Lesson 1 Part 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on 1 Thess.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Tom Lowe

Lesson 1 Salutation (1 Thessalonians 1:1) (series: Lessons on 1 Thess)

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 1:1 (NIV)
1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, to the church{A1.2] of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace and peace to you.

Paul wrote this letter to the church in Thessalonica{A1.3] and it followed the customary form of that day. Letters written in first-century Greco-Roman culture began with three statements which are found in the opening verse of 1 Thessalonians: the name(s) of the writer(s), the name(s) of the addressee(s), and a word of formal greeting. He probably wrote in A.D. 49–51 from Corinth during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1–18). I Thessalonians is the earliest of Paul’s letters to the churches. He begins the letter, as usual, with the salutation to the churches that combined the Hebrew and Greek (Jewish and Gentile) forms of courtesy, for in these epistles he was greeting all people who were believers—and all believers are one in Christ.

Theme―The main theme is Jesus’ second coming. When he returns, the dead who have believed in Christ will rise and will join the living to meet the Lord in the air (4:15–17). Unbelievers will experience God’s wrath, while believers will inherit salvation (1:10; 5:2–4, 9–10). In preparation for that great day, Christians are called to be holy and blameless (3:11–4:8; 5:23). God, who is faithful, will produce in them the holiness He requires (5:24).

Purpose for Writing―Paul has received a report from Timothy about the Thessalonian church. Paul writes to them to restore their hope, which has been tested by unexpected deaths in the church. He reassures them that both the dead and the living believers will be safe at the second coming (4:13–5:11). In addition, Paul wants (1) to stress the authenticity of himself, Silas, and Timothy as preachers of the Gospel (1:5; 2:1–12; 2:17–3:10); (2) to teach them that persecution is normal for Christians (3:3–4); and (3) to challenge them to take responsibility for earning their own living (4:9–12).

I. Opening (1:1)
II. Thanksgiving and Encouragement (1:2–3:13)
III. Instruction and Exhortation (4:1–5:28)

The Setting of 1 Thessalonians―Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians from Corinth near the end of his second missionary journey. Paul and his companions had established the church in Thessalonica but were forced to leave by opponents of the Gospel. Later, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to check on the church there, and Timothy’s report led Paul to write this letter. Thessalonica enjoyed privileged status as the capital of Macedonia and was located on a natural harbor along the busy east-west Egnatian Way.

Moral Situation―Thessalonica was inhabited but by Greeks, Romans and Jews. Idolatry was prevalent on every hand. There were many gods, but the outstanding god was Jupiter. In Paul’s day thousands of Jews lived in the city, and there was a Jewish synagogue there.

We know little of the moral situation in Thessalonica, but there is strong reason to believe that it was very ungodly, because idolatry always produces gross immorality.

Lesson 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.

Paul, Silas and Timothy
Silas is the “fellow-helper” and fellow-sufferer of the apostle, sometimes known to New Testament readers by the name “Silvanus.” That he was a Jew appears from Acts 15, but, like Paul, he was able to claim the privilege of Roman citizenship (Acts 16). Silas was a leading member of the church in Jerusalem. He was also a prophet, and inspired man (Acts 15:22, 23). He replaced Barnabas as Paul’s colleague on the second missionary journey (Acts 15:40). Perhaps Silas served as Paul’s amanuensis, or secretary.

Timothy is the valuable and dear companion of the Apostle Paul; he is mentioned more frequently as an associate of Paul’s in his travel and work than any other person in the apostle's letters. He joined Paul’s company in the course of his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-3) and remained close to him to the end of Paul’s earthly existence. Twelve or fourteen years later he is said to be still young (1 Timothy 4:12). He, too, is only partly a Jew (Acts 16:3). He became the apostle’s most trusted lieutenant (Acts 16:1). The association of Silas{A1.1] and Timothy with the apostle in this greeting also indicated their perfect accord with him in the divine character of the doctrines he declared. What a suggestive lesson of confidence and unity was taught the Thessalonians by the harmonious example of their teachers!

This opening sentence of the epistle has hidden within it the evangelical daring of the early disciples of Christ. Thessalonica was a city of pagan corruption and idolatry. What a challenge to the early church! How swiftly it was accepted! Paul declared, “We had courage . . . to declare to you the Gospel of God in the face of great opposition” (2:2). And so, out of the dark, stubborn, and evil society, the evangelists drew a Christian congregation which became their joy and crown. This was a congregation of some who had come out of the synagogue (Jews) and some who had “turned to God from idols” (Gentiles).

Courage has always been a feature of the Christian faith. It is (a) a basic virtue. It is the rock quality on which good manners, truth, purity, faith, patience, and endurance are built. It is (b) a Christian virtue. The steady courage of Jesus has fired the imagination of history. Courage is dual in nature—the courage to suffer and the courage to do. Jesus had both. He endured hardship, pain, desertion, misunderstanding, and loneliness, not with the grim pride of Stoicism{A1.4], but with the passionate surrender of faith; and when He saw that the enemies of the kingdom, of himself, and of his ideas were centered in Jerusalem, he set his face like a flint and went toward it. In Jerusalem he would encounter Pilate, the representative of violence and the totalitarian dictatorship of Rome; Caiaphas, the representative of ecclesiastical vested interest and old religious tradition, and the fierce enemy of anyone who might imperil them; Herod, the representative of vice—degenerate and savage—the moral corrupter of the youth of Judah. Christ challenged this combination of evil men and powers, and died, nailed to a rough wooden cross. His heart knew no retreat and a great number have followed Him all the way to eternal bliss.

to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
What he is saying literally is simply this: “To the assembly of Thessalonians, gathered in the twofold name, confessing God as Father and Jesus Christ as Lord.” I would like to point out that “in God the Father" is peculiar to the address of the Thessalonian epistles among Paul’s writings. His favorite phrase is "in Christ." This statement speaks of the oneness of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The names “Lord Jesus Christ" is significant. "Christ" is the official title of God's anointed. “Jesus" is His historical, human, and saving name. "Lord" is used as the equivalent for Jehovah. When used of Jesus in the purely Christian sense it is used in this regard. Prior to their becoming Christians, pagans had used "Lord" when referring to Caesar; the Jews had used it when referring to Jehovah. In their Christian relationship they saw Jesus Christ as Lord or as the full revelation of God. Being “in” the Father and the Son shows their intimate relationship with God.

There are two things I would like to point out in this description of the believers in Thessalonica:

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