Paul to the Thessalonians

After Paul started the church in Thessalonica, he wrote his first letter to the believers there within just a few months of leaving. In Acts, Luke recorded that Paul preached for three Sabbath days to the Jews in the local synagogue (Acts 17:2). However, most scholars believe Paul spent about three months, rather than three weeks, with the Thessalonians because he would have had to have been there long enough to receive more than one offering from the Philippian church (Philippians 4:15–16).

Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica obviously touched not only Jews but Gentiles as well. Many Gentiles in the church had come out of idolatry, which was not a particular problem among the Jews of that time (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

This first letter, he wrote it from the city of Corinth around AD 51, just a few months after having preached there on his second missionary journey. Having had to leave Thessalonica in a hurry, Paul, Silas, and Timothy traveled to Athens by way of Berea. But after a short time in Athens, Paul felt the need to receive a report from the new Thessalonian church, so he sent Timothy back to serve and minister to the new believers there. Paul wanted to check on the state of their faith, for fear that false teachers might have infiltrated their number. However, Timothy soon returned with a good report, prompting Paul to pen 1 Thessalonians as a letter of encouragement to the new believers.

First Thessalonians provides Christians with the clearest biblical passage on the coming rapture of believers, an event that will inaugurate the seven-year tribulation. At the rapture, Christ will return for His people. The dead in Christ shall rise first, while those still living will follow close behind. All believers will meet Jesus in the air to begin an eternity spent with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18).

After timothy’s good report about the faithfulness of the Thessalonians in the face of persecution, Paul wrote to encourage them to continue to grow in godliness. Paul knew that they had been exposed to false teaching from those who opposed the of Jesus Christ and the grace of God. He also understood that unless the young church continued to mature in faith, the danger would only increase.

So, Paul taught them that any spiritual growth would ultimately be motivated by their hope in the return of Jesus Christ. He was never interested in simply telling people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, for he understood that what inspired change was a life of consistently walking in the power of God’s Spirit


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