Bible Notes Online - 1-Thessalonians 1 - ESV

The two letters to the Thessalonians are amongst the earliest New Testament letters. Although they are not written as doctrinal treatises, they contain most of the major doctrines of the faith.

There is but one living God (1 Th 1.9), our Father (2 Th 1.2). We are chosen by God for salvation (1 Th 1.4; 2 Th 2.13). We are delivered from wrath through God's Son, Jesus (1 Th 1.10). The gospel is the message of deliverance and salvation (1 Th 1.5; 2.9; 2 Th 2.14).

The gospel is about Jesus Christ, who was killed under the Jews (1 Th 2.15), and who rose from the dead (1 Th 1.10; 4.14; 5.10), and has ascended into Heaven (1 Th 1.10), and He will return (1 Th 2.19; 4.15; 5.23; 2 Th 2.1). The message is confirmed by the Holy Spirit (1 Th 1.5; 4.8).

To Jesus Christ is ascribed deity, for He is Lord (1 Th 1.6), and God's Son (1 Th 1.10), He is the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Th 1.1,3; 5.28; 2 Th 1.1).

True believers have received God's word (1 Th 1.6), they have turned from idols, to serve God, and to wait for Christ's return (1 Th 1.9-10). They grow in sanctification (1 Th 4.3,7; 2 Th 2.13). They should be holy (1 Th 4.4-6), industrious (1 Th 4.11-12), prayerful (1 Th 5.17), and cheerful (1 Th 5.16).

v1: Paul's greeting to the church. He is working with Timothy and Silas.

v2: Paul's prayers are full of thanksgiving. He, and those with him, prayed without ceasing.

"we" and "us" are used 66 times in the letter, indicating co-operation and teamwork amongst those serving with Paul.

v3: Paul commends their dedicated lives, as in Col 1.4-5;

  • faith demonstrated by works;
  • love demonstrated by labour; and
  • hope inspiring patience and endurance.

Our hope is in Christ, therefore there is fruit in our lives, and our service has real value.

v4: We are changed because God has chosen us; He will save those He chooses, and He will work in us to bring about Christ-like attitudes. Our security in God is reflected in fruitful lives.

v5: The word of the gospel accompanied by godly lives, transparent godliness, as in 2.3-6; this is consistent with the message. Godly lives are proof that the message does have power. "With power" indicates that the message was demonstrated by works, esp. miracles; people saw the power of the gospel. The Holy Spirit gives us power to witness to Christ, and to live for Christ. See 1 Cor 2.4. The early gospel message carried real power; Gal 3.1-5 refers to miracles, although this was apparently not always the case, as in Acts 17.1-12.

The lives of Paul and his companions commended the gospel, and Paul is able to point to that quality of life.

v6: The Thessalonians' response to the gospel; even in affliction they accepted God's word (2.13). There was a cost, but they were willing to bear that cost. Here is great glory for God, through His people honouring Him in this way. We look beyond our difficult circumstances, and see our Lord, and rejoice in all we have in Him. No wonder the Psalmist exhorts us to serve Him with gladness, Ps 100.2.

v7: The Thessalonians quickly became examples to other Christians.

v8: The powerful influence of godly lives. The word of the Lord sounded forth like a trumpet, or a clap of thunder.

v9-10: They were marked by their repentance; a clear break from past sin, and a clear commitment to God. There is a distinction to be made between idols and the true and living God.

There is salvation now, for Jesus is raised from the dead; and there is salvation to come, for Jesus delivers us from the coming wrath.