On his second missionary journey, Paul and his companions went to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). He spent three Sabbaths at the synagogue teaching the Jews about the suffering and resurrection of the Christ (Acts 17:2-3). The response to the gospel among the Jews was minimal, but many of the Gentiles heard and obeyed the Lord (Acts 17:4-5a). The Jews, out of envy, arranged a mob to cause trouble for Paul and those who were with him, accusing them of having “…turned the world upside down…” (Acts 17:5b-8). For their safety, the brethren sent Paul and Silas away (Acts 17:10).
Shortly after their departure, while in Greece, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to deliver the first letter and to check on them (1 Thessalonians 3:1-3; cf. Acts 18:1, 5). It is generally believed the second letter was written within a few months of the first.
This was a young church. Again, Paul was only with them for three weeks before being ushered out of town. In his letters, Paul recounted his time with them, spoke of the simplicity of the message of Christ and expressed his appreciation for their faith.
The church at Thessalonica had endured persecutions (Acts 17:5-9; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-6). After Timothy brought the first report about the church to Paul, mention was made of some who were not walking according to the teachings which had been revealed. Paul addressed the potential need to withdraw from such, but expressed the importance of restoring them to faith (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 10-15.
One of the very interesting things about these two books is that the second coming of Christ is mentioned in every chapter. At no point did Paul ever say Jesus would return in his generation, but he acknowledged the possibility, and thus urged the brethren to be prepared. Likewise, we do not know when Jesus will come, but we need to be sure we are ready.
Here is a summary of 1 & 2 Thessalonians:
- Commendation of Thessalonian Growth (1:1-10)
- Paul’s work and Thessalonian conversion (2:1-16)
- Encouraging the Thessalonians 2:17-3:13)
- Instruction for Christian living (4:1-12)
- The coming day of the Lord (4:13-5:11)
- Closing exhortations (5:12-28)
- Encouragement in persecutions (1:1-12)
- The coming of the day of the Lord (2:1-17)
- Final exhortations to the church (3:1-18)
Next time, we’ll look at 1 & 2 Timothy.