#185 “THE TRIAD OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE” (1 THESSALONIANS 1:1-5)
Date: AD 50-51
Author: The apostle Paul writing from Corinth (Ac. 18:12-17)
The city of Thessalonica (named after the half-sister of Alexander the Great) is nestled on the northwest corner of the Aegean Sea—200 miles north of Athens. Today, it is called Salonica or Thessaloniki. During the time of Paul, Thessalonica was a strategic and thriving seaport of Macedonia (a Roman province). The Bible Knowledge Commentary, “The Egnatian Way, the main Roman road from Rome to the Orient via Byzantium (modern Istanbul), passed through the city. This put Thessalonica in direct contact with many other important cities by land as well as by sea. It was one of the most important centers of population in Paul’s day, occupying a strategic location both governmentally and militarily.”
The main population in the city were native Greeks, with Jews, Orientals, and Romans making up the rest of the populace. Archaeological discoveries have uncovered the pagan worship of deities, such as Dionysus, Demeter, Zeus, Asclepius, Isis, Serapis, and Aphrodite. There was also a large synagogue for the Jews and God-fearing Greeks (Ac. 17:4).
On his second missionary journey, Paul (along with Silas and Timothy), arrived in Thessalonica after departing from Philippi and passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia. In Ac. 17:1-9, Paul established a church and stayed preaching to the Thessalonians and reasoning with the Jews for over three weeks (Ac. 17:2-4). Eventually, word spread of Paul’s gospel message which led to a riot breaking out in the city.
Theme: To remain holy until Christ returns
Grace and Peace (1:1)
- Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy—Paul’s salutation reflects the common Hellenistic opening to a letter. Along with him, Paul lists two companions, Silvanus and Timothy, who assisted him in Thessalonica. Silvanus (Silas)—He was a prophet who belonged to the Jerusalem Council (Ac. 15:22, 27, 32, 40) and was selected by Paul to be his traveling companion on his second missionary journey (Ac. 15:39-18:22). Timothy—The son of a Greek father and Jewish mother. Timothy joined Paul’s inner circle (Ac. 16) and was resent to Thessalonica to resolve a few conflicts (1 Thess. 3:1-7).
- To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. Note that Paul addresses the Thessalonians as a “church” or “body.” The term church is ekklēsia, is a chosen word that refers to a “called-out people group” primarily made-up of Gentiles who belong to Christ. In Acts 17:2-4, Luke gives a brief account of Paul establishing the church in Thessalonica: “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.” God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ—Paul presents the trinitarian relationship between Father and Son. Grace—A foreign concept that only makes sense and experienced in a relationship with Christ. The GK word is charis, “an unmerited favor and blessing.” Peace—The GK word, eirēnē, captures the wholeness, freedom, and tranquility a person has in Jesus Christ.
The Chosen Ones (1:2-5)
- 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Right away, Paul gives thanksgiving for the way the Thessalonians received the gospel of Jesus Christ by listing the triad of faith, love, and hope (see Rom. 5:2-5; 1 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:5-6). This trio of affirmations (faith, hope, and love) was communal teaching in the early church. Work of faith—Faith is active and produces fruit (see Js. 2:14-26). Steadfastness of hope—A confident hope in the return of Jesus. Something Paul will go into greater detail in 4:13-18 and 5:1-11. The basis of the triad has Christ at the center. Jesus is the object of faith, hope, and love.
- 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you—This is the only time Paul uses chosen to describe their appointed salvation. The church is commonly referred to as “the elect” (see Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12). A term once reserved exclusively for Israel. There are several undergirding properties to Paul’s explanation of election. First, God is the Originator and Initiator of salvation. Second, Jesus is the Atoner for Three, the Holy Spirit is the Sealer of salvation. Fourth, the elect are those who freely receive the gift of salvation and maintain a holy life.
- 5 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. God is the Originator of salvation: the “gospel of God” (2:8) and the “gospel of Christ” (3:2). Therefore, Paul emphasizes that it was the “gospel” that came to the Thessalonians (not him). Paul lists several confirmations that their conversion was real. Power—First, Paul preached in the power (dynamei) of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had promised the arrival of the Holy Spirit to come upon his disciples in a mighty way. Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Thus, Paul preached the Scriptures faithfully and relied entirely on the conviction of the Holy Spirit (see. Jn. 16:8). Full conviction—Second, Paul uses the word plērophoria to detail the freedom and certainty they had delivering the gospel to the Thessalonians. Proved to be among you—Third, Paul lived an exemplary life that reflected Christ. Paul and his companions didn’t take advantage of the people in Thessalonica. They were men of integrity and built rapport in the city. Paul will go on to defend his ministry in 2:1-3:10.