1 Thessalonians chapter 1

Paul greets the believers in Thessaloniki. He commends their faith and their loving actions. They are chosen. They set they example of Christian living. [UPDATED]

 


 

GREETINGS

 

VERSE 1. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the assembly of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul. In the classic letter-writing style, the first person mentioned is the author. In this case, Paul is writing. But his words also represent Silvanus and Timothy.

To the believers in Thessaloniki, these three would have been highly-respected apostles and missionaries.

Silvanus. Some speculate that Silvanus served as Paul’s secretary. At the least, he was a missionary companion of Paul:

2 Corinthians 1:19. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, by me, Silvanus, and Timothy, was not “Yes and no,” but in him is “Yes.”

1 Thessalonians 1:1. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the assembly of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:1. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the assembly of the Thessalonians in God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ:

1 Peter 5:12. Through Silvanus, our faithful brother, as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand.

to the assembly. During his second missionary journey, described in See Acts 17:1-9, Paul preached in the synagogue in Thessaloniki.

Some people accepted Paul’s message and came to faith in Jesus Christ: some Jewish people, several devout Gentile Greeks who had been coming to the synagogue, and some prominent women.

the Thessalonians. Paul is writing to the believers in Θεσσαλονίκη (Thessaloniki), a major city in Greece. It was the chief seaport of the Roman province of Macedonia. It was also a major stopping point on the ancient Egnatian Way, which was the major route from Rome to the Far East.

In Paul’s day, its population was perhaps 200,000. It was built in 315 BC by Cassander, who gave it his wife’s name.

in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians are “in” both God the Father and Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ said that eternal life consists of knowing both God the Father, and Jesus Christ. The church in Thessaloniki is secure in the knowledge of both.

that they should know you. Eternal life is knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ. Do you know them? Do you have a love-relationship with them? Read more »

Grace to you and peace. The three missionaries wished them grace and peace.

Grace. In Greek, “charis.” That was a customary Greek greeting, which Pau’s Christian Gentile readers would have recognized.

peace. In Greek, “eirene.” That’s a Greek translation of the customary Hebrew greeting, “Shalom,” which his Christian Jewish readers would have recognized.

So Paul is writing to both Jewish people and Gentiles.

 

THE FAITH OF THE BELIEVERS IN THESSALONIKI

 

VERSE 2. We always give thanks to God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers,

We. That is, Paul and his companions.

always give thanks. Paul and his companions were always thanking God for the believers in Thessaloniki. The word “always” probably means “regularly,” as compared with “continually.”

for all of you. Paul had very fond recollections of the believers in Thessaloniki. They were a source of joy for Paul and Silvanus and Timothy.

Note that Paul writes, “All of you.” Unlink many leaders, Paul did not play favorites.

Do you know your leaders in the faith? Do they know you? Are you a source of joy for them? Or are you someone they dread? Do they play favorites?

mentioning you in our prayers. Paul and his missionary team prayed for them constantly.

We often draw close to certain individuals we know through ministry. We feel quite close to them, perhaps for years. But then we move to a new city, and that ministry relationship gradually fades away.

However, for Paul and Silas and Timothy, their affection for the believers in Thessaloniki remained.

 

VERSE 3. remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and perseverance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father.

your work of faith. Paul is applauding that they put their faith into action.

labor of love. That is, loving deeds. Love doesn’t just sit around. It gets up and does things for other people. Otherwise, its not love.

perseverance of hope. The believers had a robust sense of hope, which gave them the power to endure all sorts of things. They persevered.

in our Lord Jesus Christ. The believer’s hope is not based on self. It is based on a love-relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ is at the center of it, and he alone gets the credit.

 

VERSE 4. We know, brothers loved by God, that you are chosen,

brothers. The Greek word is ἀδελφοὶ (“adelphoi”). It literally means “brethren.” It does not mean “males” only. Rather, in those days, it was the customary way of addressing a group of people. It could also be translated as “brothers and sisters,” or “siblings.”

loved by God. Paul never stops talking about the fact that God loves us. It is a major part of his life and ministry, his preaching and teaching. How about the people who lead YOU? How often do they tell you about the love of God for you?

you are chosen. God chose them. In our New Testament sense, they were counted among the “chosen people.”

 

VERSE 5. and that our Good News came to you not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we showed ourselves to be among you for your sake.

Good News. Fundamentally, at its core, the Christian message is Good News.

Yet many Christian leaders portray it as a system of obligations and duties, commitments and burdens.

If you were to ask them specifically about this, they would deny this. But if you listen carefully to what they say or preach, it often seems to be the case. In subtle ways, they make the Good News feel like Bad News.

This is the instinctual tendency of religious leaders: to tie up heavy burdens and place them on people’s backs, and then to not lift a finger to help them.

Matthew 23:4. For they bind heavy burdens that are grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not lift a finger to help them.

That was true in Christ’s day, and it’s true of many of our Christian leaders in our day.

People indoctrinated in this way have what we call an “obligation mindset.” They do their Christian things, not out of love for God, but rather out of a sense of obligation. Such a person is that way in large part because their leaders have indoctrinated them to be that way.

not in word only, but also in power. That is, the kingdom of God is not just talk, talk, talk. It also involves the power of God. The Holy Spirit takes you beyond mere words and gives you real power.

Many of our famous Christian leaders are talk, talk, talk. They extol their favorite doctrines at great length. They talk about themselves a lot. But where is the actual power of God in their lives?

1 Corinthians 4:20. For God’s Kingdom is not in word, but in power.

How, precisely, do we recognize that power from God? What does it look like? What does it do for us? How do we put it to use?

  • The power to speak in tongues
  • The power to perform miracles
  • The power to speak convincingly of Jesus Christ with non-believers (evangelize)
  • The power to change your life (repent)
  • The power to actually love other people
  • The power to dig deep into the Bible

in the Holy Spirit. The delivering of the Good News about Jesus Christ to non-believers is not just about speaking words. It also depends upon the Holy Spirit.

In our day, thankfully Charismatics and Pentecostals focus on the Holy Spirit. But sadly, few other believers do. For many Christian believers, the Holy Spirit is a sort of elephant in the living room, present but not spoken of.

with much assurance. The believers in Thessaloniki had arrived at deep convictions about Jesus Christ. They had full assurance. They were completely certain. They had arrived at utter certainty.

For them, Jesus Christ wasn’t simply “a nice option” for a happy religion. Nope, for them, Jesus Christ was everything.

You know what kind of men we showed ourselves to be. Many religious leaders live their lives at a distance from people. They see their role as to inspire awe in people.

But Paul did not live or minister like that. He was quite close to the people he ministered to. He fostered personal relationships with people that could last a lifetime.

 

VERSE 6. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,

You became imitators of us. The believers grew in the ways of discipleship by imitating Jesus Christ, as well as by imitating Paul and his missionary companions. Its in the nature of a disciple-learner to imitate his or her discipler-teacher:

  • The disciple is a student-learner, and automatically imitates the traits seen in his or her discipler-teacher, whether good or bad.
  • For that reason, the discipler-teacher needs to be vigilant that his or her student-disciples don’t absorb any bad habits.
  • Jesus commented that the Pharisees travel across land and sea to recruit one person to become their student, and then they work hard to turn that student into a worse person than themselves.

Matthew 23:15. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel around by sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much of a son of Gehenna as yourselves.

But are we imitators of our Christian leaders, or imitators of the Lord Jesus Christ?

1 Corinthians 1:12-13. Now I mean this, that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos,” “I follow Cephas,” and, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul?

1 Corinthians 4:16. I beg you therefore, be imitators of me.

1 Corinthians 11:1. Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ (KJV translation).

Philippians 3:17. Brothers, be imitators together of me, and note those who walk this way, even as you have us for an example.

1 Thessalonians 1:6. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,

and of the Lord. They soon outgrew the mere imitation of their leaders. They went on to imitate Jesus Christ. This progression is natural and normal and healthy. The believers in Thessaloniki “outgrew” Paul, and “graduated” to following Jesus Christ.

In our day, many people imitate what they see in their Christian leaders. This is natural. But eventually, their ongoing spiritual growth will become stunted, as imitating other humans can only take us so far.

For the person to keep growing in their spiritual life, there will come a time where they need to stop imitating their leaders, and shift to imitating Jesus Christ.

We are NOT followers of our Christian leaders, even though such leaders have lots to offer, and even though we can experience some growth by imitating a few of their best traits. Rather, we are followers of Jesus Christ, and him alone.

having received the word. They took in the message. The evidence of their conversion is seen in their changed behavior. Their lives changed.

in much affliction. The believers in Thessaloniki faced real opposition. Their conversion to faith in Christ brought severe suffering into their lives. They were persecuted. Yet somehow they remained faithful to Christ, in spite of their suffering at the hands of their persecutors.

The discipleship movements of the 1980s and 1990s were often led by people with narcissistic tendencies. Hence their ministries of discipleship training were fatally marred by their own personality flaws.

with joy. This is probably referring to the joy of being forgiven, saved, set free, made altogether new, destined for heaven. In that sense, our joy is not because of happy events in our lives, such as our own birthday party, but because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.

A joyless believer is someone who has probably forgotten the greatness of what Christ has given them.

 

VERSE 7. so that you became an example to all who believe in Macedonia and in Achaia.

you became an example. They were role-models to all the Christians in Greece. They had not hid their testimony about Jesus Christ under a bushel basket. Instead, they let their light shine for all to see.

Isaiah 49:6. Indeed, he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel. I will also give you as a light to the nations, that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth.”

Isaiah 60:1. Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the LORD’s glory has risen on you.

Isaiah 60:2. For truly, the earth will be dark, and the peoples veiled in blackest night; but the Lord will be shining on you, and his glory will be seen among you. (BBE translation)

Isaiah 62:1. For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, Until her vindication shines forth like the dawnand her victory like a burning torch. (NAB translation)

Matthew 5:16. Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 25:4. but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

1 Thessalonians 1:7. so that you became an example to all who believe in Macedonia and in Achaia.

to all. Previously, they began by imitating the example they saw in Paul and his missionary companions. Then they shifted to imitating the example they saw in Jesus Christ. Now, they have become the example that others are imitating.

who believe. In the spiritual life, it is normative to grow. We start out as learners. Then we arrive at some maturity. Then we offer what we have to other people, and they learn from us.

Macedonia … Achaia. From Thessaloniki, the message of Jesus Christ spread to Macedonia and Achaia. From there, it spread out everywhere, like wildfire.

They had committed themselves to evangelization

For most people, evangelism does happen automatically. Most people need to focus on it, make a plan and go do things.

And most people find the prospect of evangelizing others to be frightening. They have to overcome their natural fears.

These believers in Thessaloniki had likely done all that, and now there were results: countless people were brought into the faith.

In our day, for most of us, evangelization does not happen automatically.

Most of us need to deliberately work to make it happen: plan for it, and go do things. Like just about everybody, we need to overcome our natural fears. We pray that we Christians become an evangelizing people once again.

 

VERSE 8. For from you the word of the Lord has been declared, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone out, so that we need not to say anything.

declared. That is, the word of the Lord rang out, or reverberated, or sounded out, from them.

The gospel rang like the crisp sound ringing out from a bell. They not only received the word of the Lord, but also relayed it to other people. From them, it started to spread. It went from them to Macedonia and Achaia, and from those towns to every place.

in every place your faith toward God has gone out. Wherever Paul went, people were abuzz about the believers in Thessaloniki.

we have no need to say anything. We can’t recall any other place in the Bible where Paul says he has no need to speak about the faith.

 

VERSE 9. For they themselves report concerning us what kind of a reception we had from you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God,

they themselves report. Nobody could stop news this great. People are so excited about it that they’re coming up to Paul and telling Paul the story of Paul’s ministry in Thessaloniki.

you turned to God from idols. They were true “converts.” They did not simply wander into the marketplace of ideas, assimilate some of them and move on. Rather, they changed their lives. They broke with idolatry. They let Christ make them into new creations.

2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.

Galatians 6:15. For in Christ Jesus neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

1 Thessalonians 1:9. For they themselves report concerning us what kind of a reception we had from you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God,

to serve a living and true God. To convert to a new spiritual life means, among other things, to change your religious practices.

The new believers in Thessaloniki gave up idolatry. No doubt there would have been people in town who gave them grief for that. But the believers were bold in their newfound convictions.

 

VERSE 10. and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead: Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.

to wait for his Son from heaven. They eagerly await the triumphal return of Jesus Christ in glory, which will take place at the End of Time.

They exhibit the natural outlook of a healthy believer. They can hardly wait until their Lord and Savior, the one who loves, them, the one they love, to return.

In our day, though, many believers actually fear the End of Days. Why? Maybe they are in love with the world more than they are in love with Jesus Christ? If we don’t fill ourselves with Jesus and the Bible, all we have left is heresy and rumor and superstition.

Perhaps they let sin continue, and they don’t wish to part with it. Or Perhaps they have not fortified themselves with a biblical perspective about the End of Days.

Jesus. Their longing isn’t for some epic event. Rather, its for a person: the person of Jesus the Christ.

the wrath to come. They no longer fear the Final Judgment. Judgment Day holds no terror for them. This is the perspective of a person who has delved into the Scriptures. There is no reason to fear.

 


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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


 

Author: Todd Van Natta

I was given a great gift. It is to be passionate about Jesus Christ and the Bible and the spiritual life. I am a Christian believer. I believe in Jesus Christ. I’m in love with Jesus! I believe the Bible. I love the Bible. For decades, I've been reading it cover-to-cover, again and again and again. I’ve memorized a whole lot of Bible verses. Most of all, I want the Bible to help us fall more deeply in love with God the Father, with Jesus Christ, with other people, and with ourselves. And I've been reading the great writings from the entire Christian heritage for decades. At Explore the Faith, I share what I have discovered.

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