Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. (1 Thessalonians 1:1-5 ESV).
Today we are going to start reading through the first letter of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians. It won’t be an in depth expository study of the book; however, I hope we can find some principles that perhaps we may have missed in previous reading of this wonderful letter.
We have two of the letters that Paul wrote to the Thessalonicans. There may have been more, these are the two we have preserved and included in our New Testament canon. It is one of the earliest writings in the New Testament. We do know a few things about the church itself. It was located in the northern Greek city of Thessalonica and was a very young body of believers at the time the apostle writes to them. We can see a glimpse of Paul’s concerns for them as a growing community of faith “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” He uses the word Ecclesia, the common Greek word for “church,” as he describes them. It was also used to refer to a wide range of gatherings and assemblies. His indication is that this new ecclesia is unique because it is gathered in the name of the one God who has become known in the Lord Jesus Christ. That was certainly a radical proposition in a culture that embraced many deities.
You may have wondered if this letter surprised the members of this community of faith. Most interpreters believe that it didn’t as it may have been a response to some questions they sent to him. In fact, it would be easier if we had this previous communication to clear up some of the things he wrote. What we do have is a personal, compassionate communication from Paul’s heart to theirs. One of the interesting things about the letter (and all of the writings of the Bible) is that it was not simply meant for that church in that community. Even though they’re addressed to a far-away, long-ago community, they are meant for our eyes too. We too are members of the same ecclesia that is “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” These letters have news for all of us. The principle message we are going to see emerge throughout the letter is how the church is to be in a world that is at times hostile, and always dismissive. We are in that kind of culture, aren’t we? Paul would tell us to act with that same grace and love he encourages from them. Keep this in mind as we go forward in the coming days. We should focus on being a people with a labor of faith and a steadfastness of hope.
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