1. PAUL’S PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON THE THESSALONIANS
(a). Paul’s Praise of Their Growth
“Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…”. On the second missionary journey when Paul and Silas arrived in Lystra they met Timothy who Paul wanted to accompany them . Upon their arrival in Thessalonica, “As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.” ; and here we see the formation of the Thessalonican Church. Continuing in the section of Acts 17 we see that Paul had to leave Thessalonica unexpectedly because of the jealousy of some of the Jews. Paul refers to the vital union and relationship that all Christians have with God the Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ as he closes his greeting.
Paul speaks to the fact that they were always mentioned in his prayers as he Silas and Timothy continually prayed for their “work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” , and it should be noted that faith, love and hope characterized their Christian living . God had chosen them because of their “deep conviction” in Him through the gospel preached by Paul; they welcomed the message and became imitators of Paul, Silas and Timothy, in spite of their “severe suffering”, becoming models to other Christians in Macedonia, Achaia and elsewhere; “your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” . As a result of the gospel message they had turned to God from their idol worship, they were enduring suffering for following the teachings of the Scriptures, and were waiting for their final redemption in Christ.
(b). Paul’s Founding of the Church
Here Paul recalls the events that had occurred prior to his visit to Thessalonica, when he and Silas were severely beaten and thrown into prison in Philippi for preaching the gospel ; after which they came to Thessalonica, preaching the same gospel notwithstanding the strong opposition they faced. The Jews had gathered a mob and started a riot in the city causing the early departure of Paul and Silas . He assured them that “the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed — God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.” ; and as apostles of Christ they delighted not only in sharing the gospel but also sharing their lives as well. He also reminded them of the parental care that he had demonstrated; “You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” . Not only are we to preach the gospel, we are also called to share our lives in making disciples of all those who God calls into His kingdom through our efforts . Every believer in Christ is called to accept the Word (Scriptures) not as the words of “men”, but what it actually is “the word of God”, for in doing so we will become imitators of Christ and other believers in living lives that are worthy of God for this is what differentiates the believer in Christ from the unbelievers. So often today God’s Word is “diluted”by individuals who, for their own gain, teach a false doctrine, and Paul warns of this in the closing verse of this section, “The wrath of God has come upon them at last.” .
(c). Timothy’s Strengthening of the Church
(1). Satan Hinders Paul
Here Paul expresses his deep Christian love for the Thessalonican believers, and the fact that he had to leave them because of the threats of the Jewish population, he had made every effort to return but was hindered; “For we wanted to come to you — but Satan stopped us.” . It is the purpose of Satan to hinder the work of God in any and every way that he can, and he has been doing so since the creation; even to the point of attempting to deter the Lord Jesus from accomplishing His task . He further expresses his love for them by his statement: “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” ; they would be the jewels that he would cast at the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ in worship at His return.
(2). Timothy’s Visit
Having been forced to leave Thessalonica, Paul went to Athens where he requested Silas and Timothy to join him ; from there he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica “to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials.” . The believers were being persecuted for their faith and he reminded them that this would be the case: “when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.” ; so he sent Timothy to find out how they were functioning for he feared that Satan would cause them to deny their faith making his efforts in preaching the gospel ineffective. The “trials”of our faith should not “unsettle”us, or be considered disastrous for they advance God’s purposes in our lives and allow us to mature in our faith, so these should be expected .
(3). Timothy’s Encouraging Report
Upon his return, Timothy brought back good news of the Thessalonians in regards to their faith in God and love for each other; which encouraged Paul that his preaching of the gospel was effective; “…you are standing firm in the Lord.” was his conviction. For every missionary or preacher of the gospel it is heart-warming to know that those who have been converted are continuing and growing in their faith in God, for which God’s name is praised and there is continuous prayer being offered to Him: “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly…..”
(4). Paul’s Desire To Visit Them
Paul’s desire was to return to Thessalonica, but it does not appear that he did so, but his prayer for them was “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” . This should be the desire of all believers, that the love of Christ will be expressed through us and that we will be found blameless in His presence when He returns .
So Paul ends the first part of his letter and will continue with his instructions for their Christian growth and doctrine.