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- 1 Thessalonians
by Rhoderick D. Ice
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS
The history given in the Book of Acts shows Paul crossing into Europe, as he delivers the decree of the Jerusalem council to the churches of Asia Minor (Acts 16:4). God called Paul to preach in Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). It must have been 51 or 52 A.D., when Paul planted the church in Thessalonica, on his second tour of missions. Johnson says this letter is the earliest written of the letters of Paul preserved in the New Testament, at least five or six years earlier than Romans, Galatians, and the Corinthian letters. Some think Paul was only in Thessalonica briefly, while others think Philippians 4:16 implies a longer stay. However, Paul was forced to leave before he had finished all he felt he needed to do (Acts 17:5-10; 1 Thessalonians 2:18). This letter was probably written about a year after Paul planted the church there, toward the close of 52 A.D., or the first part of 53 A.D. He wrote during the early part of his work at Corinth [not from Athens, as some copyist added].
When he was forced to escape from Thessalonica, he went to Berea (Acts 17:10), about 50 miles to the west. Again he was forced to escape (Acts 17:14), this time to Athens, but leaving Silas and Timothy in Berea. When Timothy came to Paul at Athens, he was immediately sent back to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). Later, then, Timothy met Paul at Corinth and gave the report about the Thessalonian Christians (1 Thessalonians 3:6; Acts 18:1-5).
Paul’s preaching emphasized “Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18). But he had not had time to explain completely. He had evidently given them spiritual gifts [which would create “instant maturity”], but those who had the gift of “prophecy” [the miraculous ability to teach God’s word, as now in written form as the New Testament] were being ignored (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20). This failure to allow themselves to be taught the Truth, caused them to have a distorted view of Christ’s Second Coming, and to think the dead would not share in Eternity (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), They were being severely persecuted, and needed help to endure this (1 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4). There was also the danger of returning to their old sinful ways (1 Thessalonians 4:4-8).
But in spite of all this, the church at Thessalonica was in satisfactory condition, and maintained a good relationship with Paul. They were a “good example” to other believers, and Thessalonica became an important center for spreading the Good News of Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
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