In Acts 17 we find the account of Paul's pioneering efforts at Thessalonica. In a very short period of time he had managed to win a large number of people to Christ. These included Jews from the local synagogue, God-fearing Greeks and a number of leading women. He had just finished doing his version of 'jail-house rock' at Philippi (Acts 16:26) where he had also pioneered a church.
First Thessalonians was one of Paul's first letters which he wrote (apart from Galatians). It was written about 50-51 AD., shortly after his time there. From Thessalonica he went to Berea, where some trouble-makers from Thessalonica arose and caused him to go to Athens by himself. When he was rejoined by Timothy and Silas they went to Corinth. Paul's concern about the Thessalonians manifested with him sending Timothy back there to see how they were getting on. When Timothy returned with good news about their walk with the Lord, Paul wrote to them this letter of encouragement, exhortation and teaching. Timothy had found that they had remained steadfast but were grieving over those in their fellowship who had died and were going to miss out on Christ's second coming.
Thessalonica was major commercial city strategically placed with a prominent sea-port. It would have had about 200,000 people living there in the time of Paul. It still exists today, but is known as Salonika.
1. GOSPEL NOT WORDS ONLY
First Thessalonians 1
"For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake."
1. What similarities are there between 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and 1 Cor. 13:13?
2. What's the similar thought between Jn. 15:16 and 1 Thess.1:4?
The message of the Gospel isn't just words. Other men and other religions have words galore, but only the Gospel of Jesus Christ has power to change a life. This power is not only experienced, but can be made evident to all as the LORD chooses to confirm the preaching of His Word with signs (Mk.16:20). May the prayer of the early disciples be ours too:
"Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to your servants that with all boldness that they may speak Your Word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the Name of Your holy Servant Jesus"
3. Spiritual gifts are often associated with 'charisma'. What does the expression "as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake" indicate about Paul and his associates?
First Thessalonians 1:10 shows us that Paul knew they had knowledge about the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead.
4. Who did and didn't the preaching of the gospel please? (2:4)
Within the church at Thessalonica were many who were almost professional loafers. They refused to work and relied off welfare from others. During Paul's stay there, he went out of his way not to appear lazy or to demand any financial support from them.
2. YOU ARE OUR GLORY AND JOY
First Thessalonians 2
"For you are our glory and joy."
1 Thess. 2:20
Despite the hassles, trials, mockings and attacks for preaching the Gospel, Paul was able to think of the Thessalonians as his glory and joy.
5. Who was hindering Paul from going back to see them? (2:18)
6. Whose glory did this work out to?
3. DESTINED FOR AFFLICTIONS
First Thessalonians 3
". . . that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this."
1 Thess. 3:3
7. If Jesus Christ is Lord of all, why doesn't He stop persecution?
Jesus promised "And you will be hated by all for My Name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt.10:22). Someone once said that God brings comfort to the afflicted, and affliction to the comforted. History tends to reveal that where the church became comfortable and slowed or stopped evangelising, that persecution came swiftly.
4. WE WHO ARE ALIVE AND REMAIN
First Thessalonians 4
"Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord"
1 Thess. 4:17
The Thessalonians were saddened by some recent deaths in their fellowship. Paul consoles them here with the reminder that the dead in Christ shall rise first and then the rest of us shall meet them in the air when Christ comes back. Paul goes on in chapter five to say they have nothing to fear about this event because they are always ready by walking uprightly.
8. Examine the passage in Luke 12:35-48. What is Christ telling us to do?
9. According to 2 Peter 3:11-12, what will hasten the second coming of Christ?
Christ is returning for a victorious and powerful church without spot, wrinkle, or blemish (Eph. 5:27). He will not return for a sick, weak, sin-riddled church (Matt. 16:18). Knowing this, Paul once again shows the practical application of the doctrines he has just stated.
10. Paul concludes his instructions by summing them up with a prayer. What was this prayer? (5:23)
New Testament Survey
© 2001 Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania