INTRODUCTION TO FIRST THESSALONIANS
FIRST THESSALONIANS--LESSON 1
By E. L. Bynum
FIRST THESSALONIANS--LESSON 1
By E. L. Bynum
Lesson: Acts 17:1-14
Memory Verse: I Thessalonians 1:8
The Bible student who spends some time in ancient history will learn to appreciate the work of our God in those historical events which lay a groundwork for the New Testament. (1) The conquests of Alexander the Great furnished the Bible lands with a rich Greek culture, and more importantly, the expressive Greek language for the writing of the New Testament. (2) The conquests of the Roman Empire furnished an orderly government and a common government for all of the areas around the Bible lands and the Mediterranean Sea, thus making I it easier to travel from one country to another. Also, the Romans built wonderful roads that made it easier to carry the Gospel. Some of those roads still exist after 2,000 years.
To properly understand the two epistles to the Thessalonians, we must understand the background of the city, its people and Paul's association with them. We are furnished much of this information in the Divinely inspired account found in Acts 16-18. The student should carefully compare the few historical statements found in the two epistles with the account found in Acts.
I. THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH AT THESSALONICA.
A. The Events Bringing Paul To Thessalonica.
1. The Macedonian call. Acts 16:6-11. This involved leaving Asia and going into Europe, which may have not been so eventful to Paul, since he merely left one province of the Roman Empire for another. This was the beginning of the westward thrust of Christianity which has continued to this day.
2. The Philippian converts. Acts 16:12-34
3. The Philippian controversy. Acts 16:35-40. This resulted in Paul being urged to leave the city. (Of this we can say, how wonderful that he did not quit).
4. The Apostle Paul and his companions.
a. His Hebrew name was Saul, meaning "asked for." His name was changed to Paul which means "little." He had been saved 18 to 20 years when these events took place and was about 50 years of age.
b. Silas or Silvanus was a prophet and a member of the Church at Jerusalem. Acts 15:32, And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
c. Timothy, a young man whose mother was Jewish and his father Gentile. Acts 16:1, Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:
d. Luke, a physician, and the writer of Acts. Many think him to be Gentile, but there seems little proof of this.
5. Paul was led to strategic centers. He went to the central city of an area, so that when a church was established, the gospel could radiate out from it.
6. Thessalonica was such a strategic city.
a. It was the largest and most influential city of all of Macedonia.
b. The great Via Egnatia Roman highway to the East ran through it.
c. The hot springs, originally gave it the name Therma.
d. In 315 BC Cassanda rebuilt the city and named it Thessalonica after his wife, who was the half sister of Alexander the Great.
e. The Romans captured the province in 168 BC and made Thessalonica a naval station.
f. In Paul's day it was a free self-governing city.
g. The people were Thracians, Greeks, Romans & Jews.
h. The synagogue gives evidence of a large Jewish population. Philippi had no synagogue.
B. The Events Involving Paul In Thessalonica. Acts 17:1-9
1. The manner of Paul's ministry.
a. No mention of preaching in Amphipolis or Apollonia.
b. Paul spoke 3 Sabbaths in the synagogue. v. 2
c. His scriptural message based on the 0. T. vs. 2,3
(1) Christ (the Messiah) must needs suffer and rise from the dead. (The unbelieving Jew did not understand the prophecies in this manner).
(2) This Jesus is the Christ. (Messiah).
2. The result of Paul's message. v. 4
a. Some of the Jews believed.
b. A multitude of devout Greeks believed. (These may well have been Jewish proselytes).
c. A number of the chief women believed.
3. The opposition moved. vs. 5-9
a. The source of the opposition. v. 5
b. The victims of the opposition. vs. 5-6
c. The accusation of the opposition. vs. 6-7
(1) These men have turned the world upside down.
(2) They do things contrary to the decrees of Caesar.
(3) They say there is another king - Jesus.
d. The rulers of the city troubled. v. 8
e. Jason put under bond. v. 9
4. The length of his stay in Thessalonica.
a. It had to be more than 3 weeks. v. 2
b. It could have been a few weeks, but at most a few months.
c. There was time for the Philippian Church to send gifts. Philippians 4:16
II. THE OCCASION AND PURPOSE OF I THESSALONIANS.
A. Paul's Ministry after Leaving Thessalonica.
1. Success and opposition in Berea. Acts 17:10-14
a. The Jews in Berea were more receptive. (Berea was about 50 miles from Thessalonica.
b. The Jews of Thessalonica stir up trouble.
c. Paul goes to Athens by sea. v. 14
d. Silas and Timothy left behind. v. 14
2. Stirring events in Athens. Acts 17:15-34
a. He sends word to Silas and Timothy to join him. v. 15
b. Paul preaches and witnesses in Athens.
c. Timothy sent back to Thessalonica to establish and comfort them. I Thessalonians 3:1-2, Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
d. After much opposition and some success he departs from Athens to go to Corinth.
3. A sizeable Church organized in Corinth. Acts 18.1-11
a. In the flesh Paul was likely discouraged when he arrived in the city of Corinth. See I Corinthians 2:3, And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
b. Silas and Timothy arrive with encouraging news of the Thessalonian Church. Acts 18:5. See I Thessalonians 1.
c. The sizeable Church revealed in vs. 8-10.
d. Paul continues there for 18 months. v. 11
B. The Purpose Of I Thessalonians.
1. He mentions and commends their obedience. I Thessalonians 3:6, But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:
2. He corrects some moral problems. I Thessalonians 4:1-7
3. He further teaches them about the 2nd Coming in each chapter. (All agree that it was written at Corinth).
C. The Date of 1 Thessalonians.
1. It was Paul's first epistle. None of the rest had been written at this time.
2. It was written shortly after Timothy arrived, and soon after Paul left Thessalonica. I Thessalonians 3:6; 2:17
3. Yet some time had intervened for the reputation and outreach of the Thessalonian Church to have grown. See I Thessalonians 1:8; 4:10
4. There is disagreement on the exact date of the epistle.
a. Scofield and others say 54 A.D.
b. J. Sidlow Baxter suggests 53 A.D.
c. Leon Morris and the Wycliffe Bible Commentary both suggest 50 A.D. Their reasons are:
(1) Gallio the deputy is mentioned in Acts 18:12.
(2) Paul was in Corinth before Gallio was deputy.
(3) According to an inscription found at Delphi, Gallio would have taken office in early part of 52 AD.
(4) Going back 18 months would put it in 50 AD.
D. The Authenticity of 1 & 2 Thessalonians.
1. There has never been much opposition to the Pauline authorship of these epistles.
2. They were quoted by the early Church fathers.
3. The earliest lists of canonical books captain them.
1. How did the Greek and Roman Empires affect New Testament events?
2. List by memory the events leading up to Paul's involvement in Thessalonica.
3. Who were Paul's companions on this second missionary journey?
4. What kind of places did the Lord lead Paul in mission work?
5. Who was Thessalonica named after and why?
6. When did the Romans take control of Thessalonica?
7. Who were the principle races living in Thessalonica?
8. How do we know there was a sizeable Jewish colony?
9. List in their proper order the two points of Paul's messages in the Synagogue.
10. Who led the opposition and what did they charge Paul and his companions of doing?
11. What restraint was put upon Jason?
12. What was the attitude of the Bereans?
13. Who stirred up opposition to him there?
14. Where did Paul go from Berea?
15. Where were Silas and Timothy at this time? When did Paul send word for them to join him?
16. Where did Paul send Timothy from Athens?
17. What is the evidence for a sizeable Church in Corinth?
18. What is the purpose of I Thessalonians?
19. Which one of Paul's epistles did he write first?
20. Give the approximate date of the Thessalonian epistle.