First Thessalonians 001 – Introduction1 Thessalonians 1:1 • Dr. Andy Woods • September 18, 2022 • First Thessalonians
First Thessalonians 001
1 Thessalonians 1:1
September 18, 2022
Dr. Andy Woods
As we Your people seek to study your word, we seek to be guided and illuminated by the spirit of God so that he can correct us, teach us, edify us. He knows the needs that we have. And so, we invite the spirit through illumination to minister to the deepest needs of God’s people today. And to prepare ourselves, Lord, for that ministry, we’re going to just take a few minutes, seconds, rather a moment of silence to do personal business with You in case unconfessed sin exists in our lives so that we can receive abundantly from You today through the teaching of Your word. We’re thankful, Lord, that our position is always secure in You. And also You have made provision for us for the restoration of broken fellowship if need be. So we ask that You’ll be with us today and we ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said, Amen. Well, come on in, everybody. There is a handout in the back. If anybody needs one, maybe you could put your hand up. There’s someone over here that needs a handout there at the very back in the chair. And if we could take our Bibles and open them to the book of First Thessalonians 1:1. Just put your hand up if you need a handout. When we say handout, we’re not talking about money. Otherwise, my hand would be way up here. That’s a joke.
So last week in Sunday school, we completed our study of the Middle East meltdown. And in Sunday school, I wanted to sort of keep our focus on prophecy. And so, I thought there was really no better way to do that than to start teaching through the two Thessalonians letters. So today we’re beginning First Thessalonians about living. How to live, really, in light of the Lord’s any moment return. The handout that you have is sort of my book summary of the book of First Thessalonians. It’s something you can keep and take notes on if you wish, and it kind of will track my train of thought all the way through First Thessalonians. So you can sort of read that and get kind of a bird’s eye view of the book. But one of the things I like to do before diving into a book verse-by-verse, is to go over the introductory matters in the book. These are the background issues that once you understand them, it helps you appreciate the content of the book and the message of the book. You can do this. And I try to do this with virtually every book I study. There’s at least ten background issues to be familiar with. So, let’s start here with the first one: authorship. Who wrote the book of First Thessalonians? Well, if you look at chapter 1, verse 1, you see the author. It says Paul and Sylvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God.
So Sylvanus and Timothy, as we’ll talk about, are part of Paul’s missionary team. Paul the Apostle being the author of this book, If you flip over to chapter 2 verse 18, Paul inserts his name a second time in the book. He says, “For we wanted to come to you. I, Paul” inserts his name more than once, “but Satan hindered us.” So, there’s two times in the book where Paul basically claims to be the author. One of the reasons we believe Paul is the author is because the circumstances that gave rise to this book, which I’ll give you in just a few minutes, fit identically with Acts 17 and 18. Which is a description of part of Paul’s second missionary journey. So the idea that Paul didn’t write this book was never challenged in the church until the liberal higher critical movement. Germany. In Germany, German rationalism. Everybody accepted Paul as the author until the 19th century, but all conservative Bible scholars that I know of affirm and accept. Paul is the author. So, who wrote the book? Well, it was one of the books written by the Apostle Paul. Who was the book written to? That’s the recipients of the book. And take a look again at chapter 1 verse 1. It says Paul and Sylvanus and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians. So this was written to a church that Paul actually planted in Thessalonica. And it’s sort of disconcerting when you travel there.
You’ve learned your whole life you’ve mispronounced Thessalonica. They pronounce it Thessaloniki, I think. And that’s painful because you realize you mispronounced everything, but I’m really not good at saying Thessaloniki, so I’m just going to say Thessalonians. Are you guys good with that? Where was Thessalonica? In sea port in an area called Macedonia as you look there up on the slide. That would be what the northwest corner of the map you see there, the big area called Macedonia. And there is Thessalonica. So, Thessalonica was considered to be the chief seaport in Macedonia. So, Paul the apostle, when he planted churches, is very strategic. He goes to where the people are. Isn’t that heavy theology? He goes to population centers. He has just left a population center called Philippi, and now he moves into Thessalonica. Thessalonica received its status as a free city in the Empire of Rome in 42 B.C. Since the Thessalonians had helped Anthony and Octavia defeat Brutus and Cassius and because they were involved in that military campaign and helped Rome out, Rome returned the favor by making them sort of a free, autonomous, self-governing city, kind of like Philippi. Third issue is the place of writing. Where did Paul write this letter from? He wrote it on his second missionary journey as he moved from Philippi on missionary journey number two. This map. If your eyes are real good, you can see Philippi.
It’s just to the east there of Thessalonica. Then Paul moved from Philippi and then he moved to Thessalonica, the nearest population center. And you might have a finger open, if you could, to act 17 one through three. As Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue, which is what he always does. He goes to the synagogue first because he’s taught in Romans 1:16-17, that when he preached the gospel, he would preach it to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles. So, when he’s in the synagogue, he makes reference to Hebrew Bible. Which is the point of similarity that he would have with the Jewish people. And typically what happens is the Jews don’t like what he says. They kick him out. So then he says, okay, I’m going to go to the Gentiles. And when he’s with the Gentiles, he doesn’t start with Hebrew Bible, what we call Old Testament, because the Gentiles would have no knowledge of that. He starts on common ground with them, which is general revelation; That God has revealed himself not only in Hebrew Bible, but also in creation and conscience. And typically what happens is, Paul has tremendous success amongst the Gentiles to the point where the Jews get jealous. And they kind of stir up problems for him and it forces him to leave and go to the nearest city. I mean, that scenario happens over and over and over again in the Book of Acts. Thessalonica. His ministry in Thessalonica was exactly the same way.
When you look at Acts 17, one through three, it says now, “When they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica. And there was a synagogue of the Jews.” Now, when he was in Philippi, he didn’t go to a synagogue because there wasn’t one. But every time there was an established synagogue, that’s the first place he goes and it says in Act 17:2. “As was his custom,” this is his normal mode of operation, “he went to them for three Sabbaths with them. And for three, Sabbath’s reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” Now, what scriptures would those be? Not the New Testament, because the New Testament is just barely coming into existence at this time. He reasons from them, from Hebrew Bible explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, saying, ‘This is the Jesus who I am proclaiming to you.'” It’s when you drop down to act 17, four and five, it’s apparent that others besides the Jews, started to gravitate towards Paul’s message. It says, “Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a long, large number of God-fearing Greeks and a number of leading women. But the Jews became jealous.” This happens all of the time. “And taking some wicked men from the marketplace formed a mob and set the city in an uproar.
“And attacking the house of Jason. They were seeking to bring them out to the people.” So everywhere Paul went, there’s either a riot or there’s a revival. One of the two. So if you’re in a ministry where everybody’s mad at you all the time, don’t think you’re outside of God’s will. You could be directly in it. So, he’s kind of reaping this harvest amongst the Gentiles, to the consternation of the Jewish people, and that’s basically his ministry in Thessalonica. A lot of commentaries will tell you, I think wrongly, that Paul was only in Thessalonica for three weeks. And they get that from Acts 17:2. It says, “According to Paul’s custom, he went to them for three Sabbaths and reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” Now, I don’t believe Paul was in Thessalonica for three weeks. I think he was in the synagogue for three weeks. But then when he’s kicked out of the synagogue, he has a ministry amongst the Gentiles which could have spanned, I think, at least six months to a year. So, Luke doesn’t tell you every little thing that Paul did. Or else the Book of Acts would be a lot longer than 28 chapters. It just hits the high points. It doesn’t tell you everything that happened when Paul was in Thessalonica. Because Luke is a selective historian. But the reason I think Paul was in Thessalonica much longer than three weeks is in the book of First Thessalonians and second Thessalonians he knows his audience very well.
He’s intimate with them and it would take more than three weeks, I think, for that intimacy to develop. In the First Thessalonians 2:9, he worked a full-time job as a tent maker. He says, “For you will recall brethren our labor and hardship and how working night and day so is not to be a burden to any of you. We proclaim the gospel to you.” So Paul’s method was not to show up at a location and then demand the people support him. That’s what the pagan philosophers would do with all of their orations. Paul actually did not want to be did not want to be accused of preaching the gospel for finances. So he took a job to support himself so he wouldn’t be a burden to the people. He went to work. He had apparently had a skill as a tent maker. Kind of reminds me of Jesus, who was raised in a carpenter’s home, very blue collar. And so to establish a business like that would take more than three weeks. And when you look at First Thessalonians 1:9, he clearly has a great ministry amongst the Gentiles. He says, “For they themselves report about us, what kind of reception we had with you, how you turn from idols. To serve a living and true God.” I’ll show you in a minute that that’s a statement that cannot be made of Jews in the first century.
That’s a statement about Gentiles. So, to develop this kind of rapport amongst them would be longer than three weeks. And it was at this time, according to Philippians 4:16, that Paul received at least two offerings. He was just in Philippi. Now he is in Thessalonica and the Philippians had sent him at least two offerings. Because he says in Philippians 4:16, when he would write to the Church of Philippi much later, “For even in Thessalonica,” Where Paul was in our letter or in Acts 17 and 18, “you sent a gift more than once for my needs.” So, you have to understand that in the Greco-Roman world, to receive just one offering was a huge blessing. I mean, there’s no PayPal and all these things that we have today where you see instant money, you know, show up in your account. I mean, to get the money or the resources to Paul was obviously something that was sacrificial to the Philippians. And it’s very unlikely that he received more than one offering in just a three-week period. Beyond that, when you look at the doctrine that is covered in First Thessalonians, it’s very obvious that he was with them long enough to lay a biblical foundation. So he seems to presume, and this comes from the Schofield Reference Bible, there’s a handy note there explaining this.
He seems to presume that they already know about the Trinity. So, he had taught them about that. The Holy Spirit. They knew about that, The Second Coming, the day of the Lord. They knew about eschatology. They knew about the assurance of salvation. They knew about conversion, election, resurrection, sanctification and Christian behavior. And there’s all the verses on the right column where you can look those up and see that they obviously had a knowledge of these things. And this is coming from a group of people that are Gentiles. So they’re saved outside of the tradition of Judaism. They come to Christ. They have no knowledge of the Mosaic law. And so Paul, by the time he writes to them, has laid a very heavy foundation for them. So obviously for him to lay a foundation of that level of doctrine requires that he was with them longer than three weeks. In fact, in the second Thessalonians 2:5, he says something very interesting. He outlines all of this sort of what we today consider to be hardcore eschatology about the man of sin and the temple and all of these things. And then he throws in this little parenthetical comment “Do you not remember that when I was still with you”, Acts 17, “I was telling you these things.” So there’s a lot of people out there that say, you know, go easy on the new converts, don’t bring up prophecy, don’t bring up the anti-Christ, don’t bring up the tribulation temple.
You know, don’t talk to them about that stuff. Obviously, Paul didn’t embrace that philosophy because he taught it openly and boldly to brand new baby Christians. So a lot of the things that we do today in terms of ministry philosophy, what to teach people, what not to teach people, has almost no biblical basis. Paul was very aggressive, laying a doctrinal foundation, even the end times. And then he reminds them, I was with you in Thessalonica, and I already taught you this stuff. So that’s why when we read second Thessalonians two, the language is a little obscure because Paul is just reviewing material that he’s already taught them. So all of that to say, he was obviously there longer than three weeks. And essentially what happened is the jealous Jews look for Paul in Thessalonica. And they couldn’t find him and they instead dragged Paul’s host, Jason, before the city magistrates, kind of like a city council, on charges that Paul was causing treason. Which he wasn’t. But the Jews who were jealous of his ministry slandered him before the city officials and made it sound like he was going around preaching insurrection. They were saying he was a January Sixth protester, for example. All right. Stay off that. Acts 17, five and six, it says, “But the Jews becoming jealous”, And by the way, I hope you’re ready for that.
In ministry, God starts to use you. You’re not going to believe the people that will try to tear you down. Sometimes it’ll come from a circle of people that you considered your friends. This is the kind of thing that Paul is facing. “But the Jews becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the marketplace formed a mob and set the city in an uproar.” I mean, we think we have problems in ministry. Think about facing this. “And attacking the house of Jason. They were seeking to bring them out to the people. When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities shouting, ‘These men who have upset the world have also come here also.'” So, Paul, basically they make a promise in Acts 17:9, the city authorities to Jason to release Jason on the promise that Paul and his team would get out of town. And there’s a reference to that in Acts 17:9. It says, “When they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.” So where does Paul go? Just keep traveling downward there. Traveling down south and you can’t see it real well. But the nearest population center is in Berea. And he goes into Berea, Acts 18, and exactly the same thing happens. So when I was teaching at the Bible College, I taught Acts, Paul, every semester. And I just told the students, I said, look, if I ask you a question, what happened to Paul in such a such a city? Just say he went to the synagogue.
They wouldn’t receive his message. He went to the Gentiles. He gained a great harvest. The Jews got jealous. As a result, Paul was kicked out of the city and he went to the nearest population center. Now, if you say that on every question, you probably got about a 90% chance of getting it right. So this kind of thing happens to Paul over and over again. So, he goes to Berea. After being kicked out of Berea, he goes to Athens. Kind of keep moving down. You can’t see it well, but Athens is there. He goes to Athens and he leaves Timothy and Silas behind in Berea. And then when you go to Acts 17:11-15, the team of missionaries, Paul, Silas, Timothy are reunited. You’ll find a description of that in Acts 17 versus 11 through 15. And then from Athens, Paul says to Timothy, go back to Thessalonica, because I’m worried about the New Thessalonians Christians. You’ll see a reference to that in first Thessalonians three versus one through three. It says there, “Therefore, when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone. And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the Gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage your faith.”
So. From Athens, Timothy, go back to Thessalonica. Silas Just go into the general area there, up top into Macedonia, which the two missionaries did. And Paul keeps traveling basically south, and he finally comes to a place called Corinth. There’s a reference to this in Acts 18:1. It says, “After these things, he left Athens and went to Corinth.” Corinth is very, very interesting because you can, you may be able to see there it has an isthmian land bridge. Which is a narrow land bridge connecting two areas that are separated by a massive amount of water. And so sailors, rather than going all the way around the horn there, would go to Corinth and they would put their boat on wheels and drag it across. And once they drag it across to the other side, they could continue on their trip without going all the way down and around. Because extrabiblical literature of the time indicates that a lot of people lost their lives. By going around the horn, so to speak. So Corinth is sort of a place of where you’ve got a bunch of seamen. Mariner types. They’re away from their families. They’re not going to be in town for very long. So they don’t have much of a reputation to protect. And so you can imagine the immorality that Corinth offered. And that’s the whole basis of the first Corinthian letter.
Paul was upset that the immorality of that city had found its way into the Corinthian church. So basically at this point and we’re still on missionary journey number two, Paul goes to Corinth. Timothy comes back from Thessalonica with a report. He’s reporting on the conditions of the Baby Thessalonians. Silas comes back to Corinth from Macedonia and gives Paul a gift from the Macedonian churches. And in Acts 18:5, the three missionaries are together again in Corinth. So it says in Acts 18:5, “But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.” So that’s sort of a bird’s eye view on how the church at Thessalonica started, how Paul was pushed out of Thessalonica into Corinth. And it’s from Corinth. He’s going to write first Thessalonians and second Thessalonians in very close proximity together, based on a report concerning the spiritual progress of the Thessalonians Christians that Paul had received from Timothy. So this is just a matter of putting the Thessalonian together letters together with the information about Paul’s second missionary journey, given an Acts 17 and 18. So who wrote it? Paul. Who are the recipients? The Thessalonian Christians. What’s the place of writing? Corinth. What’s the date? Well, we mostly believe that the date of this book is very, very early. It would have a date of about A.D. 51.
It’s generally believed that Second Thessalonians will be written also in A.D. 51. Maybe A.D. 52 by the same author from the same point in Corinth. So this would be if we’re right on this Paul’s second letter, the only other letter he’s written up to this point in time. Anybody know it? It’s the book of Galatians. And so here’s kind of a list where you can take Paul’s 13 letters and put them in the right chronological framework. And there’s a very easy way to remember this. I know you look at a chart like this and you say, Oh, my goodness, how could anybody remember something like this? It’s a very easy formula to remember this. All you have to do is remember. One, two, three, four, two, one. You guys do that with me? Ready? One, two, three, four, two, one. In fact, I might preach a sermon on this and entitled it. One, two, three, four, two, one. I mean, this this is the easy stuff here. And a lot of you folks are engineers and doctors and pilots. I mean, if you can do all that, you can figure this out. This is easy. So here’s how it works. One stands for his first missionary journey. Where he went into Southern Galicia. On that first missionary journey he wrote one book. Then we have number two: Second missionary journey, which we’re reading about here. On that second missionary journey, he writes two. See? Easy.
Two books. Later on, he’s going to go on his third missionary journey. And on his third missionary journey, he’s going to write three books. Number four, he’s going to go on his fourth missionary journey. I call it a missionary journey. Because that’s where Paul was taken in custody to Rome. And the reason I call that a missionary journey is Paul always said, the Holy Spirit has told me, God has told me I must testify of Christ in Rome. And Paul was a pretty bright fellow because he knew how to manipulate the legal system to get his way. So when he got arrested, he would always invoke his rights as a Roman citizen. And he would always say this. I want a trial before Caesar. Which is his right as a Roman citizen. So, he got himself to Rome. He just did it in handcuffs. And why should I pay for the journey? I’ll go let them pay for the journey and I’ll just go in handcuffs. I mean, that’s a missionary journey. I mean, I don’t know too many missionaries today that would operate that way, but that’s what Paul did. So on Missionary Journey number four, he writes how many books? Four. And then you just go back down to two. He’s led out of prison for about seven years, roughly. Probably better said, five years. And as he’s let out of prison, he writes two books. First Timothy and Titus.
Because he has a heart for pastors who are struggling with their churches. And then he is arrested a second time. This is the end, the first Roman imprisonment. I call it sort of club fed. It was pretty light, but this time around, it’s over for him. He’s in a very dark place physically, and he knows that the time of his departure is at hand. And he just wants to encourage Timothy one more time. So he writes one book called Second Timothy. So. One, two, three, four, two, one. First missionary journey. One book, Galatians. And you could see where that first missionary journey is recorded in the Book of Acts and the date of Galatians. Second Missionary Journey, two books, first and second Thessalonians, written from Corinth to Thessalonica. You can see there in the Book of Acts where that second missionary journey is recorded and the date of those books would be A.D. 50 to 52. Third Missionary Journey. Three Books. First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Romans. You can see in the Book of Acts where Paul went on that third missionary journey and the date of those books would be A.D. 53 to 57. Fourth Missionary Journey. Four books. He wrote all four in Rome, Acts 28:16-31, in a Roman prison. So, we call those four books The Prison Epistles. Those are Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians. He’s led out of prison. Between imprisonments, he’s going to write. Now we’re back to two books.
First Timothy and Titus. Thrown back into prison again. He’s got one more book he wants to write or one more letter he writes. Second Timothy. To struggling Timothy, who at that time is pastoring the church at Ephesus. One, two, three, four, two, one. First Missionary Journey, one book. What would that book be? Galatians. Second Missionary Journey. Two books. What would those books be? First and second Thessalonians. Third Missionary Journey. Three books. What are those three books? First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, and Romans. Fourth Missionary Journey. Four books. Those are Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians. Let Out of prison. Two books. First Timothy, Titus. Back in prison. One book. And what would that book be? Second Timothy. I mean, it’s pretty easy. The problem is your New Testament order, the way we’ve organized the canon will never give you this information. I mean, most people look at all those books and they have really almost no idea how to put them into a chronological framework. Because the organization of the New Testament doesn’t do that. I mean, it puts Romans in front of the Corinthian books. And yet the Corinthian books were written before the Romans book. So unless somebody takes a couple of moments and explains this to you, you’re almost at a loss as to how Paul’s 13 letters came into being. So this is a list here of his letters in chronological order. He wrote Galatians first, then he wrote the two Thessalonians books.
Then he wrote Corinthians, then Romans, then the prison letters, then first Timothy and Titus, and then second Timothy, the last three books Paul wrote. We call them the pastoral letters because they are written to pastors. Yeah. So the date of this is A.D. 51, and this would be Paul’s second earliest letter. Who is he writing to in terms of the general audience? If you look at chapter 1 verse 3, you get a big clue. First Thessalonians 1:3, Paul says, “Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our” You see that? “Our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of God, our Father.” So, when Paul says “our”, He’s putting himself in the same position of his audience, spiritually speaking. Just as I’m saved and I’m a Christian, so are you. So it’s quite obvious when you look at first Thessalonians, he’s not writing to unsaved people. He’s writing to believers. He is worried not about their first tense of salvation. He’s worried about the middle tense of salvation. Why is this a big deal? Because what people do when they preach the gospel is they grab all of these verses in sections where Paul is talking about talking to Christians and they make that a condition for coming to Christ. So they love to quote, you know, Godly repentance produces sorrow. So if you’re not crying as you come to Christ, you’re not a true Christian.
Cause godly repentance produces sorrow, right? Well or godly sorrow produces repentance. One of those. Well, they just grabbed a verse out of the Corinthian letters that deal with your growth in Christ, and they just preach the false gospel. Because that verse is not dealing with how to come to Christ. It’s dealing with how to grow in Christ. And because people they don’t make this basic distinction that I’m making, preach garbled gospels to the lost constantly. Because after all, they’re in God’s will because I just quoted a Bible verse. Right? Well, you just took a verse that’s designed to inculcate progressive sanctification, and you added that to justification. And if you had just examined the audience that he was writing to, you wouldn’t have done that. So he’s clearly writing here to a Christian audience. His audience consists of some Jews because he was in that synagogue for three weeks, Act 17:2. And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, Acts 17:4. When he got to Berea, the same thing happened. He went into the synagogue and many believed. Not a lot, but some. So in Paul’s audience, in First Thessalonians, he’s writing to those that are Jewish. But that’s not his majority audience. He’s writing to some believing Jews, but his primary audience is believing Gentiles. How do we know that? We know that because of First Thessalonians 1:9.
Look at that, if you could for a moment. “For they themselves report about us. What kind of a reception we had with you and how you turned to God from idols?” You should circle idols. “To serve a living God.” When he talks about people that have turned from idols to serve God, he cannot be talking about Jewish people. Why is that? Because earlier in Jewish history. The nation of Israel had gone into the Babylonian captivity. They were exported. Away from the land of Israel, 350 miles to the east, to a place called Babylon. God put them in time out. For 70 years. To get rid of what issue? Idolatry. Idolatry is what put them into the captivity. Idolatry is what caused Assyria to come and scatter the Northern Kingdom. So, in their 70 year captivity, they learned their lesson and they came out of that captivity and they said, we will never let that happen to our nation again because God disciplines us when we’re idolatrous. And they invented a group of people in the intertestamental period called the Pharisees. Whose original role was correctly motivated at the beginning. It got out of control into legalism as time progressed. But the Pharisees made sure there wouldn’t be any more idols in the land of Israel. So by the time you get to the first century, Israel may have been a lot of things.
But she wasn’t- She was not idolatrous. She did not worship these statues anymore. So when Paul says in First Thessalonians 1:9. You’ve turned from idols to serve the living God. He’s obviously not speaking of Jewish people. Some Jewish people are in his audience, but he’s speaking to primarily saved Gentiles. So, who is Paul writing to? Believers, some Jews, mostly Gentile. What is the occasion of the book? It’s very important to understand this as you work your way through the Bible. The Bible is what we would call crisis literature. Every single book of the Bible that I can think of is written in the midst of a crisis. To help resolve the crisis. So Biblical writers, you know, they’re not like authors today where they sit down at their computer and say, okay, I’ve got some random theological thoughts to share with you today. No, there’s a problem that’s happening. And the book is trying to resolve that problem. Whatever it is, the better you can understand the problem, the better you’ll understand why the writer includes things in the book that he includes. And so this is how the Holy Spirit sovereignly superintended for your New Testament and Old Testament to come into existence. It’s problem after problem after problem, book after book after book to resolve a problem. And yet the Holy Spirit is superintending, allowing us to have these 66 books. So these are real people with real issues and real headaches and real problems.
It’s just that God allowed it so we could have this completed 66 book New Testament canon. So what is the occasion or the crisis here? Well, Timothy, remember, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica. Timothy comes back from Thessalonica and he reports to Paul and Corinth. What’s going on? Timothy tells Paul that the same unbelieving Jews that kicked him out of Thessalonica, that stirred up all the trouble against him, have now turned against the new converts, Christian converts, in Thessalonica. So these same Jews that persecuted Paul in unbelief are now persecuting these baby Christians. And the unbelieving Jews are somewhat jealous of Paul’s following in Thessalonica. So these unbelieving Jews have been telling lies about the Apostle Paul. They’re trying to wean Paul away from his converts. Or better, said his converts away from Paul. And they were saying things like, this Your conversion to Christianity is not real. It’s just an emotion. There’s no substance to it. Get over it. Paul- Paul didn’t give you anything special. Yeah, but I found Jesus, and he forgave my sins. No, you didn’t. You’re just going through a phase. By the way, that’s what my- one of my relatives told me when I was 18. She said- I was real excited talking about Jesus. And she says, Oh, it’s just a phase. You’re going to get over that. Well, it’s been quite a phase. Age 18 to age 56. That’s quite a- that’s quite a phase.
So they’re telling these converts all this stuff about their conversion that it really isn’t authentic. It really isn’t legitimate. And by the way, this guy, the Apostle Paul, his motives are so corrupt. Look at how he left and, look at how he hasn’t ministered to you. And, by the way. How can a guy like that really love you anyway? So Timothy is telling Paul all of these things that are being said about him in his ministry to the sheep, and then Timothy reports to Paul other problems. You know, there’s some sexual immorality going on in the Thessalonian church. Wow, there are some people there that have gotten really lazy. They won’t work because you taught them that Jesus is coming back. So if Jesus is coming back, why hold down a job? He reveals to them all kinds of eschatological imbalances that they had because. He had taught them about the rapture. And they’re worried about their deceased loved ones and Christ, are they going to participate in the Rapture? He goes over a lot of ministry imbalances where the sheep are not submitting to the shepherds of the church. And Timothy tells Paul about a lot of other things happening, which is thwarting not the salvation of the Thessalonians, but it’s hindering their growth in Christ. So once you understand that background, then all of a sudden the whole book. First Thessalonians concerning a structure or an outline falls clearly into place.
Chapters one through three is the personal section where Paul is basically answering questions about himself. Chapter one, Your conversion is real. And here’s why. Chapter 2 verses 1 through 16. My motives are pure. And here’s why. In fact, I wanted to come to you, but Satan hindered me. And then number three, I love you. I have a concern for you. Chapter 2 verse 17 through chapter 3 verse 13. Following that. He now moves into the practical section where he’s dealing with the issues that Timothy had brought to his attention concerning the behavior of the Thessalonians. He deals with the immorality problem. Chapter 4 verses 1 through 8. For those that had quit their jobs because Jesus is coming back mindset. He deals with them in chapter 4 verses 9 through 12 and all of the misunderstandings that they have about, you know, once the rapture happens, am I going to see my deceased loved ones in Christ again? He deals with that in chapter four, verse 13, through chapter five, verse 11, all of these issues where the sheep are in submissive to the shepherds. He deals with that in chapter 5 verses 12 through 15, and then all of the things that are sort of thwarting their growth. He deals with that in chapter 5 verse 16 through verse 28. So once you see the crisis, the layout of the book is pretty simple to follow.
In general, the first three chapters are looking backwards. He’s looking back to when he was with them earlier in missionary journey number one. And he’s talking about personal experiences they had together. And he’s drawing attention to the purity of his motives, as demonstrated back then. And that their conversion was real, as demonstrated by what happened back then. And then once he’s reasserted his credibility as their apostle, you know, it’s hard to instruct people in the things of God if they don’t think you’re a credible person. So he has to sort of reassert who he is. Because his enemies tore him down behind his back. Once he’s reasserted his own credibility, then he looks forward and he begins to deal with issues that Timothy had brought to Paul’s attention. So, chapters one through three is personal experience. Looking back, chapters four and five is practical exhortations looking forward. One of the things to try to figure out when you study a book of the Bible is the unique characteristics in the Bible. And what I mean by that is if I did not have First Thessalonians in the biblical canon. I mean, let’s say I only had 65 books of the Bible instead of 66. What would be missing? What would be a gap in my spiritual knowledge without First Thessalonians? What does First Thessalonians cover that is covered nowhere else in the Bible? And that’s basically what we mean by unique characteristics or outstanding characteristics.
So here is one of the things that makes First Thessalonians unique. I’ll just give you two. Number one. Every single chapter in this book, five chapters total, ends with a reference to the return of Christ. That’s why I thought this would be a logical study. From Middle East meltdown to this because it keeps the focus on prophecy. Every single reference at the end of every chapter is something related to The Second Coming. I mean, just look at chapter 1 verse 10. “And to wait for his son from heaven, who he raised from the dead. That is Jesus who rescues us from the wrath of God.” Look at the end of chapter two. He says there “For who is our hope and our joy or crown of exaltation, is it not even you and the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming.” Look at the end of chapter 3 verse 13, “so that he may establish you your heart’s without blame in the holiness before our God, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with His saints.” Now the end of chapter 4 verses 13 through 18 is the famous Rapture passage. And then you get to the end of Chapter five. Around verse 23. “Now may the God of peace sanctify you entirely and may your spirit, soul and body be preserved and complete without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Boy.
Early on in Paul’s ministry, he talks about The Second Coming all the time. In fact, he talked about it so much that he had to tell these people here, Oh, yeah, when I was with you, I used to explain all this to you, remember? So, this idea that you just don’t talk about the eschatology and a lot of churches just won’t talk about it. Why won’t they talk about it? Because it interferes with church growth, they think. It causes division. They think. John Walvoord had the best response to that. People said, Why do you talk about prophecy so much? It’s so controversial. And John Walvoord said, Well, the whole Bible is controversial. If you’re going to avoid controversy, you might as well just throw the Bible out entirely. But what you discover with Paul is he’s talking about the return of Christ all of the time to baby Christians. So every single chapter in the book ends with a reference to the return of Christ. Why? Why so much information about the return of Christ? It’s very simple. If you think about the things of Christ and His return, it changes the way you live in the present, doesn’t it? Second Peter 3:10-11 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in which the heavens will pass away with a roar. And the elements will be destroyed with intense heat. And the earth and its works will be burned up.”
You guys realize that that’s coming? This whole world is going to be burned up. Most people stop reading right there. But verse 11 follows verse ten. Can I get an amen to that one? Verse 11 says, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in Holy Conduct.” How in the world are you going to invest your life if you don’t know what’s where to invest it in terms of safe investments? The Bible says there’s two safe investments: the souls of people and God’s word. The more you throw yourself into those things, the more you’re making an investment that will last. And how in the world would you ever know that if you didn’t know the future? First John 3:2-3 says, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is.” Second coming. Now First John 3:3 follows First John 3:2. Can I get an amen to that? “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him.” What hope? The Second Coming in the prior verse. “Everyone who has this hope fixed on him purifies himself just as is pure.” Well, you want to live a pure life and a godly life?
Start thinking about the return of Jesus. I mean, that’ll change a lot of priorities real quick. You know, quit filling our heads with junk all the time. And think about the return of Christ. Because as you think about the return of Christ, you start figuring out what really matters here. What’s going to last? What’s not going to last? You discover divine priorities only available in the subject of eschatology, which is an incentive to organize our lives in the present. That’s why Paul keeps talking about The Second Coming to new Christians. This is why 27% of Bible prophecy at the time of writing is dedicated to the future. Over a quarter of your Bible is prophecy. This is why Second Peter 1:19, tells us that prophecy is like a lamp in a dark place. Would you say our world is in a dark place? But prophecy is like a lamp shining in a dark place. That we would do well, Second, Peter says, to pay attention to. “So, we have the prophetic word made more sure to which you would do well to pay attention to as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. I don’t- I’m not familiar with the latest statistics, but you all realize that suicides have increased dramatically since all of this 2020 and beyond stuff has happened with mandates, shutdowns.
People are just, you know, in an unprecedented way killing themselves. Literally. Why in the world? Why in the world are people killing themselves? Why is suicide up? Because they’re not doing what God said. They’re not paying attention to the prophetic scriptures. If you paid attention to them, you see, they’re a light shining in a dark place. And you say, You know what? This world is pretty messed up, but it’s only temporary. You have no ability to understand that without prophecy. So, Peter says pay attention to it. My mentor, J. Dwight Pentecost, in one of his books, Prophecy Today says. And I heard him say this in class, and when he said it, I didn’t believe it was true. To be frank with you. But I looked up all the references and it is true. He says, “A short time ago, I took occasion to go through the New Testament to mark each reference to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and to observe the use made of that teaching about His coming. I was struck anew with the fact that almost without exception, when the coming of Christ is mentioned in the New Testament, it is followed by an exhortation to godliness and holy living.” And study it yourself every time you see something related to the return of Christ that will be linked to patience, endurance, hope. Not grumbling. Do we have a tendency to grumble as fallen people? Well, why would you do that? James says the Lord is right at the door.
I mean, you want him to come back and find you mumbling and grumbling. And that’s what James is saying. Prayer, prayerfulness. And this is why Satan hates what we’re looking at here. Because once you get involved in this kind of study, it furnishes a natural motivation to live a holy life. Not to become a Christian, but to grow as a Christian. This is not a birth issue. This is a growth issue. So, what makes the Book of First Thessalonians unique? Every chapter ends with a reference to the return of Christ. Second thing that makes Thessalonians unique is there is a very small distance of time. In between the planning of the church at Thessalonica and Paul’s first letter to the church. He planted the church. He’s kicked out. He writes a letter probably within six months to a year. It’s very different than the Philippians book, where there’s ten years between the planning of the Church of Philadelphia- excuse me, Philippi, and when Paul finally addresses that church. Thessalonians says that the church is planted and they get a letter from Paul in very short order. What is the purpose of the book? This is the why question. Why did Paul write it? The purpose of the book is continued spiritual growth. Or the Thessalonians. Despite the persecution that they are receiving from the unbelieving Jews.
You put a baby Christian under persecution and you don’t teach them correctly how to understand the doctrine of suffering they can’t grow. I am so grateful for the fact that when I came to Christ, at age 16, the year after or that that time period was, from a human perspective, some of the greatest struggles I’d ever faced in my whole life. And yet God had around me people. Particularly the man that led me to Christ. Who could educate me about what the Bible says about suffering. If you don’t have that kind of teaching, you’re just, as a new Christian, you’re just bouncing all over the place. You have to be able to interpret that through the lens of God. Because if you don’t understand it, you’re going to think, Oh, God must hate me. And you’re going to come up with all of these sort of false ideas. So, Paul wants them to continue to grow. In three areas: faith, hope and love, despite the persecution that they are receiving from unbelieving Jews. And then lastly, is the message of the book. This answers the “what” question. What’s the book about? Because you step back from the book of First Thessalonians and give a one sentence definition. As to what all of the contents in the book relate to. You should be able to do that with every book of the Bible. Should be able to step back and have like a one sentence definition that will explain everything in the book.
It’s called The Message Statement. So the message and it’s timeless because it relates to us, the message is continued growth in faith, hope and love in view of the Lord’s soon return. So real quick by way of review, who wrote it? Paul. Who’s he writing to? Thessalonians. Place of writing? Corinth. Date? A.D. 51. Audience is saved. Mostly Gentile. A little bit Jewish, but all believers. Occasion? We have explained that as Timothy has reported back to Paul the things that were being said about him and problems in the Thessalonian congregation. The structure of the book chapters one through three looks backward, chapters four and five looks ahead. Unique characteristics. Its focus on the return of Christ. Its purpose is to inculcate faith, hope and love in spite of persecution. And then the message of the book is continued growth in faith, hope and love in view of the Lord’s imminent return, so can you think of something more practical to study than this? I can’t. So we’ll be looking into this the next time I’m with you. Let’s pray. Father we are grateful for these books of the Bible. First Thessalonians. Help us to get out of it what you would have for us as we seek to live for you in these last days, we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory we ask these things in Jesus name, God’s people said [Amen]. Happy short intermission.