1 Thessalonians (1 Thes)
The 13th book of the NT has 5 chapters. It was written by Paul, about AD 50, to the church at Thessalonica, a port city in Northern Greece. Time to read: 15 mins.
Key people: Paul, and his traveling companions Silas and Timothy.
Outline. It is a letter of encouragement as the Christians in Thessalonica were subject to intense opposition for their faith. Although its message could not change their situation, it pointed to the promise of the return of Christ, which provides hope in times of trial, for then the hardships of life will pale into insignificance and all true Christians will be forever in the presence of our Lord. “Therefore encourage each other with these words” is part of his teaching on the second coming of Christ (1 Thes 4:13-5:11). Amidst the continual flurry of daily activity, don’t lose sight of the fact of Christ’s at-any-time return. This hope has been anticipated by Christians down through history and at some stage it will become a reality for God always keeps His promises.
Main lesson. “You accepted it [Paul’s teaching] not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the Word of God, which is at work in you who believe” (1 Thes 2:13). “Test everything that is taught” (1 Thes 5:20,21). The mistake now-days is to accept human theory and ideas as being trustworthy while questioning or dismissing the Word of God. Do I give undue allegiance to imperfect humans, or do I see them as only an instrument God is using to help me connect more with Him?
Key verses and thoughts: * “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ...And so you became a model to all the believers in [your locality]...You are our glory and joy” (1 Thes 1:3,7, 2:19,20). Although relatively new believers they remained true to their commitment to Christ. Even though their mentor was not present, they were looking beyond the ‘human vessel’ to the author of their salvation.
Although the gospel came in power through the Holy Spirit, accompanied by deep conviction (and obviously deep repentance), there was also severe suffering in this church (1 Thes 2:14). The early NT churches experienced hardship and opposition from the non-believers. They did not see it as a handicap but a catalyst to rise up, victorious against the odds. As an individual am I an example of faith, hope and love to those who know me? Will I, remain loyal to Christ regardless of the opposition? People are winners not because there is no battle but because they are wholeheartedly passionate and unreservedly committed. Persecution in some form is the lot of Christians, for “All who live Godly will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). Jesus was able to endure, by looking beyond the immediate suffering to what would be accomplished (Heb 12:2). Am I willing to suffer for Christ in this world to be able to live with Him in the next?
* “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well...We dealt with each of you as a father deals with his children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God” (1 Thes 2:8-12). Do we really relate to and interact with those we witness to and with those we disciple? Sharing the gospel with non-believers, besides interacting with our fellow believers, should be an integral part of our lives. No one lives in total isolation so we should be able to speak into their lives as they also responsibly do to us.
* “May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy…” (1 Thes 3:13-4:12). Regardless of the level we have attained there is always a higher level of purity and godly lifestyle attainable. Paul touches on some areas: morals, love for others and work habits. The challenge to live a God-honouring life needs to be backed up with specifics – areas that need to addressed or goals to attain to. In today’s society, there are too few principles or good values being passed onto the younger generation so they have solid reference points. Often, because of the lack of any clear convictions, they just do what their natural instincts and desires dictate – which is invariably contrary to God’s ways.
* “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5:16-18). What guidelines to live by! Because we are in right relationship with Christ, we should have a happy disposition, keep our eyes on Him, and pray about everything that concerns us, being confident that everything is working out for our good. If I have truly surrendered my life to the Lord God, who am I to say anything but ‘thank you’ for what comes to me from my loving heavenly Father?
* “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it” (1 Thes 5:23,24). Responding to God is the means by which we become more holy, or less polluted by the corruption that is the hallmark of this world’s culture. As we yield and act on the Holy Spirit’s conviction about areas of sin by repenting, we are cleansed by the blood of Christ, with the ability and privilege to ‘walk in the light’ (1 Jn 1:7,9). Salvation is a complete ‘package deal’ affecting every facet and area of life. He wants our permission to work in each to make us more like Christ and reverse the corruption and damage done by our inherent sin. Don’t just settle for a ticket to heaven, rather co-operate with the Holy Spirit and enter into all the wholeness that was purchased for you by Christ’s death on the cross.
See also: accountability, joy, persecution, prayer, second coming, 2 Thessalonians (2 Thes).