1 Thessalonians

Overview
SLOWLY they walk, one by one, scattering the leaves and trampling the grass under measured and heavy steps. The minister’s words still echoing in their minds, they hear workmen moving toward the terrible place, preparing to cover the casket of their loved one. Death, the enemy, has torn the bonded relationships of family and friends, leaving only memories . . . and tears . . . and loneliness. But like a golden shaft of sun piercing the winter sky, a singular truth shatters the oppressive gloom: Death is not the end! Christ is the victor over death, and there is hope of the resurrection through him. As with every member of the human family, first-century Christians came face to face with their mortality. Many of them met early deaths at the hands of those who hated Christ and all allied with him. Whether at the hands of zealous Jews (like Paul before his conversion), angry Greeks, or ruthless Roman authorities, persecution included stonings, beatings, crucifixions, torture, and death. To be a follower of Christ meant to give up everything. Paul established the church in Thessalonica during his second missionary journey (in about A.D. 51). He wrote this letter a short time later to encourage the young believers there. He wanted to assure them of his love, to praise them for their faithfulness during persecution, and to remind them of their hope—the sure return of their Lord and Savior. Paul begins this letter with a note of affirmation, thanking God for the strong faith and good reputation of the Thessalonians (1:1-10). Then Paul reviews their relationship—how he and his companions brought the gospel to them (2:1-12), how they accepted the message (2:13-16), and how he longed to be with them again (2:17-20). Because of his concern, Paul sent Timothy to encourage them in their faith (3:1-13). Paul then presents the core of his message—exhortation and comfort. He challenges them to please God in their daily living by avoiding sexual immorality (4:1-8), loving each other (4:9-10), and living as good citizens in a sinful world (4:11-12). Paul comforts the Thessalonians by reminding them of the hope of the resurrection (4:13-18). Then he warns them to be prepared at all times, for Jesus Christ could return at any moment. When Christ returns, those Christians who are alive and those who have died will be raised to new life (5:1-11). Paul then gives the Thessalonians a handful of reminders on how to prepare themselves for the Second Coming: Warn the idle (5:14), encourage the timid (5:14), help the weak (5:14), be patient with everyone (5:14), be kind to everyone (5:15), be joyful always (5:16), pray continually (5:17), give thanks (5:18), test everything that is taught (5:20-21), and avoid evil (5:22). Paul concludes his letter with two benedictions and a request for prayer. As you read this letter, listen carefully to Paul’s practical advice for Christian living. And when burdened by grief and overwhelmed by sorrow, take hope in the reality of Christ’s return, the resurrection, and eternal life!

Purpose
To strengthen the Thessalonian Christians in their faith and give them the assurance of Christ’s return.

Date Written
Approximately A.D. 51 from Corinth, one of St Paul’s earliest letter

Key Verses
Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–22

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