Study 1
We always give thanks…

1 Thessalonians 1.1-10


For Devotions:

  • Read 1 Peter 2.9-12.
  • In your reflections and opening prayer, think about about your faith and from what you were called and to what you are called.

For Openers:

  • Who are your heroes? Why are they heroic to you?
  • What is the most amazing thing you have ever seen?
  • What letters have you saved?

For Your Information:

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 Thessalonica, founded in 315 BCE, was the chief city of the Roman province of Macedonia (now part of Greece). It was a major port on the Thermic Bay on the northwest edge of the Aegean Sea, and the Via Egnatia, the major Roman road across the Balkan peninsula, ending at Philippi to the east. At Paul’s visit, perhaps up to 200,000 people lived in this thriving center of culture and trade.

A Pauline Chronology

~5-10 AD Paul born, raised in Tarsus
36 Conversion to Christ
39 Visit to Jerusalem
46-49 "First Missionary Journey" in Asia Minor
49 Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15)
50-52 "Second Missionary Journey"
Asia Minor and Galatia
Macedonia: Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea
Achaia: Athens, Corinth
Return to Jerusalem and Antioch
54-58 "Third Missionary Journey" through Galatia, in Ephesus, Macedonia (including Thessalonica- Acts 20.1), Corinth, return to Jerusalem
58-60 Arrested in Jerusalem, imprisoned in Caesarea
60-61 Sea journey to Rome
61-63 Prisoner in Rome
64 Dies in Rome under Nero

Overview of First Thessalonians

After getting out of prison in Philippi, sometime in the year 50, Paul and his companions made their way to Thessalonica. Acts 17.1-13 mentions that Paul was there only three weeks and that his main activity was in the Jewish synagogue. From the Thessalonian correspondence, however, it would seem that Paul’s stay was more likely a few months and that the majority of Christian converts were Gentiles from the working class. Both Acts and 1 Thessalonians (2.2) indicate that Paul suffered some sort of harassment and had to leave Thessalonica abruptly. Going on to Athens, Paul sends Timothy back to Thessalonica to check on the community of believers, and Timothy then returns and catches up with Paul in Corinth. Responding to Timothy’s report and their questions, Paul now writes this letter sometime in late 50 or early 51. First Thessalonians is significant, therefore, as the earliest document in our New Testament and as the first letter, a form of communication that became important in our collection of New Testament writings.

Outline of First Thessalonians

1.1 Opening Formula: Sender, Recipient, Greeting

1.2-3.13 Thanksgiving

1.2-10 Affirming the Thessalonians’ faith and life
2.1-16 Recalling his example when he was with them and affirming his relationship with them
2.17-3.13 The present situation and his ongoing relationship with them

4.1-5.22 Exhortation

4.1-12 Instructions about the Christian life
4.13-5.11 Instructions about the coming of the Lord
5.12-22 Instructions about life in the Christian community

5.23-28 Concluding Formula: Blessing, Greeting

1 Thessalonians - Chapter 1

TEXT

COMMENTS

1 From: 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!

1.1: Silvanus, a prophet and prominent member of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15) who accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 15.36-18.5). He is also mentioned in 2 Cor 1.19; 2 Thess 1.1; 1 Pet 5.12.

1.1: Timothy, son of a Gentile father and Jewish Christian mother who became Paul's companion and official representative. In addition to this letter and the two letters to Timothy, he is mentioned in Acts 16.1-17.15; 18.5-19.22; 20.4; Rom 16.21; 1 Cor 4.17; 16.10-11; 2 Cor 1.1, 19; Phil 1.1; 2.19-22; Col 1.1; 2 Thess 1.1; Philem 1.

1.1: Grace to you and peace! The concepts reflect Paul’s Jewish heritage (xesed and shalom), but the Greek word for grace (charis) is similar to the everyday greeting exchanged between Greek speakers (chaire). The phrase is regularly used by Paul. ( Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; 2 Cor 1.2; Gal 1.3; Eph 1.2; Phil 1.2; Col 1.2; 2 Thess 1:2; 1 Tim 1.2; 2 Tim 1.2; Titus 1.4; Philem 1.3)

2 We are always giving thanks to God for all of you, making remembrance of you in our prayers, unceasingly 3 remembering before God our Father your work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, your chosenness, 5 because our Gospel did not come to you in Word alone but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much certainty, just as you know what sort of people we were among you for your sakes. 1.3: ... faith ... love ... hope: Mentioned again in 5.8, these three qualities are consistently highlighted together in Paul’s (Rom 5.1-5; 1 Cor 13.13; Gal 5.5-6; Col 1.4-5) and other writings (Heb 10.22-24; 1 Pet 1.21-22).

1.4: chosenness: Or election. This concept is regularly applied to Israel, but it is striking here in its application to the Gentile Christians. Cf. Rom 11.28.

6 And you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the Word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became a model to all who are believing in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the Word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. 9 For they themselves proclaim what sort of entrance we had to you, and how you turned away from idols to God, to became slaves to the living and true God, 10 and to await His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who is delivering us from the wrath to come. Note how the themes in verses 2-10 will be amplified in the rest of the letter: 1.2, 6-9 refer to the Christian life discussed in 4.1-12 and 5.12-22. Paul’s example and relationship (1.4-5) are discussed in 2.1-3.13. The coming of the Lord (1.9-10) is discussed in 4.13-5.11.

For Your Consideration:

  1. From your initial reading of 1 Thessalonians 1.1-10, what are some questions or observations you have?
  2. Keeping in mind that Paul probably did not spend too much time with the Thessalonians, what strikes you about the tone and assumptions of the letter? To put it another way, describe the relationship between Paul and the Thessalonians presumed in this letter. (By way of contrast, compare Gal 1.1-9!)
  3. From 1.1-10, what sort of picture do you get of Paul?
  4. From 1.1-10, what sort of picture do you get of the Thessalonian Christians?
  5. 1.3: Are the qualities mentioned here—faith, love, hope—things someone should have or things someone should do?
  6. 1.6: What does it look like for someone to be enduring "much affliction" and still having "joy of the Holy Spirit"?
  7. 1.6-7: The Thessalonians are commended for modeling the faith. What sort of model of the faith are you?
A model like a store mannequin
A model of what not to do
A model of someone trying to be a good model
A Christian superhero
I don’t want to be a model!
  1. 1.8-10: Paul is writing to the Thessalonians, probably within a year of their first becoming Christians, but already their witness has "sounded forth" in every place! How much maturity in the faith is needed before someone can begin to be a witness to God?
  2. When were you called upon to do something, and you were completely clueless how to do it? What did you do? How did it turn out?
  3. 1.9-10: There is a tension set up in these verses between how the Thessalonians are living now (slaves to God) and how they are awaiting Jesus’ return. How do you experience this tension in your own life?
  4. To be a Christian in Thessalonica was to live in severe tension with the pagan culture of the time. How does the situation in Thessalonica parallel your experience as a Christian today?

For Later:

  • Be aware of how you are a witness modeling the faith to everyone you meet!

 
PLEASE NOTE: All materials in these studies that are not otherwise attributed are 1996-2007 by Mark Vitalis Hoffman. Expressed permission is hereby granted to download and print these materials for personal use only. If you wish to use any of these materials for a group or other purposes, please contact me (orders@crossmarks.com) for permissions. In all cases, include my copyright notice and email address with any versions of the material. Thank you.

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