This Tuesday we are gathering to begin our discussion of 1 Thessalonians 1. This letter begins in Acts. Thessalonica is the capital of Macedonia which is north of Greece. Paul visited here on his second missionary journey as set forth in Acts 15:35-18:22. We read of Paul’s visit there in Acts 17:1-15. Please read about this visit to have a sense of the troubles experienced by this early congregation. The Jews in the town expelled Paul who then went to Athens (Acts 17:16-33) and then (his first visit) to Corinth (Acts 18). Paul left Silas and Timothy behind in Macedonia (Acts 17:14) and they later joined him in Corinth (Acts 18:5). Because the greeting in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy, the general consensus is that this letter was written from Corinth fairly soon after Paul had left Thessalonica. This is the very first of Paul’s correspondence.
Chapters 1-3 are an extended introduction to Paul’s ultimate purpose of comforting the congregation in their despair arising from external persecution and the death of some of its members. The overall theme of this first chapter is Paul’s call for the congregation to remember the power and the joy they experienced upon their receipt of Paul’s gospel teaching. By remembering the good things in the past, Paul seeks to both give them comfort in the present and to renew their joy and power. As you read through this introduction, pay particular attention to the role of the Holy Spirit both in the past of which Paul speaks and in the present in which the letter is to be read. I have attached the excerpt for this chapter from N.T. Wright’s Paul for Everyone (pp.87-100) for your review.
Finally, as you read through the chapter, don’t read for information only. Rather, read the chapter slowly and reflectively. Allow Paul’s words to speak directly to you and to sink into your spirit. Although the letter was written long ago and far away, the source of its power within the Trinity remains here with us. Therefore, allow the letter to speak to you in your circumstances today. Paul’s words of encouragement and exhortation belong to us as well as the Thessalonians.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is lettuce wraps. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here and please bring a friend.
I will confess you among the peoples, O Lord; *Psalm 108:3-6
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, *
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God, *
and your glory over all the earth.
So that those who are dear to you may be delivered, *
save with your right hand and answer me.