1 Thessalonians Bible Study, Chapter 1

The Thessalonians accepted God’s message taught God’s way by Paul and it gave God’s results.

Tod Kennedy, September 9 and 16, 2009

A few observations from chapter 1

  1. The letter is to the church at Thessalonica, a city church.
  2. Thanks and prayer are part of Paul’s life.
  3. Work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope characterized the new believers.
  4. Choice of you indicates that they are in God’s plan for privilege and opportunity.
  5. The biblical gospel came in word, power, the Holy Spirit, and conviction.
  6. The Thessalonian believers imitated Paul, Silas, Timothy, and the Lord in the way they received the word—in the middle of tribulation yet with the joy of Holy Spirit.
  7. The reports about the Thessalonian believers came in from different places.
  8. The report said that they turned to God, turned from idols, turned to serve living and true God, and wait for the resurrected Jesus.
  9. Jesus the Son of the living God.
  10. Indigenous missions: Paul and his team began the work and then the Thessalonians reached Macedonia, Achaia, other places.
  11. Jesus delivers from coming wrath

Main points to emphasize in 1 Thessalonians 1

  1. Thank God for the Christian life of other believers when we pray for them.
  2. Christian service is the normal expression of faith, love, and hope, even for spiritually young believers.
  3. Believers are elect or chosen ones in Christ based on God’s foreknowledge of faith and therefore believers are secure and privileged.
  4. One’s ministry consists of the accurate message delivered powerfully, through the Holy Spirit, with the conviction that it is true. Here see 1 Peter 4:11.
  5. Let’s imitate the Lord and Paul so that we will be examples or models to other believers.
  6. Telling God’s word to others is expressing our faith.
  7. Jesus Christ will return for believers and therefore he removes us from earth before God’s tribulation wrath strikes.

Exposition of 1 Thessalonians 1

  1. 1 Thessalonians 1:1 The Paul team included Silas and Timothy. After their visit to Thessalonica Paul wrote back to the new church. Missionary work and church planting were often done by Paul and his team. He had fellow workers who were different parts of the body of Christ working together. Paul wrote back to the believers. He addressed this particular geographical church. Remember the church has a universal sense, a geographical sense, and a local sense. The relationship and therefore position of each Thessalonian believer was in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace were to be the position and experience of each believer in this new church.
    • For our service we need to keep this in mind. God has given spiritual gifts and placed people in the different parts of Christ’s spiritual body for a purpose.
    • God places each person who believes in Jesus Christ into an unbreakable relationship with Himself and with Jesus. Each is now part of Christ’s spiritual body. This body is the church (ekklesia).
    • See the Bible doctrines of Missions, Church, Positional Truth, Spiritual Gifts, Grace, and Peace.
  2. 1 Thessalonians 1.2-3. Paul remembered (mnemoneo, present active participle) those whom he witnessed to and taught. He recalled their service. These memories motivated him to pray (prosucheo, present participle) often for them and to thank (eucharisteo, present active indicative) God for them
    • Prayer is often motivated by memories of people we know and remember. Our prayer ought to include thanks to God and intercession to God for them and for their ministry. We want God to work in and on behalf of others—especially their Christian lives.
    • See the Bible doctrines of Thanksgiving and Prayer.
  3. 1 Thessalonians 1:3. Paul recalled that the Thessalonians’ faith was working, their love was laboring, and their hope in Jesus Christ was giving them steadfastness or endurance in their lives.
    • This is high praise. Does our faith (pistis) work (ergon), our love (agape) labor (kopos), and our hope (elpis) remain steadfast (hupomone)?
    • See the Bible doctrines of Christian Service or Ministry, Good Works or Divine Good, Love, Faith, and Hope,
  4. 1 Thessalonians 1:4. Paul and others knew that the Thessalonian believers were God’s choice (ekloge) people—choice in the sense that they were chosen for privilege, opportunity, and responsibility.
    • Every believer is chosen or elected because they believe the biblical gospel. In practical terms election means that God has selected and secured believers for privileges and opportunities. These privileges and opportunities are only given to those that are related to Him by faith (see Ephesians 1.3-14). People are elect or choice based upon their faith in the biblical gospel and this faith was foreseen by God.
    • See the Bible doctrine of Election (here the word).
  5. 1 Thessalonians 1:5. Paul was effective when he brought the biblical gospel and doctrine to the Thessalonians. In word (logos)—he was accurate; he was powerful (dunamis) through his knowledge, training, and ability; the Holy Spirit (pneumati hagioi) filled, led, and energized him; and Paul was convinced (plerophoria) that what he said was God’s truth, and the people recognized this.
    • In our day to day lives our spoken biblical message is most effective when the message is accurate, when we put our knowledge, training, and ability into our witnessing and teaching, when the Holy Spirit directs and targets the message, and when we are convinced that this is God’s message.
    • See Bible doctrines of Biblical Gospel, Revelation-Inspiration-Communication-Illumination, Knowledge of God’s Word, and Ministries of the Holy Spirit.
  6. 1 Thessalonians 1:6. The Thessalonian believers willingly and joyfully (joy, chara) received (dechomai, aorist middle participle) God’s word from Paul even though there was great turmoil and opposition (suffering, thlipsis) to his ministry and to the Thessalonians’ faith response to his ministry.  In this way they became (ginomai, aorist passive indicative) imitators (mimetes) of Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Jesus. They became like them.
    • When we willingly and joyfully receive God’s word in the face of intense opposition we are doing what Paul, Silas, Timothy, and the Lord did. This is high praise. Joy is what we all want. It is best and most productive when the Holy Spirit produces it in us.
    • See the Bible doctrines of The Convicting Ministry of the Holy Spirit, Importance of God’s Word, Imitation, Spiritual Growth, Suffering, and Fruit of the Holy Spirit.
  7. 1 Thessalonians 1:7. The result of imitating Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Jesus was that the Thessalonian believers (pisteuo, articular present active participle used as a noun) as a whole became (ginomai, aorist middle infinitive) an example (tupos), an impression from a blow, a mark, a pattern, a model of Christian living to believers living in two provinces. Paul, Silas, and Timothy are only to be imitated when they imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
    • We can also be models of Christian living when we imitate Christ in His relationship to the Father, to the Holy Spirit, to God’s word, to God’s will, and to people. To do that we need to receive God’s word as the Thessalonians did and to put it to its intended purpose.
    • See the Bible doctrines of Christ-likeness and Spiritual Growth.
  8. 1 Thessalonians 1:8. The Thessalonian believers responded to Paul’s message and ministry in such a way that they spread (has sounded forth, execheo, perfect passive indicative) the word of God—the biblical gospel and biblical doctrine—even past their own borders. Not only did they say the right words. What they believed combined with the application in their lives—your faith (pistis) toward God—spread widely (has gone forth, exerchomai, perfect active indicative) and greatly influenced people. They took over the job of witnessing and teaching. Paul could depend on them as he went elsewhere, though he would have preferred to stay longer with them.
    • The question remains for us, how do we respond to the biblical message that we hear over and over and seem to be convinced of its truthfulness? Do people see God’s message and kind of life in us? Do we want God to use us to present the biblical message to other people? Do we think about knowing God better? Do we think about applying the doctrine that we know? Could Paul say the same about us that he said about the Thessalonians?
    • See the Bible doctrines of Missions, Spiritual Growth, The Faith, Spiritual Enthusiasm, and Ministry.
  9. 1 Thessalonians 1:9. People in surrounding geographical areas were reporting (apaggello, present active indicative) what happened in Thessalonica. Namely, that many Thessalonians had turned (epistrepho, aorist active indicative) to God from idols (eidolon). They had been religious, but religion is not the way to relationship with God. They also wanted to serve (douleuo, present active infinitive) the one living (zao, present active participle used as an adjective) and true (alethinos) God. Turning is first of all a change in thinking. The living and true God is the only God. All idols are false. They had come to the realization through Paul’s teaching that Yahweh God is alive. He is no statue or superman. He is the creator, life giver, and judge.
    • What do people report about us. They may say we do not serve stone or wood idols, but do they think we serve other man made things—money, fame, sports, celebrities, work, food, television, or whatever is most important to you?
    • Is our life one of serving God?
    • See the Bible doctrines of God, Faith, Ministry, and Spiritual Gifts.
  10. 1 Thessalonians 1:10. Not only did many Thessalonians turn to God in faith and for service, they also understood at least the basics of future things—the doctrine of eschatology. Paul had taught them that Jesus is God’s son and therefore God. Paul taught that God had raised (egeiro, aorist active indicative) Jesus from the dead (nekros), and that Jesus will return from heaven (ouranos). They were waiting (anameno, present active infinitive) for Him. Paul also taught that Jesus is the one who will deliver (ruomai, articular present middle participle use as a noun) the Thessalonian believers from (ek) the coming (erchomai, articular present middle participle) wrath (orge) of God that God will pour out upon the world. From other Scripture we know that this wrath will come upon unbelievers during the tribulation period, also known as the judgment part of the day of the Lord. With this biblical knowledge they made the application to expectantly wait for God’s son to come from heaven for them. Paul writes more about this in the rest of the book.
    • We, like the Thessalonians, ought to wait with expectation for Jesus Christ to return for His church. We can be thankful that we will not have to live on earth during the day of God’s wrath. We also know that there is only a short time that we have to serve God. Jesus may come at any time.
    • See the Bible doctrines of Christology, The Rapture (which we might better call the great snatch), Resurrection, Heaven, Tribulation, Day of the Lord, and Faith Application of Bible Doctrine.