First Thessalonians 1
A verse by verse explanation of the first chapter of First Thessalonians
“Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.”
I Thessalonians 1:4
- By the will of God, I intend to teach you the eight chapters of Paul’s two epistles to the Thessalonians.
- It is my hope that we will learn and grow from Holy Spirit instruction to a church with few problems.
- Let us ask the Holy Spirit to show us Christ’s priorities in these epistles and our application of them.
- Surely every word of God is pure, but not every word of God needs to be expanded to a full sermon.
Intro: The church is greeted and commended for joyful obedience, which proved their election.
- The three ministers by whom they first believed are unified in writing this kind epistle.
- Here we see great ministerial thanksgiving for the conversion of idolatrous pagans.
- The evidence of election is herein defined and opened for the comfort of all saints.
- The gospel is greatly promoted by the full and joyful conversion of sinners to the Lord.
1:1 Paul and his fellow ministers greet and salute the church in Thessalonica, Macedonia.
- The history of the formation of this church has been preserved for us (Acts 17:1-15).
- It was Paul’s second preaching trip (Acts 13:1-4; 14:25-28; 15:36-41; 18:20-22).
- As was Paul’s customary method, he began the work at the Jewish synagogue.
- He reasoned out of the Scriptures that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the Messiah.
- The congregation was likely large, made up of both believing Jews and Gentiles.
- But the unbelieving Jews started a riot, which forced Paul to leave for Berea; and they even followed him there, so he had to leave and go on to Athens alone.
- He visited them again on his third trip, going through Macedonia (Acts 20:1-6).
- Silvanus, or Silas, was one of the chief brethren and prophets in the New Testament.
- This man’s short name – used in the Acts – is Silas, but Silvanus in the epistles.
- The apostles and elders at Jerusalem chose him to go with Paul (Acts 15:22-35).
- He was a man who had risked his life for the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- He was a prophet, and Paul witnessed his ability and gift to exhort the brethren.
- After confirming the full unity at Jerusalem, he remained in Antioch with Paul.
- When Barnabas and Paul separated, Paul took Silas with him (Acts 15:36-41).
- Timothy joined Silas, when Paul chose him early the second trip (Acts 16:1-5).
- He sang with Paul in the Philippian jail after their beating (Acts 16:19-25).
- With Paul and Timotheus at Corinth, he was a faithful minister (II Cor 1:19).
- He also carried Peter’s first epistle to the Jews scattered in Asia (I Pet 1:1; 5:12).
- Timotheus, or Timothy, was Paul’s favorite and most trusted minister (Phil 2:19-22).
- He chose and ordained Timothy in the second trip’s first stages (Acts 16:1-5).
- The Lord inspired and preserved two pastoral epistles written to young Timothy.
- This church, as all true churches, was in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.
- They were identified eminently by their relationship to God and His Son Jesus, in distinction from their former pagan idolatry and/or ignorance of Jesus Christ.
- The entirety of our salvation, faith, and practice is His from beginning to end.
- They were not identified by their denomination or association connections.
- This epistle was written from Athens after Timothy had checked on them (3:1-8).
- This epistle was written a relatively short time after their conversion (2:17).
- Paul attempted to visit them again quickly, but Satan had hindered them (2:18).
- Due to great affliction and a short time with them, Paul feared for them (3:1-8).
- Grace and peace are common apostolic blessings from God our Father and Jesus Christ.
- Grace is His operative kindness toward us from predestination to glorification.
- Constant remembrance of His grace is certainly a duty of thinking saints.
- Still facing the combined foes of Satan, the world, and our flesh, we are dependent upon fresh supplies of grace to serve acceptably (Heb 12:28).
- While the eternal, legal, and vital aspects of His grace have already been given, we need practical grace on a daily basis to serve Him faithfully.
- If He withdraws His practical grace, we will quickly and severely backslide (Job 36:17; II Samuel 24:1; II Chron 32:31; Luke 22:31-32).
- For this reason He taught us to pray for His preservation (Matthew 6:13).
- Such practical grace was important to Paul (II Thess 3:5; Eph 3:14-19).
- Peace is His blessing in reconciliation that soothes our guilty souls before Him.
- He secured peace by Jesus, but Paul announced it to us (II Cor 5:18-21).
- Laying hold of justification by faith, we have peace with Him (Rom 5:1).
- Yet there is further peace by His blessing (Isaiah 26:3-4; Phil 4:6-7).
- We are not even cousins to Deists, for we trust in God’s daily work in our lives.
- The blessings of grace and peace are from no other source but God and Christ.
- The living and true God is not merely the God, He is gloriously our God. Amen!
- Grace is His operative kindness toward us from predestination to glorification.
1:2 These faithful ministers were men of prayer, and they always thanked God for them all.
- The religion of God is personal enough that they were all included in their intercessions.
- God is at all times the great Object of our thanksgiving, for all comes from Him (Matt 11:25-26; Acts 11:18; Rom 6:17; 11:36; I Cor 1:30-31; 4:7; II Thes 2:13; James 1:17).
- Prayer must be a great and protected part of a minister’s life (Acts 1:14; 6:4; Luk 11:1).
1:3 They constantly thanked God for their obvious growth in grace and spiritual fruitfulness.
- Gospel faithfulness with fruits of righteousness is very rare, so thanksgiving is due.
- The work of faith is serving God in active obedience by faith (James 1:21-27; 2:14-26; II Tim 1:5; Titus 1:1).
- The labour of love is serving in deed and in truth, not in word only (John 14:15,21-23; 15:10; 21:15-17; Philemon 1:5; Hebrews 6:10; I John 3:18; 5:3; Revelation 2:2-4; II Cor 5:14; I Thess 4:9-10).
- Patience of hope is enduring affliction and waiting for blessing, which includes mainly for true saints the coming of the Lord Jesus (Psalm 27:13-14; Rom 8:25; James 1:2-4; I Thess 1:10; 2:14).
- These are the three graces of a Christian’s life, which ought to be evident (I Cor 13:13).
- And all three fruits of true saints are done to the glory of Jesus Christ (Col 3:17,23).
- And all three fruits of true saints are seen and approved by God (Acts 10:31; Heb 4:12; 13:21; I Corinthians 15:58; I Timothy 2:3; I Peter 3:4).
- No mention is made of business success, numerous children, college graduation rates, bodily accomplishments, housing upgrades, or other vain goals of our carnal lives.
- No mention is made of community service, numerical growth, daycare operations, youth programs, building projects, casual worship, or other contemporary profanity.
1:4 Their election was certainly evident by their gospel conversion and spiritual fruitfulness.
- Contrary to popular belief, the evidence of their election is not in verse five, for the fifth verse rather defines God’s miraculous and spiritual blessing on Paul’s ministerial labor.
- The evidence of their election has been given (1:3) and will be further defined (1:6-10).
- Election can be known by one’s self and by others, which leads us to several thoughts.
- The down-in-the-mouth false humility of doubting Thomases is vain ignorance.
- It is a Pharisaical lie that says, “You cannot see my heart or the Book of Life.”
- The heart is known by its fruits – exceptions are miracles of grace (II Pet 2:7-9).
- We should make our own calling and election sure (II Pet 1:5-10; I Tim 6:19).
- And we should be prepared to reject strange children (Ps 144:11; I Cor 11:19).
- Is the prepositional phrase “your election of God” subjective- or objective-genitive?
- Objective-genitive means the object of the preposition is the object of the action, which in this case would be the Thessalonian’s electing choice of God, which is the universal fable of salvation in this effeminate and profane generation. If God’s election is conditional on faith and obedience, the heresy is the same.
- Subjective-genitive means the object of the preposition is the subject of the action, which in this case would be God’s electing choice of the Thessalonians, which is the message of the entire Bible, where God has created man for His own glory and chosen some to display His glorious grace in the free gift of eternal life, rejecting others to show His wrath and power (Romans 9:22-24).
- Paul certainly loved them, so they could properly be said to be brethren beloved in that sense; but election brings us forcibly to consider God’s love for them (II Thess 2:13).
- It is just as blasphemous to say God loves all men as to say He loves Satan’s demons.
- Such fables from hell destroy the incredible glory of God’s love for His elect (Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Jeremiah 31:3; John 3:16; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2:1-7; 5:25-27; Romans 5:6-10; 8:29-39; 9:15; Titus 3:4-7; Hebrews 12:5-8; I John 4:10,19).
- Such fables from hell destroy the incredible wrath of God against the wicked (Psalm 5:5; 10:3; 11:5; Habakkuk 1:13; Matt 7:23; Revelation 17:8b; 20:15).
- So the elect are brought to sadness and the wicked supported to evil (Eze 13:22).
- Where is the God of Nahum, Paul, and John (Na 1:2-10; Ro 9:10-24; Re 19:15)?
1:5 The Lord confirmed the gospel at Thessalonica with miraculous signs and the Holy Spirit.
- When Paul and companions first arrived, they had more than just fair speeches; and so they gently remind them of their apostolic authority as they review their conversion.
- Jesus sent His apostles with powerful gifts to confirm their preaching (Mark 16:14-20; Acts 2:1-21; 10:44-46; 11:15-18; 14:3; 19:1-7,11-12; Romans 15:18-19; Heb 2:1-4).
- The power here listed is the ability to perform miraculous signs and wonders.
- The Holy Ghost here listed is the ability for inspired prophecy and other gifts, including the visible demonstration of giving gifts to others (Acts 8:14-17).
- The assurance here listed is the cumulative evidence that God had sent them, including their ministerial character in combination with the gifts of the Spirit.
- This verse, rather than describing the hearers’ response, as many believe, is describing the powerful presentation of the gospel by God’s specially anointed men, which clearly demonstrated that these were not ordinary men, but rather gifted ambassadors of God.
- The key is recognizing the explanatory clause at the end of the verse, which identifies the nature of the presentation rather than the nature of the reception of it. The combination of miraculous signs, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and reassuring conduct was very important.
- Rather than using any deceit in their presentation, they preached honestly (2:3).
- Rather than using any uncleanness like the pagans, they preached holily (2:3).
- Rather than using any guile to manipulate them, they preached sincerely (2:3).
- Rather than using any play for popular approval, they preached in fear (2:4).
- Rather than using any flattering words, they preached truthfully (2:5).
- Rather than using any ministry for moneymaking, they preached freely (2:5).
- Rather than using their power to obtain glory, they were meek and modest (2:6).
- Rather than using their power to dominate, they were gentle as nurses (2:7-8).
- Rather than using their power for gain, they worked hard (2:9; II Thess 3:7-9).
- Rather than using their power for liberty, they exemplified great holiness (2:10).
1:6 The Thessalonians obeyed the gospel in spite of persecution but with Holy Spirit comfort.
- Here is the response or effect of the gospel by the Thessalonians, not that in verse five.
- Ministers are to be examples of following the Lord (II Thess 3:9; I Cor 11:2; Phil 3:17).
- The much affliction was the riot created by the unbelieving, envious Jews (Acts 17:5-9).
- But the gospel also brings joy of the Holy Ghost for true believers (Rom 5:13; 14:17).
1:7 The Thessalonians’ conversion and faith was a wonderful example to all those in Greece.
- Macedonia in the north and Achaia in the south were the two parts of modern Greece.
- An example of full conversion, faithfulness in affliction, and spiritual joy helped others.
- The gospel is best testified by complete conversion, patience, and joy.
1:8 The Thessalonians spread the gospel powerfully by their living faith rather than by word.
- Rather than missionary programs, which are not taught in the epistles, the gospel went forth from Thessalonica by the faith, obedience, patience, joy, and hope of these saints.
- The report of their faith was so complete and powerful in its testimony that Paul had nothing more to say when coming to other cities in that part of the world. Glory!
- The Lord’s evangelistic work for saints is perfect lives rather than leaving gospel tracts.
- When the formerly foolish become wise, others take notice.
- When the formerly lascivious become holy, others take notice.
- When the formerly cruel become gentle, others take notice.
- When the formerly ambitious become contented, others take notice.
- Ministers are to be examples for sure (I Tim 4:12; Tit 2:7-8; I Pet 5:3), but so can saints.
- The witness of example is clearly taught (Matt 5:16; Phil 2:15; I Pet 2:9,12; 3:1,15-16).
1:9 Both believers nearby and far away could recount the glorious conversion of these saints.
- The ministerial success of Paul and his companions was well known even to details.
- And the conversion from idolatry to serve the living and true God was also well known.
- What are the individual and collective reputations of our lives known by others?
1:10 The great hope of the Thessalonians in the coming of Jesus Christ was also well known.
- These saints had lost their affections and hope in this life and were waiting for Jesus.
- And this glorious returning Son, Paul reminds them, died for us and rose again to save us from the horrific judgment of God that will come upon the world.
- Paul mentions the Lord’s second coming in these two epistles more than in all others combined (I Thess 1:9-10; 2:19; 4:13-18; 5:1-11,23; II Thess 1:7-10; 2:1-8; 3:5).