Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians--Part I
What do we know about the church in Thessalonica and Paul’s ministry to this church?
Reread Acts 17:1-9—
Thessalonica was originally called Therma, or Hot Springs. It was rebuilt by Cassander in 315 BC and named after his wife, the daughter of Philip of Macedon, who had named her so after a victory over Thessaly on the day he had news of her birth (cf. Note 52). The city lies at the head of the Gulf of Thermae and became an important port city—an importer and exporter for all of Macedonia. Under the Romans it was a free city and the capital of Macedonia. It contained a large Jewish population to which Paul first turned during his visit there. In later years Thessalonica became one of the strongest centers of Christianity in the eastern Mediterranean. In 303 a common soldier name Demetrius was killed after refusing to curse Jesus and became the patron saint of the city. The Church of St. Demetrius was built in his honor, supposedly over the spot where Paul had first preached to the Jews. It was from Thessalonica that Christian missionaries were first sent north to work among the Bulgars and Slavs in the ninth century.
How long did Paul stay in Thessalonica while on his second missionary journey? Luke’s reference in Acts 17:2 to three Sabbaths has led many people to believe that Paul spent only three weeks in Thessalonica before being driven out. This would not appear to be the case. Paul mentions in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 that he labored "day and night" in their midst, which would indicate a somewhat longer stay. He hardly would have been able to set up shop in three weeks. In addition, Paul mentions in Philippians 4:15-16 that the Philippians sent two different financial gifts to Paul while he was in Thessalonica to help with his support. Philippi lay between 90 and 100 miles away. Three weeks would hardly have been enough time for either the necessary traveling to take place or for the needs to arise. It would appear, from everything we are able to learn about the chronology of Paul’s second missionary journey, that he probably spent about three months in Thessalonica during that first visit.
What contact had Paul had with the Thessalonians since his departure from Thessalonica?
When and where did Paul write 1st Thessalonians?
Consider briefly the overview of the book found below.
Paul’s Personal Reflections Regarding the Thessalonians (1:1-3:13)
His Commendation of Their Godly Example (1:1-10).
His Former Conduct and Their Initial Response (2:1-16).
His Present Desire for Their Blessing (2:17-3:13).
Satan Hindered His Return to Them (2:17-20).
He Sent Timothy to Encourage Them (3:1-5).
Timothy’s Report of Them Encouraged Him (3:6-10).
He Prayed for Them (3:11-13).
Paul’s Principal Instructions to the Thessalonians (4:1-5:28).
Grow in Your Sanctification (4:1-12).
Understand the Truth Concerning Christ’s Return (4:13-18).
Prepare Yourselves for the Coming Day of the Lord (5:1-11).
Strive to Live a Godly Life (5:12-22).
Remain Close to Your God and Savior (5:23-28).
How does Paul greet the Thessalonians? With what does he begin his letter to them?
How does Paul describe his ministry among the Thessalonians? What was its purpose and what were its results?
Notice how Paul emphasizes his openness, honesty, and self-support. In the first century AD there were countless religious and philosophical charlatans roaming the countryside of Greece. Most of these individuals were dishonest drifters, who would attempt to gain a following in a particular area, take all that they possibly could hope to get, and then disappear. We find Paul consistently and carefully conducting his ministry in such a way that it could not be faulted. He did not want to be associated in any way with those who wanted something from the people, for he had been sent with something to give to people—the gospel of forgiveness and life.
Whom had Paul sent to Thessalonica and for what purpose? What was the result of his trip?
How does Paul close this first section of his letter?
Reread 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10. Your Christian faith is inseparably linked to your Christian life. How was this true both of Paul and the Thessalonians? Discuss what this means for our lives.
Reread 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Discuss how Paul’s ministry should serve both as an example of what pastors ought to do and of what congregations ought to expect of their pastors in our day.
Reread 1 Thessalonians 2:13. What part, if any, does this verse have in a discussion of how we ought view the Scriptures?
Reread 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13. Analyze and then apply this prayer for the Thessalonians to your life, taking into consideration other p