Paul proceeded on to Thessalonica after his visit to Philippi, where he was flogged (see Acts 16). The record of his visit there is found in Acts 17:1-10. For three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Old Testament, showing that Jesus was the Christ. The result was that some of them believed, including some Jews, a great number of Greeks, and some chief women.
Those who rejected the message also stirred up opposition against the missionaries and they, as well as the believers, were forced to leave the city. The Thessalonians “turned to God from idols.” See 1 Thess. 1:9. This would lead us to believe that the church was largely Gentile, because Jews were typically not idolaters. Another interesting point is the absence of Old Testament references. This letter was probably written just a few months after their conversion to God from idols. The reading of the epistle brings us to the conclusion that they were well-grounded in the faith.
Paul had taught them the doctrines of the Trinity (see 1 Thessalonians 1:1-6), election (see 1 Thessalonians 1:4), the Second Coming, which is mentioned in every chapter, and finally, practical sanctification (see 1 Thessalonians 4:1-4). Their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope, declares them to be a healthy, aggressive group of believers.
The Purpose of Writing
Timothy probably had returned to Thessalonica for a period of time in order to strengthen and comfort the suffering and persecuted believers. When Timothy left them, he proceeded to Corinth, where he reported to Paul the conditions as they were in the church (see Acts 18:5).
The report was favorable for the most part, however a few defects still existed. The epistle was written to correct the following issues:
Some had stopped working in view of the Lord’s coming.
Others mourned the loss of loved ones.
Some were not walking as they should have been.
Immorality was present.
Some were defrauding their brethren.
Just as Christ is the heart of Colossians, His Coming is the heart of I Thessalonians.
Chapter 1: Conversion and the Second Advent
Chapter 2: Service and the Second Advent
Chapter 3: Purity and the Second Advent
Chapter 4: Bereavement and the Second Advent
Chapter 5: Alertness and the Second Advent
Paul relates this to the Christian experience through each of the chapters.
Chapter 1: The Lord’s Coming is an inspiring hope for the young convert.
Chapter 2: The Lord’s Coming is an encouraging hope for the faithful servant.
Chapter 3: The Lord’s Coming is a purifying hope for the believer.
Chapter 4: The Lord’s Coming is a comforting hope for the bereaved.
Chapter 5: The Lord’s Coming is a rousing hope for the sleepy Christian.
Chapter 1: A child born – Conversion
Chapter 2: A child nursed
Chapter 3: A child taught to walk
Chapter 4: A child comforted
Chapter 5: A child taught to fight
Their work of faith was that they turned to God. Their labor of love was to serve the living and true God. Their patience of hope was to wait for his Son from Heaven. Please note the classic passage that deals with the Lord’s Coming, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, we are told to honor the overseers who are overseers indeed. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 detail some of the work of overseers. Direct commands are given in the following verses, such as “rejoice evermore” (1 Thessalonians 5:16), “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), “quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) and finally, in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, we are to “abstain from the appearance of evil.”