1 Thessalonians

by Ken Cayce

Ken Cayce All rights reserved.


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1 Thessalonians Explained

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Book of 1 Thessalonians Explained

Author and Date: The Apostle Paul identified himself twice as the author of this letter (1:1; 2:18). Silvanus (Silas), and Timothy (3:2, 6), Paul's traveling companions on the second missionary journey when the church was founded (Acts 17:1-9), were also mentioned in Paul's greeting (1:1). Though Paul was the single inspired author, most of the first person plural pronouns (we, us, our), refer to all 3. However, during Timothy's visit back to Thessalonica, they refer only to Paul and Silvanus (3:1-2, 6). Paul commonly used such editorial plurals because the letters came with the full support of his companions.

Paul's authorship has not been questioned until recently by radical critics. Their attempts to undermine Pauline authorship have failed in light of the combined weight of evidence favoring Paul such as:

(1) The direct assertions of Paul's authorship (1:1; 2:18);

(2) The letters perfect correlation with Paul's travels in (Acts 16-18);

(3) The multitude of intimate details regarding Paul; and

(4) The confirmation by multiple, early historical verifications starting with Marcion's canon (in A.D. 140).

The first of Paul's two letters written from Corinth to the church at Thessalonica is dated (ca. A.D. 51). This date has been archeologically verified by an inscription in the temple of Apollos at Delphi (near Corinth), which dates Gallio's service as proconsul in Achaia to (A.D. 51-52; Acts 18:12-17). Since Paul's letter to the churches of Galatia was probably written in (ca. A.D. 49-50), this was his second piece of canonical correspondence.

"Time of Writing": Since this epistle was certainly written during Paul's long stay at Corinth (Acts 18:5; 1 Thess. 3:6), the date can easily be fixed. An inscription discovered at Delphi (dated from the summer of A.D. 52), refers to the proconsulate of Gallio, a position held for only two years. Paul arrived at Corinth before Gallio assumed this position, perhaps a year earlier. Thus, the time of the writing of 1 Thessalonians must have been the (summer or fall of A.D. 51).

Background - Setting: Thessalonica (modern Salonica), lies near the ancient site of Therma on the Thermaic Gulf at the northern reaches of the Aegean Sea. This city became the capital of Macedonia (ca. 168 B.C.), and enjoyed the status of a "free city" which was ruled by its own citizenry (Acts 27:6), under the Roman Empire. Because it was located on the main east-west highway, Via Egnatia, Thessalonica served as the hub of political and commercial activity in Macedonia, and became known as "the mother of all Macedonia". The population in Paul's day reached 200,000 people.

Paul had originally traveled 100 miles from Philippi via Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica on his second missionary journey (A.D. 50; Acts 16:1 - 18:22). As his custom was upon arrival, he sought out the synagogue in which to teach the local Jews the gospel (Acts 17:1-2). On that occasion, he dialogued with them from the Old Testament concerning Christ's death and resurrection in order to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the promised Messiah (Acts 17:2-3). Some Jews believed and soon after, Hellenistic proselytes and some wealthy women of the community also were converted (Acts 17:4). Mentioned among these new believers were Jason (Acts 17:5), Gaius (Acts 19:29), Aristarchus (Acts 20:4), and Segundus (Acts 20:4).

Because of their effective ministry, the Jews had Paul's team evicted from the city (Acts 17:5-9), so they went south to evangelize Berea (Acts 17:10). There Paul had a similar experience to Thessalonica with conversions followed by hostility, so the believers sent Paul away. He headed for Athens, while Silvanus and Timothy remained in Berea (Acts 17:11-14). They rejoined Paul in Athens (compare Acts 17:15-16 with 3:1), from which Timothy was later dispatched back to Thessalonica (3:2). Apparently, Silas afterwards traveled from Athens to Philippi while Paul journeyed on along to Corinth (Acts 18:1). It was after Timothy and Silvanus rejoined Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:5), that he wrote 1 Thessalonians in response to Timothy's good report of the church.

Paul undoubtedly had multiple reasons for writing, all coming out of this supreme concern for the flock from which he had been separated. Some of Paul's purposes clearly included:

(1) Encouraging the church (1:2-10);

(2) Answering false allegations (2:1-12);

(3) Comforting the persecuted flock (2:13-16);

(4) Expressing his joy in their faith (2:17 - 3:13);

(5) Reminding them of the importance of moral purity (4:1-8);

(6) Condemning the sluggard lifestyle (4:9-12);

(7) Correcting a wrong understanding of prophetic events (4:13 - 5:11);

(8) Defusing tensions within the flock (5:12-15); and

(9) Exhorting the flock in the basics of Christian living (5:16-22).

Historical - Theological Themes: Both letters to Thessalonica have been referred to as "the eschatological epistles". However, considering their more extensive focus upon the church, they would better be categorized as the church epistles. Five major themes are woven together in 1 Thessalonians:

(1) An apologetic theme with the historical correlation between (Acts and 1 Thessalonians);

(2) An ecclesiastical theme with the portrayal of a healthy, growing church;

(3) A pastoral theme with the example of shepherding activities and altitudes;

(4) an eschatological theme with the focus on future events as the church's hope; and

(5) A missionary theme with the emphasis on gospel proclamation and church planting.

First and second Thessalonians comprise some of the earliest New Testament writings. The first epistle was penned at Corinth by the apostle Paul in response to Timothy's report on the progress of the church they had recently established there (3:1-6).

Paul, along with Silas and Timothy, founded the church at Thessalonica on his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-14). The apostle had been drawn to this important Roman port after seeing a vision in which a Macedonian man was calling for help (Acts 16:9).

"The City". Thessalonica (Salonika today), had been named (in 315 B.C.), by Cassander after his wife, Alexander the Great's half-sister. Under the Romans the city, famous for its hot springs, burgeoned to a population of over 200,000. It was situated strategically on the Via Egnatia, the main Roman highway from east to west. Its sheltered harbor made an ideal naval station. The city was a natural center for traffic moving in all directions. In Paul's day, it was the capital of Macedonia. Although the provincial governor was headquartered there, he exercised no authority over Thessalonica. As a free city, it was ruled by politarchs and enjoyed political autonomy.

As a military and commercial center, Thessalonica became famous for its wealth as well as its vice, attracting a strange mixture of Roman high society and pagan sensuality (Acts 17:4; 1 Thess. 4:1-8). It also attracted merchants from other parts of the empire, including numerous Jews (Acts 17:4). The nucleus of the church was formed from this group of Jews, although (1 Thessalonians 1:9), indicates that the Apostle to the Gentiles had his greatest success among the non-Jewish peoples of the city (Acts 17:4).

"The Church". In Europe Paul and his companions had gone first to Philippi (Acts 16:12), where they established a church and were miraculously delivered from the jail. Leaving Philippi, they traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica. Going first to the Jewish synagogue, Paul there won his first converts, and met his most serious opposition. His ministry in the city lasted less than a month. During that time he worked as a tentmaker, not wishing to burden the fledgling assembly with his needs, and spent the balance of his time at the home of Jason, organizing the new believers into a church.

But almost immediately the Jews brought Paul before the politarchs and had him expelled from the city. He went on the Berea, meeting great initial success, but was again opposed by the Thessalonian Jews who dogged his trail and incited the people to riot against him. Paul barely escaped with his life, traveling to Athens where his message was received with little enthusiasm. From Athens Paul dispatched Timothy to check on the situation in the Thessalonian church (3:2).

"Occasion and Purpose". After all this persecution and rejection of the gospel, Paul came to Corinth (Acts 18:1), "in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling" (1 Cor. 2:3). When Silas and Timothy returned bearing good news about the Macedonian churches, Paul was greatly encouraged and pressed forward with his work (Acts 18:4-5). But the Thessalonians were also reportedly having difficulties.

Gentiles, and especially Jews, were impugning Paul's sincerity, defaming him as a wandering charlatan who had deceived them. The church was also somewhat confused about the second coming of Christ. Some members worried about believers who had died before His return. Others considered it unnecessary to continue working, since Christ would return at any time. Still others were sinking back into the immorality of the culture. There was also a crisis in the leadership; many of the rank-and-file apparently were being offended by certain tactless elders. These and other minor difficulties occasioned Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians.


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1 Thessalonians 1
1 Thessalonians 2
1 Thessalonians 3
1 Thessalonians 4
1 Thessalonians 5

1 Thessalonians 1

1 Thessalonians Chapter 1

1 Thessalonians 1:1 "Paul, and Silvanus, 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."

1 Thessalonians 1:2 "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;"

1 Thessalonians 1:3 "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;"

1 Thessalonians 1:4 "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God."

1 Thessalonians 1:5 "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."

1 Thessalonians 1:6 "And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:"

1 Thessalonians 1:7 "So that ye were examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia."

1 Thessalonians 1:8 "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."

1 Thessalonians 1:9 "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;"

1 Thessalonians 1:10 "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, [even] Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come."

1 Thessalonians 2

1 Thessalonians Chapter 2

1 Thessalonians 2:1 "For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:"

1 Thessalonians 2:2 "But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention."

1 Thessalonians 2:3 "For our exhortation [was] not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:"

1 Thessalonians 2:4 "But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts."

1 Thessalonians 2:5 "For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God [is] witness:"

1 Thessalonians 2:6 "Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor [yet] of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ."

1 Thessalonians 2:7 "But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:"

1 Thessalonians 2:8 "So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us."

1 Thessalonians 2:9 "For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God."

1 Thessalonians 2:10 "Ye [are] witnesses, and God [also], how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:"

1 Thessalonians 2:11 "As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father [doth] his children,"

1 Thessalonians 2:12 "That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory."

1 Thessalonians 2:13 "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received [it] not [as] the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe."

1 Thessalonians 2:14 "For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they [have] of the Jews:"

1 Thessalonians 2:15 "Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:"

1 Thessalonians 2:16 "Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost."

1 Thessalonians 2:17 "But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire."

1 Thessalonians 2:18 "Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us."

1 Thessalonians 2:19 "For what [is] our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? [Are] not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?"

1 Thessalonians 2:20 "For ye are our glory and joy."

1 Thessalonians 3

1 Thessalonians Chapter 3

1 Thessalonians 3:1 "Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;"

1 Thessalonians 3:2 "And sent Timothy, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:"

1 Thessalonians 3:3 "That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto."

1 Thessalonians 3:4 "For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know."

1 Thessalonians 3:5 "For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labor be in vain."

1 Thessalonians 3:6 "But now when Timothy came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also [to see] you:"

1 Thessalonians 3:7 "Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:"

1 Thessalonians 3:8 "For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord."

1 Thessalonians 3:9 "For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;"

1 Thessalonians 3:10 "Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?"

1 Thessalonians 3:11 "Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you."

1 Thessalonians 3:12 "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all [men], even as we [do] toward you:"

1 Thessalonians 3:13 "To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints."

1 Thessalonians 4

1 Thessalonians Chapter 4

1 Thessalonians 4:1 "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort [you] by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, [so] ye would abound more and more."

1 Thessalonians 4:2 "For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus."

1 Thessalonians 4:3 "For this is the will of God, [even] your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:"

1 Thessalonians 4:4 "That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor;"

1 Thessalonians 4:5 "Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:"

1 Thessalonians 4:6 "That no [man] go beyond and defraud his brother in [any] matter: because that the Lord [is] the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified."

1 Thessalonians 4:7 "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness."

1 Thessalonians 4:8 "He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit."

1 Thessalonians 4:9 "But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another."

1 Thessalonians 4:10 "And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;"

1 Thessalonians 4:11 "And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;"

1 Thessalonians 4:12 "That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and [that] ye may have lack of nothing."

1 Thessalonians 4:13 "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope."

1 Thessalonians 4:14 "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."

1 Thessalonians 4:15 "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep."

1 Thessalonians 4:16 "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:"

1 Thessalonians 4:17 "Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

1 Thessalonians 4:18 "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."

1 Thessalonians 5

1 Thessalonians Chapter 5

1 Thessalonians 5:1 "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you."

1 Thessalonians 5:2 "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night."

1 Thessalonians 5:3 "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."

1 Thessalonians 5:4 "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief."

1 Thessalonians 5:5 "Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness."

1 Thessalonians 5:6 "Therefore let us not sleep, as [do] others; but let us watch and be sober."

1 Thessalonians 5:7 "For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night."

1 Thessalonians 5:8 "But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation."

1 Thessalonians 5:9 "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,"

1 Thessalonians 5:10 "Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him."

1 Thessalonians 5:11 "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do."

1 Thessalonians 5:12 "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;"

1 Thessalonians 5:13 "And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. [And] be at peace among yourselves."

1 Thessalonians 5:14 "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all [men]."

1 Thessalonians 5:15 "See that none render evil for evil unto any [man]; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all [men]."

1 Thessalonians 5:16 "Rejoice evermore."

1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."

1 Thessalonians 5:18 "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

1 Thessalonians 5:19 "Quench not the Spirit."

1 Thessalonians 5:20 "Despise not prophesyings."

1 Thessalonians 5:21 "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."

1 Thessalonians 5:22 "Abstain from all appearance of evil."

1 Thessalonians 5:23 "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and [I pray God] your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

1 Thessalonians 5:24 "Faithful [is] he that calleth you, who also will do [it]."

1 Thessalonians 5:25 "Brethren, pray for us."

1 Thessalonians 5:26 "Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss."

1 Thessalonians 5:27 "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren."

1 Thessalonians 5:28 "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you. Amen."