What Would the Apostle Paul Say to Your Church?

2 Thessalonians 2:18 – …because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.

What are some of the characteristics of the book of 1 Thessalonians, which Paul wrote to the kind, loving church at Thessalonica? 

First, the book is written in the form of an ancient letter. A Bible commentary says, “First Thessalonians belongs to the genre of the ancient letter and includes all the major sections of this genre—an initial greeting (1 Thess 1:1), a thanksgiving (1 Thess 1:2–10; possibly 1 Thess 2:13–16), a main body (1 Thess 2:1–3:13), exhortations (1 Thess 4:1–5:22), and a closing (1 Thess 5:23–28).” (1)

Second, 1 Thessalonians 1:1 opens by saying it is written, “To the church of the Thessalonians…” The letter was written to a local church speaking to timeless issues that were also timely in their day. 

Third, 1 Thessalonians was supposed to be read aloud to the entire church. 1 Thessalonians 5:27 says, “I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.” 

Fourth, Paul is the primary author, along with others who are traveling with him and contributing to this book of the Bible. A Bible commentary says, “Many believe that the Thessalonian letters are the earliest written by Paul. Though the apostle and his team had little time in Thessalonica (cf. Acts 17:2), the church he founded there grew rapidly, and reached out to promote the Gospel in the surrounding province.” (2)

Another Bible commentary says, “The letter claims to have been written by Paul and his associates, Silvanus (or Silas) and Timothy (1:1). Paul’s name appears again in 2:18 without mention of Silvanus or Timothy. Evidence from the early church unanimously supports Paul as the writer of 1 Thessalonians, and scholars have generally accepted Pauline authorship since the early 20th century, in part because the letter’s style and vocabulary match other Pauline texts… Unlike Paul’s other letters, there are no further titles attached to the senders, such as ‘apostle’…(compare Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1; 1 Tim 1:1; 2 Tim 1:1; Tit 1:1) or ‘servant/slave’…(compare Rom 1:1; Phil 1:1; Titus 1:1)…This absence might indicate group authorship, as Paul does not appeal to apostolic authority but to the collective authority of the senders as founders of the church in Thessalonica. In addition, the letter uses ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ 96.7 percent of the time, in stark contrast to Paul’s other letters (with the exception of 2 Thessalonians; for example, the ratio in Philippians is 8.7 percent)…Given the likelihood of group authorship, the few ‘I’ references (e.g., 1 Thess 2:18; 3:5; 5:27) suggest that Paul led the composition of the letter…”(3)

Fifth, regarding when the book was written, a Bible commentator says, “First Thessalonians appears to have been written from Corinth between AD 49 and 52, shortly after the establishment of the Thessalonian church. This can be surmised from Paul’s mention of Timothy rejoining him at Corinth from Thessalonica (1 Thess 3:1–2, 6; compare Acts 17:13–15; 18:1, 5). During Paul’s time in Corinth, he appeared before the proconsul Gallio (Acts 18:1–17), whose tenure is dated to ad 51–52 or 52–53…” (4)

Getting to know these characteristics of the book and the church to which it was written can help us study it in a deeper way.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned about 1 Thessalonians and/or the church at Thessalonica so far? 

  1. Derek R. Brown, 1 Thessalonians, ed. Douglas Mangum, Lexham Research Commentaries (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).
  2. Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher’s Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987), 950.
  3. Jason C. Kuo, “Thessalonians, First Letter to the,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
  4. Ibid.

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