1 Thessalonians 1:1
Paul and Silvanus and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
(a) Paul. The author of the first epistle to the Thessalonians was the Apostle Paul. After leaving Philippi, Paul visited the seaport of Thessalonica. He preached in the synagogue for three Sabbaths before being driven out of the city by angry Jews (Acts 17:1-10). His stay was brief, only three weeks, but in that short time he planted a church (Acts 17:4). He didn’t do it alone. With him were two other men, Silvanus and Timothy. The visit to Thessalonica likely happened in A.D. 49 or 50 and the letter was sent not many months after that.
(b) Silvanus is the Romanized name of Silas, Paul’s colleague and friend. After experiencing imprisonment and an earthquake in Philippi, Paul and Silas travelled along the Macedonian coast to Thessalonica. Together they planted the church in the face of strong opposition.
(c) Timothy. Paul’s spiritual son and co-worker, was with Paul and Silas when they visited Thessalonica. Paul met Timothy in Lystra (Acts 16:1), a few stops prior to Macedonia. We next encounter Timothy’s name in Berea, the city Paul and Silas visited immediately after Thessalonica (Acts 17:14). It seems Timothy had joined Paul and Silas on their travels.
Timothy was well-known to the Thessalonians. Sometime after they had been driven out of the city, Paul sent Timothy back to check on the health of the new church. Timothy returned with a good report prompting Paul to write this letter (1 Th. 3:2, 6). Like Silvanus, Timothy was with Paul when he wrote this letter, hence the greeting.
(d) The church. The original word (ekklēsia) means an assembly of people. In the New Testament, it normally refers to a church, but not always (e.g., Acts 19:32).
(e) The Thessalonians lived in Thessalonica, a prosperous seaport in Macedonia.
(f) In God. The church is “in God and the Lord Jesus Christ” meaning we are in koinonia-fellowship with the trinity. We are not down here while God is up there. He is God with us (Matt. 1:23). Our home is the Lord (Matt. 28:20, John 14:20). We are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16).
(g) The Lord Jesus Christ. Paul introduces the Lord Jesus Christ at the start of all his letters, and he encourages his readers to confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9, Php. 2:12). True preachers reveal Jesus as Lord of all. Jesus is not merely a teacher or historical figure. He is the exalted Son of God and his Name is above all names (Php. 2:9). Before the cross, Jesus was known as the Christ or anointed one. But after the cross, Jesus is the Lord or kyrios or “the One who is supreme above all.”
(h) Grace to you and peace. The apostle of grace began all of his letters with this gracious salutation. See entry for Rom. 1:7.
1 Thessalonians 1:2
We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;
We give thanks. Paul’s gratitude for the Thessalonians is the heartfelt gratitude of a parent for their children (1 Th. 2:7-8, 11). What made Paul happy was seeing the Thessalonians standing firm in the Lord (1 Th. 3:8). The Thessalonians were much more than another notch on Paul’s church-planting belt. They were his crowning joy (see 1 Th. 2:19).
1 Thessalonians 1:3
constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,
Your work of faith. Like James, Paul spoke of works that accompany faith (Jas. 2:14). See entry for Faith.
1 Thessalonians 1:9
For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,
(a) Turned to God. In the new covenant, repentance is often described as a return or turning to God (see entry for Acts 26:20).
(b) From idols. Some of the Thessalonian Christians were Jewish converts (see Acts 17:4). Others were idol-worshipping Gentiles.
1 Thessalonians 1:10
and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.
(a) His Son from heaven. Jesus was no mere man descended from fallen Adam, but a man from heaven, the Son of the living God.
(b) He raised from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ lay at the heart of Paul’s gospel. See entry for 1 Cor. 15:3.
(c) The wrath to come refers to Judgment Day when God will dispense everlasting destruction upon those things which are opposed to him and his rule (2 Th. 1:8). It does not refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. Living in distant Macedonia, the Thessalonians had nothing to fear from the Roman invasion of Judea. Yet Paul does mention Roman wrath later in his letter. See entry for 1 Th. 2:16.
Further reading: “What is the coming wrath?”
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