Courses

The Book of 1 Thessalonians

I. Title

       The title of the letter comes from the name of the city to which it was written: Thessalonica. It is the first of two letters written to the church in that city.

II. Author and Setting

       The authors of the first letter to the church in Thessalonica were Paul, Silas, and Timothy, according to 1 Thessalonians 1:1:

       Paul, Silas and Timothy,
       To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
       Grace and peace to you.

       Based on the mention of Silas and Timothy in the opening to the letter, the letter was obviously written after the first missionary journey, and after Acts 16:1, when Timothy joined Paul. Likewise, the letter was obviously written after Paul's first visit to Thessalonica as described in Acts 17:1-9.
       Written about AD 50, it is probably the earliest Pauline letter. Thessalonica was a free city ruled by its own council of citizens. Since 146 BC it had been the seat of Roman government for all of Macedonia.
       How long had Paul stayed in Thessalonica when he founded the church there? Robert L. Thomas writes:

       For three consecutive Sabbaths Paul spoke in the synagogue, but met with the usual Jewish resistance. Luke's description of the events may be interpreted as meaning that the resistance forced him to leave the city immediately. On the other hand, we may understand that he continued to work in the city for some time after it was terminated in the synagogue.
       Three points make the latter alternative more probable: (1) Paul engaged in gainful employment at Thessalonica (1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8). Tow to three weeks are not sufficient time for settling into a trade and freeing converts from the burden of supporting their missionaries. Besides, Paul used his working as proof of his self-sacrifice for them, something he could hardly have done during a limited stay. (2) Upon his departure from Thessalonica, he left a thriving church -- not one still in the throes of separation from the local synagogue. Indeed, by the time he left, this church included many Gentiles fresh from their heathen idolatry (1 Thess 1:9). They could not have been won through a synagogue ministry. (3)Before leaving, Paul had received at least two special gifts from Philippi a hundred miles or five days away. It is difficult to crowd all this into two or three weeks. (Robert L. Thomas. "1 Thessalonians" The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978. p. 230)

III. An Outline of 1 Thessalonians

I. Introduction 1:1
II. Thanksgiving 1:2-10
III. Their defense 2:1-3:13
IV. Living for God 4:1-12
V. The dead in Christ 4:13-5:11
VI. The church 5:12-22
VII. Conclusion 5:23-28

IV. Questions on 1 Thessalonians

1. When was the first letter to the Thessalonians written?
2. Compare the translation of 1 Thessalonians 5:22 in the KJV with the way it is translated in other translations. Is the KJV translation justified? What abuses has the KJV translation perpetrated? (See Notes on the King James Translation and the So-called Textus Receptus for more information.)
3. What does Paul have to say about the coming of Jesus in 1 Thessalonians? Summarize his teaching.
4. Describe Paul's ministry to the people in Thessalonica. How much of a burden was he to them?