Reflections on 1 Thessalonians

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 KingsEzekiel, Daniel, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy.

In Acts 17:2, we read that he was in Thessalonica for 3 Sabbaths before he was run out of town. This letter was written shortly afterwards.

1:1-10

In the long sentence (in the original) that is verses 2-10, Paul introduces the ‘Christian trinity’: faith, hope and love. The Thessalonians had a faith that works, a love that labours and a hope that endures (v3). These virtues were the basis of the assurance of their salvation. Other proofs of their salvation were to be found in how they received and relayed the gospel message. They received it with power, conviction and Holy Spirit joy (1:5-6); from them the message of God rang out to all Greece (1:7-8). The change in their lives was evident to all (1:9-10).

2:1-16

Apparently, people were slandering and undermining Paul. He refutes the accusations in the first six verses: he looks for praise only from God (2:6a). He goes on to remind them of his and his companions’ (Silas and Timothy) conduct while at Thessalonica, likening his team’s care to that given by a mother and a father.

In verses 13-16, the apostle once again gives thanks to God for the Thessalonians, giving them further assurances of the genuineness of their faith.

2:17-3:13

Here in the heart of the letter is the most personal part of it. Paul doesn’t have a detached professionalism when it comes to the flock under his care. The word for ‘torn away’ in 2:17 was one used of parents losing their children. He had an intense longing to see them (2:17) and was deeply concerned about how their faith was faring (3:1, 5).

Having just received good news from Timothy (3:6), he gives thanks and rejoices for they are standing firm in the Lord (3:8). He prays that their love for God and for each other may increase (3:11), and that they would be blameless and holy on the day of the Lord (3:13).

4:1-12

Paul urges the Thessalonians to live more and more in a way that pleases the Lord. He identifies two areas, sexuality (4:3-8) and work (4:9-12).

Why should Christians avoid sexual immorality? One, God will punish all men for such sins (4:6). Two, God called us to live a holy life (4:7) Three, God has given us the resources in the Holy Spirit to live a holy life (4:8).

He gives the motivations for living a quiet, working life as a way of winning respect and being self-dependent (4:12).

4:13-5:11

Paul  doesn’t want his readers “to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (4:13). He briefly sketches the coming of the Lord, telling them to encourage one another with those words (4:18). The Lord’s coming will be unpredictable, like the arrival of a thief,  and inevitable, like labour pains (5:1-3).

But Christians shouldn’t be caught by surprise. We belong to the light; we should be alert and self-controlled. What does it mean to be self-controlled? It means putting on faith, hope and love (5:8).

5:12-28

In this final section, the apostle gives a number of commands on how to live. There are instructions on leaders (5:12-13), on living with others (5:14-15), on personal priorities (5:16-18), and on Christian discernment (5:19-22).

He concludes praying once again that God keep his readers blameless until the coming of Christ. Paul is fully assured of His faithfulness and ability to do it (5:24), and so can we!

Sources: CICCU Media, ProcTrust/ David Jackman

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