1Thessalonians 1 - Outline of 1Thessalonians (MENU page)
The epistle of 1Thessalonians is the earliest of Paul's letters. It was written from Corinth between 52 - 54 AD.
     Following Paul's call into Macedonia (Acts 16:9,10), he and his traveling companions, Silas, Timothy and Luke, traveled to Philippi, where their ministry produced fruit in the form of several new believers, and also met with severe opposition. Paul and Silas were beaten, imprisoned, and ushered out of town. From there, they made their way south to the city of Thessalonica, where Paul presented the Gospel of Christ in the synagogue, over the course of three Sabbaths. According to the account, in Acts 17:1-10, many Jews and Gentiles "believed and consorted with Paul and Silas." These new believers were hungry to hear more, and apparently received further teaching between the Sabbaths. The missionaries had little time to instruct this foundling church, because persecution quickly arose, and Paul and Silas were forced to depart under the cover of darkness. A few months later, Paul wrote this letter, out of deep concern for the wellbeing of the believers whom he had left behind. The breadth of his letter, which touches on all of the essential doctrines of the faith, indicates how thoroughly Paul had laid the foundation for their faith.
     [The ScofRB identifies the following doctrines included in this letter. (Some are addressed several times, in addition to the references given.): Election, 1:4; the Holy Spirit, 1:5,6; Assurance of salvation, 1:5; the Trinity, 1:1,5,6; Conversion, 1:9; the Second Advent of Christ, 1:10; the believer's Walk, 2:12; Sanctification, 4:3; the Day of the LORD, 5:1-3; Resurrection, 4:14-18, the Tripartite nature of man, 5:23.]
     In contrast, today, there are many professing Christians, and whole churches, which give little attention to Christ's return, and to related end time events (eg., 2Pet 3:3,4). However, it is evident that Paul considered these topics of paramount importance, since they are central to both of his letters to the Thessalonians.
 
1. Paul, and Silvanus {ie., Silas}, and Timotheus,
unto the church of the Thessalonians
[which is] in God the Father and [in] the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace [be] unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Note the humility of the apostle. Paul writes as one among equal brothers.
...unto the church...
  • ...of the Thessalonians...- This is the local church. A gathering of believers in a specific location.
  • ...which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.- This is the universal church, the worldwide body of believers, who have been baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12:13; cp. Joh 17:21-23). The unity of the three named co-workers, and also the unity of the local body, are representative of the unity of the whole body, which is in Christ.
Grace and peace...- Paul begins all of his letters with this greeting, always in this order.
It is the Grace of God that brings salvation. It is through that Grace that believers have Peace with God, and also with each other. Eph 2:8,9; Titus 2:11; Rom 5:1
2. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love,
and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the sight of God and our Father;
4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
Paul thanked God for the Thessalonian believers, as he called to mind evidences that their faith was real...
  • your work of faith...- Their faith had been demonstrated in the way they had "turned to God from idols" (v.9b).
    Their salvation rested on their faith, not on their works. But because they had believed God's Word, their lives had been changed as they chose to act in obedience to Him. (cp. Joh 6:28,29; Titus 2:11-14; Jam 2:18)
    Their work of faith was determined by their past decision (ie., to turn to God from idols).
  • your labor of love...- Their faith was being demonstrated in the way they continued "to serve the living and true God" (v.9c).
    Love is a natural motivator for service. This is true even for unbelievers (eg., "He ain't heavy... he's my brother.").
    Love is the prerequisite for acceptable service to the Lord (eg., Joh 14:15; 21:15-17).
    The word for 'labor' depicts difficult trouble and toil. The servant, though weary in the work, presses on, for love of his Master.
    The Thessalonian believers were characterized, by their present service, which was a labor of love for the Lord.
  • your patience of hope...- Their faith was also shown in their confident expectation for the future...
    "...to wait for His Son from heaven" (v.10).
    Although they were presently engaged in difficult work, and in the trials of persecution, they were confident that their Lord would make things right, at His coming. (cp. Heb 11:6; 1Tim 6:14-16)
...knowing {ie., seeing, perceiving}... your election of God.-
The evidences, cited above, convinced Paul of the reality of their relationship to God.
God had "elected" {ie., chosen} them as His own.
The doctrine of 'election' is not easy to comprehend. Yet, Paul knew that these new believers understood his words, for he had taught them well.
"Election" has two sides...
  1. The sovereignty of God -
    As Creator, God has absolute sovereignty over His universe. Man is naturally self-centered, and self-deceived, thinking himself to be the master of his own destiny. But consider...
    • God chose for you to exist. - You did not ask to be born. You had no control over your sex, race, family, nationality, or historical period of life. You have little control over your length of life, or the time and means of your departure.
    • God also chose to give you a limited free will. - You may spend your life as you choose. But He will hold you accountable to the consequences of your choices. cp. Deu 30:19,20; Ecc 12:13,14; Isa 55:1-3; Joh 5:39,40; 7:37; Acts 17:30,31
    "Election" describes our salvation from God's perspective. But on what basis did Paul perceive who was chosen?
  2. The response of the chosen to God's Word -
    The response, of the Thessalonian believers, briefly observed in v.3, is further described in the rest of this chapter.
5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power,
and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance;
as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
6. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord,
having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia,
but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad;
so that we need not to speak any thing.
for our gospel came... and ye became followers of us, and of the Lord... having received the word...-
Paul had observed their response to God's Word. They had believed and obeyed the Gospel message (v.3; cp. 2:13).
But was their response totally their own doing?
"Faith comes by hearing... the word of God" (Rom 10:17). Yet other Thessalonians had heard, and had not believed (Acts 17:4,5).
Those who believed were moved because...
  • our gospel came... not in word only, but also in power...- Heb 4:12; 1Pet 1:23; Rom 1:16
    The Gospel message, more than mere words, is transformative and life giving, for those who receive it.
  • ...and in the Holy Spirit...- Joh 16:7-11
    The Holy Spirit must convict sinners of the truth concerning their hopeless condition, and God's gracious provision, before they can believe it. Conviction of the truth does not guarantee submission to the truth (eg., Acts 5:33; 7:54), but it enables the hearers to choose (eg., Acts 17:10-12).
  • ...in much assurance {lit., full confidence}... as ye know what manner of men we were...-
    The Thessalonians had seen the reality of Christ, in the lives of His messengers.
While the Gospel is freely offered to whosoever will believe (eg., Joh 3:16; Rev 22:17)... from the above points, it is evident that God is also actively drawing men to Christ (Joh 6:44,45; cp. 12:32). Within the doctrine of election, there is tension between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. For another discussion of 'election', see the Notes on Ephesians 1:3-6.
 
The power of God, and the working of His Spirit, which brings the believer to new birth, also transforms him into a new man.
Observe the supernatural change within the Thessalonian believers, who...
  • ...received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost... (v.6)
    "Affliction" and "Joy" are not natural companions.
    But as soon as these had believed, they had come under persecution (Acts 17:4-10).
    Yet, they accepted this suffering with joy, because joy, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, transcends circumstances (Gal 5:22).
    In doing so, they "...became followers of us, and of the Lord..."
    Paul, Silas and Timothy were risking their lives to preach the Gospel (eg., 2:14-16; cp. Acts 15:26).
    The Lord, Himself, had suffered at the hands of sinners to provide the Gospel (1Pet 2:20-25).
  • ...became ensamples {GK=tupos, examples, models}... for other Christians, in their country, to follow.
    Macedonia and Achaia are the northern and southern provinces of Greece.
    Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea were Macedonian cities. Athens and Corinth were in Achaia.
  • ...sounded out {ie., resounded forth, echoed out} the word of the Lord...
    By their word, and life example, the Gospel was being published, not only within Greece, but also in the regions beyond. Wherever Paul went, he found that their testimony, to the truth of God's Word, had preceded him.
9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you,
and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead,
[even] Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
The Thessalonian believers had...
a. turned to God from idols...- Note that the order is not 'from idols to God.'
Paul did not preach against idols. Rather, he preached Christ.
Their "work of faith" (v.3) was in believing the Gospel.
Having received the truth (Joh 14:6), they then rejected falsehood and turned from it. This is repentance.
It is possible for a person to exhibit signs of repentance (eg., with tears over sin), without faith in Christ. But apart from Christ, repentance offers no remedy from the sinful condition, for without Christ there is no life for one who is dead in trespasses and sins. The most sincere desire to turn from sin, cannot enable a man to do so. The power of God unto salvation (deliverance from the power and consequences of sin) is in Christ. (Rom 7:22-25; Eph 2:1)
b. to serve the living and true God...- This is the believer's "labor of love." (v.3)
We love and serve Him, because He first loved us. 2Cor 5:14,15; 1Joh 4:19
c. to wait for His Son from heaven...- This is the believer's "patience of hope." (v.3)
This word for 'wait' connotes 'abiding, remaining, enduring.' We belong to One who loves us, and who is coming again for us (Joh 14:1-3). We are watching for His return, and keeping ourselves reserved for Him. But our waiting should not be passive. Rather, we are to be active in the work committed to us by the Lord. The promised second coming of Christ is not only an expectation of future escape from earthly troubles, but also an incentive to motivate our service for Him, while we dwell here below. Mark 13:33-37

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