1 Thessalonians Chapter 1: Manner of Paul’s Preaching

Nov 20th, 2009 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Thessalonians Chapter 1: Manner of Paul’s Preaching

1 Thess. 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This epistle has an unusual beginning in that Paul did not call himself an apostle or a servant of God. Instead he mentioned his name with the names of Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy as fellow workers in establishing the church at Thessalonica. Knit together in their concern for this church, the three were listed almost as cowriters, although Paul, of course, was responsible for the advice given. After the dispute over John Mark, Silas accompanied Paul in lieu of Barnabas.

Comment: A marginal note says that the word “apostle” is not included because Paul did not have to assert his authority. He had a close rapport with the brethren in Thessalonica.

Reply: The Lord used Paul to establish this class at Thessalonica, which was in Macedonia, and now he was writing his first epistle to the ecclesia members, who knew him very well and recognized him as an apostle.

This epistle was addressed “unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.” The greeting followed: “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Clearly God and Jesus are two separate personalities.

Acts 17:1–10 provides some background information:

“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:

“And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

“Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.

“And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.

“But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.

“And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;

“Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

“And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.

“And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea [the next ecclesia Paul visited]: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.”

According to his usual custom, Paul went first to the synagogue, where, as a stranger, he was given the floor to speak. He preached the gospel in the synagogue for three weeks, telling that the Messiah had to first suffer and would then be raised—and that Jesus was this Messiah. As a result of his preaching, some Jews accepted Jesus, but the majority opposed Paul. Certain Jews who heard the message apparently recognized that this was the same Paul who had caused an uproar in other places. Trouble ensued in Thessalonica with persecution arising. Now we can understand why Paul addressed the Thessalonians with “Grace … and peace.”

The Acts account sounds as if all this activity in Thessalonica took place in three weeks, but a longer time period was involved. During this time—and after he was rejected from the synagogue—Paul spoke to the Gentiles. A great number believed quickly, including women and pagans. Clues elsewhere show that Paul was in Thessalonica for either two months or six to seven months. Probably it was the latter because of the results of his ministry there.

Jason was hosting Paul, Silas, and Timothy. When the Jews plus rabble sought to apprehend Paul and Silas at Jason’s house but could not find them, they took Jason and other brethren to the authorities and accused them of treason because of the belief that Jesus was King. This indicates that the Jews had quite a lot of influence with the Roman rulership. Not only were the Jews intellectually superior to the pagans, but they had influence in the courts. Thinking Paul was undercutting the Law, the persecuting Jews felt they had to get rid of him. After Jason paid “security” (bail) and was released, he got Paul and Silas away from Thessalonica posthaste.

“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father.” The use of “our Father” may have been primarily for the Gentile Christians with a pagan background, although it was equally good for the Jews, who regarded God with awe and great reverence but were not accustomed to viewing Him in this more tender way. When Jesus came at his First Advent, the faith of Jews who were rightly exercised became more personalized with the pronouns “my” and “our.”

The Old Testament so reflected the majesty of God that it filled one with awe. However, when Jesus came with his human history, he was more understandable. It was easier to know him through his sermons and example, whereas it was difficult to know God personally through the Old Testament, unless one devoted very serious thinking to Him. And very few people, even true Christians, have done such thinking.

1 Thess. 1:2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

1 Thess. 1:3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

“Remembering without ceasing [1] your work of faith, and [2] labour of love, and [3] patience of hope.” Paul had an orderly, well-instructed mind that was beautifully balanced in thought. Because he was such a mature individual, we can read his writing over and over and extract a little more each time. His selection of words was very choice. In contradistinction, most people are careless with their words and sometimes too effusive. For example, using “God bless you” too prolifically makes the expression too common. In many instances an entire sermon could be built on just one verse Paul wrote. We often hear the nice expression “your labor of love.”

“Remembering … [these things] in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.”

These words are also very meaningful, for God knows our work of faith, our labor of love, and our patience of hope. For an individual who receives the truth wholeheartedly and consecrates, Paul gave the assurance that God knows what suffering experiences the individual is going through. In other words, we are in God’s sight. How comforting! Fear, doubt, and distrust are based, at least in part, on our not being conscious of God’s awareness of our circumstances.

Much prayerful thought underlies the words Paul used.

Comment: In view of the persecution endured in the beginning by the Thessalonians, Paul’s words were consoling, and yet in Acts 17:11, he said that the Christians in Berea “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” As much as the Thessalonians were to be commended, the Bereans were more highly commended.

Reply: Paul, who claimed to be an apostle, spoke in God’s name from Old Testament

Scriptures. He appreciated the Bereans for their readiness and humility of mind in being teachable but not putty-like. Paul spoke with certainty, positiveness, and conviction as well as with logic, and for many those qualities would be enough. The Bereans, however, went further and tested his words against Scripture. In fact, that is where the problem lies with the Pastor’s teachings. He was so reasonable—he explained the Scriptures so well and truthfully—that his writings are almost considered as the gospel. “Thus saith Pastor Russell here” and “thus saith Pastor Russell there” become the attitude. Indeed he is the seventh messenger and his ministry is much appreciated, but we need to have the attitude of the Bereans. They searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul said (which sounded so good) was actually God’s Word. And that is the bottom line—that is true nobility—to give God the credit first, His Word second, Jesus third, the apostles fourth, and the messengers to the Seven Churches fifth. We should not only rightly divide the Word of truth but have the right priorities.

The Thessalonians’ “work of faith, and labour of love” will be clarified in Chapters 2 and 3.

They had a reputation for faith and obedience that was commendable—but only on a certain, or lower, level. When Paul was persecuted at Thessalonica, so were the others, who were newcomers, or babes. Receiving persecution so quickly was unusual, for Christians generally had the truth for at least a year before such trials began.

Thessalonica was situated on the land route for Roman soldiers who went from Rome to Asia Minor. Hence the city was an important military garrison and like a midway point before taking a short ferry ride over to Asia Minor.

Corinth was the sin city of the apostles’ day, although it is debatable whether Ephesus or Corinth was worse. Both cities had problems with paganism, rituals, and immoralities. However, with all the faults Paul found with the Corinthians, he always first repeated their good points, commending them where he could.

1 Thess. 1:4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.

This thought is in harmony with what Paul had just said. Not only were the Thessalonians being persecuted, but God knew what they were experiencing. Not only was He aware of their work of faith, their labor of love, and their patience of hope, but the persecution was occurring in His sight. How comforting! Now we see that, in addition, God knew the Thessalonians before they knew Him. Or, to state the matter more personally, God knows us before we know Him.

Next comes Jesus in the sense that God sends him to select us as individuals, to call us into the truth. If we obey and consecrate, how wonderful! We are then in God’s family, even though we are babes. Paul was saying that God Himself has selected us. Not only does God know what is happening, but in a special sense, He ferrets out each one of us. For example, Jesus called Nathanael “an Israelite indeed” (John 1:47), and Nathanael indignantly responded with the question “How do you know me?” Then Jesus said, “I saw you praying under the fig tree.” That experience struck deep into Nathanael’s person.

Accordingly, Paul was saying here to the Thessalonians, “Be patient. Keep persevering. God knows what you are going through.” In the message to the first Church, the Ephesus period, Jesus said, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience” (Rev. 2:2). As time went on, he had only one criticism: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4). The leaving of the “first love” is what can happen as time passes. Time is a serious factor that can sort us out. We are supposed to grow in knowledge and grace. As time goes on, we are either making progress, stagnating, or backsliding. It is marvelous how God’s Holy Spirit flowed out of the Apostle Paul’s mind in giving this advice in just the opening remarks, let alone further on in the epistle.

1 Thess. 1:5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

In what way did the gospel come to the Thessalonians “in power”? The preaching of Paul, Silas, and Timothy was backed up by miracles and supernatural happenings. For example, Paul had just come from Philippi, where he and Silas were beaten and then imprisoned. In prison, bleeding and wounded, they sang hymns, rejoicing that they were suffering for Christ. After Paul prayed, an earthquake occurred that opened all the cell doors. The chief jailer was ready to commit suicide because he thought the prisoners had escaped. However, it was as if the

prisoners were glued to their seats, for not one of them took advantage of the open doors.

Then Paul reassured the jailer that the Lord’s hand was providentially over the matter because of Silas and him. The subsequent conversion of the jailer and his family was a manifestation of power, and certainly the event was noised abroad. (Incidentally, this may have been one of the occasions when Paul received 39 stripes.) Paul began this First Epistle to the Thessalonians with greetings from Silvanus (Silas) and Timotheus, so Silas was with him both in prison in Philippi and here in Thessalonica.

Comment: Since Paul was so recently in Philippi, his wounds would not have healed yet, and here he was in another situation of opposition. He maintained his zeal even in the face of much persecution.

We do not know how many people Paul addressed in various circumstances, but a normal voice does not carry far in the open air. And to shout the message would have resulted in a loss of some fluidity. Paul’s voice was weak in his normal dealings, but when he preached and explained God’s Word, a miraculous power came over him so that his voice carried and he spoke like a prophet. The same thing happened in Old Testament times. The prophets were mechanically moved by the Holy Spirit so that their voices thundered and projected to reach the multitudes. No one would have the excuse of not hearing because of a garbled message.

Therefore, “power” was manifested not only in deeds but even in the delivery of the message.

Consider what we see today with regard to fallen spirits that operate through individuals. A supernatural power comes over the mediums so that they speak in a fashion different from their normal mode. The change is attributed to a miraculous power. However, based on the Scriptures, we know that that which is miraculous, spiritual, and supernatural is not necessarily from God but can be from the devil too—it can be an unholy spirit. The difference is that when the speaking with power is according to the Word, then the Holy Spirit is operating on the individual.

1 Thess. 1:6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:

When the Thessalonians accepted the truth, they “received the word in much affliction.” In other words, their consecration cost them something. When individuals outside of present truth pray to God for enlightenment and the prayer is answered miraculously by someone’s coming with an actual message, either many do not seem to realize the purpose of the experience, or they reject the message because of the cost involved. They know that a response will affect their employment, their family, their friends, and other areas of their life. Such thoughts can pop into the mind immediately and turn off all who are not humble and of an honest heart condition. Those individuals cannot say in the future that they never had an opportunity for further understanding.

The Thessalonians were commended because they received the message of truth in spite of the personal cost involved—whether the affliction was from Jewish compatriots or from Gentile pagans. As recorded in history, other religions had various tests to find out where one stood on certain issues.

Comment: The Diaglott has “imitators of us” instead of “followers of us.”

Reply: The Thessalonians were “followers” of Paul, Silas, and Timothy in the sense of having the same Master and goal.

The Thessalonians “received the word in much affliction, [but also] with joy” in the Holy Spirit.

Thus they were rewarded with joy. While the consecrated lose certain natural benefits, they gain spiritually because they know about the future and have a hope beyond the grave. When viewed from the proper perspective, enlightenment brings a compensatory reward and joy that far exceed the cost of accepting the truth. Not only can the acceptance of truth cost a lot initially—something like Abraham’s leaving Ur of the Chaldees—but sooner or later, as we mature, we will come to the supreme test, a test of unquestioning obedience to God, which is comparable to Abraham’s offering his son Isaac. All who attain the Little Flock will have to sacrifice their “Isaac,” which can be any number of things. Even just the original step of consecration is wonderful in God’s sight because it puts the individual in His family and under His custody. God appreciates our acceptance of Christ so much that He will watch and closely inspect us through Jesus for the remainder of our days. However, the supreme test comes at some point subsequently—as one matures but not necessarily at the end of his life. To properly accept the test and obey it as God’s will costs something.

Comment: As read earlier, Acts 17:5 gives an example of the “affliction,” or persecution, that the Thessalonians suffered. “But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.”

Reply: For a Jew to step out of the pale of “orthodoxy” to accept a new faith that seemed to contradict Moses was a severe experience. And of course the Thessalonians also had a problem with the pagans.

Persecution is opposition. When disease, sickness, accidents, etc., are permitted of the Lord, we accept them, knowing there is a reason such as discipline, enlightenment, and experience, but they are not persecution. Persecution occurs when someone causes us problems because of our espousal of truth, and we are told that all who “live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). We are also told that a man should examine himself, and persecution is one area of examination (1 Cor. 11:28). We should ask, “Am I in some manner suffering for the truth’s sake?” Of course sometimes when we are younger and immature, we suffer because of our lack of tact, our imprudence, and our insensitivity to the feelings of others. Therefore, when we have problems from others, we should examine ourselves to see whether we caused the trouble by doing something wrong, even though it was under the banner of truth. For those who suffer in the proper sense, there is a measure of joy and satisfaction. Most enjoy Christianity because of its fellowship, but that motivation can be deceptive. Are we looking primarily for excitement? Fellowship is a necessary part of our Christian development, for we all need sunshine and pleasant experiences, but we also need the rain and the frost. The chilling experiences pertain more to persecution. (From another standpoint, the sun is a symbol of persecution. Figuratively speaking, the seed that was sown in shallow soil withered and perished when the sun came out.)

Comment: The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians also treats the subject of persecution. After Paul had just commended them for enduring persecution and affliction, Phillips Modern English reads, “These qualities show how justly the judgment of God works out in your case.

Without doubt he intends to use your suffering to make you worthy of his kingdom, yet his justice will one day repay trouble to those who have troubled you, and peace to all of us who, like you, have suffered” (2 Thess. 1:5,6).

Reply: The repayment is twofold: Those who do the persecuting will receive retribution at some point, and the ones who properly receive the persecution will be rewarded with the prize of the high calling, all other factors being equal.

Comment: It would make a difference if one did the persecuting out of ignorance. Such persecution will not receive retribution—or at least not to the same degree.

Comment: 2 Thessalonians 1:4 reads, “We ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure.” The Thessalonian brethren must have endured a lot of persecution.

1 Thess. 1:7 So that ye were examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.

The Thessalonians were examples to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia because of their zeal in preaching the Word, their evangelizing. Not only did they receive the Word in much affliction, but they preached it, yet the Bereans were more noble for studying the Word. Both witnessing (or preaching) and studying are important, but before preaching, we must be sure that we know the Word. Otherwise, we might (1) preach incorrectly or (2) be content with only simple, rudimentary knowledge. Thus there are two dangers in not having sufficient knowledge. Those who accept Jesus must be fed additionally and continually and be encouraged. The whole Word is needed: prophecy, moral instruction regarding conduct, doctrine, etc.

Thessalonica and Berea were in the Macedonia-Achaia area of Greece. Word spread from ecclesia to ecclesia about the experiences of the brethren.

Comment: In suffering persecution, the Thessalonians were examples to the brethren in Macedonia and Achaia. On the other hand, those in Macedonia gave abundantly of their substance to help with the temporal needs of other brethren and thus were an example in that category (2 Cor. 8:1–4).

Reply: Yes, out of their deep poverty, the Macedonians’ liberality abounded. In their zeal and concern, they gave of their own necessities, and Paul commended them for their freewill offerings and generosity. And the Philippians were even more generous.

Comment: In each case Paul commended the strength of a particular ecclesia. He pointed out the Bereans as being more noble than the Thessalonians as far as studying the Word. In suffering persecution, the Thessalonians were outstanding, and the Macedonians were examples in another area.

Reply: Paul pointed out excelling qualities. He also said we are to regard others as better than ourselves—not in the overall picture but in individual strengths, talents, etc. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). We should note an individual’s strength as being possibly the reason God originally called that brother or sister. He called each one of us for some reason. Although the reasons vary, all who are called have one thing in common: faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Generally speaking, those who are called are rich in faith, for faith is what makes us respond and yield to truth. We have faith in God that His message is miraculous, and we gamble our future life on that basis. We deprive ourselves of something down here because of our faith that, if obedient, we will get something beyond the veil.

1 Thess. 1:8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.

Paul needed “not to speak any thing” at this time, but we can be sure he originally taught the Thessalonians that if they suffered with Christ, they would reign with him. They responded so heartily that he did not now have to give them instructions and admonitions on the need for fellowship and witnessing. Instead he was commending them everywhere he could. However, he did rub salt into the tender spots in each of the ecclesias. Our problem today in Laodicea is that everything is nice. The talks are lovely and sweet. If a speaker criticized a class, would he be invited again? No, that would be the end of his ministry there, even if what he said was true and needed. Would the advice be accepted? Probably not. Elders must fight the temptation to go easy lest they jeopardize their service.

1 Thess. 1:9 For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

The Macedonian and Achaian brethren reported about the zeal of the Thessalonians in spite of their persecution. Also, the phrasing of this verse shows that Paul was not at Thessalonica when the brethren there were so zealously preaching the Word.

Paul and Silas were marvelous examples themselves, for they had gone to Thessalonica still injured and raw from their experiences at Philippi. They had not retreated to nurse their wounds or cower in fear after such persecution, but instead went immediately to Thessalonica and continued to work boldly. After the Jews stirred up trouble and Jason agreed with the authorities to have Paul depart, Paul was hamstrung and had to leave rather suddenly.

However, the results of his preaching were very comforting to him when he got the report from not only the Thessalonians but also the Macedonians and the Achaians. Thus, although not as noble as the Berean brethren, the Thessalonians were very zealous. With little information, they had the courage to stand up for Christ and endure affliction, and Paul commended them. Nevertheless, the higher way would be to go on from there and get more knowledge and other graces of the Holy Spirit.

The mention of idols shows that the Thessalonian brethren consisted not only of those with a Jewish background but also of those with a pagan background. For pagans to give up their idols cost them something. If one had been bringing up a family with complete indoctrination and obedience to an idol and then all of a sudden heard and responded to the gospel message, his giving up the idols would be comparable to giving up smoking or drugs. And sometimes repercussions, discouragements, and flack come from those who see us giving up such things.

In Macedonia there was a god named Dionysus, who was supposed to suffer and die and then rise again. The center of an immoral religion, he was comparable to Osiris in Egypt and Bacchus. The fact that false religions arose around concepts of a suffering Messiah shows that some Gentiles knew more about certain Old Testament prophecies than the Jews did, for the latter were blinded. The fallen angels, not fully understanding the Old Testament prophecies, seized on these seed thoughts and developed false religions to sidetrack people from the worship of Jehovah. All down through history, whenever God made a move, Satan immediately capitalized on it with a countermove, thus diverting attention. Satan added distractions to the seed thoughts. Therefore, the people in Thessalonica already had the concept of a suffering god who died and was resurrected. Then Timothy came along and showed that the true seed of promise was Jesus, the Son of God—not Dionysus or any of the other false gods instituted by Satan. Jesus was the promised seed who was to suffer, die, and be raised again. Timothy took the heathen thought and showed that the Thessalonians were following it blindly and then told them about the true Messiah. The right-hearted were able to accept Jesus with enthusiasm because he was a specific personage instead of a vague mythological character about whom there was relatively little information. Thus the theme of a suffering, dying, and resurrected Messiah was profitably harped on in this locale.

Comment: A devout member of a local recognized denomination is regarded by the general community as an upstanding individual, whereas someone who comes into present truth is often regarded with suspicion or as being strange. Others cannot understand, for instance, why anyone would drive from Connecticut to New York to meet with 12 people in a garage for Bible study, as opposed to going down the street to a local church.

Comment: Verse 9 must have been said with emphasis. The word “dumb” is not in the text, but it is implied: “For they themselves show of us … how ye turned to God from [dumb] idols to serve the living and true God.”

Reply: Yes, they forsook dumb statues honoring other gods in order to serve the living God.

1 Thess. 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

Verse 10 is the theme, or keynote, of both epistles to the Thessalonians: WAIT FOR JESUS, who will deliver the Church from the wrath to come! Wait for his Second Coming!

Jesus will deliver us from the wrath to come from God at the end of the age. The entire Church is to be spared the great Time of Trouble that is coming on the whole world. Although this verse applies especially to the feet members, the whole Church escapes this trouble, for the Church will be entirely developed before the manifestation of God’s wrath and indignation. The correct tense is, “Wait for … Jesus, who is to deliver us from the wrath to come.” The Church will not escape trouble and persecution, but all of the elect will escape the great Time of Trouble, the Day of God’s wrath, at the end of the age.

Comment: The interlinear word-for-word Greek says that Jesus was raised out of the dead ones. Therefore, in the actual Greek, the thought is that all of the others were dead (not alive somewhere else), and that out of the dead ones, Jesus was raised.

(1998 and 1981 studies)

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