Louis Roth Ministries

Helping with the Road to Spiritual Maturity

First Thessalonians: Introduction-Date, Occasion and Purposes of the Epistle Lesson # 4

Wenstrom Bible Ministries; Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom; Sunday, August 19, 2018; www.wenstrom.org.

First Thessalonians was written in approximately 50 A.D. shortly after the apostle Paul’s arrival in the city of Corinth (Acts 17:1-10; 18:1).

This indicated is indicated by comparing Acts 18:1-17 with ancient secular inscriptions.

The former mentions Paul in Corinth meeting a man named Gallio who was said to be the proconsul of Achaia. The latter mentions this man’s proconsulate in Corinth.

Most conservative scholars date First Thessalonians between 50-54 A.D. which would make this epistle one of the earliest of Paul’s inspired writings. See Charts below on this page.

t’s very important to understand the historical circumstances which drove Paul to write First Thessalonians since this helps us to understand why he wrote this letter in the first place.

First of all, Acts 17:1-9 records Paul and Silas planted a church in Thessalonica.

This passage reveals that Paul and Silas reasoned three Sabbaths with the Jews in this city’s synagogue and that they emphasized three major points with the Jews.

The first is that the Old Testament Scriptures make clear that the predicted Messiah must first suffer and die and then be raised from the dead three days later (Acts 17:3).

Secondly, they proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah (Acts 17:3).

Lastly, they proclaimed that Jesus of Nazareth is the King who will return and reign upon the earth (Acts 17:7).

During these three weeks, a small group of Thessalonians trusted in Jesus of Nazareth as their Savior.

However, immediately after planting the church in Thessalonica, Paul and Silas were driven from Thessalonica and went to Berea (Acts 17:1-10).

Acts do not say that Timothy left to go with these two and thus he might have remained behind or gone to Philippi and then rejoined Paul and Silas in Berea (Acts 17:14).

Eventually, Paul fled to Athens after being persecuted in Berea, which left Silas and Timothy in Berea (Acts 17:14).

Then, Paul sent word back to these two instructing them to come to him in Athens (Acts 17:15).

Timothy rejoined Paul at Athens and then was sent back to Thessalonica according to 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5.

Silas might have returned to Philippi. After Timothy left, Silas was also sent to Thessalonica (Acts 18:5)

From Athens, Paul moved on to Corinth (Acts 18:1). Silas and Timothy came to Paul in Corinth from Macedonia at the same time (1 Thess. 3:6; Acts 18:5).

From Corinth, Paul wrote First Thessalonians and sent it to the church.

After hearing of their continued faithfulness to his apostolic teaching despite persecution, from Corinth, Paul sent them the letter which we know today as First Thessalonians in A.D. 50 or 51.

He wanted to commend the Thessalonians for their faithfulness and to encourage them to continue to remain faithful.

About six months later, he wrote Second Thessalonians in response to further information he received about the Thessalonian Christian community.

Now, after reviewing the historical background and circumstances surrounding Paul writing First Thessalonians, we can now understand why he wrote what he did in First Thessalonians 1-2.

He reassures the Thessalonians that his abrupt departure after planting the church in this city did not mean that he did have a love and concern for them (cf. 1 Thess. 2-3).

The contents of First Thessalonians make clear that there are several reasons why Paul wrote this epistle. First, he wanted to express his thanks to God for them (cf. 1 Thess. 1:2; 2:13; 3:9).

He also wanted to encourage them in face of persecution (cf. 1 Thess. 1:6-10; 3:2-3; 4:1-12).

Paul also wanted to defend himself against a campaign to slander his ministry (cf. 1 Thess. 2:1-12).

Furthermore, he wanted to explain why he had not yet visited them again (cf. 1 Thess. 2:17-18).

Another purpose was to reassure the Christian community in Thessalonica of his intention to return to visit them and encourage them (cf. 1 Thess. 3:11-13).

The apostle Paul also wanted the Christian community in Thessalonica to continue to abstain from sexual immorality in order to continue to experience their sanctification (cf. 1 Thess. 4:1-8).

He also wanted them “to aspire to lead a quiet life, to attend to your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you. In this way, you will live a decent life before outsiders and not be in need.”[1] (cf. 1 Thess. 4:9-12).

Paul also wanted them to continue to exercise the love of God toward one another and continue to grow in this love.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-13 indicates he wrote this epistle in order to answer a question about the fate of Christians who had died.

He wanted to reassure them that the dead in Christ would be raised immediately before they are given resurrection bodies when the Lord Jesus Christ returns for His bride, the church at the rapture or resurrection of the church (cf. 1 Thess. 4:14-18).

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 also indicates he wrote First Thessalonians in order to answer questions about “the day of the Lord.”

This passage makes clear that he wanted to reassure them that they would not experience the prophetic events related to the day of the Lord and in particular, the events predicted to take place during the seventieth week of Daniel.

He asserts that they were delivered from God’s wrath which will be exercised toward the inhabitants of planet earth during these seven years.

Lastly, he wanted to address certain problems that had developed in his absence with regard to their corporate life as a church (cf. 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 19-20).

He wrote Thessalonians in order to instruct the Christians in Thessalonica “to acknowledge those who labor among you and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them most highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”[2]

This is a reference to the pastor-teachers who exercised authority over them by teaching them the Word of God (cf. 1 Thess. 5:12-22).

 

1 Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (1 Th 4:11–12). Biblical Studies Press.

2 Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (1 Th 5:12–13). Biblical Studies Pre