Question: is there a principle here? When do we pay the pastor and when shouldn't we? Are there pastors today who work as Paul did?

(1) (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12)

The readers themselves could give evidence - as could God - of the impeccable conduct of the preachers as they presented the moral and spiritual demands of discipleship.

Each one of you ( 1 Thessalonians 2:11) Paul counseled inquirers personally, individually.

3. The Thessalonians: Their Persecution as Proof of the Reality of Their Conversion

(1 Thessalonians 2:13-16)

The writers offered thanksgiving to God without intermission because the readers had received the authentic Word of God and it was still active in their lives. They had no need to be surprised by persecution as their experience corresponded with that of churches elsewhere.

The Thessalonians had suffered at the hands of their own compatriots, just as the churches in Judea had suffered from the Jews. The latter may be regarded as typical of all persecutors of the church.

(a) The Word of God received and active (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

It was no mere human speech which the Thessalonians had heard. Speech it was indeed, but it conveyed the Word of God, and they had both heard it and received it so deeply that it was still at work in their hearts.

(b) The experience of the churches repeated (1 Thessalonians 2:14)

The readers were not to regard themselves as an exceptional case, with a unique "problem of suffering" on their hands. They were in the true and noble succession.

for you suffered the same thing The pattern was reproduced. Christians in Judea persecuted by Jews, those in Thessalonica by Macedonians. Persecution may have been instigated by Jews but the local population took it up (Acts 17:8). The "countrymen" were Gentiles, and the church at Thessalonica was largely Gentile also. A possible translation is "you were treated in the same way by your own countrymen..." This leaves much to the imagination of the reader and can be very effective.

(c) The character of the archetypal persecutors summarized (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16)

The writers were not anti-Semitic; but they say in the rejection of the Messiah and the subsequent attitude of the Jews the essence of all persecution.

It is sometimes asked how it is possible for a holy God to use the deeds of sinful men for His purpose. The answer has been vigorously given that "we give him little else to use". If God is indeed the sovereign ruler of the world of men, he must either ignore their deeds, which is abdication, or use them even if they are sinful.

Illustrations of this may be seen in the life of the Old Testament Joseph; in the betrayal by Judas; and in the cross itself. When Joseph privately made himself known to his brothers, he made two striking statements. "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt...So it was not you who sent me here, but God". (Genesis 45:4, 5)

Nowhere does Paul speak so harshly of his own people. His tone is prophetic. there is a point of no return for those who implacably oppose God. Judgment is as certain as if it had come already (v. 16b)

4. The Preachers: Their Inquiry as Occasion of Relief (1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:10)

Paul is as close to his converts as parents to child. No matter how far away, they are deep in his heart and thoughts. The knowledge that they are in trouble fills him with unbearable anxiety.

Paul's happiness - his life, even - depends on their continuance and progress in the faith. So he longs to see them and hear from them.

He is even prepared to face Athens alone, rather than do without news. So Timothy's welcome report brings the apostle an influx of joy, a new lease of life!

Separation from the beloved people was anguish and the apostles were eager to pay a return visit, but were prevented. Unable to endure the uncertainty, they sent Timothy to stiffen the moral of the church in its afflictions and to find out how the people were faring in their spiritual warfare.

His return brought good news of The Thessalonians' steadfastness in faith and love and their constant regard for the preachers which the apostles thankfully received as if it were life itself. It sustained them in their affliction and in their longing to return once more to round off the faith of the Thessalonians. The whole section throbs with deep feeling.

(a) A visit prevented (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20)

In their feeling of desolation the preachers resolved more then once to return to the Thessalonians, but Satan blocked the fulfillment of their plans. This was all the more frustrating as they had entertained such high hopes for the church: It would be their joy and glory at the Second Advent.

(b) A mission inaugurated (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5)

The suspense was more than they could bear. Timothy was sent to deal with a situation in which afflictions were in danger of becoming temptations, in spite of the fact that the church had already been told that afflictions are native to the Church.

We told you beforehand... (1 Thessalonians 3:4) First century Christians were taught from the outset to expect trouble and suffering.

(c) Good news reported (1 Thessalonians 3:6-10)

Timothy's return and report was a gospel in itself, inspiring new life in the hard-pressed preachers. They could not adequately express their thankfulness for their new joy. They prayed the more ardently that they might visit the Thessalonians again and complete their ministry among them.

We have been comforted about you through your faith The news from Thessalonica braced them. The faith of the church was the great concern of the preachers (1 Thessalonians 3:2, 5). To learn that it was sound and strong encouraged them in their distress and affliction and to face it. For the word comforted see past discussion on 1 Thessalonians 2:3, 11; 3:2. We need not think that Timothy set out deliberately to "persuade with authority". His report in itself would do that. The reason is the faith, love remembrance and longing of verse 6.

5. The Preachers and the Thessalonians: Both Parties as Subjects of Prayer (3:11-13)

Paul prays for reunion, and for love and holiness in the church.

Satan had perverted the preachers from visiting the church again. Prayer was therefore offered that the divine providence would bring them to the Thessalonians. The news had shown that their faith and love had remained constant. The only possible prayer was therefore for increase - that it might "abound".

(a) Prayer for the preachers' journey ( 1 Thessalonians 3:11)

It was not that they did not know the road. They needed the divine providence to ensure that they actually traveled on it.

(b) Prayer for the church's growth (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)

The prayer was not for any kind of love, no matter what. They already had Christian love. The preachers prayed that it might overflow. Even this had a further purpose, that the Lord might so hallow them that the divine scrutiny would find no defect at the Second Advent.


After preliminary recognition of progress made by the readers in their walk with God, the preachers recalled the instructions which they had originally given. God willed the sanctification of the Thessalonians which, in view of the contemporary situation, was expounded as a sexual abstinence.

Love of the brotherhood did not need to be mentioned, but restless excitability and idleness were to be avoided. Some distressing misconceptions about the Second Advent were cleared away and watchfulness advocated. This was to be a means of mutual encouragement for which an theological foundation was suggested. Exhortations of an ethical and spiritual nature followed in some detail, culminating in prayer for the readers.

1. Holiness - A divine Requirement ( 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12)

The Thessalonians already knew that holiness was required of them. They were obligated to act on their knowledge by abstaining from all illicit sex. Sex was indeed to be regarded as within the sphere of holiness rather than of heathen passion and selfish excess.

The readers knew that God would judge in these matters, for holiness was the very air which Christians should have breathed from the time of their conversion. The given of he Holy Spirit was not to be slighted. They were already manifesting Christian love. They were urged to continue ion this more and more, to refrain from feverish speculation and a disinclination to work, to preserve the peace of the church and to remember the importance of "public relations".

(a) Preliminary encouragement (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)

A foundation was laid by a reminder of the commands given by the preachers during their visit. The commands had been received and obeyed; the readers' walk was pleasing God. This was recognized for their encouragement. Now they were urged to "abound" in it the more.

(b) Sex (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)

On sexual maters pagan standards of sexual behavior fell far short of Jewish and Christian ones. The pull of the old ways was strong for the young converts.

To this day this pull is still strong on the young therefore Paul's words are needed today just as they were needed in the year 51 AD.

God's immediate requirement was holiness in matters of sex. This was its point of impact at the time. The negative emphasis was due to the prevailing social conditions and the religious practices of heathenism..

The rights of the present or future husband were to be respected. Looming over human behavior and human rights was the judgment of God. He who gave the Holy Spirit had called for holiness form the time of every man's conversion. He was not to be slighted.

(c) Love, peace, and work (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12)

Already taught by God, the readers needed to exhortation to love of the brotherhood. They were urged to continue in this more and more and to set certain aims before themselves. They should live a quiet life, attend to their own affairs and work for their living. This would avoid giving the church a bad name for being parasites.

On Christian love and right living even where love already exists there is always room from the Christian for more.

The Greeks despised manual labor. There were idlers in the church quite happy to sponge on the generosity of fellow Christians. But Paul worked with his hands and encouraged others to do the same. The prospect of Jesus' return was a great temptation to opt out of hum - drum daily work. (see 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12)

2. Advent Perplexities Answered (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11)

On the subject of the Lord's return two problems have arisen out of Paul's teaching on the subject/

a. Some had died in the months between Paul's departure and the writing of the letter. So will Christians who die before Christ returns come out of their tombs? ( 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

The Answer: Far from it, says Paul, They will be raised first when Christ comes. Dead and living together will join in the Lord's triumph and enjoy His presence.

b. When will the Lord come again? ( 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)

The Answer: No one knows. But He will come suddenly and unexpectedly - we need to be ready. A church predicted that the Lord would return on October 22, 1992. That day came and went. Soon another date was mentioned, September 56, 1994. Did the Lord return then? Of course not. Some predict close to the date of January 1, 2000. Will the Lord return on that date? He might, but no one knows He could return before. He might come after that date. The point is that no one knows when the Lord will return, so we must be ready at all times.

(a) The Christian dead suffer no disadvantage (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

The church had obviously been sorrowing because hope had mistakenly been abandoned for recently deceased members, who, it was thought had by their death lost the blessings of the Second Advent. On the contrary, they would be with the Lord no less than those who survived until His coming.

Sorrow for the Christian dead had obscured the Christian hope. When the Lord came, the dead in Christ would be resurrected and would be with Him.

The Advent was pictured in vivid colors but the main and practical - point was the presence of the dead with the living Christians in closer fellowship with the Lord forever. The readers should encourage one another by dwelling on this theme.

(b) The speculative have no prior information ( Thessalonians 5:1-3)

The readers knew that the Lord would come with the suddenness of a thief in the night. Men who urged that all was peaceful and secure implied the possession of knowledge that the Lord was not yet at hand. Sudden destruction would undeceive them.

(c) All should be on the alert (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11)

The Thessalonians, as children of the light, were not in such darkness that the coming of the Lord would surprise them and overwhelm them. They should therefore avoid the characteristics of night. They should not be unconscious like sleepers nor drunken like revelers.

They should rather be marked by an alert expectation in thought and a sobriety in life; by sober expectation without fantastic speculation. For they had a sure hope. The Lord who had died for them intended to keep them with Him forever. They had therefore the means to encourage and build one another up in the hope and confidence of the Lord.

3. Ethical Exhortations (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15)

In vies of the prevailing restlessness, the church members were asked to pay greater regard to their pastors, who were toiling among them in pastoral care and admonition. The nature of their work should call out Christian love. There were duties to be mutually discharged among the members and the good of all should be sought.

On these general matters time and space is running out. But Paul manages to pack practical and characteristic commands into these few verses.

(a) Duties toward pastors ( 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)

The pastors were spreading themselves into the care and teaching of their flock. Such important work should inspire both respect and love. An earlier attention to this might have saved many tears.

Question: Paul indicates that the important role of the pastor is in preaching and teaching. What areas of the work of the parish ought the members be involved with? Are there areas where the pastor might not be involved with? What is the line? Where ought there be a discussion for such limits?

(b) Duties toward church members (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15)

Needs were matched by duties; admonition for the idle, comfort for the faint hearted, help for the weak, long - suffering toward all. Retaliation was ruled out: the good of all should always be sought by all.

Question: On paper this goal is all find and good. But how do we accomplish this among us? How does it work in our day to day life and work?

4. Spiritual Exhortations ( 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22)

The sharp, staccato commands in this section (seventeen commands to be exact) admit no exceptions. Always the readers were to rejoice, pray, give thanks; to encourage spiritual utterance; to test everything and keep the good; to avoid every kind of evil.

All this will keep us as Christians working long and hard until the Lord returns in glory.

5. Pray for the Readers (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

The substance of he prayer was the readers' complete sanctification, maintained even in the while light of the Second Advent. Its foundation was the faithfulness of him who was ever calling them onward.

All that we do for the Lord here in our church is for the good of all. All the work that is done in the name of Jesus is done for the good of those who belong. The sermon, the Bible study, the calling, the prayer, the visitations, are all done for the good of the people of God which make up the congregation. The pastor works for the people and for the Lord not for his ego, his own glory, or to make a name for himself.

[4] FINAL REQUESTS AND BLESSINGS (1 Thessalonians 5:25-28)

Prayer was ought and greetings given. The letter was to be read publicly, like a sermon. It ended as it had begun -with the grace of God.

At the beginning Paul was hoping to refresh the people's spirit with an access of grace; at the end, after writing fully and dealing with problems, he left grace with them. It can only mean that the epistle itself is a "means of grace". Holy Scripture, like the Holy Communion, is a means of grace.

Paul's prayer is comprehensive; for the whole man in every aspect. Authority sits beside humility. Paul, who never ceases to pray for his readers, knows how much he needs their prayers as well.

A holy kiss ( 1 Thessalonians 5:26) See 2 Corinthians 13:12. The kiss had become the customary Christian greeting in the early church. It was a sign of close fellowship. It was practiced at the communion service when the peace of the Lord was shared. Early Church fathers tell us that it was men to men and women to women. It was a mouth to mouth kiss! Because of our culture today such a practice is not followed today. The full impact of our fellowship in Christ however has not nor can it change.

Thus ends our study of 1 Thessalonians...


Concordia Self Study Bible New International Version, Robert G. Hoerber Editor Concordia Publishing House St. Louis, MO. 1986 pp.1832-33; 1840-1841

Ronald A. Ward Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Word Books Publisher, Waco, TX. 1975