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Introduction to 1 Thessalonians


Summary of the Book of 1 Thessalonians

This summary of the book of 1 Thessalonians provides information about the title, author(s), date of writing, chronology, theme, theology, outline, a brief overview, and the chapters of the Book of 1 Thessalonians.

Background of the Thessalonian Letters

It is helpful to trace the locations of Paul and his companions that relate to the Thessalonian correspondence. The travels were as follows:

    1. Paul and Silas fled from Thessalonica to Berea. Since Timothy is not mentioned (see Ac 17:10 and note), it is possible that he stayed in Thessalonica or went back to Philippi and then rejoined Paul and Silas in Berea (Ac 17:14).
    2. Paul fled to Athens from Berean persecution, leaving Silas and Timothy in Berea (see Ac 17:14).
    3. Paul sent word back, instructing Silas and Timothy to come to him in Athens (see Ac 17:15; see also note on 1Th 3:1-2).
    4. Timothy rejoined Paul at Athens and was sent back to Thessalonica (see 3:1-5). Since Silas is not mentioned, it has been conjectured that he went back to Philippi when Timothy went to Thessalonica (see note on 3:1-2).
    5. Paul moved on to Corinth (see Ac 18:1).
    6. Silas and Timothy came to Paul in Corinth (see 3:6; Ac 18:5).
    7. Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians and sent it to the church.
    8. About six months later (a.d. 51/52) he sent 2 Thessalonians in response to further information about the church there.

Author, Date and Place of Writing

Both external and internal evidence (see 1:1; 2:18) support the view that Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians (from Corinth; see note on 3:1-2). Early church writers are agreed on the matter, with testimonies beginning as early as a.d. 140 (Marcion). Paul's known characteristics are apparent in the letter (3:1-2,8-11 compared with Ac 15:36; 2Co 11:28). Historical allusions in the book fit Paul's life as recounted in Acts and in his own letters (2:14-16 compared with Ac 17:5-10; 3:6 compared with Ac 17:16). In the face of such evidence, few have ever rejected authorship by Paul.

It is generally dated c. a.d. 51. Weighty support for this date was found in an inscription discovered at Delphi, Greece (see map No. 13 at the end of this study Bible), that dates Gallio's proconsulship to c. 51-52 and thus places Paul at Corinth at the same time (see Ac 18:12-17 and note on 18:12; see also chart, p. 1673). Except for the possibility of an early date for Galatians (48-49?), 1 Thessalonians is Paul's earliest canonical letter.

Thessalonica: The City and the Church

Thessalonica was a bustling seaport city at the head of the Thermaic Gulf (see map, p. 2280). It was an important communication and trade center, located at the junction of the great Egnatian Way and the road leading north to the Danube. It was the largest city in Macedonia and was also the capital of its province.

The background of the Thessalonian church is found in Ac 17:1-9. Since Paul began his ministry there in the Jewish synagogue, it is reasonable to assume that the new church included some Jews. However, 1:9-10; Ac 17:4 seem to indicate that the church was largely Gentile in membership.


Paul had left Thessalonica abruptly (see Ac 17:5-10) after a rather brief stay. Recent converts from paganism (1:9) were thus left with little external support in the midst of persecution. Paul's purpose in writing this letter was to encourage the new converts in their trials (3:3-5), to give instruction concerning godly living (4:1-12) and to give assurance concerning the future of believers who die before Christ returns (4:13-18; see Theme below; see also notes on 4:13,15).


Although the thrust of the letter is varied (see Purpose), the subject of eschatology (doctrine of last things) seems to be predominant in both Thessalonian letters. Every chapter of 1 Thessalonians ends with a reference to the second coming of Christ, with ch. 4 giving it major consideration (1:9-10; 2:19-20; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:23-24). Thus, the second coming seems to permeate the letter and may be viewed in some sense as its theme. The two letters are often designated as the eschatological letters of Paul.


I.           The Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians (ch. 1)

A.   The Grounds for the Thanksgiving (1:1-4)

    • The Genuineness of the Grounds (1:5-10)

                    II.        The Defense of the Apostolic Actions and Absence (chs. 2-3)

    • The Defense of the Apostolic Actions (2:1-16)
    • The Defense of the Apostolic Absence (2:17;3:10)
    • The Prayer (3:11-13)

III.        The Exhortations to the Thessalonians (4:1;5:22)

    • Primarily concerning Personal Life (4:1-12)
    • Concerning the Coming of Christ (4:13;5:11)
    • Primarily concerning Church Life (5:12-22)

IV.           The Concluding Prayer, Greetings and Benediction (5:23-28)

──New International Version


Introduction to 1 Thessalonians

This epistle is generally considered to have been the first of those written by St. Paul. The occasion seems to have been the good report of the stedfastness of the church at Thessalonica in the faith of the gospel. It is full of affection and confidence, and more consolatory and practical, and less doctrinal, than some of the other epistles.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on 1 Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians General Review
AUTHOR:  The apostle Paul, joined in his salutation by Silvanus and
Timothy (1:1), and with specific mention of his name again later in the
epistle (2:18).  Early sources in church history that attribute this
letter to Paul include:  Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.), Tertullian
(200 A.D.), and Irenaeus (200 A.D.).
THE CITY OF THESSALONICA:  It was the capital and largest city of the
Roman province of Macedonia.  Located on the Egnatian Way, a major road
from Rome to the eastern provinces, the city served as center of trade 
and commerce.  Today, it is known as Thessaloniki, or Salonica.
THE CHURCH AT THESSALONICA:  The establishment of the church is
recorded in Ac 17:1-9.  On his second missionary journey, Paul and his
companions (Silas and Timothy) had just left Philippi and passed 
through Amphipolis and Apollonia to arrive at Thessalonica.  As was his
custom, Paul immediately located the synagogue and reasoned with the 
Jews for three Sabbaths concerning Jesus Christ.  While some of them 
were persuaded, including a great number of devout Greeks and leading 
women, the unbelieving Jews became jealous and created an uproar in the
city.  Therefore it became necessary to send Paul and Silas away
secretly by night to Berea.
Despite such ominous beginnings, a strong church was established in
Thessalonica (cf. 1:2-10).  Mostly Gentile (cf. 1:9), its members 
included Jason (Ac 17:9), Aristarchus, and Secundus (Ac 20:4).
TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING:  First Thessalonians is considered one of
Paul's earliest epistles, if not the first.  From the letter itself
(3:1-6), and the record of Paul's travels in Acts (Ac 17:10-18:11), it
appears that Paul wrote this letter soon after arriving in Corinth on 
his second journey.  This would put it somewhere around 52 A.D.
PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE:  The abrupt departure from Thessalonica so soon
after the beginning of the church naturally left Paul anxious about the
condition of the brethren.  When Timothy joined Paul at Athens (cf. Ac
17:14-16), his concern prompted Paul to send Timothy at once back to
Thessalonica to encourage and ground the new disciples in the faith,
and to learn how they were enduring persecution (cf. 3:1-5).
When Timothy returned to Paul in Corinth (cf. Ac 18:5), the news was 
mostly encouraging (cf. 3:6-7).  Despite persecution they had remained
strong (2:13-16), and even proved themselves to be an example to others
(1:6-8).  Yet, as with any young church, they needed further 
instruction concerning holy living (cf. 4:1-12).  They also needed to
be reassured that their loved ones who died in Christ would not miss 
out on the blessings involving the coming of our Lord (cf. 4:13-18).  
Therefore we can summarize by saying that Paul's purpose in writing 
   * To praise them for their steadfastness under persecution
   * To instruct them concerning holy living
   * To correct any misunderstanding, especially about the second
     coming of Christ
THEME OF THE EPISTLE:  This book is unique in that every chapter ends
with a reference to the second coming of Christ (1:10; 2:19; 3:13;
4:13-18; 5:23).  With his emphasis on steadfastness and holy living, an
appropriate theme might be:
KEY VERSES:  1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
   "And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one
   another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish
   your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the
   coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints."
   1. Salutation (1)
   2. Thanksgiving for their faith, hope, and love (2-4)
      1. Their reception of the gospel (1:5-7)
      2. Their reputation in every place (1:8-10)
      1. The manner of his preaching (2:1-8)
      2. The manner of his life (2:9-12)
      1. For their faithfulness (2:13-3:10)
      2. For their continued growth (3:11-13)
   A. WALK IN HOLINESS (4:1-8)
      1. To please God (4:1-2)
      2. To abstain from sexual immorality (4:3-8)
   B. WALK IN LOVE (4:9-10)
      1. As they are taught by God to love one another (4:9)
      2. To increase more and more (4:10)
   C. WALK IN DILIGENCE (4:11-12)
      1. To work with their hands (4:11)
      2. To walk properly toward those who are outside (4:12)
   D. WALK IN HOPE (4:13-18)
      1. With no sorrow concerning those who have died (4:13-14)
      2. For we will be rejoined with them when Christ returns (4:
   E. WALK IN LIGHT (5:1-11)
      1. For the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night (5:
      2. For we are sons of light and sons of the day (5:5-8)
      3. For God has appointed us to salvation through our Lord Jesus
         Christ (5:9-11)
   F. WALK IN OBEDIENCE (5:12-22)
      1. With respect toward those over us (5:12-13)
      2. With concern for one another (5:14-15)
      3. With joy, prayer and thanksgiving (5:16-18)
      4. Don't quench the Spirit or despise prophecies, but don't be
         gullible either (5:19-22)
   1. A prayer for their sanctification and preservation (5:23-24)
   2. A request for prayer in his behalf (5:25)
   3. A charge to greet one another with a holy kiss, and to read the
      epistle to others (5:26-27)
   4. A benediction of grace from the Lord Jesus Christ (5:28)
1) On which missionary journey was the church at Thessalonica
   - Paul's second missionary journey
2) Where can we read about the establishment of the church at
   - Ac 17:1-9
3) How long did Paul preach in the Jewish synagogue before trouble
   arose? (Ac 17:2)
   - Three Sabbaths
4) Where did Paul go after leaving Thessalonica? (Ac 17:10)
   - Berea
5) Why did Paul have to leave so soon again and go on to Athens? (Ac 
   - The Jews from Thessalonica followed him there and stirred up more
6) While at Athens, whom did Paul send back to Thessalonica? (1 Th 3:
   - Timothy
7) When Paul left Athens, where did he go?  Who arrived later? (Ac 18:
   - Corinth
   - Silas and Timothy
8) From where and when did Paul write 1st Thessalonians?
   - From Corinth, sometime around 52 A.D.
9) Why did Paul write this letter (see Purpose Of The Epistle)?
   - To praise them for their steadfastness under persecution
   - To correct any misunderstanding, especially about the second 
     coming of Christ
10) What has been suggested as the theme of this epistle?
   - Holiness in view of the coming of Christ
11) What are the key verses of this epistle?
   - 1 Th 3:12-13
12) According to the outline above, what are the two main sections of
    this epistle?
   - Personal reflections
   - Apostolic instructions

--《Executable Outlines