Brief Introduction

According to Acts of the Apostles, Paul went to Thessalonica (the capitol of Macedonia) during his second missionary travel (Acts 17:1–9). He first preached the Gospel in Philippi - the first European city to hear the Gospel - and then, after a forced ending to his proclamation in Philippi, he went to Thessalonica.

Unlike Philippi, Thessalonica had its own synagogue. Paul started his preaching there and for three consecutive Sabbaths explained the message of the Gospel. The content of the Gospel to the Jews stressed the fact that Jesus fulfilled the prediction of the prophets about the suffering and risen Messiah (Acts 17:3; Is 53:12 and Psalm 22). However, from the letter it is evident that the message of the Gospel proclaimed to the Gentiles, who opened themselves to the Good News was different. It stressed the necessity of leaving behind the idols and turning to the Jewish God - the only and true God - and to await the coming of the risen Christ (1 Thess 1:9–10).

Unfortunately, his success was also his problem (Acts 17:5–9). The jealous Jews opposed him and his preaching, and forced him to leave the city. Paul went to Beroea (Acts 17:10–15), then to Athens (Acts 17:16–33), and finally to Corinth (the capitol of Achaia ). It is probably that from Corinth he wrote his first letter to the Church in Thessalonia (50/51 AD).

The letter is considered to the earliest of all New Testament writing, preceding the Gospels for nearly 20 years. The reasons for writing the letter were Paul’s worries about the faith of the community. The letter indicates that its members were persecuted (1 Thess 2:14). Since, Paul could not come and visit them himself, he sent Timothy and good news about their faith and love (1 Thess 3:8). Thus the letter is the answer to the positive news brought to Paul about the faith’s condition of the Thessalonian community.

There is a possibility that the present letter of 1 Thessalonians is a combination of two letters written to that community (there seems to be two endings: one in 1 Thess 3:11–13 and the second one in 1 Thess 5:23–28). The first letter would then be the response to the good news brought to the apostle by Timothy and the second would be discussing two important issues concerning the community: the meaning of holiness (1 Thess 4:1–12) and the consequence of the delay of Christ’s second coming (1 Thess 4:13–5:11).

The Gospel

I. How to preach the Gospel? (1 Thess 1:5)

  words (but not only);  
  in the Holy Spirit;  
  with assurance

II. The reason for preaching the Gospel - to please God, and not in order to please the people (1 Thess 2:4).

III. The wrong way of preaching the Gospel (1 Thess 2:5–7)

  * with flattery;  
  * for gain;  
  * to gain praises from the people;  
  * to be a financial burden for the community.

IV. The effects of the Gospel (1 Thess 1:9–10)

  * turning from idols to the living God;  
  * serving the true and living God;  
  * awaiting the coming of the Lord  
  * the coming of the Lord will save the believers from the incoming wrath of God.

The meaning of holiness (1 Thess 4:1–12)

  1. Share resources but not wives (1 Thess 4:6);
  2. Brotherly love (1 Thess 4:9) - its meaning is practical;
  3. Work with your own hands (1 Thess 4:11–12).

The coming of the Lord 1 Thess (4:13–5:11)

  1. The dead will be raised first and the living will be transformed (see 1 Cor 15:51);
  2. The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
    A). For those, who live in darkness - darkness is a symbol of sinful life, a life without faith
     * this day will come as a surprise;
    * they will experience God’s wrath;
    B). Those, who live in the light - a symbol of Christian life marked by faith and love
     * they are not afraid of the coming of this day;
    * they will achieve salvation through Christ.

The God of peace (5:23 - see Judges 6:24)

Paul’s meaning of the word “peace” is typical Jewish - shalom. Shalom includes material prosperity, physical and psychological health, good relationship with neighbors, and finally deep connection with God.

One among many names given to God in the Old Testament is “Shalom” (Judges 6:24). “Adonai-Shalom” can be translated into “The Lord - All is well”. Paul’s ending prayer places his hope in God. The final success of our salvation on the day of the Lord will be God’s success.

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