1 Thessalonians 1 Commentary

v.2 “It was Paul’s practice to begin his letters by thanking God for his readers. Paul found much in the lives of the Thessalonians to be grateful for. In fact, he kept on being grateful (cf. “always”). Nor was he alone in gratitude. The pronoun “we” includes Silas and Timothy as sharing his appreciation.  By thanking God at the beginning of the letter, Paul lifts the thought above the human level. He is not trying to win the Thessalonians over by rhetorical flattery (cf. 2:5). On the contrary, he is sincerely giving the ultimate credit to the One from whom spiritual progress comes. When Christians realize their complete dependence on God and keep this in clear focus, then and only then are they capable of moving on to greater spiritual exploits.”All of you” expresses Paul’s desire not to exclude any of the Thessalonian believers. Every single one of them, no matter how obscure, had certain qualities worth thanking God for.  Paul then begins to elaborate on this idea of thanksgiving. The means used to express their thanks was prayer. As he prayed with Silas and Timothy, they remembered the Thessalonian believers one by one with gratitude for their spiritual progress and with intercession for their advancement in the Gospel.”[1]

v.3 “This familiar triad of faith, love, and hope (cf. 5:8; Rom. 5:1 – 5; 1 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:5 – 6; Col. 1:4 – 5; Heb. 10:22 – 24; 1 Peter 1:21 – 22) functions almost as a shorthand summary of the essentials of Christianity: faith as the assurance that God has acted in Christ to save his people, love (“poured … into our hearts by the Holy Spirit,” Rom. 5:5) as the present expression and experience of the restored relationship between God and his people, and hope as the confidence that “he who began a good work … will carry it on to completion” (Phil. 1:6), and that the future, therefore, holds not “wrath but … salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9).”[2]

v.4 “Instead of writing, “We came to you,” the apostle puts the messengers in the background by saying, “Our gospel came to you.” The message deserved foremost attention. Eight times in two letters “gospel” is used to refer to the good news of salvation through Christ. Once the good news is unqualified by any modifier (2:4). Three times it is called “the gospel of God” (2:2, 8-9), God being the author of the Gospel. Twice it is “the gospel of Christ [or our Lord Jesus]” (1Th 3:2; 2Th 1:8), Christ being the topic of the Gospel message. The other two occurrences (1Th 1:5; 2Th 2:14) use “our gospel,” meaning “the gospel we preach.” Paul makes no claim to having originated the Gospel; he claims only to be a staunch proclaimer of the glad tidings from the Father concerning his Son. […] “You know how we lived among you for your sake” draws on the Thessalonians’ innate awareness of what Paul, Silas, and Timothy became while with them, so as to substantiate the sort of inner transformation God had wrought. Throughout the letter Paul carries his readers along with him by such expressions as “you know,” which he uses as a precaution against those who might disagree (cf. 2:2, 5; 3:4). The quality of life shown by the missionaries had in itself been sufficient vindication of their sincerity and of the message they preached. Their attitudes were completely unselfish.”[3]

v.6 “It is not difficult […] to imagine how conversion to Christianity could result in conflict, persecution, and ostracization. Paul takes it for granted that as a result of this social dislocation believers will “suffer” he also takes it for granted that the benefits of being a believer, both short-term (the present experience of the Spirit, membership in God’s people) and long-term (vindication, salvation, the presence of the Lord; cf. 2:19; 4:13 – 18; 5:9 – 10; 2 Thess. 1:5 – 10; 2:13 – 14), far outweigh any suffering that might be experienced (cf. Rom. 8:18, “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”).”[4]

vv.9-10 “Two words are used which are characteristic of the Christian life.  The Thessalonians served God and waited for the coming of Christ.  The Christian is called upon to serve in the world and to wait for glory. The loyal service and the patient waiting were the necessary preludes to the glory of heaven.”[5]

[1] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CF (Grand Rapids, MI” Zondervan, 1992)

[2] Michael W. Holmes, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 48.

[3] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CF (Grand Rapids, MI” Zondervan, 1992)

[4] Michael W. Holmes, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 50.

[5] William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975) 215.

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