INTRODUCTION TO 1 THESSALONIANS

Dr. Grant C. Richison

 
 
I.              VALUE OF STUDYING 1 THESSALONIANS
 
A.   We get a powerful picture of the ministry of the mighty apostle Paul.
 
B.   We get a picture of the mighty dynamics of an early church.
 
C.   We receive the encouragement of our hope in Christ.
 
II.            HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO MINISTRY AT THESSALONICA
 
A.   Paul received the Macedonian vision at Troy to go to Europe, Acts 16:8-14.

1.    This was the beginning of spreading the Gospel from the continent of Asia to the continent of Europe. 

2.    Going to Thessalonica transferred the ministry of the Gospel to Western civilization.

3.    Macedonia was the former kingdom of Alexander the Great (he wanted one world domination and enlightenment with the culture of Greece. He wanted to marry east and west.)

 
B.   Paul came to minister in Thessalonica for three successive and successful weeks.
 
·         The Jews accused Paul’s evangelistic team of “turning the world upside down.”
 
·         Paul fled the city in the face of much opposition.
 
C.   The principal people in the church at Thessalonica were Gentiles (1:9; Ac 17:4).
 
III.           THE CITY OF THESSALONICA
 
A.   Thessalonica was a famous city in Paul’s day in the zenith of its splendor.
 
B.   Famous harbor:
 
1.    Situated on the Thermic Gulf, a natural harbor.
 
2.    Xerxes the Persian established his naval base at this bay when he invaded Europe.
 
3.    It was one of the world’s greatest dockyards of Roman times.
 
C.   Free city:
 
1.    No troops quartered within it.
 
2.    Autonomy in all internal affairs.
 
D.   100 miles south-west of Philippi and more important than Philippi
 
·         Philippi – a Roman colony
 
·         Thessalonica – Greek in culture
 
E.   Most populous city in Macedonia
 
F.    Large share in the commerce of the Aegean.
 
G.   Strategic importance
 
·         Harbor and the Egnatian Way were crucial to spreading Christianity to all the world.
 
·         The Egnatian Way went west to Rome and east to Asia.
 
H.   In post-apostolic times the Gospel made rapid progress in Thessalonica.
 
I.      Thessalonica is the city of Salonica today (or Thessaloniki)
 
J.    Population in first century: about 200,000
 
IV.          FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH, Acts 17:1-10
 
·         Paul founded the Thessalonian church on the second missionary expedition.
 
·         Paul got an immediate response to the Gospel.
 
·         When Paul left Thessalonica, he went to Berea, then Athens and finally Corinth where he wrote First Thessalonians. 
 
V.           OCCASION
 
A.   Immediate occasion: report of Timothy to Paul at Corinth about the state of the Thessalonica church. His report indicated that they were steadfast and making progress in their faith. 
 
B.   Affairs of the church were on the whole in good state, especially in view of the fact that most were new Christians (1:7; 2:14; 3:4-6; 4:9,10).
 
C.   The problems:
 
1.    Some were seeking to undermine Paul, accusing him of false teaching, immoral teaching and hypocrisy.
 
2.    Some indicated that he was afraid to return (2:17-18).
 
3.    They accused Paul of greed and using flattery (2:5,6).
 
4.    Cliques in the church (5:13,20, 26-27).
 
5.    Confusion on the end times (4:11-18; 5:1-6).
 
6.    Despise authority (5:12-14)
 
7.    Relapse into immorality (4:3-8)
 
VI.          PURPOSES:
 
A.   To fortify young believers in basic doctrine.
 
B.   To encourage them in holy living
 
C.   To comfort them with the Coming of Christ
 
D.   To correct false doctrine
 
E.   To urge respect for leadership
 
F.    To remove suspicions which would undermine their faith
 
G.   To encourage them in their persecution
 
H.   To express thanks to them
 
I.      To instruct them in church life
 
J.    To combat errors of conduct rather than errors of belief
 
VII.         PLACE OF WRITING: Corinth
 
VIII.       DATE: winter A.D. 51-52
 
·         Gallio was proconsul of the province of Achaia, A.D. 52
 
·         About 20 years after the resurrection
 
IX.          DESIGNATION
 
·         Some Jews
 
·         Great number of Gentiles
 
·         Great number of chief women
 
X.           THEME – Rapture (every chapter)
 
A.   Anticipating Christ Himself, 1:9,10
 
B.   Anticipating reward, 2:19,20
 
C.   Anticipating advance, 3:12,13
 
D.   Anticipating reunion with Christ, 4:13-18
 
E.   Anticipating perfection, 5:23
 
XI.          KEY VERSES: 1:9,10
 
1: 9 “For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
 
XII.         PECULIARITIES OF THE EPISTLE
 
A.   One of the earliest epistles that Paul wrote.
 
B.   Contains no Old Testament quotes.
 
C.   Church composed largely of ex-Gentiles (1:9)
 
D.   5 chapters; 89 verses; 1,857 words in the King James
 
E.   A friendly, personal letter
 
F.    “Lord” applied to Jesus 25 times
 
G.   Young Christians in the church
 
H.   First Thessalonians is older than Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, and every other New Testament book except Galatians.
 
I.      The Thessalonian church is the only church not censured for anything. 
 
XIII.       OUTLINE
 
A.   Salutation, 1:1
 
B.   The model church, 1:2-10
 
C.   A model ministry, 2:1-12
 
D.   Suffering, 3:1-13
 
E.   Sanctification, 4:1-5:24
 
F.    Conclusion, 5:25-28
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