This epistle was written by the apostle Paul while he was in Corinth, shortly after his departure from Thessalonica about 54 A.D. It was one of his earliest letters. Someone has said that the contents of the epistle show forth the richness in doctrine in the primitive evangelism. During a mission of about one month the apostle had taught the Thessalonians all the great doctrines of the Christian faith which include: election, the Holy Spirit, assurance, the Trinity, conversion, the second coming of Christ, the Christian walk, sanctification, the day of the Lord, resurrection, and the tri-part nature of man.
The divisions of the epistle are indicated by the chapters:
1. Chapter 1. The three tenses of the Christian life.
2. Chapter 2. The model preacher.
3. Chapter 3. The believers sanctification.
4. Chapter 4. The believers hope.
5. Chapter 5. The believers responsibility in his tri-part nature.
THE THREE TENSES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
The apostle Paul was not a messenger who adulterated his message. What he taught enabled the new converts to develop normally in the faith.
The believers in Thessalonica responded heartily to the message, and the three tenses of their progress are found in Ch.1:3 & 9-10, as follows:
1. Their work of faith in turning to God from idols.
2. Their labor of love in serving the living and true God.
3. Their patience of hope in waiting for His Son from heaven.
The last verse of this chapter introduces us to the outstanding characteristic of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. It is that Paul makes some mention of the second coming of Christ in each of the eight chapters.
THE MODEL PREACHER.
Paul was most careful to teach both by precept and example. He sums up his ministry among them as not seeking to please men but God, never using flattering words, and treating them with gentleness even as a nurse cherishes her children. He labored night and day with real travail and sought to live holy, justly, and unblameable among them. He also had exhorted and comforted and charged every one of them as a father does his children, Ch. 2:4-11. The result was that they received his words as the very Word of God, which worked effectually in them as they believed, v.13. The apostle, therefore, cherished them in his heart, and said that his crown of rejoicing would be to meet them when the Lord gathered His faithful ones unto Himself, vs.19-20.
THE BELIEVERS SANCTIFICATION.
The kind of sanctification found in this chapter is the normal development of the believer as he is daily instructed in the will of God. Paul was fearful lest they be disturbed because of his persecutions, but was glad to learn through Timothy that they remembered his teaching that we should meet with tribulation, and they had stood true to God as he hoped, Ch. 3:1-6. The apostle said that their standing fast was life to him, and he prayed night and day that he might be privileged to pay them another visit, and through his ministry help to perfect them which was lacking in their faith, vs.8, 10. All this was that their hearts might be established unblameable in holiness at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints, v.13.
THE BELIEVERS HOPE.
Ch. 4 contains further exhortation unto holiness, that the new converts might shun the sins of the flesh of which the heathen are so guilty, vs.3-7. Another phase of sanctification is to study to be quiet, follow a respectable occupation, and walk honestly toward them that are without, vs.11-12.
Concerning those who have died in Christ, the apostle gave a word of real comfort and assurance. They have not departed never to be seen and loved again, but there shall be a blessed reunion at the second coming of the Lord. The dead in Christ shall rise, the living in Christ shall be changed, and together they shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, vs.13-17. To Paul was granted the clearest and fullest revelation of this phase of truth, and we do well to learn what he taught so that we may truly comfort one another.
THE BELIEVERS RESPONSIBILITY IN HIS TRI-PART NATURE.
In order that the saints at Thessalonica might be protected by sound teaching concerning the second coming of Christ, the apostle Paul reminded them that the day would come as a thief in the night, and while other people would be talking of peace and safety, they should not be caught unprepared for the great event. Paul urged them to watch and be sober so that whether they were awake or asleep, the is on earth or in heaven, they might live together with Him, Ch. 5:1-3, 6,10. In closing they were exhorted to “Rejoice in the Lord; pray without ceasing; and in everything give thanks”, vs.16-18. In other words, they should rejoice in spirit as unto the Lord, despite outward circumstances. Paul also told them to “quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesying; and prove all things, holding fast that which is good”, vs. 19-21.
To do this called for an exercise of one’s intelligence, so that with their soul or mind they would serve the Lord. Finally the apostle exhorted them to “abstain from all appearance of evil”, v.22. This might be called a sanctified use of the body. Thus we are instructed how to be set apart spirit, soul, and body unto God that our entire man may glorify Him. As a final word of encouragement Paul said, “faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it”, vs.23-24. God’s standard is a high one but not unattainable, for what He demands of us He is also prepared to enable us to bring it to pass.