1, 2 Thessalonians
1 Thessalonians 1: In Power
1 Thessalonians was written by the apostle Paul likely around AD 51-52. To see when Paul first preached in Thessalonica, see Acts 17. 1 Thessalonians carries themes that include the return of Christ, the problem of persecution, and what it means to live for the Lord while awaiting Christ. In this first chapter, Paul begins by giving thanks for these brethren, particularly for their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope” in Christ. He recognizes that the gospel did not come to them by “word only,” but “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” Because of their conviction, these Christians became examples to other believers in the region. Not only had the word sounded forth from them, but their faith had “gone forth everywhere.” These are people who had turned from idols to serve the true and living God, and their faith was showing.
1 Thessalonians 2: The Word at Work
Paul was concerned about how these Christians saw his motivation in preaching the gospel. Paul pointed to the fact that they had suffered tremendously for the cause of Christ and not peddling the word of God through flattery for the sake of greed. Paul wanted to share not only the gospel, but give his own life as well. When these Christians heard the word of God, they accepted it not as the word of men, “but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” The genuineness of their faith was clear because they, too, were willing to suffer persecution for Christ. God will take care of those who kill and persecute.
1 Thessalonians 3: Unmoved by Afflictions
Timothy had been sent to these Thessalonian Christians “to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions.” They had been told that they would suffer persecution, but they needed encouragement, and Paul was eager to hear of how they were doing in their faith. Timothy was able to bring good news back to Paul, which gave him great comfort. Paul prayed that he would again have the opportunity to see these brethren face to face in order to help them grow stronger.
1 Thessalonians 4: He’s Coming
Because of persecution, and knowing the Lord would return, there was a continual need for them to be careful about how they lived. God’s will for them (and all of us) is sanctification and holiness, living pure lives before God. “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” Paul then reminds them of the coming of Jesus Christ so that they would not be overly stressed about those who had died in the Lord. Resurrection was coming, and those who had already died would come with the Lord so that all would be raised to be with Him. This teaching is one that is to provide comfort, especially during difficult times.
1 Thessalonians 5: Children of Light
The day of the Lord would come like a thief in the night. Some will be thinking “peace and safety” while sudden destruction will come. God’s people, however, are children of light and need to keep awake and sober, aware of what’s coming. Preparation is key, then, to making sure we are ready, and God’s people need to be continually encouraging each other in this. Paul then lists a number of final instructions as he closes out the epistle. This includes respect, peace, admonishment, doing good, praying continually, and abstaining from evil. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
2 Thessalonians 1: Glorified
2 Thessalonians was likely written soon after the first letter, and after receiving a response (ca. AD 51-52). Paul praises them for their steadfastness and faith through their persecutions and afflictions. That suffering actually demonstrated that they were worthy of the kingdom. God would finally grant them relief while, at the same time, bringing judgment upon those who were causing the afflictions. They will be destroyed and God will be glorified through His saints. Paul prayed that God would make them “worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Thessalonians 2: Lawlessness
Some were concerned that Jesus would come immediately, and some who taught error were passing around false information. Paul tells them not to be deceived, for before Jesus comes, the “man of lawlessness” would be revealed. The works of Satan would be manifested, but God would make it clear that they were deceivers. While there is much debate over who exactly this figure is, the point Paul is making is that there were certain things that would happen first before Jesus came back. Satan would have some sway for a time, but that would end. We know yet today that the Lord has defeated the works of the devil, so anyone who stands for lawlessness will be judged. Instead of worrying about that, Christians are called upon to be sanctified and to stand firm in the truth of what they had been taught. They can know (as can we) that God loves them and gives eternal comfort and hope through grace.
2 Thessalonians 3: Work Hard
Paul asks for their prayers that the word of God may be spread through them and that they be delivered from wicked men. Paul is confident that these Christians will do as they had been instructed. They are then told to keep away from those who walk “in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” Some were idle busybodies, unwilling to work, and this was having an impact on them. They needed encouragement to get back to work and do what is right. “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”