The First Epistle to the Thessalonians, First Thessalonians, or just 1 Thessalonians is probably the oldest book in the New Testament, was likely Paul’s first letter, and is estimated to have been written by the end of AD 52
Paul claimed the title of the “Apostle to the Gentiles”, and established gentile churches in several important cities in the Roman Empire. The Thessalonians to whom the letter is addressed were the mainly gentile Christians of the congregation he had founded. This reflects the ethnic and religious makeup of that congregation in Thessalonica.
Paul was concerned because of the infancy of the church. He had spent only a few weeks with them before leaving for Athens. In his concern, he sent his delegate, Timothy, to visit the Thessalonians and to return with a report. While, on the whole, the news was encouraging, it also showed that important misunderstandings existed concerning Paul’s teaching of Christianity. Paul devotes part of the letter to correcting these errors, and exhorts the Thessalonians to purity of life, reminding them that their sanctification is God’s will for their lives.
Many of the members of this church were Gentiles and had come out of idolatry. Paul wanted to check on the state of the Thessalonians’ faith, for fear that false teachers might have infiltrated their number. However, Timothy returned with a good report, prompting Paul to pen 1 Thessalonians as a letter of encouragement to the new believers.
Why are we studying this passage?
Do you ever feel as though your Christian faith has grown stale, that you are withering on the vine when you would rather be flourishing in His service? Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is the perfect remedy for such a feeling. This letter provides water for the thirsty soul today, encouraging growth in maturity by providing hope in the midst of suffering or uncertainty.
Paul’s specific, practical instruction for this process of sanctification can be applied directly to our current circumstances. By clinging to our hope in Christ, we may see several clear results in our lives: avoiding sexual immorality, refusing to defraud others, appreciating those Christians who serve on your behalf, refusing to repay evil for evil, rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in all things—to name a few. This list, of course, is not exhaustive, but the first letter to the Thessalonians makes clear that every Christian should expect to grow in holiness over the course of his or her life.
If you are growing stale in your faith, or even feel tempted by some of the “false idols of today, this is good medicine!