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 1 Thessalonians Introduction

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PostSubject: 1 Thessalonians Introduction   Fri Nov 30, 2018 11:37 pm


First and second Thessalonians comprise some of the earliest New Testament writings. The first epistle was penned at Corinth by the apostle Paul in response to Timothy’s report on the progress of the church they had recently established there (3:1-6).
Paul, along with Silas and Timothy, founded the church at Thessalonica on his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-14). The apostle had been drawn to this important Roman port after seeing a vision in which a Macedonian man was calling for help (Acts 16:9)
“The City” Thessalonica (Salonika today) had been named in 315 B.C. by Cassander after his wife, Alexander the Great’s half-sister. Under the Romans the city, famous for its hot springs, burgeoned to a population of over 200,000. It was situated strategically on the Via Egnatia, the main Roman highway from east to west. Its sheltered harbor made an ideal naval station. The city was a natural center for traffic moving in all directions. In Paul’s day it was the capital of Macedonia. Although the provincial governor was headquartered there, he exercised no authority over Thessalonica. As a free city it was ruled by politarchs and enjoyed political autonomy.
As a military and commercial center, Thessalonica became famous for its wealth as well as its vice, attracting a strange mixture of Roman high society and pagan sensuality (Acts 17:4; 1 Thess. 4:1-Cool. It also attracted merchants from other parts of the empire, including numerous Jews (Acts 17:4). The nucleus of the church was formed from this group of Jews – although 1 Thessalonians 1:9 indicates that the Apostle to the Gentiles had his greatest success among the non-Jewish peoples of the city (Acts 17:4).
“The Church” In Europe Paul and his companions had gone first to Philippi (Acts 16:12) where they established a church and were miraculously delivered from the jail. Leaving Philippi, they traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica. Going first to the Jewish synagogue, Paul there won his first converts – and met his most serious opposition. His ministry in the city lasted less than a month. During that time he worked as a tent maker, not wishing to burden the fledgling assembly with his needs, and spent the balance of his time at the home of Jason, organizing the new believers into a church.
But almost immediately the Jews brought Paul before the politarchs and had him expelled from the city. He went on to Berea, meeting great initial success, but was again opposed by the Thessalonian Jews who dogged his trail and incited the people to riot against him. Paul barely escaped with his life, traveling to Athens where his message was received with little enthusiasm. From Athens Paul dispatched Timothy to check on the situation in the Thessalonian church (3:2).
“Occasion and Purpose” After all this persecution and rejection of the gospel, Paul came to Corinth (Acts 18:1) “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). When Silas and Timothy returned bearing good news about the Macedonian churches, Paul was greatly encouraged and pressed forward with his work (Acts 18:4-5). But the Thessalonians were also reportedly having difficulties.
Gentiles, and especially Jews, were impugning Paul’s sincerity, defaming him as a wandering charlatan who had deceived them. The church was also somewhat confused about the second coming of Christ. Some members worried about believers who had died before His return. Others considered it unnecessary to continue working, since Christ would return at any time. Still others were sinking back into the immorality of the culture. There was also a crisis in the leadership; many of the rank-and-file apparently were being offended by certain tactless elders. These and other minor difficulties occasioned Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.
“Time of Writing”: Since this epistle was certainly written during Paul’s long stay at Corinth (Acts 18:5; 1 Thess. 3:6), the date can easily be fixed. An inscription discovered at Delphi (dated from the summer of A.D. 52) refers to the pro consulate of Gallio, a position held for only two years. Paul arrived at Corinth before Gallio assumed this position, perhaps a year earlier. Thus, the time of the writing of 1 Thessalonians must have been the summer or fall of A.D. 51.
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