1 Thessalonians 1
Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians (1:1-10)
1 Silas (or Silvanus) and Timothy were with Paul when he wrote this letter (see 2 Corinthians 1:1-2,19 and comment).
2 See Ephesians 1:15-16; Colossians 1:35; 2 Thessalonians 1:3 and comments.
3 Here Paul recalls three things about the Thessalonians. First, he recalls their work produced by FAITH —that is, the work they have done as the result of their faith (see James 2:17). Second, Paul recalls their labor prompted by love. Just as true faith must be manifested by good works, so must true love be manifested by labor or works of love. Third, Paul recalls their endurance inspired by hope. Those whose hope is placed on Christ will have endurance. Thus the work, labor, and endurance of the Thessalonians are the result of their faith, love, and hope, which Paul says are the three most important things in our Christian lives1 (see 1 Corinthians 13:13 and comment).
4 Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they have been chosen by God, and that they are loved by Him (see Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 and comments). Paul calls the Thessalonians “brothers,” because they have been chosen by God to be His children. Since Paul is also a child of God, that makes him and the Thessalonians spiritual “brothers.” However, all men cannot be said to be brothers; only those who belong to God’s family through faith in Christ are true spiritual brothers and sisters to one another. There can be no “brotherhood of man” for those who do not acknowledge the “fatherhood of God.”
5 Paul here calls the Gospel our GOSPEL; that is, it was the Gospel of Christ preached by Paul, Silas, and Timothy.
This gospel came to the Thessalonians with power. The Gospel is the power of God for … salvation (Romans 1:16). When Paul preached the Gospel, his words came with God’s power (see 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 and comment).
This gospel also came to the Thessalonians with the HOLY SPIRIT. Any word that does not come with the Spirit is a dead word, or dead letter. And the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). The power of the Gospel comes from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was in Paul. And when the Thessalonians accepted the Gospel and believed in Christ, the Holy Spirit began to dwell within them also.
Paul preached the gospel with deep conviction; and the Thessalonians believed it with deep conviction.
The Thessalonians know what kind of men Paul, Silas, and Timothy are. They have seen that they are men filled with the Spirit (see 1 Thessalonians 2:10).
6 The new believers in Thessalonica at first became imitators of Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Then, from these three men, the Thessalonians learned to imitate Christ Himself. They could see how Paul, Silas, and Timothy themselves imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1).
What kind of example do we ourselves give to new believers? Can any of us say to another person, “If you imitate me, you’ll be imitating Christ”? We ought to be able to say that! Yes, the witness of our lips is very important; but the witness of our lives is even more important.
From the beginning, the new believers in Thessalonica were persecuted by the society around them. Even while Paul was there preaching, a great uproar arose against the Christians (Acts 17:5-7). Nevertheless, the Thessalonian believers received Paul’s message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit (see John 16:22; Galatians 5:22).
We Christians do not like to face trouble or persecution. In every country of the world, Christians seek for religious freedom, so that they can practice their religion without being persecuted. But according to the teaching of the New Testament, to endure persecution for the sake of Christ is a joyful privilege (Acts 5:41; 1 Peter 4:13). The church that endures persecution with joy is a strong church, and its witness is powerful. Let us not seek the easy road (see Matthew 7:13-14). Through the suffering we endure for Christ’s sake, God will be glorified and our church will be made strong.
7 Because these Thessalonian Christians had endured persecution with such joy and were imitating Christ so faithfully, they had become a model, an example, for all the other believers living in Macedonia, the northern province of Greece. Let these Thessalonian Christians be a model for us too! Then, in turn, we too will become a model for others.
8 Paul says that the Lord’s message rang out from the Thessalonian church. Now, as a result, their faith in God has become known everywhere—not just in Macedonia and Achaia,2 but in other countries as well. Remember, this church was less than a year old at the time Paul wrote this letter. It was a tiny, persecuted church. Nevertheless, their faith had become known everywhere!
How do our churches today compare with that little Thessalonian church? Our churches are bigger, richer, and older; but does the Gospel “ring out” from our churches as it did from that Thessalonian church? O brothers and sisters, if not, then let it begin to do so without delay!
9 Wherever Paul goes, he hears other people talk about the faith of the Thessalonians, especially how they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
What a powerful witness the Thessalonians had! What do people say about us?
10 The Thessalonians had turned from idols to serve the living and true God (verse 9) and to wait for his Son (Christ) from heaven. Their eyes were raised toward heaven. Their hope was not in this life. Their hope was in Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, and who would return to rescue them from the coming wrath—from God’s judgment. No wonder the Gospel rang out from them!