“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ“
Silvanus and Timothy united with Paul in sending this epistle to the Thessalonians. Silvanus is the Latin spelling of “Silas” (Acts 15:22), so Silvanus is the same as the Silas of the book of Acts. Silvanus served both great missionaries of the first century. He served Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles. He also served Peter, the apostle to the Jews. Silvanus was an amanuensis (secretary, 1 Peter 5:12). Here is an anonymous Christian who did not take the credit to himself but faithfully did his job unto the Lord.
Silvanus was a prophet from the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:22, 32). That church dispatched him along with Paul and Barnabas to take the decree from the Jerusalem conference to the church in Antioch.
At Antioch, Paul and Barnabas quarreled over Mark, because Mark defected from the first missionary mission (Acts 15:36-41). Mark was a relative of Barnabas. They divided over this. Paul refused to take Mark on his next mission because of his earlier desertion. Paul chose Silvanus to accompany him on his missionary expedition to Asia Minor, and ultimately to Macedonia and Achaia. Barnabas chose Mark to go with him (Acts 15:41-18:5). We do not hear of Mark again in the book of Acts. An opportunity of a lifetime came to Silvanus because he was available for God to use him.
Setting out from Antioch, Paul made his way through Syria and Cilicia to Southern Galatia’s towns (Derbe and Lystra), where he took Timothy as a companion (Acts 16:1-3). From there, he passed through Phrygia to Northern Galatia (Pessinus, Ancyra, and Tavium) and founded new churches.
Prevented from proceeding to Bithynia, Paul’s team moved on from Galatia into Mysia and Troy. Here Luke joined (Acts 16:10-17) the team. Silvanus accompanied the team through Syria, Asia Minor, Philippi, and Thessalonica. He helped form the church in Thessalonica. He fled Thessalonica with the team to Berea. When Paul left Berea for Athens, Silvanus stayed at Berea and then joined Paul later at Corinth (Acts 16-18).
Silvanus was an important figure in the churches in Macedonia. Acts 18:18 suggests that he may have remained in Macedonia when Paul left. His early connections with the church in Jerusalem were helpful in giving added theological legitimacy to Paul’s missionary enterprises. Silvanus was a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37-38). He was also a Jew. This was a help to Paul as well.
Paul mentions Silvanus in his introductions to some of his epistles (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:19). Except in 2 Corinthians 1:19, Paul mentions him in reference to the writing of these epistles. He was a secretary to Paul and both secretary and a courier for Peter. The New Testament does not name him again until a reference in 1 Peter.
The fact that Silvanus worked closely with both Paul and Peter shows the theological closeness of Paul and Peter. Although their theology was compatible, the way of expressing that theology is very different. There are some people today who try to make us believe that Paul and Peter were at odds theologically. This disproves that assertion. There was no schism in the early church between Paul and Peter. There was a clear, cordial alliance between them.
Silvanus probably penned the epistle of 1 Peter. Peter may have penned the conclusion by his own hand. It was a general practice that writers of Scripture use amanuenses (secretaries) to write their epistles (Galatians 6:11-18; 1 Corinthians 16:21-23; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18).
Silvanus stands in a similar relationship to Peter that he did to Paul. After ministering with Paul as a secretary, he joins Peter’s ministry. Paul was probably in prison by then. Silvanus was conversant with and known to the churches to whom 1 Peter is addressed (1 Peter 1:1). They knew what kind of man he was. They recognized his character.
The Scripture doesn’t record any word from Silas. This affirms the importance of subordinate work. One little chip in a computer can cause the computer to stop operating. Little things are important. Little things are indispensable to ministry. No doubt, some people will receive more glory in Christian work than others will. Glory, however, is not how God measures things. God places value on our faithfulness to the role He gives us.
God uses unknown, unsung believers for His glory.
Who has thought much of this man Silvanus? The two greatest missionaries of the first century were Paul and Peter. Both of these mighty missionaries depended on Silvanus. Neither Paul nor Peter could have done what they did without him. He was their right-hand man.
Silvanus was available for God’s use. It did not matter whether he was the underdog. He played second fiddle to both Paul and Peter. He did not seek glory for himself, but only for his Lord. That is why he could serve the way he did.
Paul and Peter were the “stars” of the first-century community. God left for the lot of Silvanus to be a satellite to move around the greater orbs. If God calls you to this lot, will you willingly accept it?
May God give us many more like Silvanus.
“Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:17-20).
A principle in the nation Israel was that some were to “stand by the stuff.” “As his part is that goes down into battle, so shall his part be that tarries by the stuff; they shall part alike.” Stand by the stuff in your service for the Lord!
It is indeed very reassuring to know that while your work my be unknown to the world, yet the LORD who has called you knows.
I pray to be continually a Silvanus. To be helpful to those in leadership – a "glue" that helps to keep things together, and help in progress – not in the limelight but eternally in the background helping, and encouraging to keep on keeping on. May my eyes forever stayed fixed on the Lord Jesus! So much to learn and apply in 1 Thess.
Marge, that is a direct application if I may say so!