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The First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
pp. 16 - 20
The epistles to the Thessalonian church are among the earliest of Paul's writings.
The older Bible scholars placed these epistles first, but with the added light from
Sir William Ramsay's researches we believe Galatians to be the first letter that the
Apostle wrote and these Thessalonian epistles the next in order.
Paul's initial visit to Thessalonica, probably in the summer of 50A.D., is narrated in
Acts 17: 1-9. This formed part of his second missionary journey, the ministry of
which commenced at Philippi (16: 12-40). He refers to his coming to Thessalonica
after the persecution and shameful treatment he had received at Philippi with Silas, in
I Thess. 2: 2.
There, according to his custom, he visited the synagogue for three successive sabbaths
and reasoned with them out of the Scriptures concerning the death and resurrection of the
Lord Jesus, proving that He was and is the Christ. As a result, some of the Jews believed,
together with a large number of God fearing Gentiles, but as a result of further Jewish
opposition, an uproar was started which spread over the whole of the city. Jason, Paul's
host, and other friends of the Apostle, went bail for him and Silas, and finally sent them
away by night to Berea (Acts 17: 1-10).
The young church, which they were forced to leave behind at Thessalonica, was
therefore exposed to active persecution which gave Paul great concern for their spiritual
welfare, specially as his sudden departure prevented him from giving them all the
instruction he could have wished (I Thess. 3: 10). From Thessalonica he went on to
Berea where further Jewish opposition caused him to go on to Athens (Acts 17: 14, 15).
Meanwhile he sent Timothy back to inquire of their spiritual state and to establish and
comfort them (I Thess. 3: 1-3). When Timothy returned to him, he was able to report
that they were standing fast in spite of the persecution, and more than this, that they were
actively propagating the gospel themselves (I Thess. 3: 6, 7; 1: 8).
But there were several matters concerning which they desired further enlightenment.
Among these was the return of the Lord Jesus and specially what would be the position of
those believers who had died, in relation to this great event. The Apostle was obviously
overjoyed and comforted at the good news Timothy brought of their spiritual welfare and
wrote at once to encourage and strengthen them. This is the epistle we are now studying.
It is well to remember that every epistle has a human background and a reason for
writing, and while all are inspired by God, the reasons concerned can only contribute to
our understanding of their content.