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I THESSALONIANS (1)
Victor M. Eskew
A. Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessa-lonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews (Acts 17:1).
1. This verse tracks some of Paul’s movements on his second missionary journey.
2. He and his companions stopped in a major city of Macedonia named Thessalonica.
a. The church was established there.
b. Paul wrote two brief epistles to the church in Thessalonica: I Thessalonians and II Thessalonians.
B. In this lesson, we have the responsibility of presenting you with an Introduction to I Thessalonians.
1. John Renshaw, an instructor at MSOP: “A book that is well introduced is a book that is half taught.”
2. Introductions, however, can be long, tedious, and boring.
3. Let’s try not to do that in this lesson.
I. THE CITY OF THESSALONICA
A. The city was founded in 315 B.C. by King Cassander of Macedonia.
B. It was named for his wife, Thessaloniki, the half-sister of Alexander the Great.
C. In the days of Rome, Thessalonica was a free city. In others words, it was allowed self-rule and had autonomy from the Imperial City of Rome as long as it did not rebel against Rome.
D. It was located on the major highway running east and west called the Ignatian Way. It was also a seaport town located on the Thematic Gulf.
1. Many people flowed through Thessalonica.
2. It was a town of much commerce and wealth.
1. About 200,000
2. It was predominately Greek.
3. Other people included Roman colonists, Asiatic people, and a large number of Jews.
F. This city, like other large cities, was heavily influenced by idol worship.
II. THE CHURCH IN THESSALONICA
A. The account of the establishment of the church is found in Acts 17.
i. ENTRANCE INTO THE CITY (Acts 17:1)
ii. EVANGELISM OF THE LOST (Acts 17:2-4)
iii. ENVY OF THE JEWS (Acts 17:5-9)
iv. EXIT FROM THE CITY (Acts 17:10)
B. The Christians were very faithful, putting their Christianity into practice.
1. They were laboring (I Thess. 1:3).
Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.
2. They were evangelistic (I Thess. 1:8)
For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
3. They were suffering persecution (I Thess. 3:4).
For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulations; even as it came to pass, and ye know.
4. They were loving (I Thess. 4:9).
But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.
III. THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK
A. Paul is the one who wrote this letter.
1. The book bears his name in two places (I Thess. 1:1; 2:18).
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheous, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The vocabulary and style are Pauline.
3. The facts mentioned in the book harmonize with Paul’s life as recorded in the book of Acts.
a. I Thessalonians 2:2 with Acts 16:22-23
b. I Thessalonians 2:17 with Acts 18:5
c. I Thessalonians 3:4 with Acts 17:5
4. The book is attested to by the “Church Fathers.”
B. Most importantly, we need to affirm that the real author of this book was the Holy Spirit.
1. Paul came to the city with the power of the Holy Spirit behind his message (I Thess. 1:5).
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance…
2. Paul continued to write to this church through the influence of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2:9-13).
3. The message of I Thessalonians was, therefore, from God.
IV. THE DATE OF THE BOOK
A. Most conservative Bible students believe that this was Paul’s first epistle.
B. It was written around 51 A.D.
V. THE OCCASION OF THE BOOK
A. Paul’s first stay in Thessalonica ended abruptly because of envious Jews (Acts 17:5-10).
B. Paul and his group travelled to Berea where they again faced opposition. Interestingly, it was opposition from the Jews in Thessalonica (Acts 17:13).
C. Paul left to go to Athens, but Timothy was sent back to Thessalonica to “establish” and “comfort” the Thessalonians. Paul did not want these new Christians moved by the afflictions they were suffering (I Thess. 3:2-3).
D. When Timothy reported back to Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:5), Paul decided to write this letter unto them.
VI. THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK
A. To commend the Thessalonians for faithfulness (I Thess. 1:3-10).
B. To remind the church of his ministry among them (I Thess. 2:1-20).
C. To encourage the church in the midst of persecution (I Thess. 3:1-13).
D. To exhort the congregation to remain sanctified (I Thess. 4:1-12).
E. To answer a question about those who died before the Lord return (I Thess. 4:13-18).
F. To plead with the church to watch for the Lord’s return (I Thess. 5:1-11).
G. To give these Christians further apostolic instructions about several different matters (I Thess. 5:12-22).
VII. THE THEME OF THE BOOK
A. The silver lining that runs throughout this entire book is the Second Coming of Christ.
1. The word “coming” is found four times in the book in reference to the Second Coming of Jesus.
a. I Thessalonians 2:19
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
b. I Thessalonians 3:13
To the end that he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
c. I Thessalonians 4:15
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
d. I Thessalonians 5:23
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
e. NOTE: Chapter 1 does not use the word “coming,” but it does refer to the Lord’s return (I Thess. 1:10).
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
2. Each chapter centers around the Second Coming:
a. Chapter 1 – Conversion
b. Chapter 2 – Ministration
c. Chapter 3 – Affliction
d. Chapter 4 – Sanctification
e. Chapter 5 – Preparation
3. Because Christ is coming, he centers them upon the way they should be living. The theme is: “Holiness in View of the Second Coming.”
VIII. KEY VERSE: I Thessalonians 3:12-13
And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one towards another, and towards all men, even as we do towards you. To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
IX. INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE BOOK
A. The word “Lord” occurs 25 times in this epistle.
B. There is no quotation from the Old Testament in the Book.
C. There are seventeen words in this epistle that are found in no other New Testament book
D. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 is a premillennial proof-text.
E. One short passage contains fifteen exhortations (I Thess. 5:14-22).
A. A Second Outline of the Book
i. Chapter 1 – AN INSPIRING HOPE – Young Christian
ii. Chapter 2 – AN ENCOURAGING HOPE – Faithful Christian
iii. Chapter 3 – A PURIFYING HOPE – Persecuted Christian
iv. Chapter 4 – A COMFORING HOPE – Bereaved Christian
v. Chapter 5 – A ROUSING HOPE – Sleepy Christian
B. Dunn: It is remarkable that the first epistles, perhaps the first writings of the New Testament treat the last topic, the return of Christ. The author anticipates the end from the beginning (Know Your Bible, 538).
1. The gospel of Christ came to the city of Thessalonica (I Thess. 1:5).
2. Some of those in the city of Thessalonica received the word, “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (I Thess. 1:6; 2:13).
3. Three actions resulted (I Thess. 1:9-10).
For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living God; and to wait for his Son from heaven…
a. Turned - the past
b. Serve – the present
c. Wait - the future