Wenstrom Bible Ministries; Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom; Sunday, September 2, 2018
1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. (ESV)
1 Thessalonians 1:1 From Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the Thessalonian congregation in union and fellowship with God the Father as well as the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to each and every one of you resulting in peace. (Author’s translation)
1 Thessalonians 1:1 identifies the authors of this epistle and its recipients and it also contains a description of the recipients of this epistle and a greeting from the authors.
The authors are identified as Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.
The proper name Paulos (Παῦλος), “Paul” means, “little” or “short” and is used by the author when writing to the Thessalonian Christian community rather than his Jewish name Saul since this community was predominately Gentile and Pauloswas his name he used among the Gentiles.
The Lord Jesus Christ authorized him to be the apostle to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 9:15; 22:21; Romans 11:13; 15:16; Galatians 1:15-16; 2:2, 7-9).
Silas or Silvanus appears to have been an early convert since he appears in Acts 15:22 among the early converts at the council of Jerusalem which was convened in AD 49.
He evidently was already a leader since he was said to have “risked his life” for the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 15:22, 26) and he is called a prophet (Acts 15:32) and a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37).
On his second missionary journey Paul met Timothy at Lystra (Acts 16:1-5). Timothy, who may have been converted as the result of Paul’s first visit to Lystra, was highly regarded by the royal family at Lystra and Iconium. His Jewish mother had become a believer with his grandmother (2 Tm. 1:5) but yet his father is described as a Greek (Acts 16:1) and thus would have belonged to the small elite class of Lystra who had been educated in the Greek language and culture.
Paul links Timothy’s name with his own in saluting the churches in: (1) Corinth (2 Cor. 1:1). (2) Philippi (Phlp. 1:1). (3) Colossae (Col. 1:1). (4) Thessalonica (1 Th. 1:1; 2 Th. 1:1).
This indicates either that Timothy served with Paul in each of these churches, or that he had been sent there by the apostle, or that he had come to be known by them because of his close association with Paul (cf. Rm. 16:21).Paul describes him as: (1) “My fellow-worker” (Rm. 16:21). (2) “God’s fellow-worker” (1 Th. 3:2). (3) “My beloved and faithful student in the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:17). (4) “True child in the faith” (1 Tm. 1:2; Phlp. 2:22). (5) “A Christian gentleman of proven worth” (Phlp. 2:22). (6) “Brother” (2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1). (7) “My son” (1 Tm. 1:18; cf. v. 1; 1 Cor. 4:14). (8) “I have no one like-minded” (Phlp. 2:20). (9) “Slave of Christ Jesus” (Phlp. 1:1). (10) “Seeks the things of Jesus Christ” (Phlp. 2:21). (11) “Loyal” (2 Tm. 3:10). (12) “Doing the Lord’s work” (1 Cor. 16:10).
The recipients are identified as a congregation composed of individuals who lived in the largest city of the Roman province of Asia in the first century A.D., namely Thessalonica, and are described as being in union and fellowship with God the Father as well as the Lord Jesus Christ.
First Thessalonians follows the correct chronological order of a first-century letter’s introduction: (1) The author identifies himself first (verse 1) (2) Then he identifies the recipient of the letter (verse 1) (3) Then he gives a greeting (verses 2-10).
Since Silvanus and Timothy are listed here with Paul in the greeting of the epistle in 1 Thessalonians 1:1, many expositors and scholars have surmised that Silvanus and Timothy took part in the writing of this epistle and were thus co-senders.
However, others dissent asserting that Paul is the sole author of this epistle and that the plurals in this epistle should be interpreted as being used “literarily” rather than “literally.” This raises two questions: (1) What role, if any, did the co-senders play in the writing of this letter? (2) If Paul is the ultimate author of the letter, why did he present Silvanus and Timothy as cosenders?
It is my view that Silvanus and Timothy are not co-senders and that Paul is the true author of this epistle, which is indicated by the fact that three times in 1 Thessalonians, the text shifts significantly to the first-person singular.
This would strongly suggest that the first-person plurals in the letter ought to be taken not literally but literarily and is also called an “editorial we” or an “epistolary plural,” thus, it would not be an “exclusive we” which would include Paul with his associates as distinct from the audience.
The first instance where there is a shift to the first-person singular is 1 Thessalonians 2:18 and the second instance in which Paul shifts to the first-person singular is found in 1 Thessalonians 3:5 and the third time there is a shift to the first-person singular is 1 Thessalonians 5:27.
These three verses strongly suggest that Paul is the true author of the epistle indicating that the plurals used throughout the correspondence ought to be taken as “editorial” or “epistolary plurals” despite the fact that he lists Silvanus and Timothy as co-senders.
This leads us to the second question; namely, why did Paul include Silvanus and Timothy as co-senders even though he is the real author of the epistle?
It is my view that these two men are included by Paul in the greeting as co-senders because they played a significant role in ministering to the Thessalonian Christian community.
Acts 17:1-9 reveals that Silvanus played a key role in establishing this community with Paul.
Timothy is identified as a co-sender here in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 because 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 reveals that he was instrumental in strengthening the Thessalonian Christian community.
Interestingly, notice in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 that Paul does not employ the noun apostolos (ἀπόστολος), “an apostle” to describe himself as he does in several of his epistles (cf. Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1).
However, it doesn’t appear in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philippians, and Philemon.
Paul uses the word to establish that his authority is from the Lord Himself (Romans 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1)
He uses it when his authority or teaching is being questioned or rejected by those to whom he is writing (1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians).
The Thessalonians and Philippians were faithful to Paul’s teaching and had a great friendship with Paul.
Philemon was a personal note, thus there was no need for Paul to establish his authority with these churches and Philemon.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:1, the apostle Paul describes the Thessalonian Christian community “in union and fellowship with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This prepositional phrase is describing the Thessalonian Christian community as experiencing their sanctification and thus experiencing their position in Christ, which constitutes experiencing fellowship with God.
They were in union with the Father because they were in union with Jesus Christ.
They were able to experience fellowship with the Father through Jesus Christ and specifically through their union and identification with Jesus Christ in His crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and session.
The Thessalonians were able to experience fellowship with Jesus Christ because of this union and identification.
They were able to experience this union and identification and thus fellowship with the Father and the Son because they were obedient to Paul’s Spirit-inspired commands and prohibitions (cf. 1 Thess. 1:6-8; 3:6; 4:1, 10).
Notice in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 that the Holy Spirit is not mentioned by name in this greeting as is the Father and the Son since He is the one who inspired Paul to write this epistle according to the will of the Father and this was made possible by Paul’s union with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:1, charis, “grace” refers to the means by which grace might be received, namely through the mind and thinking of Christ, the Word of God, which is inspired by the Spirit of God.
The Spirit, through the communication of the Word of God to the believer, reveals God the Father’s grace policy to the believer.
This word in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 refers to the Holy Spirit speaking through the communication of the Word of God to the believer’s human spirit or new Christ nature regarding the will of the Father.
By responding in faith to the Spirit’s appeal here in 1 Thessalonians 1:1, the recipients of First Thessalonians would be obedient to the commands in Ephesians 5:18 and Colossians 3:16, which when obeyed produce the same results.
The greeting is more than just that, but rather it is in fact, a Spirit-inspired desire that the recipients of this letter, namely the Thessalonian Christian community would respond to his apostolic teaching in this epistle regarding the will of the Father for them.
The apostle Paul under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit is appealing to the church to respond to his doctrinal teaching in this epistle, which originates from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul states that the Thessalonian Christian community would experience the peace of God in and among themselves as a result of appropriating the grace of God as it’s communicated by the Spirit through the teaching of the Word of God. “Peace” (eirēnē) in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 refers to the peace of God that is produced by the Spirit in and among believers.
The Spirit does this when believers obey the commands and prohibitions that He guides Paul in issuing them in this epistle.