The church in Thessalonica began during Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-9). He wrote this letter to them because Timothy reported someone told lies about him (2:1-3:13) and that the church needed instruction about several matters of the Christian life (4:1-5:24).
It’s important to recognize that the NT letters were written because of things happening in the lives of those whom the letters were written to. This helps understand the reason why biblical authors wrote the letters (this is sometimes called the occasion of the letter; not once-in-a-while occasion, but what-was-happening occasion) and what the biblical authors’ goal or purpose in writing was.
Despite the problems the Thessalonian church had, Paul thanked God for their Christ-like character (1:2-3), their example of steadfastness in persecution (vv. 5-7), and their reputation (vv. 8-10).
Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On
- God’s election of some sinners to salvation in Christ can be known (vv. 3-4). Those whom God in eternity past chose to save (Eph 1:4) will believe in Christ (Acts 13:48) and show the evidence of their election by changed lives (1 Thess 1:3, 9-10).
- There should be little doubt whether or not one is a Christian; a changed life seen by all is the best evidence of salvation (vv. 6-10). Most of the Thessalonian church were controlled by faith and love and possessed steadfast confidence in Jesus (vv. 3, 10). What do people see about your life?
- Salvation is received by turning from error to truth, from false religion to the true religion, from godless living to godly living (vv. 9-10). Idolatry (v. 9) in NT times was not just wrong worship; it involved gross immorality and godless living. True salvation is evidenced by turning from godless living and turning to Christ-centered living. That is what true repentance looks like!
- Christ’s return is the event Christians look forward to (v. 10)! This little letter has many references to Jesus’ return. As we will see in this and 2 Thessalonians, the “waiting” here does not mean sitting around and doing nothing, but rather the exact opposite! Because Christ is coming Christians should “serve the living and true God.” Are you looking forward to Christ’s return? Eagerly waiting for him?