1 Thessalonians 1 - Good News in Word and Power

INTRODUCTION: When Paul and his companions are directed by the Holy Spirit, with the call to Macedonia from Asia by a vision, they have a small beginning at Philippi with a few women who are converted. There is no mention of a synagogue at Philippi, and the violent opposition that Paul faces, comes from Gentiles. Their brief time there ends with a public scourging and subsequent time in jail after Paul had commanded an evil spirit to come out of a young woman who earned money for her master by fortune telling. A miraculous earthquake sets Paul and Silas free from their bonds, and leads to the conversion of the jailer and his household. Thus the core of believers at Philippi has these two groups as the beginning of a church that developed into one of firm faith willing to support Paul as he travels. Paul and his companions then continued their journey through Macedonia, with the next important city that they visited being Thessalonica.

NOTE: Bible verses are taken from the World English bible (WEB(, translated from the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament.


A - PAUL'S EXPERIENCE AT THESSALONICA

Acts 17 "1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 Paul, as was his custom, went in to them, and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." 4 Some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas, of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and not a few of the chief women. 5 But the unpersuaded Jews took along some wicked men from the marketplace, and gathering a crowd, set the city in an uproar. Assaulting the house of Jason, they sought to bring them out to the people. 6 When they didn't find them, they dragged Jason and certain brothers before the rulers of the city, crying, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 whom Jason has received. These all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus!" 8 The multitude and the rulers of the city were troubled when they heard these things. 9 When they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. 10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea. When they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed; also of the prominent Greek women, and not a few men. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Beroea also, they came there likewise, agitating the multitudes. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent out Paul to go as far as to the sea, and Silas and Timothy still stayed there. 15 But those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens. Receiving a commandment to Silas and Timothy that they should come to him very quickly, they departed."

COMMENTS: Before moving westward into Macedonia, Paul had developed a pattern of going to synagogues in the cities of Asia as his first step in proclaiming Christ. This account in Acts chapter 17 reports that upon arrival in Thessalonica, "as was his custom," (1) Paul went in to the Jewish synagogue, (2) where he reasoned from the scriptures for three Sabbath days, (3) explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, (4) and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." The text tells us that many Greeks and some Jews believed the gospel message, and that gives indication that the dispersion of Jews had drawn some Gentiles under the influence of the Jewish scriptures through the synagogues. The LORD used the waywardness of Israel, and the resulting foreign domination and dispersion when the northern and southern kingdoms fell over the centuries before the coming of Christ, to spread the Old Testament word of God among many Gentile nations. Paul used the Old Testament scripture to prove that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah that had long been awaited for by the Jews, and was the Savior also for the Gentiles. To paraphrase Joseph from Genesis chapter 50, the unbelievers who were at Thessalonica thought their persecution of Paul for evil, but God meant it for good, and that will become more evident through Paul's letter.

The Jews at Thessalonica who would not receive the truth about Jesus, were driven by misdirected zeal to violent reaction, and recruited some wicked men from the market place, saying these are the men "who have turned the world upside down." This characterization of Paul gives evidence that his reputation in Israel and Asia from previous years of teaching that Jesus is the Christ, had preceded him before he traveled in Macedonia. It also shows that when the truth about Jesus was not accepted, the Jews actually had more concern about the ruling worldly government than about their Allegiance to their God, as they used the argument of loyalty to a king other than Caesar to agitate even the leaders of the city.

Paul may have been staying at Jason's house, but he was not found when the crowd brought out Jason instead. Though the detail is sparse, there is no mention of physical punishment. Jason and others were released after they were required to supply some form of payment described as a security. Though this prominent mention was made of Jason among the believers at Thessalonica, we are not given any other scriptural detail about him, including in either of the two letters later written to the church at Thessalonica. There is a Jason mentioned by name in the letter to the Romans, but there is no way to determine if this is the same man. It is interesting that the Jews who persecuted Paul and his companions had great zeal against this teaching as did Paul before his conversion on the road to Damascus; but Paul's motivation was to eliminate heresy among Jews, rather than a concern about displeasing the ruling civil government. Paul's own testimony shows that he considered those who believed in Jesus were blasphemers, but he later realized that his violent persecution may have actually driven some to blaspheme against Christ. Acts 26 "9 I myself most certainly thought that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem. I both shut up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, and when they were put to death I gave my vote against them. 11 Punishing them often in all the synagogues, I tried to make them blaspheme. Being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities."

Paul and his companions were desirous to bring the gospel of Christ to the Jew first, but when the truth about Christ Jesus was rejected, there was no hesitation to take that message of salvation to the Gentiles because God's saving grace was to be available to all people of the earth. How difficult it is to be in the world, but not of the world when rejection of the truth is the prevalent mindset. The Jewish leaders at Jerusalem had been much more "of the world" when they directly rejected Jesus as recorded in the gospel of John. John 11 "47 The chief priests therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council, and said, "What are we doing? For this man does many signs. 48 If we leave him alone like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.""

Christians are expected to respect those in authority, and even pray for them, because God desires all people to be saved. 1 Timothy 2 "1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men: 2 for kings and all who are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own times;" But as Peter and John declared, their may be times when there is a hard choice required to decide whom we should obey, and we must rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to choose correctly. Acts 4 " 18 They called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves, 20 for we can't help telling the things which we saw and heard.""


B - PAUL OPENED HIS LETTER WITH GREETINGS AND THANKSGIVING

1 Thessalonians 1 "1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the assembly of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We always give thanks to God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labour of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father. 4 We know, brothers loved by God, that you are chosen, 5 and that our Good News came to you not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we showed ourselves to be among you for your sake."

COMMENTS: Paul and Silas (here called Sylvanus) had suffered together at Philippi, but Timothy had also been with them during that time, though not beaten and imprisoned. All three, and perhaps others in their company, had traveled to Thessalonica, then Paul moved on to Berea, and from there to Athens. Since Paul makes the greeting from all three, and addresses it to the assembly (or church) at Thessalonica, he has included the other two men as his co-workers. In this brief opening, Paul mentions God the Father with the Lord Jesus Christ three times, underscoring that Jesus is God. The believers at Thessalonica (1) are "in" God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, (2) are recipients of peace and grace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and (3) are commended by Paul for their work of faith and labour of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father. Paul next brings in the activity of the Holy Spirit as he refers to them as brothers loved by God, and reminds them that they are chosen. The good news they received came not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. Paul also emphasizes that the conduct that he and his companions displayed while at Thessalonica was for the sake of those who remained there.

The Jewish and Gentile believers at Thessalonica were "chosen" by the call of God as is supported by other scriptures that use the same Greek term as when chosen is enclosed below in braces. Ananias was afraid to go to see Paul as the Lord had directed, because he knew how Paul had been persecuting Christians before his conversion when he was vehemently opposed to the message of Christ, so the Lord reassured Ananias. Acts 9 "15 But the Lord said to him, "Go your way, for he is my {chosen} to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel."" The Lord designated Paul to take the message to both Gentiles and Jews, for it is acceptance of Christ that brings salvation. Romans 9 "8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as a seed. 9 For this is a word of promise, "At the appointed time I will come, and Sarah will have a son." 10 Not only so, but Rebecca also conceived by one, by our father Isaac. 11 For being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to {election} might stand, not of works, but of him who calls, 12 it was said to her, "The elder will serve the younger."" Those who are chosen by God will bear fruit for him as evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that seals them in assurance to eternal life. 2 Peter 1 "3 seeing that his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue; 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and exceedingly great promises; that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Yes, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence; and in moral excellence, knowledge; 6 and in knowledge, self-control; and in self-control patience; and in patience godliness; 7 and in godliness brotherly affection; and in brotherly affection, love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful to the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be more diligent to make your calling and {election} sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble. 11 For thus you will be richly supplied with the entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ."


C - THE THESSALONIAN BELIEVERS WERE WELL SPOKEN OF BY OTHERS

1 Thessalonians 1"6 You became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all who believe in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For from you the word of the Lord has been declared, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone out; so that we need not to say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us what kind of a reception we had from you; and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead - Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come."

COMMENTS: Paul commends the believers at Thessalonica for being imitators of the display of Christianity by those who brought the gospel message to them, and he lets them know that response was actually an outward expression of having sincerely received the LORD. This was especially noteworthy because they received the word of truth about the living God in the midst of strong persecution, as Paul's message was surrounded by an atmosphere of open hostility. The joy of their faith that evidenced the Holy Spirit within, became a topic of discussion across Macedonia, and even was well spoken about in the southern regions in Achaia and beyond. Paul goes on to say that he did not need to report of how well the Thessalonians had received Paul and his companions, because many had already heard of their faith in turning away from idols, and to the living and true God. they now wait expectantly for Jesus to return, the Son of God who was raised from the dead, who delivers us from the wrath to come. It is also interesting that we can be comforted in affliction, when we believe that we are spared from the wrath to come that is held for all those who reject God's salvation while they believe they are not at all foolish to savor only what the present world has to offer. The prophet Jeremiah gave warning to the southern kingdom, even as they were soon to be overrun by the powerful and domineering Chaldeans. Jeremiah 10:10 "10 But Yahweh is the true God; he is the living God, and an everlasting King: at his wrath the earth trembles, and the nations are not able to withstand his indignation."

The New Testament also speaks of the living and true God. Matthew 16 "16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven."" The apostle John tells us about the true God in his gospel and in his first letter. John 17 "3 This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ." 1 John 5 "20 We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding, that we know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life."

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

As so often is the case in reading about the first century Christians, I am humbled that you have chosen me to have eternal life among so many who suffered for your name. Your Word has not changed from the time of the Old Testament saints, because your love and mercy endure forever. I echo in my own life what Jacob said upon his return to the land that would become Israel, "I am not worthy of the least of all the loving kindnesses, and of all the truth, which you have shown to your servant." Each of the Christians in this account of the foundation of the church at Thessalonica had their own unique roles to play, not only there but as they had impact on believers in other regions. I desire to continually seek my part in doing your will where you have placed me, and in the society of my time period. May I always remind myself and other Christians of the hope we share with those at Thessalonica, that we have "turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead - Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come." Amen and amen!

1 Thessalonians, Chapter 2 - Boldness Out of Suffering 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 3 - Paul Sent Timothy 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4 - Abound in Love Toward Sanctification 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5 - Stay Alert for Christ's Return

Published 31 January 2011