Introduction to the Book of 1 Thessalonians
The book of 1 Thessalonians is almost universally considered to be the first of Paul’s letters, written around 52 AD. He initially visited Thessalonica to establish a congregation after a difficult trip to Philippi, where he was mistreated. It is believed that he wrote this letter while subsequently visiting Corinth.
Because Paul’s visit to Thessalonica was very early in his ministry, we find this letter to be very friendly, warm and encouraging. He expresses both affection and praise for the congregation’s growth, as well as mutual love and hope for the return of Christ. He also very succinctly reinforces all the key Gospel messages. His numerous references to family life convey a friendly tone and his affection for the community. However, Paul knew from Timothy’s reports that immorality and persecution were dual evils facing the new church in Thessalonica, and he hoped strengthen their resolve for the sake of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
Paul had failed to return to Thessalonica, despite several efforts to do so. Instead, he had dispatched Timothy to their community. It was this period of long absence, coupled with Timothy’s reports, that may have inspired Paul to write letters like this one to the Thessalonians and numerous other letters to newly formed Christian communities. Centuries later, we are the clear beneficiaries of his writings to reinforce the Gospel messages to these communities.
Despite the warm and friendly tone of 1 Thessalonians, Paul exhorts the Thessalonians in chapters 4 and 5 to remain vigilant in their persistent prayers until the coming of the Lord, even in the face of persecution.
In preparation for the devotional postings that follow this one, please read 1 Thessalonians, chapters 1–3.