Daily Devotion Text

July 25, 2017

1 Thessalonians 1

By carmenhsu In 1 Thessalonians, Devotion Text with Comments Off on 1 Thessalonians 1
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A Study Through the Book of 1 Thessalonians

Paul is widely regarded as the author of 1 Thessalonians, as evidenced by how compatible the vocabulary, style, and theology are with his other letters. The mention of Silas (“Silvanus”) and Timothy as co-senders (1:1) may indicate Paul’s care to present the missionaries as a united band in order to offset any Thessalonian disappointment that Paul had not come to visit them again but had sent Timothy instead (see 2:17–18; 3:1–2, 6, 11).

Most scholars today date 1 Thessalonians to A.D. 49–51, early in Paul’s 18-month stay in Corinth during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1–18). Only a small minority of scholars, who do not regard Acts as historically dependable, place it in the early 40s A.D. The Delphi Inscription—a letter from the emperor Claudius to the city of Delphi—dates Gallio’s proconsulship of Achaia to A.D.51–52, and Acts 18:12–17 mentions Gallio, toward the end of Paul’s Corinthian stay. [1]

Put yourself in Paul’s shoes. You have recently been to Macedonia’s major city, where you had had good success in preaching the good news about Christ. But your success also aroused enormous opposition. Your host was arrested and charged with high treason, while friends ushered you out of the city by night so that you wouldn’t be brought before the authorities. Thus your stay was much shorter than you had expected, and the new believers are now pretty much on their own, without a long period of seasoned instruction in the way of Christ. (See the account in Acts 17:1-9; the three Sabbath days mentioned in verse 2 does not mean that Paul was in the city for only that long. Rather that was how long he was able to work in the synagogue. Our letter indicates a church of much greater stability, Christian instruction, and renown than two or three weeks would have produced.)

So what would you have done? Try, as Paul did, to return, despite the danger (1 Thess 2:17-18)? And what if you could not return, because “Satan blocked [your] way”? And all the time you know nothing about what has happened in Thessalonica since you left (these were the days before postal service, not to mention telephone and e-mail service!). Very likely you would do what Paul did: Send a younger colleague, who could return without fear of being recognized or of suffering personal danger.

Now Timothy has returned to Paul and Silas in Corinth. A full half of our letter (chs. 1-3) is about Paul’s past, present, and future relationship with these new converts, told in basically chronological fashion. Two clear things about Paul emerge in this section: (1) his deep, personal anxiety about the Thessalonians’ situation and (2) his equally deep relief to learn that things are going basically very well (you can almost hear his sigh of relief in 3:6-8). Two things also emerge about the Thessalonian believers in these two chapters: (1) They continue to undergo suffering and persecution, but (2) they are basically hanging in there with regard to their faith in Christ—although there are also some things lacking.

The rest of the letter takes up matters that have been reported to him by Timothy. Most of them are reminders (see 4:1-2, 9; 5:1) of instructions they had been given when Paul and his companions were among them—about sexual immorality; mutual love, which includes working for one’s own sustenance; and the return of Christ. One altogether new item is also included, namely, what happens to believers who have died before the coming of Christ (4:13-18). [2]

[1] 10 ESV: Study Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles, 2008. 2301.

[2] 11 Fee, Gordon D, and Douglas K. Stuart. How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2002. 364-365.



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