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1 Thessalonians - Introduction to the Epistle

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1. A wonderful hope of the Christian is the promise of the Lord's return

a. A promise given when Jesus ascended into heaven - Acts 1:9-11

b. A promise designed to motivate Christians to live holy and godly lives - 2 Peter 3:10-14

2. How then should we live as we anticipate the Lord's return? This question is addressed in Paul's first epistle to the Thessalonians

a. In which every chapter has some mention of the Lord's return

b. In which we find practical instructions for holy and godly living

3. That we might be ready for the Lord's return, we begin this series of sermons based on First Thessalonians.



I. THE AUTHOR OF THE EPISTLE (1 Thessalonians 1:1a)


1. Known formerly as Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of the church - Acts 9:1-2

2. Who became known as the "apostle to the Gentiles" - Acts 9:15

3. Author of half of the books of the New Testament


1. Silvanus, also known as Silas

a. Originally an emissary from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem - Acts 15:22, 27

b. Identified as a prophet, who exhorted the brethren in Antioch - Acts 15:32

c. Who later to become Paul's traveling companion - Acts 15:34, 40-41

d. Who suffered mistreatment and imprisonment with Paul in Philippi - Acts 16:19-25

e. Who together with Paul established the church in Thessalonica - Acts 17:1-4

2. Timothy, also known as Timotheus

a. A young disciple who traveled with Paul - Acts 16:1-3

b. Who is mentioned with Paul in many of his letters - 2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1

c. Recipient of two letters from Paul - 1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1

d. Who suffered imprisonment himself - Hebrews 13:23

e. Who had just returned from a trip to Thessalonica - 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2, 6-7

f. These three men had a vested interest in the welfare of the church in Thessalonica


II. THE RECIPIENTS OF THE EPISTLE (1 Thessalonians 1:1b)


1. It was the capital and largest city of the Roman province of Macedonia

2. Located on the Egnatian Way, a major road from Rome to the eastern provinces

3. The city served as a center of trade and commerce

4. Today, it is known as Thessaloniki (formerly Salonica)


1. Its establishment is recorded in Acts 17:1-9

a. On his second journey, Paul and his companions had just left Philippi

b. Traveling through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they arrived at Thessalonica

c. Paul immediately located the synagogue and used their Sabbath gathering as an opportunity for evangelism

d. For three weeks he reasoned with the Jews, converting some and a number of prominent Gentiles

e. Unbelieving Jews soon caused a disturbance, forcing Paul to leave

2. Despite such ominous beginnings, a strong church was established

a. It quickly gained a good reputation - 1 Thessalonians 1:8

b. It was mostly Gentiles - 1 Thessalonians 1:9

c. Members included Jason (Acts 17:9), Aristarchus and Secundus (Acts 20:4)




1. The letter itself indicates it was not written long after Paul's departure

a. Paul had only been gone a short time - 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18

b. He had sent Timothy from Athens, who had returned - 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6

2. From Luke's record in Acts, it is evident Paul wrote this epistle soon after arriving in Corinth on his second missionary journey

a. For Paul did not stay long in Athens - Acts 17:16-18:1

b. And Timothy came back from Macedonia after Paul arrived in Corinth - Acts 18:5

3. So the place of writing is most likely Corinth


1. Writing soon after his arrival in Corinth, this would place the date sometime around 50-52 A.D.

2. This would make First Thessalonians one of Paul's earliest known writings, if not the first




1. Paul had been anxious about the condition of the church

a. Occasioned by his abrupt departure - Acts 17:10

b. He wanted to return, but was hindered - 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18

c. His anxiety prompted him to send Timothy to encouraged the - 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3

2. Timothy had brought back good news! - 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8

a. Of their faith and love, and of their desire to see Paul again

b. Their steadfastness comforted Paul greatly

3. From the content of the letter (see below), it becomes apparent that Paul had a three-fold purpose in mind as he wrote this letter:

a. To praise them for their steadfastness under persecution

b. To instruct them concerning holy living

c. To correct any misunderstanding, especially regarding the second coming of Christ


1. The epistle is unique in that every chapter ends with a reference to the second coming of Christ - 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:23

2. Here is a brief outline of the epistle:

a. Personal reflections - 1 Thessalonians 1, 2 and 3

1) Regarding their condition - 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

2) Regarding his conduct - 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

3) Regarding his concern - 1 Thessalonians 2:13-3:13

b. Apostolic instructions - 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5

1) Walk in holiness - 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

2) Walk in love - 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

3) Walk in diligence - 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

4) Walk in hope - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

5) Walk in light - 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

6) Walk in obedience - 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28



1. With such an emphasis on steadfastness and holy living, an appropriate theme for this epistle would be: Holiness In View Of The Coming Of Christ

2. The following passage is the key verses of the epistle: "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 Thessalonians 3:12-13

3. As we proceed through this epistle, it will be my prayer and aim that our study will lead to greater faithfulness and holiness in our service to God as we wait for the coming of Jesus!

4. Are you ready for His coming? Even if you should die before He returns, are you ready to face Him in the Judgment?


Are You Saved?


-- Don Treadway, July 2009 --


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