The Apostle Paul and his co-laborers Silas and Timothy wrote this letter to the believers in Thessalonica between A.D. 50 and A.D. 53, making it one of Paul’s earliest epistles. Acts 17:1-9 recalls Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica during his second missionary journey. He had preached and some of the city’s Jews and God-fearing Gentiles believed in Jesus the Messiah. But trouble followed when another group of Jews accused these new Christians of sedition. Paul and Silas were forced out of the city, but wrote back to the Thessalonian believers from Corinth to encourage them as they endured persecution.
The first two chapters of 1 Thessalonians are intensely autobiographical, as Paul tells of the joy, motivation, method, suffering, and affection behind his ministry to the Thessalonian believers. Paul, Silas, and Timothy celebrate the faith of these believers, reminding them of their journey to Jesus and encouraging them in their ministry.
Despite opposition and persecution, the apostolic trio shared the gospel boldly when they came to Thessalonica. Careful to present the simple, clear truth, they had taken pains to live as servants among the Thessalonians by working overtime to support themselves. They treated the Thessalonians like their own family members, teaching them to obey God’s words and coaching them to live God’s way.
Paul, Silas, and Timothy also taught believers to see opposition as a way of joining the ranks of God’s people; in this way, they simply reflected the life of their Savior who also endured much suffering. When persecution finally came to the Thessalonian church, Paul, Silas, and Timothy had already moved on to another city. They were deeply concerned they couldn’t care for the new believers. When Timothy was finally able to visit, he saw that these believers had grown in their obedience. Paul and Silas expressed great relief and joy, praying for a chance to further their discipleship and unity.
In 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5, Paul teaches the believers how to obey God in their daily lives, stay sexually pure, love each other, and live quietly and responsibly. Some Christians had died as a result of the persecution in Thessalonica, so Paul explains the resurrection of believers that will occur when Jesus returns. He helps the believers understand that because God chose them to live in light they can have hope in suffering even to death.
As the epistle draws to a close, Paul gives these believers more guidance about living their daily lives God’s way. They should respect and serve their leaders and teachers and lovingly relate to each other. They also should expect the Holy Spirit to teach them, enabling them to test every teaching they hear and share Paul’s letter with all believers in their city.
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Thessalonica in late A.D. 51 or early A.D. 52, a few months after his first letter. (See the Introduction to 1 Thessalonians for more details on Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica.)
After the first letter, persecution and pressure against the young church increased, and Paul wrote a short follow-up letter to encourage believers to persevere despite the difficulties. In addition, he wrote to correct false teaching about the Lord’s return that had frightened the believers, and to confront those who were undisciplined and disobedient within the church family.
The primary theme of the book deals with future events, particularly the Lord’s return, and stresses that certain events must take place before the end comes. Paul viewed the inevitable return of Christ as an event to celebrate—a future hope for believers, rather than an event to fear.
8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
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