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- 1 Thessalonians
by Donald C. Fleming
On his second missionary journey, Paul entered Europe for the first time when he crossed from Asia Minor to Macedonia, the northern part of present-day Greece. The first churches that he established in Europe were in the Macedonian cities of Philippi and Thessalonica (Acts 16:11-12; Acts 17:1). Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians only a few months after he established the church.
Growth of the Thessalonian church
Paul’s initial work in Thessalonica brought fruit among the Greeks but violent opposition from the Jews. When the Jews created a public uproar, the city authorities tried to restore peaces by getting rid of Paul. They made one of the local Christians deposit an amount of money with them, apparently as a guarantee that Paul would leave the city and not return (Acts 17:2-10; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:18). (Although Paul did not visit Thessalonica again on his second missionary journey, he may have visited it on his next journey; see Acts 20:1-2.)
From Thessalonica Paul went to neighbouring Berea and then on to Athens in the province of Achaia, the southern part of present-day Greece (Acts 17:10-15). From Athens he sent his fellow worker Timothy back to Thessalonica to help the young church (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). After a short time in Athens, Paul went across to Corinth, also in the south of Greece (Acts 18:1), and it was there that Timothy met him upon returning from Thessalonica a few weeks later (Acts 18:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:6).
Timothy brought Paul news that the church in Thessalonica, though it suffered persecution, had grown strong. Within only a short time it had spread the gospel far and wide throughout the surrounding districts (1 Thessalonians 1:6-8; 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:3). Thankful at this news, Paul sent off the letter that we know as 1 Thessalonians. In this letter Paul also dealt with a number of matters that needed attention in the church. He defended himself against unwarranted accusations, instructed misguided believers about aspects of Christian behaviour, and cleared up misunderstandings about Christ’s return.
Relations with the Thessalonians
Teaching about marriage and work
Concerning Christ’s return
Advice on other matters
the Second Week of Advent