Skip to content

1 Thessalonians

May 18, 2009

Background

I. The Foundation of their Faith I Thess. 1:1-2:12

  1. Their Benchmark/Characteristics                        I Thess. 1:1-10
  2. Their Inspiration                                                         I Thess. 2:1-12

II. The Concerns for their Faith I Thess. 2:13-3:5

  1. Their Persecution                       I Thess 2:13-16
  2. Their Separation                          I Thess. 2:17-20
  3. Their Check-up                             I Thess. 3:1-5

III. The Blessings of their Faith I Thess. 3:6-13

  1. Their Gift Received                       I Thess. 3:6-10
  2. Their Gift Wrapped                        I Thess. 3:11-13

IV. The Sanctification of their Faith I Thess. 4:1-5:28

  1. Their Hearts                              I Thess. 4:1-10
  2. Their Work                                 I Thess. 4:11-12
  3. Their Hope                                 I Thess 4:13-5:11
    1. Their Resurrection                        I Thess. 4:13-18
    2. Their Citizenship                             I Thess. 5:1-11
  4. Their Lifestyle                          I Thess. 5:12-28
    1. Their Instruction                            I Thess. 5:12-2
    2. Their Blessing                                    I Thess. 5:23-24
    3. Their Charge                                      I Thess. 5:25-28

Background:

A theme for I Thessalonians could be Real Life Living. It is a letter of instructions
in victorious Christian living using the Thessalonian Church as an example.

The Expositors NIV Bible Commentary has an excellent write-up on the background
and history associated with Thessalonica. Paul first visited Thessalonica during
his second missionary journey; visiting Philippi for 2 months before being jailed,
visiting Thessalonica for 3 months before riots broke out, visiting Berea with
more riots, visiting Athens alone, and eventually ministering in Corinth where
he penned this letter. Timothy was sent back to Thessalonica from Berea and
Silas may have been sent back to Philippi. They both caught up with Paul at
Athens where they went on to Corinth because the Athenians were not at all receptive
to the gospel. [See Acts 17-18.]

The Macedonian churches were strong churches even though Paul did not spend
a great deal of time at each of them. Consider the following chart as you read
Paul’s letter to Thessalonica.

1thess_miracle

The Foundation of their Faith                                                I Thess. 1:1-2:12

Their Benchmark/Characteristics                       I Thess. 1:1-10

This has to be one of Paul’s shortest greetings to a church. This letter is
from all three ministers, Paul, Silas, and Timothy to the church at Thessonalica.
They didn’t just minister and leave. They wanted to keep in contact. Likewise,
since we are all ministers, we too should not cut our ties completely with former
congregations. We still have a ministry of love and encouragement to those with
whom we have been privileged to serve in the past.

The Church belongs to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ first and foremost.
The Thessalonians [we] just happen to worship there. It is His Church, not our
Church. Strife sets in quickly when it becomes “our church” because
we replace His focus and direction with our focus and direction. We become united
in ourselves and not in Him.

Paul’s heart is filled with thanksgiving for this Church. His personal ministry
there was short but his prayer ministry continued on their behalf. Note the
first three of their characteristics mentioned by Paul.

  1. Their work [purpose, objective, ministry] produced by faith in Jesus Christ.
  2. Their labor [effort, energy] prompted by love for Jesus Christ.
  3. Their endurance [perseverance] inspired by hope from Jesus Christ.

Theirs was a ministry in the trenches, not words only, but action. So how
would we describe our ministry, our church’s ministry? How does it compare to
that of the Thessalonians?

God loved the Thessalonians for he had chosen them. They not only believed
the Word, they experienced the Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. They
had strong convictions. Their roots of faith grew fast and deep in the soft
soil of their hearts.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy led by example and the Thessalonians imitated them.
This is covered in more detail in Chapter 2.

Verse 6 implies suffering/persecution for Paul or the people but probably
both. They had joy in their suffering just as James and Peter later wrote in
their letters exhorting the Church. The suffering was severe. If Paul penned
severe, you can imagine what it entailed. It takes strong convictions/principles
to stand up to persecution or to what is right. This is true in daily life too,
not just in your walk of faith. But our faith does relate to our daily life.
You can not separate them. God lives within us; we are His temple. Our temples
must be clean, lit, and filled with joy for all to see. Our welcome sign should
be out for all to hear the gospel message. Joy is attractive. Grumpiness is
not. The Thessalonians lived their faith openly, experiencing the joy of the
Lord even in their suffering.

Their ministry was known and recognized beyond Thessalonica into Macedonia,
Achaia, and beyond. They practice the Great Commission of Matthew 28. Others
understood that their actions related to their faith in Jesus. They reached
out to others in love. What about us? Do others recognize that what we say and
do is a result of our faith in Jesus? Are we willing to take a stand against
homosexual marriage, abortion, and evolution instruction? Are we willing to
stand for the poor, racial equality, and freedom of religious expression? If
we do, we will surely face ridicule and persecution. Do others recognize that
we take such stands because of the Word of God? I think they do for the most
part. They relate it to our belief in a God which they refuse to acknowledge.
They want to live with no knowledge of their loving Creator and God. And God
will grant them their wish. They will live a life without real joy. What a pity.

The Thessalonians turned from idols to Jesus with great expectation of His
return [vs.10] to rescue them from persecution. Their ministry was “all
out” until He comes. Is our ministry “all out” or just “hanging
around” until He comes? Are we “in the battle” or are we “trying
to negotiate our way out”, compromising the Truth and His principles?

So let’s review what we have learned about the characteristics of the Thessalonian
Church.

  1. Their ministry was motivated by the gifts of faith, love, and hope from Jesus Christ.
  2. Their ministry was one of endurance and perseverance. They were marathoners, not sprinters.
  3. They worked hard and had strong convictions.
  4. Theirs was a powerful ministry, life changing, and full of hope.
  5. They were joyful even though persecuted.
  6. Their ministry reached beyond their borders.
  7. They were dedicated 120%, “all out”. Obstacles did little to defer

them.

If we were involved in a new congregation, trained by a pastor for no more
than three months, persecuted for our faith, and left to make it on our own,
what would our congregation’s ministry look like in six months or a year? Flourishing
or floundering? That’s why I think this letter tells of “The Miracle at
Thessalonica”. With God, all things are possible.

Their Inspiration                                                I Thess. 2:1-12

The Thessalonians were imitators of Paul and his ministry so these verses
give us more insight into the ministry of the Thessalonians. Paul preached the
gospel in spite of strong opposition and previous persecutions. Nothing stood
in his way. I believe this reflects the attitude of the Thessalonians church
too. [See Chapter 1:6-9] An observation; opposition to the gospel message is
more continuous than disrupting.

Paul explains his pure motives; preaching in enemy territory for God and not
for men’s praise, for money, or to deceive anyone. He sowed the gospel message
because he loved Jesus. He was entrusted with its message and sought to please
God. We have been entrusted with the same message and have been called for the
same purpose, to share God’s grace with all men.

God is honored when we pass on what He has entrusted to us. We do this out
of love for Him. It is our responsibility, our charge.

Paul shared his life in addition to the gospel. This required he be self-sufficient,
working physically too. No doubt he made tents for income and preached when
he wasn’t sewing. He worked day and night to not be burdensome. The Thessalonians
did likewise. It’s interesting to note that Paul wrote his second letter to
the Thessalonians addressing idleness. This is probably their one area of weakness.

Paul and the Thessalonians presented the gospel as a mother cares for her
child; with complete selflessness for the sake of the gospel. This is done is
agape type love. We should be no different in our approach to ministry.

God’s message is to be given in a holy, righteous, and blameless fashion.
It is to be presented as a gift with no strings attached except that we love
Jesus and acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord. Thus, the father image takes over
in encouraging, comforting, and exhorting one to obey God; to be His disciples
and to act like His disciples. It’s like receiving a tool [gift] which you could
not afford or was better than you deserved and then being taught how to use
it and how to share it with others. When receiving this gift [gospel], one must
recognize that it is from God, not man.

Hidden but, never the less, woven throughout these verses is Christ’s ministry.

  1. We must be told. [2:2]
  2. We must be taught. [2:10]
  3. We must trust. [2:11]
  4. We must tell and be tested. [2:12a]
    THEN
  5. We will experience triumph and be translated. [2:12]

The Concerns for their Faith                                       I Thess. 2:13-3:5

Their Persecution                                    I Thess. 2:13-16

The Thessalonians received the gospel as the Word of God, not the word of
man. It was a different word than they were accustomed to hearing. It came with
power and authority. It rooted in good soil, grew, and became hearty. They gave
it proper respect and reverence. We need to do likewise today. If we treat the
Word of God as if it were the word of man, we will refuse to accept it and revere
it. It will become no different than any other book. It will no longer have
the authority it deserves and we will be prone to liberal conforming theologies
and cults.

Their acceptance of the gospel message led to persecution, just like that
experienced by the early churches in Judea. Their people were scattered and
had to flee to other communities. Their persecution came at the hand of Jews,
jealous Jews, who wanted no part of Jesus Christ and certainly didn’t want gentiles
to worship Him. They had the wrong concept of what it meant to be “chosen”.
God promises that His wrath will be great upon those who hinder the gospel.
Therefore, we too must take care not to hinder the gospel from being received.
We must not compromise His message in favor of our comfort level or to prevent
being persecuted/ridiculed for our faith. God is looking for people to “stand
-up” like the Thessalonians.

Since God is faithful to those who are being persecuted for His sake, will
He not be faithful in punishing those who do not acknowledge Him as Lord and
are hindering His gospel message of salvation?

Their Separation                                     I Thess. 2:17-20

Paul expresses his joy and yearning for true fellowship which exists between
believers. Sometimes Satan stands in the way. Sometimes God is calling us to
a new work. And sometimes we must wait until we are in God’s presence. But communication
between hearts never stops. The Thessalonian church is one of God’s success
stories. We all need to be reminded of God’s successes from time to time. It
helps motivate to further service and obedience. God’s successes enable us to
worship God with joy and thanksgiving.

Their Check-up                                        I Thess. 3:1-5

Because the Thessalonian church was under persecution [as was Paul] and because
they were so new in the Faith, Paul is concerned. He is unable to go back because
of the persecution that is taking place [he is in Athens] so he sends Timothy.
Timothy is to access how they are holding up and plug any holes in their faith
so as to maintain that front for Jesus. This is proof that spiritual battles
do exist and that maintaining and/or advancing the front for Christ is critical.

How committed are we to the battle? Will we stay the course? Will we persevere?
Or will we lose faith? God has the power to do anything without us. And we would
prefer He operate that way. But He wants to involve us. It’s His way of growing
us, making us strong and not weak. It’s His way of making us into effective
ministers on His behalf.

. Paul preaches a strong work ethic for the gospel; for the glory of Jesus
Christ. We all have a calling, a purpose in His ministry. We must listen to
his nudges, His challenges, and His commands, and then obey. It’s a given that
you will have obstacles if you take your calling seriously. But we love Him
and now we live for Jesus and not for ourselves. True faith is filled with perseverance
and hope.

“An earthly insurance package costs money. A heavenly insurance package
will cost you your life. One lasts for less than 100 years and we get nothing
from it for ourselves. One lasts for eternity and we will receive more than
we thought possible. Which is the better bargain?”

The Blessings of their Faith                                                I Thess. 3:6-13

I’ve entitled this portion of scripture as given above but I really want to
look at it as a gift exchange. The good report from Timothy is a gift from the
Thessalonians to Paul and Paul, in turn, bestows upon them his gift, a beautiful
prayer.

Their Gift Received                                   I Thess. 3:6-10

Timothy, having visited Thessalonica to encourage them in their faith, has
returned with good news. Their faith is strong and they love the Lord. The front
is holding firm. All is well! They also long to see Paul. This is the best news
[gift] Paul could have received. Paul has been under tremendous pressure and
persecution but the joy of receiving this gift more than makes up for his troubles.
It is a confirmation that he has been involved in doing God’s will because the
seeds he has sown are bringing forth fruit for His Kingdom. Paul is encouraged.
He is rejoicing. He is refreshed. And he has been given a glimpse of God’s ultimate
victory. He hopes to see them again, face to face. But this letter will have
to suffice for now.

We, as Christians, should all have a concern for one anothers walk of faith.
We, as Christians, all have someone to encourage. We can be an encouragement
to someone by sharing what God is doing in our lives. You see, Christ’s ministry
is personal. It is not about programs even though they are of benefit. His ministry
is about people and their relationship with Him.

Their Gift Wrapped                                   I Thess. 3:11-13

The only thing Paul can do for the Thessalonians right now is to pray for
them. This prayer is Paul’s gift to the Thessalonians. They are on his mind
in that he is unable to visit them. He is trusting God to open the way for his
next visit. His next petitions are for blessings of love, faith, and hope. He
prays that their love will grow for each other; that their hearts will be strengthened,
that their faith grows stronger, and that they be further sanctified to the
point of having blameless and holy hearts as they anticipate the Lords’ return.

We would have a little more of heaven on earth if we prayed for one another
in this manner. There is no greater gift that we could give to one another.
God will definitely answer this prayer. It is His will. Do this for your best
friends daily. Praise Him and God’s blessings will abound.

The Sanctification of their Faith                                           I Thess. 4:1-5:28

Paul now goes on to give encouragement and practical suggestions for the fulfillment
of their blessing. He starts talking in general terms and ends up with very
specific statements in Chapter 5.

Their Hearts                                      I Thess. 4:1-10

He, Paul, challenges the Thessalonians to continue what they are doing and
to do it more. He doesn’t state it exactly but I believe he is referring to
Christ’s summation of the law; to love the Lord God with all your heart, mind,
soul, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. These are the same
characteristics that Paul heard from Timothy upon his return from Thessalonica.
This principle is critical for maintaining the proper focus in ministry for
Jesus Christ.

Sanctification is a process whereby we become more like Christ. It begins
with being “born again” and receiving the Holy Spirit. Then life begins
to change. Two key changes that people will notice are in the areas of sexual
purity and respecting others. “Live pure and holy lives” is God’s
instruction, not mans. Not to do so is the same as rejecting God and the Holy
Spirit.

Sexual purity and respecting others will set us apart from ” non-believers”,
i.e. sanctify us so that all may see the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
This is not political power, monetary power, or physical power; it is spiritual
power. Spiritual power is something that mankind desires, even atheists. It
is where evolutionists are attacking Christians today. They do not want to even
consider the fact that there may be a God, a creator. They want to live in a
world void of anything spiritual in nature, especially a creator God. But our
lifestyle will prove without a doubt that there is a God who is merciful, loving,
forgiving, just, and worthy of our worship. So love your brother as you are
doing but do it even more.

Their Work                                   I Thess. 4:11-12

Live in peace, do not stir up trouble, and earn the respect of all. The Christian
Church, the Kingdom of God, is be loving, stable, mature, peaceful, pure, blameless,
just, and holy; a light for all to see. We are to be just like Christ. It sets
us apart for God’s glory

It is possible to live in peace by giving in but how do we stand for our beliefs
and not cause polarization when our enemy wants to cause strife? Daniel is probably
our prime example. Do we have enough faith to trust God with the outcome as
Daniel did? If it worked for Daniel, why won’t it work for us? The truth is
it does. We need to love God more and love our brothers more. So doing strengthens
our faith and our trust in Him. We have eternal life. We live assured of our
future.

We are to be self-sufficient, not having to rely on somebody else for our
daily needs. God will provide and does provide for our needs. It is one of His
promises. But it does not mean we can sit back and loaf. We are to work. He
has gifted us to work. It’s our way of being in the world even though we are
not of the world.

Their Hope                                        I Thess. 4:13-5:11

This is a very key portion of scripture regarding our resurrection. I have
not spent a lot of time studying the topic but I have adopted some very personal
views which I believe are supported by this portion of scripture along with
others. I will attempt to point out clearly to you which are facts and which
are my opinions. Let me refer you to two books for additional study after researching
the Bible. They are Dispensational Theology by Clarence Larkin and Things to
Come by Dwight Pentecost. Larkin will give you one view on resurrection based
on scripture and Pentecost will give you an overview on different views theologians
have. I’m not certain, but my view may be different than any written by these
great scholars. All is not perfectly clear but one thing is certain; there is
a resurrection for the saints and for unbelievers.

Their Resurrection                                 I Thess. 4:13-18

Paul begins by addressing/instructing them concerning the resurrection of
the dead. There is no reason to grieve or be without hope for those who are
in Christ. He comes forth with three facts as follows:

  1. Those who die in Christ will be brought by Christ to the Father. This is
    fact because Jesus died, rose from the grave, and ascended to the Father [vs.
    14].
  2. Those who die will see Christ before those who live [vs. 15]. The Lord will
    come himself for the dead. There will be a command from the Lord, the voice
    of the archangel, and a trumpet call from God preceding the raising of the dead
    in Christ [vs. 16].
  3. Those who are alive in Christ will follow and meet Jesus ion the air, just
    like His ascension, to live forever.

Facts 2 or 3 could be separate events or very close together. I believe they
are separate events; that is the Lord comes for His children when they die.
I base this opinion on the following information:

  1. Jesus told the thief on the cross that “today you will be with me in paradise”.
  2. Moses and Elijah were present with Jesus at His transfiguration, similar in form.
  3. Enoch and Elijah [and Jesus for that matter] were noticeably translated upon death for our benefit.
  4. Being at the bedside of both my mother and father at death confirmed this view. [see my account written in my memoirs Dad’s Delights]
  5. Bedside accounts of two dear friends upon their death [Bob and Mary Comp] by their children were similar to what I experienced with my parents.
  6. John writes that “we do not perish but have everlasting life” and “those who keep His Word will never see death”. Our flesh dies but our spirit does not.

More opinions…

  1. The death of a non believer is far less peaceful than for a believer [based on one experience].
  2. Jesus calls us home before we die in the flesh. Our “bodily resurrection” is for this earth only in the Millennium Reign of Christ. But we have both a finite entity and a special name in heaven. We just cannot describe heavenly conditions in earthly terms. Even John had trouble and he saw it in his visions. Heaven is beyond description and far more glorious than we can imagine.
  3. Both resurrected believers and non-resurrected unbelievers will be present in the millennium.

Fact 3 is the rapture of the saints. Those who are alive are met in the clouds
by Jesus and the saints who died—a great welcoming party.

There is indeed a resurrection where we meet the Lord face to face. We are
no longer mortal but immortal. We are changed. We believers are with the Lord
forever. Only with such an encouraging hope can we who believe, who are “born
again”, remain faithful to Him.

Their Citizenship                                I Thess. 5:1-11

Having assured the Thessalonians of the Lord’s return, Paul continues to clarify
events surrounding the Lord’s return. He starts by considering the question
“When”. He reminds them of two facts; the date and the time is unknown,
and it will arrive unexpectedly. The question of “when” does not refer
to the rapture but to the day of God’s wrath. People will be working for peace
and safety but it will make no difference as to when God decides to “blow
His trumpet”.

We believers belong to the “day” and not the “night”.
Therefore, we are different and so we will be treated differently. We are to
be alert and self-controlled as “the end” approaches, wearing the
armor that God has given us [see Eph. 6 and I Cor. 13].

Our breastplate is faith and love. Our helmet is hope. All these protect vital
organs. This could be just a reference to what Paul has written to the Ephesians
or it could imply that active/proactive ministry has stopped. The “belt
of truth, sword of the Word, sandals for the gospel, and the shield of faith”
are not mentioned. We have only defensive equipment mentioned; not offensive
equipment. So perhaps this is a sign of the end; the Church moves from offense/defense
to strictly defense. The lukewarm church at Laodicia in Revelation 3, assuming
we believe it also represents the Church near the end of the age, certainly
would not be equipped to be offensive.

Verses 9-10 seem to indicate that we as Christians/the Church will not go
through the Tribulation but that the Rapture will happen just prior to God’s
wrath being poured out. This is a strong indication that the Rapture would take
place just after the first 3 ½ years of Daniel’s 70th week. The Church
would be under persecution and in a defensive mode, not an offensive mode. This
assumes one believes we are living in the “age of the Church” today
where the Church is both offensive and defensive; that the first 3 ½
years of the Tribulation is one where man’s persecution is in the form of man
against man and nature against man; and where the anti-Christ comes into power
with a message of peace, safety, and security. The Rapture [its’ time unknown]
would take place during the second 3 ½ years and before the wrath of
God is poured out on mankind [trumpet and bowl judgments of Revelation]. Of
course, this is just one of several opinions.

But don’t worry and don’t get bound up in the details and forget the main
message. We who believe, who are “born again”, will live together
with the Lord forever. This is a fact. We are not to lose heart. Instead we
are to encourage one another.

Their Lifestyle                                    I Thess. 5:12-28

Their Instruction                                    I Thess. 5:12-22

Paul lists some very specific instructions, “one-liners” similar
to what he wrote the Romans in Chapter 12. They appear to be divided up into
four categories namely; their relationship with their leaders, their relationship
with the brethren, their own heart relationship, and their relationship concerning
worship and God’s Word. The list is as follows.

Concerning “Leaders”                           I Thess 5:12-13

  1. Respect those who work hard.
  2. Respect those who oversee you spiritually.
  3. Respect those who correct you.
  4. Live in peace with one another. [can be included in the next category too]

Concerning the “Brethren”                 I Thess. 5:14-15

  1. Warn those who don’t work.
  2. Encourage the timid.
  3. Help the weak.
  4. Be patient with all.
  5. Do not seek revenge.
  6. Be kind to all people.

Concerning “You”                                I Thess. 5:16-18

  1. Be joyful; wear a smile.
  2. Pray continually.
  3. Give thanks for everything.

Concerning “Worship”                          I Thess. 5:19-22

  1. Don’t hinder the Holy Spirit.
  2. Respect the prophetic Word.
  3. Test everything for truth.
  4. Do good and avoid evil.

Practice this lifestyle and we will definitely be doing the will of God, drawing
attention to Jesus.

Their Blessing                                                      I Thess. 5:23-24

In some ways this is a repeat of the blessing given at the end of Chapter
3. It could also be considered a continuation of that prayer for the continued
sanctification of the Thessalonian brethren. They are being set apart for the
purpose of bringing God’s peace through Christ Jesus whom they serve. They do
this through the lifestyle Paul has exhorted; that they will be blameless before
their neighbors and blameless before God; that God will say to them “well
done, good and faithful servant”. God is indeed faithful in setting us
apart for His service if we are willing to submit to Him and His instruction.

Pray for this lifestyle, for yourself and for others, that we become and remain
blameless and faithful to the end for He is faithful to complete the work He
began in us.

Their Charge                                    I Thess. 5:25-28

Their charge is simple. Pray for one another. Love one another, and participate
in the manifestation of God’s grace. Let us do the simple and God will do the
difficult.

Without Prayer we can not experience Love.
Without Love we can not experience Grace.
Without Grace we can not experience Life.

Next is a survey you can take to determine the strengths and weaknesses
of your lifestyle relating to the congregation you attend.

1thess_survey

dividerPlease note: the links directly below (after “from–>”) are external links. Clicking on them means you will leave the Greenley Commentary Web site. To search Greenley Commentary using categories, use the Search by Category function in the right sidebar.

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: