Paul wrote 1&2 Thessalonians to a church of new believers from different ethnic groups in a city that was intensely hostile to them. Paul encouraged them to persevere in the faith and clarified some issues about living life now and our future hope.
The author, the Apostle Paul, first visited Thessalonica during his second missionary journey. His visit is recorded in Acts 17:1-9.
Paul and Silas traveled through Asia Minor. In Lystra, Timothy met them and joined them on the rest of the trip. Luke (the author of Acts) joined Paul & Silas in Troas and accompanied them to Macedonia. Before visiting Thessalonica, Paul went to Philippi (Acts 16) where he was beaten and arrested for proclaiming non-Roman customs.
As a free city, Thessalonica was ruled by its own citizens with its own constitution and minted its own coins. Though under the Roman empire, it did not house a Roman garrison. Situated on the main east/west trade route, Thessalonica served as a important harbor and commercial hub for imports and exports.
1Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. – Acts 17:1-4 ESV
As was his custom when he entered a new city, Paul went first to the synagogue. He preached there for three Sabbaths until they drove him out. After he lost access to the synagogue, he stayed a few more weeks preaching to Gentiles.
5But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them [Paul & friends] out to the crowd. 6And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. 10The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. – Acts 17:5-10
The Jews in Thessalonica became so enraged by Paul’s teaching that a mob sought to have Paul arrested for trying to replace Caesar with another king. When the mob failed to locate Paul, they turned on Jason, Paul’s host. Jason paid a sum of money similar to bail to secure his release. When the situation quieted down, Paul and Silas slipped out of town.
Paul left a church of mixed ethic background in a city where many of the Jews in the synagogue were extremely hostile to Christianity. The Jews of Thessalonica were so angered by Paul’s gospel that they followed Paul to Berea and made trouble for him there (Acts 17:10-15).
From Berea, Paul went to Athens. Timothy returned to Thessalonica while Silas returned to Philippi. Paul traveled alone to Corinth where Timothy rejoined him and Paul wrote this letter.
Paul wrote this letter from Corinth about nine months after leaving Thessalonica (Acts 18:5; 2Cor 1:19), probably around 51 AD.
Paul is writing to a very young church of people from different ethnic groups. They have only believed the gospel maybe 9 months to a year. They must exist in a city that is intensely hostile to them. They are probably being pressured to forget Paul and renounce their young faith. Timothy has reported back to Paul about how they are doing. Paul is writing to encourage them to persevere in the faith and clear up some issues where they are confused.
Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.
Series: 1&2Thessalonians: Between Times
Study: 1Thessalonians Resources
Scripture references are from the English Standard version.
Season 22, episode 1