Introduction to 1 Thessalonians
Author, Date, and Recipients
Paul wrote this letter to the church in Thessalonica. He probably wrote in a.d. 49–51 from Corinth during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1–18).
The main theme is Jesus’ second coming. When he returns, the dead who have believed in Christ will rise and will join the living to meet the Lord in the air (4:15–17). Unbelievers will experience God’s wrath, while believers will inherit salvation (1:10; 5:2–4, 9–10). In preparation for that great day, Christians are called to be holy and blameless (3:11–4:8; 5:23). God, who is faithful, will produce in them the holiness he requires (5:24).
Paul has received a report from Timothy about the Thessalonian church. Paul writes to them to restore their hope, which has been tested by unexpected deaths in the church. He reassures them that both the dead and the living believers will be safe at the second coming (4:13–5:11). In addition, Paul wants (1) to stress the authenticity of himself, Silas, and Timothy as preachers of the gospel (1:5; 2:1–12; 2:17–3:10); (2) to teach them that persecution is normal for Christians (3:3–4); and (3) to challenge them to take responsibility for earning their own living (4:9–12).
- God’s wrath comes on those who reject the gospel (2:16; 5:3).
- Jesus’ death and resurrection are the basis for the Christian’s hope (4:14; 5:10).
- Christians are destined not for wrath but for salvation when Christ returns (1:10; 5:4, 9).
- Christians who die will participate fully in the second coming (4:14–17; 5:10).
- Those who respond to the gospel have been elected and called by God. They continue to be called by God throughout their lives (1:4; 2:12; 4:7; 5:9, 24).
- Christians should live lives of complete holiness (3:13; 4:3–8; 5:23).
- Christians must never ignore their responsibility to work (4:9–12; 5:14).
- The truth of the gospel is confirmed by the integrity of its preachers (1:5; 2:1–12).
- Joy, especially in suffering, is a mark of the Christian (1:6; 5:16).
- Christians experience the realities of the new covenant (4:8–9).
- Faith, hope, and love are essential traits of the Christian (1:2–3; 5:8).
The Setting of 1 Thessalonians
c. a.d. 49–51
Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians from Corinth near the end of his second missionary journey. Paul and his companions had established the church in Thessalonica but were forced to leave by opponents of the gospel. Later, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to check on the church there, and Timothy’s report led Paul to write this letter. Thessalonica enjoyed privileged status as the capital of Macedonia and was located on a natural harbor along the busy east-west Egnatian Way.