Book Overview - 1 Thessalonians
by L.M. Grant
This epistle is evidently the first written by the apostle Paul, likely in the year 52 A.D., the same year as his first visit to Thessalonica. He and Silas and Timothy had come there from Philippi, leaving Luke in the latter city. Persecution was raised in both places, and the apostle remained only briefly, but not without having established bright, solid testimonies to the grace of God: Philippi remaining steadfast and devoted through the years, and Thessalonica a shining example of Gospel witness in the face of continued persecution. Only "three sabbath days" we are told Paul reasoned with the Jews there out of the Scriptures, some of them believing, but "a great multitude" of Greeks also receiving the Gospel (Acts 17:1-4).
The record seems to indicate that Paul did not remain longer there, though it has been thought by some that he must have done so, since he writes to the Philippians, "Even at Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity" (Ch. 4:16). Yet it seems not unlikely that the fresh, ardent affection of the Philippians could gladly send help such as this to Paul, even twice in the course of three weeks (the distance being possibly eighty miles). Afflicted with poverty as they were, they evidently understood and felt deeply Paul's need, sending to him as soon as they were able, not holding back until they were able to increase the amount, but sending as they obtained it. This is characteristic of the poor who love the Lord.
Thessalonians, as Philippians, is pastoral rather than doctrinal. The devotion, faith, and love of the Lord's servants stands out as an example that had precious effect in the witness of the saints at Thessalonica. The hope of the coming of the Lord is a theme that permeates the book and lends sweetest character to every aspect of life. The wholesome, energetic, substantial character of the ministry here is most refreshing, although it does not compare with Romans and Hebrews so far as deep penetration and intellectual argument is concerned. But we cannot dispense with its fresh and refreshing encouragement.
the Third Week after Epiphany