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NT Survey - 11 - First Thessalonians

The first letter to the Thessalonians is believed to be one of the first letters that Paul wrote. Paul wrote the letter to strengthen and encourage the church in Thessalonica, the capital and largest city of the Roman province of Macedonia, which was located at the crossroads of two of the major roads of the time. Thessalonica was a city that served as a center of trade and commerce, and as such, Paul travelled through it during his second missionary journey.

As was Paul's custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people.  He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, "This Jesus I'm telling you about is the Messiah." Some of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women.
Acts 17:2-4 (NLT)

Although a number of the Jews believed Paul's message, a number of the Jews did not believe and in fact, started a riot. It became necessary to send Paul and Silas away secretly by night to Berea.

In spite of the less than auspicious beginnings, a strong church grew in Thessalonica, which was known around Asia Minor for its witness.

For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you.  So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord.  As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece-throughout both Macedonia and Achaia.  And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don't need to tell them about it,  for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God.
1 Thessalonians 1:5-9 (NLT)

Outline 

I) Introduction
  A) Greetings 1:1
  B) Thanksgiving for the Reception of the Gospel 1:2-10
II) A Defense of Paul's Ministry and Conduct
  A) Paul's Ministry in Thessalonica 2:1-16
  B) Paul's Conduct After Thessalonica 2:17 - 3:13
III) Exhortations Concerning the Conduct of the Thessalonians
  A) Exhortations Regarding Moral Purity 4:1-8
  B) Exhortations Regarding Brotherly Love 4:9-12
  C) Exhortations Regarding Believers who have Died 4:13-18
  D) Exhortations Regarding the Day of the Lord 5:1-11
  E) Exhortations Regarding Other Christian Responsibilities 5:12-22
  F) Paul's Prayer for the Thessalonians 5:23-24
IV) Concluding Thoughts
  A) A Request for Prayer 5:25
  B) The Sending of Greetings 5:26
  C) The Command to Read the Epistle 5:27
  D) The Benediction 5:28

Paul always encouraged the recipients of his letters about the good that he had heard about them. For the Thessalonians, this was that they were standing strong in their faith.

So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith.  It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 3:7-8 (NLT)

Paul also wanted to teach the believers about the fact of the resurrection. It was important to him that the Thessalonians and others who read the letter understood that the physical death of a person did not mean the end. The resurrection of Jesus is a promise to all of us that death is not the end.

For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
1 Thessalonians 4:14 (NLT)

All believers will be reunited with Christ at His return -- those who are still alive when He comes and those who have died before that time. Nothing can separate us from the Lord. Paul commands us to encourage one another with these words.

Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.  So encourage each other with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 (NLT)

The day of the Lord's return is not know. Paul says it will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. There is nothing that will stop Him when it is time.

For you know quite well that the day of the Lord's return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.  When people are saying, "Everything is peaceful and secure," then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman's labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 (NLT)

Instead of worrying about what is going to happen in the future, always on watch for that thief in the night, Paul encourages us with the fact that God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ. He chose to save us. It was not our choice but His. His choice was not to pour out his anger on us. Many people believe God is a God of anger and judgement. In fact, God is the opposite. He is a God of Love. Christ gave His life for us, so that we could live with Him forever.

For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.  Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 (NLT)

What should our response be to the love of God?  We are instructed to never stop praying. This doesn't mean we shut ourselves away from the world like a hermit, on our knees every waking moment. Rather, it means that we live a life where we recognize what God has done, is doing, and will do for us. We strive to keep in constant communication with God, thankful in all circumstances as God leads us through life on this earth.

An important instruction here is not to stifle the Holy Spirit. How can we stifle the Holy Spirit?  When we decide that we know better than God how our lives should be lived, when we act out of selfishness rather than love, when we live our lives as if we were in control rather than God -- that is how we stifle the Holy Spirit.

Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 (NLT)

Paul's final prayer was that God would make the reader holy in every way, and keep them blameless until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not dependant upon our own strength, but on God's -- He who has called us, and who is faithful!

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.  God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NLT)

 

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