1 Thessalonians 1

1:1 Paul, Silas [replaced Barnabas on the second missionary journey (Acts 15:40)] and Timothy, To the church [Gr. (ekklesia): assembly] of the Thessalonians [Paul, Silas, and Timothy first visited Thessalonica (capital and largest city of Roman province of Macedonia) on second missionary journey; they planted a church there but had to leave in a hurry because their lives were threatened; cf. Acts 17:1-10] in [points to true nature of a Christian church and identified what distinguished the Thessalonian church from other assemblies] God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace [receiving from God what we cannot earn and do not deserve] and peace [peace between believers and God made possible by Christ through His death on the cross; the result of grace] to you.

Paul and Silas spent enough time in Thessalonica to start a church there. As a result of their teaching, Jews and God-fearing Greeks and many of the leading women in the community came to faith in Christ. However, envious and angry Jewish leaders recruited some wicked men from the marketplace and incited a riot to protest the presence of Paul and Silas and their controversial message. As a result, Paul and Silas had to leave Thessalonica under cover of darkness. They traveled to Berea where they continued preaching the gospel of Christ.

Paul later wrote to the church in Thessalonica to answer questions about their new faith and to commend them for remaining faithful to Christ. Paul had faithfully demonstrated the love of Christ when he was among the Thessalonians. And, to their credit, the Thessalonians followed Paul’s example and became faithful witnesses to others in the area of the gospel and the love of God.

1:2 We [Paul, Silas, and Timothy] always thank God for all [Paul did not want to exclude any of the Thessalonian believers; every one of them had qualities worth thanking God for] of you [thanked God for progress of Thessalonian believers], mentioning you in [on the occasion of] our prayers [how Paul and his companions gave thanks].

Paul thanked God for the progress the Thessalonians had made in their new walk with Christ (1:2-3). Like Paul, we should continually be praying for others, especially new believers. We should never underestimate the importance of our prayers. Praying for others is one way in which we can demonstrate our love and concern for them.

Paul was thankful that the Thessalonians had remained faithful to Christ in spite of persecution and pressure to do otherwise. He also reminded the Thessalonian believers that they were chosen and loved by God (1:4). Knowing we are chosen and loved by God should motivate or energize us to obey, serve, and please Him — in other words, to live a life worthy of God’s choice and filled with gratitude for His love.

1:3 We continually [unceasingly] remember [describes the ground of the thanksgiving] before our God and Father your work [active work or results of work; perhaps refers to missionary work (1:8), acts of goodness toward others (4:9-10), or loyalty to Christ in persecution (1:6)] produced by faith, your labor [hard and wearying toil] prompted by love [(Gr. agape) second mile effort that sustains labor for the sake of others], and your endurance inspired by hope [fortitude in the face of difficulty; faith, love, and hope describe the motivation behind their work, labor, and endurance] in our Lord Jesus Christ [probably refers to second coming of Christ].

1:4 For we know, brothers [affectionate term; denotes spiritual relationship of those bound together in Christ; “brothers” and “brother” used nineteen times in this letter] loved by God [Greek perfect tense: signifying a love existing in the past and realized in the present], that he has chosen you,

1:5 because our [theirs by divine commission (cf. Rom. 1:1) and personal experience; they had been sent by God] gospel [emphasis on the message rather than bearers of the message] came [note four ways in which the gospel came to them] to you not simply [1] with words [not with hollow rhetoric], but also [2] with power [cf. Rom. 1:16 and 1 Cor. 2:4-5 re: “power of God;” words spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit produce positive results; the Holy Spirit makes the gospel meaningful to hearers (cf. Isa. 55:11)], [3] with the Holy Spirit [the source of power; cf. Acts 1:8] and [4] with deep [full] conviction [assurance, confidence in the power of Jesus Christ to change lives]. You know [indicates Thessalonian believers were aware] how [what sort of] we [Paul, Silas, Timothy] lived [lived what they preached] among you [in your midst] for your sake [Paul and his companions were aware of the power of their example].

When Paul was in Thessalonica, he had preached the gospel with more than just words. Paul was aware of the power of his example and made certain that his life was consistent with the gospel message. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul wrote: “Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ.” Paul wanted for others to follow his example only insofar as he followed the example of Christ.

Like Paul, we should live the kind of life that others would want to imitate (1:6). Paul had shared the gospel in dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit. Witnessing is sharing and showing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts the world through the gospel message and the satisfactory lives of believers.

As “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13) our lives should make people thirsty for the “living water” that Jesus alone offers (John 4:10). The love that had motivated Paul to take the gospel to Thessalonica made a difference in the lives of the people. The Thessalonian believers who embraced the gospel were also motivated by love to share the gospel with their neighbors. We must do no less.

1:6 You became imitators [Gr. mimetes (source for word mimic); one who follows the example or teaching of another; cf. Phil. 3:17] of us [manner of life] and of the Lord [cf. 1 Cor. 11:1]; in spite of severe suffering [cf. Acts 17:5; 1 Thess. 3:2-4], you welcomed [to receive] the message with the joy given by [inspired by] the Holy Spirit.

1:7 And so [because of their exemplary conduct in the face of persecution] you became a model [pattern; an exact reproduction; an example to be followed] to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia [two provinces that made up Greece].

1:8 The Lord’s message rang out [to sound forth; to sound out as a trumpet; a continuing process] from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere [hyperbole: meant everywhere the evangelistic Thessalonian Christians went or every place where a church had been established; the church had shared the gospel beyond the city limits and had a good reputation]. Therefore [because their faith was so well known] we do not need to say anything about it [the Thessalonians’ faith],

1:9 for they themselves [the people of Macedonia and Achaia] report [other people were talking about the Thessalonian church, their suffering, and how they had received Paul and his companions] what kind of reception you gave us [Paul, Silas, and Timothy]. They tell [note additional topics of conversation re: the Thessalonians] how you turned to God from [the decision to turn to God results in changes in every area of life; indicates the significance of their conversion] idols to serve [to serve as a slave] the living [in contrast to lifeless idols] and true [in contrast to unreal idols] God,

1:10 and to wait [occurs only here in NT; sustained expectation] for his Son from heaven [the second coming of Christ], whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath [refers to when God will destroy all evil (cf. 1 Thess. 5:9; 2 Thess. 1:6-10)].

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