1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2006-12-31 14:34.

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Out of deep concern for the new believers in Thessalonica whom he was forced to leave behind, Paul wrote his letter, addressing them as “the congregation of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” As a community of believers, they were at one with God and his Son. (Compare John 17:21; 1 Corinthians 3:23.) Paul’s desire for them to have “favor,” “unmerited kindness,” or “grace” and “peace” signified that they be in possession of all the divine blessings and aid in which believers share and the inner tranquility of knowing that as beloved children of God they would be sustained and strengthened in whatever trials or distresses they might experience. (1:1)

The apostle Paul used the editorial first person plural verbs (e.g., “we thank”) and pronouns (e.g., “our”). In this letter, one cannot always determine whether he used the editorial “we” or meant to include Silvanus (Silas), if not also Timothy.

Paul’s concern was for all the believers in Thessalonica, and for each of them he gave thanks to God when mentioning them in his prayers. (1:2) He recalled their “work of faith,” that is, the activity which resulted from their having placed their unqualified trust in the Father and his Son. The “labor of love” which Paul remembered in their case would have been all their labor that was motivated by a love for God, his Son, fellow believers, and fellow humans. Paul also mentioned remembering “the patience of the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This “patience,” endurance, steadfastness, or perseverance would have been the result of having placed their hope in the Son of God. Being associated with him, that hope included awaiting his return in glory and sharing in all the blessings linked to this grand event. The words “before our God and Father” may be understood to mean that the Thessalonians were persevering, enduring, or maintaining patience or steadfastness in the sight of God. (1:2, 3) A number of translations make this meaning explicit. J. B. Phillips paraphrased the words, “endurance in the life that you live before God, the Father of us all.” The New King James Version reads, “patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.” Other translators have chosen to transpose the phrase, linking it to Paul’s remembering or recalling. “We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, labor of love, and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (HCSB) “For we remember before our God and Father how you put your faith into practice, how your love made you work so hard, and how your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is firm.” (GNT, Second Edition) “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

Paul knew that all who had responded in faith were “sons” of God, and so he confidently spoke of these “brothers beloved by God” as having been chosen, that is, chosen by the Father as his own children. (1:4) The basis for this confidence appears to have been the manner in which the evangel or glad tidings about Jesus Christ had been presented to the Thessalonians. (See the Notes section for additional comments.) The words “our evangel” do not mean that the “good news” originated with Paul but that it was the message he proclaimed. That evangel did not come to the Thessalonians “in word only.” It was not a mere speaking of words lacking substance and sincerity, but there was power behind the proclamation, a divine power. Paul preached the evangel while under the powerful guidance of holy spirit. He also did so with complete conviction respecting the truth of the message. The Thessalonian believers knew full well the kind of person Paul had shown himself to be for their sake. He had conducted himself in an exemplary manner as one in the service of God and Christ and as deserving to be entrusted with the evangel. His example for their sake was worthy of imitation. (1:5)

The Thessalonian believers became imitators of Paul (and also of his companions) and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul, Silas, Timothy, and the Lord Jesus Christ faced hostility from unbelievers and persevered when faced with persecution. Likewise, the Thessalonians, despite being confronted with much tribulation or suffering from unbelievers, accepted the “word” or message about Jesus Christ with the joy that the holy spirit produces. (1:6)

To believers in the rest of Macedonia and in Achaia (the neighboring southern province), the Thessalonians had become an example in enduring suffering and in making their faith known. As a seaport, Thessalonica would have been a place frequented by many merchants, travelers, and mariners, making it possible for news about developments in the city to spread far and wide. The Thessalonian believers did not hide their faith, but made it known. Therefore, from them, the “word of the Lord” or the glad tidings about Jesus Christ came to be heard in other parts of Macedonia, in Achaia, and in regions beyond those two provinces. In all those areas, the faith the Thessalonians had in God became known. As a result, Paul (and his companions) did not need to say anything about the basic message respecting Christ. People already knew about how the Thessalonian disciples of God’s Son had responded to Paul and his companions, and what they had done and come to believe. The Thessalonian believers had abandoned lifeless idols and turned to God, choosing to serve the living and true God. They were looking forward to the return of God’s Son from heaven, the Son whom the Father had raised from the dead. That glorious return of the Son would mean being delivered from the coming wrath to be expressed against those defiantly persisting in unbelief. (1:7-10)

Notes:

In verse 1, not all manuscripts end with “peace” (eiréne). The following are readings found in various manuscripts: “peace from God and [the] Lord Jesus Christ,” “peace from God [the] Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ,” “peace from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ,” “peace from God [the] Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,” and “peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In verse 4, the reference could either be to the manner in which Paul and his companions communicated the message about God’s Son or in the way the Thessalonians received it. Applied to the Thessalonians, this would mean that the message had a powerful effect on them, that it produced a remarkable change in their lives, that God’s spirit became operative upon them, and that they were fully convinced respecting the truth of the message. It does, however, appear more likely that Paul referred to the manner in which the evangel came to be proclaimed. The concluding part of verse 5, with its specific focus on the proclaimers, would support this conclusion (“as you know what kind [of persons] we came to be among you for your sake”).

Regarding “holy spirit” in verse 5, see the Notes on Galatians 3:2 in the Commentary section.