What did Paul write in the first epistle to the Thessalonians?

  • Introduction
  • Christ's Coming and Personal Salvation (1 Thess. 1)
  • Christ's Coming and Paul's Ministry (1 Thess. 2)
  • Christ's Coming, Persevering Faith, and Practical Instruction (1 Thess. 3-4:12)
  • Christ's Coming and Preparations (1 Thess. 4:13-5)


  • Introduction back to top

    In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul refers to the Christ's second coming on twenty different occasions. As he instructs them concerning ministry, personal sanctification, and community, Paul time and time again points back to the irrefutable truth of Christ's return as the hope of the church. He ends every chapter in this first epistle by referencing the Lord's return.


    Christ's Coming and Personal Salvation (1 Thess. 1) back to top

    Paul opens this letter with enthusiasm as he greets the Thessalonians with grace and peace and thanks them for the model of faith. He speaks of the excellent nature of their conversion in the midst of such tribulation reminding them of the example he himself, along with Silas and Timothy, had set before them. He praises them for their example of faith that has spread not only to Macedonia and Achaia, but everywhere. He concludes this opening chapter with not only a reminder of the past, as they had turned from idols, and of the present, as they now serve the living God, but also of the future, as they look toward Christ's return to spare them from the wrath that is to come.


    Christ's Coming and Paul's Ministry (1 Thess. 2) back to top

    Paul was surely excited that this new congregation of infants had continued to progressive even in his absence and that their testimony had spread as they were anxious to further the gospel. After realizing what a fireball this church had become in such a short amount of time it seems as though Paul wanted to instruct this eager missionary church in regards to their testimony. Paul commends to them the character of his ministry in coming to them as a model for them to follow. He had come to them boldly with faith in God in the midst of great opposition. Paul had been accused of coming to them for selfish reasons, possibly out of greed in taking up a collection that was supposedly for the church in Jerusalem. Paul refutes any such idea by testifying that he came approved by God, who entrusted Paul with the duty of pronouncing the gospel. He had come not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile, nor seeking the approval of men, but he came in order that his life might be pleasing unto God. Yet in his bold purposeful visit, he reminds them of how he was gentle, affectionate, and selfless toward them laboring all night and day. Finally he reminds them that the final distinctive in his success in coming to them was his own holy living, which was empowered by God. This enabled them to receive the gospel not merely as the word of men, but as the true word of God. Lastly, he explains that it is this type of service that will be his joy and glory in the day of Christ's return.


    Christ's Coming, Persevering Faith, and Practical Instruction (1 Thess. 3-4:12) back to top

    Paul displays some pastoral encouragement as he tells them of the joy he received in Timothy's report concerning their perseverance in faith. Knowing that they might be a bit weary of the persecution they had experienced, Paul reminds them that this is the way of the Christian life. He had sent Timothy not with a message of hope for the passing of this affliction, but a reminder that he had in fact warned them in advance that they would suffer as he had for the sake of the gospel. He concludes this section by informing them that he prays for the day that they will be reunited. His prayer for them is that in his absence that they would look to Jesus Christ their Lord to increase their love for one another, their love for all men, and He might continue the work of refining their hearts. His hope for them is that they might persevere in order to be prepared in coming before God at the return of Christ with all His saints. Paul begins chapter 4 with some practical instruction concerning spiritual development in three major areas: sexual relations, brotherly love, and orderly living. He begins this section of his exhortation in a similarly pastoral nature. He explains that he wishes to instruct them on the way they ought to walk and please God, but in doing so he explains to them that it is simply they manner in which they have already been going. He simply would like them to excel all the more in their sanctification, for this is the will of God.


    Christ's Coming and Preparations (1 Thess. 4:13-5) back to top

    Paul uses this last section to address the concerns Timothy had reported after making his visit to Thessalonica, particularly regarding their expectation of the immediate return of the Lord. There seemed to be confusion concerning the passing of some of the saints in the church and Paul wanted to tackle their apprehensions. They should take great comfort that we will all be taken up into the air with Christ at his return, first those who are deceased and then those who are alive. He continues with some further teaching on the day of the Lord and its implication in this age. The day or the time of the Lord's return is not known to us, therefore, we must live expectantly so that we are not caught unprepared on the day of His return. The Thessalonians seemed to have disregarded their daily living responsibilities, which most likely was additionally due to their misconception of the timing of the Lord's return. Paul appeals to a life of love in community in which all take part in giving for the good of all men. He concludes by appealing to them for prayer, proclaims to them the faithfulness of the God in whom they have placed their hope, and asks them to greet all the brethren with the warm greeting of a holy kiss.