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New Testament Overview: First Thessalonians

The Pauline Epistles

   
The Pauline Epistles
The Prison Epistles
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  arrow First Thessalonians  
  arrow {413} Second Thessalonians  
    @ bible.org by J. Hampton Keathley, III {original source}  

AUTHOR AND TITLE:

As declared in 1:1 and 2:18, all evidence (external and internal) supports the claim of the book that Paul is the author of 1 Thessalonians. Early church fathers support Paul’s authorship beginning as early as A.D. 140 (Marcion)db01.

Those things that characterize Paul are evident throughout (cf. 3:1-2, 8-11 with Acts 15:36; 2 Cor. 11:28). In addition, a number of historical allusions in the book fit Paul’s life as recounted in Acts and in his own letters (cf. 2:14-16; 3:1, 2, 5-6 with Acts 17:1-15).

In view of this evidence, few (some radical critics of the nineteenth century) have ever questioned Paul’s authorship.

As the first of two canonical epistles to the church at Thessalonica, this book was called in the Greek text, Pros Thessalonikeis A, “First to the Thessalonians.

DATE: A.D. 51-52

Both 1 and 2 Thessalonians were written from Corinth during the apostle’s eighteen-month stay in that city (cf. Acts 18:1-11). The first epistle was written during the earlier part of that period just after Timothydb02 had returned from Thessalonica with news of the progress of the church. The second letter was dispatched just a few weeks (or at the most a few months) later. Any date assigned will have to be approximate, though probably A.D. 51-52.

THEME AND PURPOSE:

The purpose and burden of the apostle in writing to the Thessalonians can be summarized as follows:

  • to express his thankfulness for what God was doing in the lives of the Thessalonians (1:2-3),
  • to defend himself against a campaign to slander his ministry (2:1-12),
  • to encourage them to stand fast against persecution and pressure to revert to their former pagan lifestyles (3:2-3; 4:1-12),
  • to answer a doctrinal question pertaining to the fate of Christians who had died (4:1-13),
  • to answer questions regarding the “Day of the Lord(5:1-11), and
  • to deal with certain problems that had developed in their corporate life as a church (5:12-13; 19-20).

KEY WORD(S):

Two key words and concepts stand out in this short epistle:

The coming of the Lord should not only comfort our hearts, but stir us to godly living.

KEY VERSES:

1:9-10For people everywhere report how you welcomed us and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God 1:10 and to wait for his son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus our deliverer from the coming wrath.

2:13And so we too constantly thank God that when you received God’s message that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human message, but as it truly is, God’s message, that is at work among you who believe.

4:1-3Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; (NASB)

4:13-18Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and arose, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. 4:15 For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will arise first. 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be snatched up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord always. 4:18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

KEY CHAPTERS:

Chapters 4 and 5 undoubtedly stand out as key chapters because of their teaching on both the coming of the Lord for the church, the rapture (4:13-18), and the day of the Lord (5:1-11), the time in the future when He will intervene in human events to consummate His redemption and judgment.

CHRIST AS SEEN IN 1 THESSALONIANS:

With the coming of the Lord mentioned in every chapter, Christ is presented as the believer’s hope of salvation both now and at His coming.

When He comes:

  • He will deliver us from wrath (undoubtedly a reference to the Tribulation) (1:10; 5:4-11),
  • Give rewards (2:19),
  • Perfect us (3:13),
  • Resurrect us (4:13-18), and
  • Sanctify (set apart) all those who have trusted in Him (5:23).

OUTLINE:

  • I. The Past: The Work of Faith (1:1-3:13)
    • A. The Commendation of the Thessalonians (1:1-10)
      • 1. The Evaluation of Paul (1:1-4)
      • 2. The Evidence of Life (1:5-7)
      • 3. The Explanation of the Evidence (1:8-10)
    • B. The Conduct of the Apostle and His Fellow Workers (2:1-12)
    • C. The Conduct of the Thessalonians (2:13-16)
      • 1. Their Reception of the Word (2:13)
      • 2. Their Response to the Word (2:14)
      • 3. The Rejection of the Word (2:15-16)
    • D. The Concern of the Apostle (2:17-20)
      • 1. His Heart for the Thessalonians (2:17)
      • 2. His Hindrance by Satan (2:18)
      • 3. His Hope in the Thessalonians (2:19-20)
    • E. The Confirmation of the Thessalonians (3:1-10)
      • 1. The Sending of Timothy (3:1-5)
      • 2. The Report of Timothy (3:6-10)
    • F. The Concluding Prayer (3:11-13)
      • 1. The Prayer That He Might Return to the Thessalonians (3:11)
      • 2. The Prayer That the Thessalonians Might Grow in Love (3:12)
      • 3. The Prayer That Their Hearts Might Be Established in Holiness (3:13)

  • II. The Present: The Labor of Love (4:1-12)
    • A. Their Love for God Expressed in Sanctified Living (4:1-8)
    • B. Their Love for the Brethren, an Expression of Being God Taught (4:9-10)
    • C. Their Love for the Lost Expressed in Godly Living (4:11-12)

  • III. The Prospective: The Endurance of Hope (4:13-5:28)
    • A. Concerning the Day of Christ: The Comfort of His Coming (4:13-18)
      • 1. The Resurrection of Sleeping Saints (4:13-16)
      • 2. The Rapture of Living Saints (4:17-18)
    • B. Concerning the Day of the Lord (5:1-11)
      • 1. The Coming of the Day of the Lord (5:1-5)
      • 2. The Conduct of Christians (5:6-10)
      • 3. The Conclusion (5:11)
    • C. Concerning Deportment in the Congregation (5:12-28)
      • 1. The Concluding Prescription (5:12-22)
      • 2. The Concluding Petition (5:23-24)
      • 3. The Concluding Postscript (5:25-28)
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db* = Content added by Dailybread.com.au to assist the reader
db01 Marcion: Marcion of Sinope (/ˈmɑrʃən, -ʃiən, -siən/; Greek: Μαρκίων Σινώπης; c. 85 – c. 160) was an important leader in early Christianity. Hippolytus records that Marcion was the son of the bishop of Sinope, in Pontus. His near-contemporaries Rhodo and Tertullian described him as a wealthy ship owner, and he is said to have made a donation of 200,000 sesterces to the church in Rome. Conflicts with the elders of the church of Rome arose and he was eventually excommunicated, his donation being returned to him. After his excommunication, he returned to Asia Minor where he continued to lead his many church congregations and teach the Christian gospel in its Marcionite version. [From Wikipedia]
db02 Timothy: Timothy (Greek: Τιμόθεος; Timótheos, meaning "honouring God" or "honored by God") was the first first-century Christian bishop of Ephesus, whom tradition relates died around the year AD 97. He was from the Lycaonian city of Lystra in Asia Minor, became Paul’s disciple, and later his companion and co-worker. The New Testament indicates that Timothy traveled with Saint Paul, who was also his mentor. [From Wikipedia]
     
 
 
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