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Synopsis of the first letter to the Thessalonians

Introduction

Of whom it speaks

The 1st and 2nd letter to the Thessalonians speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ and in particular the blessed hope of his coming.

It speaks of Christians and their sanctification.

It speaks of Church and its joyous meeting with the Lord.

To whom it speaks

Christians of the Church at Thessalonica. This place was the capital of Macedonia and probably its largest city. Indeed it was still a prominent city up to the second world war. It was to this city that Paul, Silas and Timothy came, and is first mentioned in Acts 17:1, when Paul on his travels went to the synagogue and "reasoned with them from the Scriptures' for three Sabbaths. Clearly there was success amongst the Greeks in particular, but also the Jews. The Jewish community did not take too well to this event and reacted as they typically did, with violence. The Greeks appear to have been devout, found in the synagogue having given up idolatry (1 Thes 1:9).

Why

Paul clearly had broken off his visit to them in a hurry and was writing to encourage them and to correct wrong ideas and practices. This is centred around the certain hope of the Lords return (1:10, 2:19-20, 3:11-13, 4:13-18, 5:23-24).

But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. (18) Therefore we wanted to come to you-even I, Paul, time and again-but Satan hindered us. 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18 (NJKV).

The Church also was in persecution (2:14) and hence he writes to comfort them in the midst of their sorrows, probably due to the death of a number of the saints in the assembly. It appears there was a great concern that those that died may not partake in the glory of the coming Lord (4:13-18), hence he explains the resurrection of those the "sleep". He further explains the coming of the Lord in more general terms so they could comfort one another, knowing the certainty of this event (5:1-11).

Although there is no overt criticism such as found in 1 Corinthians or Galatians, Paul does imply corrections such as 4:11-12 where he encourages all to earn a living rather than living off others, and 5:12-13 where he encourages the assembly to live in peace, especially in regard to the elders and deacons. He also offers a range of short exhortations in the last chapter on one's conduct. All in all it concerns sanctification, which is specifically mentioned three times (4:3, 4:4 (missing in NIV) and 5:23).

Part of the reason may have to re-enforce the words he had already spoken to them, to encourage them against the constant onslaught from the Jews who would have attempted to undermine Paul's teachings and discredit him.

When

The letter was written perhaps in about 52, being one of the earliest of the letters in the New Testament.

Where

The KJV has a postscript "written from Athens" although these words were added by the translators. Their basis was the comment made by Paul in chapter 3:1 where Athens is mentioned, however it assumes that Timothy carried the letter to Thessalonica, when in fact 3:6 points out that Timothy came to Paul from Thessalonica brining good news of their love and faith, which Paul writes about. Timothy, we are told came from Thessalonica to Paul while he was in Corinth (Acts 18:5)

Structure

The letter begins with Paul remembering the establishment of the church - its birth and establishment (chapters 1-3), and follows with exhortation (chapters 4-5). Each chapter mentions the coming of Jesus Christ:

1:10 Wait for his coming, who was raised from the dead.

2:19-20 The joy is the church being in the presence of Jesus Christ

3:11-13 Jesus Christ coming with his saints

4:13-18 Jesus Christ rose again and is coming, for those asleep and those alive and remain

5:23-24 Sanctification - whole spirit, soul and body to be preserved blameless

 

Anno Gaebeleine divides the letter into five sections, based on the chapters:

1.       The Church of the Thessalonians and its blessed condition

2.       True service, as manifested in apostolic ministry

3.       Afflictions and comfort

4.       The separate walk and the blessed hope

5.       The Day of the Lord and exhortations

 

Chapter Verse Main idea
1 1 Greetings to the church at Thessalonica by Paul, Silvanus and Timothy
  2 Pray of thanks
  3 Remembrance of their work of faith, love and patience
  4 Election of God acknowledged
  5 Gospel came with power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance
  6 They were persecuted after receiving and following the gospel
  7 And became examples to others
  8 Their faith has been an example far and wide
  9 They had turned from idols to the gospel - the one true God
  10 The expectancy for Jesus Christ's return

 
2 1 The coming of Paul to them bore much fruit
  2 Although there was vicious opposition, the gospel was boldly proclaimed
  3 The gospel was true, of God
  4 The apostles spoke not as pleasing men, but God
  5 The gospel was spoken in all truth - not "dressed up"
  6 The preachers of the gospel did so not for their own glory, but for God's
  7 Paul was gentle, caring and loving in all patience
  8 The apostles would have given their lives for the Thessalonians if it was needed
  9 Paul worked while preaching so not to be a burden to them
  10 They are witnesses of the true conduct of Paul
  11 They exhorted and comforted them as a father does his children
  12 The goal of Paul was for them to walk worthy of God
  13 The word of God that changes lives - evidence by these Thessalonians
  14 The result of faith - being imitators of God, but may result in persecution
  15 Persecutors that also killed Jesus Christ
  16 Evil doers who try and stifle the gospel
  17 Paul desires to see them
  18 Paul explains that Satan has hindered his ability to see them
  19 The hope and joy of Paul is seeing them in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ
  20 The church was Paul's glory and joy

 
3 1 The burden of the thought of this fledgling church
  2 Why Timothy was sent
  3 Encouragement in the time of afflictions
  4 Knowledge that tribulation was expected and did happen
  5 Timothy was sent to ensure that no one had miss-led them
  6 Timothy returned with the good news of their steadfastness in faith
  7 Paul in his distress for them was comforted by Timothy's report
  8 Stand fast in the Lord
  9 Prayer of joyous thankfulness for them
  10 Praying night and day
  11 Let God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ direct our way
  12 Prayer that they may increase and abound in love
  13 That he [God] establish your hearts blameless in holiness for God

 
4 1 Christians need to grow in pleasing God
  2 Keep the commandments
  3 Abstain from sexual immorality
  4 The body is to be sanctified - set apart for God
  5 Don't give into lust
  6 Live honestly - don't defraud one another
  7 We have been called to Holiness
  8 Rejecting obedience to God rejects God himself
  9 Love your brother
  10 Love had been shown, but they were urged to grow more and more
  11 Lead a quiet life, minding your own business
  12 Be a witness to those in the world
  13 At the rapture, which concerns the saints only, those that have died, having fallen asleep, do have hope of the resurrection
  14 Because since we know (believe) that Christ rose from the dead, so will those that sleep in Jesus
  15 At the rupture those that have died will be raised first, followed by the saints
  16 It will be the Lord Himself that comes for the saints raising those that have died first
  17 Followed those that are alive, and all will be caught up to him in the air - thus we shall always be with the Lord
  18 Since this is the truth we can be comforted, especially in sorry for those that have died

 
5 1 The End Times - these did not need much instruction - it was the rapture they were confused over
  2 The time of the Day of The Lord is unknown and comes as a thief in the night
  3 There will be no escape
  4 But for the saints this will not be so
  5 Those in the light have no fear - unlike those in darkness - the unsaved
  6 Our life needs to be watchful and sober
  7 The Day will come suddenly upon those in darkness
  8 We need to put on the whole armour of God, being sober minded
  9 Our election is to salvation through Our Lord Jesus Christ
  10 Jesus who died for us: now whether we die before he comes or after we will be gathered to with him
  11 Knowing that Jesus Christ is coming we can comfort each other
  12 Leaders in the church need to be listened to
  13 Be at peace
  14 Be careful of our behaviour one to another, be patient
  15 Do not seek revenge
  16 Rejoice always
  17 Pray without ceasing
  18 Give thanks in everything
  19 Live a life that heeds the Holy Spirit
  20 Listen to prophecies and don't despise them
  21 Test all things to see if they are godly, hold fast to the truth
  22 Keep from every from of evil
  23 Prayer that God would sanctify them
  24 God is faithful
  25 Exhortation to pray for the apostles
  26 Exhortation to greet all in love
  27 This letter is to be read to all in the church
  28 Benediction.

Further Reading

1 Thessalonians by F.B. Hole at http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/hole/NT/1THESSAL.html is worthwhile reading.

1 and 2 Thessalonians. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (1984) Leon Morris, Intervarsity Press, England

Be Ready (2004) Warren W Wiersbe, Cook Communications Ministries, USA

Gaebelein's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible. Arno C Gaebelien, 1970, 1989, Loizeauz Brothers, USA.

 

 

Thessalonians\ 1 Thessalonians - synopsis
David L Simon
October 2007, June 2011