Greetings and Thanksgiving: 1:1.
Paul begins the epistle with standard greetings. Out or the nine letters Paul wrote to churches, this letter is considered the first one. Paul includes the names of Silvanus and Timothy in his greeting to the church. They were Paul’s fellow workers. Paul always recognizes the fellow workers in his letters and ministry.. We must follow his example in our ministry. Timothy was a son in the faith and like-minded fellow worker (Phil 2:20; 1 Tim 1:2). Silvanus was the Latin form of the Semitic name “Silas”. He was a Jew as well as a Roman citizen (Act 16:37). He served Christ faithfully, enduring hardship for Christ (Acts 16:22-25). Suffering for Jesus is to suffer with Jesus (Mat 28:20; Isaiah 63:9; Heb 13:5). This letter was addressed to the church of Thessalonica. The church belongs to God and is made up of born again believers (Acts 17:2-4). The word “Church” is used over 100 times in the New Testament and never refers to a building. Since Paul was in Thessalonica for less than a month, it is probable that believers were baptized immediately after their conversion like the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:33-34). Paul wishes them grace and peace from God. Paul begins and ends the epistle with grace (5:28). It is the heartbeat of the gospel. Grace always precedes peace and they come from God. Grace is the unmerited favor from God which we don’t deserve. Peace is the holy restfulness God gives in difficult circumstances. Christ is the prince of peace. The grace of God produced in the Thessalonians a steadfast hope in Christ that sustained their faith and labor of love.
Thanksgiving and Praise: 1:2.
Paul and his fellow workers are thankful for the church of Thessalonica. Paul thanked God for their work of faith, labor of love and their steadfastness of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thanksgiving is the highest spiritual exercise of memory (Psalms 103:1-3). Faith, love and hope are the essential Christian virtues (5:8; 1 Cor 13:13; Gal 5:5-6).
Work of Faith: 1:3.
Christian life begins in faith in Christ, grows in love for Christ and completes in hope in the appearance of Christ. Their faith in Christ is evidenced by turning from idols to serve the living God (1:9). It produced results. They received the Gospel, in much affliction with joy of the Holy Spirit (1:6). Faith trusts in the promises of God in spite of consequences. Without faith it is impossible to pleases God (Heb 11:6). Our object of faith is God and ourselves. The true faith is entrusting our lives and plans entirely to God with no agenda of our own. Faith is the starting point that leads to faithfulness in everything. Someone has said "Thank you is the language of faith". Jesus gave thanks to his Father before any work was accomplished. Faith in Christ saves and transforms life. Thessalonians were faithful in their work for the Lord. Their faith was manifested in obedience. Their faith was such that it gave them assurance about the things they believed but never had seen (Heb 11:1). Ephesian church was an established church known for orthodoxy and evangelistic seal. But they lost the faithfulness in their work once they had (Rev 2:5). Is it not the state of many churches today? May the Lord help us to return to our work of faith before the lamp-stand (church) is removed from its place.
Labor of Love:1:3.
Paul thanked the Lord for their labor of love. Their faith in Christ enabled them to abound in the labor of love. Faith and love are closely related. Only the genuine faith in Christ can lead to the labor of love. We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). God manifested His love by sending His son into the world to die on our behalf (1 John 4:9). Only when we look at the cross of Christ we understand the wonder of God’s love. “There is no love like the love of a dying Savior”. We know that God loves us, because he sent his Son to save us. He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our heart with his love (Rom 5:5). Christ loved us and gave himself for us (Ephesians 5:25). Christ loved us so much that he was willingly endured the cross despising the shame (Heb 12:2). We ought to love him because we the fruit of his the labor (Isaiah 53:11). Our labor of love is not in vain and will not suffer loss at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:14-15; 15:58). Love is everything, because without it everything is nothing. Without love, all our labor, worship, service and sacrifices are empty (1 Cor 13:1-3). If we use our gifts without love, Paul says, "I am nothing; I do nothing; I gain nothing". "Labor of love" will never say “It is vain to serve God” (Malachi 3:14). God knows us and loves us through and through. So there is no need for fear of shame. Labor carries the idea of “work to the point of exhaustion”. Paul wrote “I labored more abundantly than all apostles; yet it was not I but the grace of God which was with me (1 Cor 15:10). The labor of love is serving the living God faithfully. Paul was motivated by the love of Christ to serve others
(2 Cor 5:14). Pray that God would fill our hearts with his overflowing love to serve others.
Patience of Hope: 1:3.
The work of faith and the labor of love and the steadfast hope are the positive response to the gospel (1:5-9). They are the essential characteristics of Christian life. These three operate together and cannot operate one without the other
(1 Cor 13:14). Hope is the confident expectation of what we are ultimately going to experience in Christ. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Cor 15:19). Without hope, we have no sense of joy, fulfillment, purpose or life. Scholars suggest that there are about 158 verses in the Bible that address hope. Faith is our attitude towards God. Love is everything that is true of God, including his wrath. If God is not angry with sin, we would have to question His love. The church of Thessalonica was facing persecution from Jews (1:6; 2:14; 3:5). But they had their hope in the return of Christ and drew comfort from it. The hope of Christ’s return gave them strength to endure affliction and oppositions in the world (John 14:1-4). No persecution can stop our hope in Christ. Labor of love pleases God. The patience of hope produces steadfastness in our Christian life. Hope comes from knowing that Jesus will faithfully bring us safely into his heavenly kingdom (2 Pet 1:11). Pray that God would give us comfort and strengthen us with hope (2 Tim 4:18).Thank God for the hope we have in Christ and for the wonderful assurance of an eternal life.
Beloved Brethren and Chosen by God: 1:4.
Paul knows that the Thessalonians are the beloved and chosen people of God. God had chosen them and called them through the preaching of the gospel. They are accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6). The fact of election cannot be known until after a person has been saved. Paul recognized that Thessalonians were chosen by God by their positive response to the gospel (1:5-9). God in his own sovereign will set his love on Israel and chosen them (Deut 7:6-8). We do not deserve God’s love (Rom 5:6-10). Yet God loves us with his everlasting love in Christ (Jer 31:3; Ephesians 1:4). In the same way the New Testament believers are the chosen people of God (1:4; 2 Thess 2:13, 14). There is no hope of salvation unless God has chosen us through the preaching of the gospel. God does not make one person evil and another one good. God never created anyone for destruction. Men fit themselves for destruction by rejecting the gospel and God’s mercy (Rom 9:22). The sinners are saved by believing in Jesus Christ (Rom 9:24). This is something that God does in his wisdom and natural man can never understand it (1 Cor 2:14). Not understanding trinity and virgin birth does not mean it is not true. Foreknowledge is God’s intimate knowledge of those who believe Him. God knows his own (John 10:27; 2 Tim 2:19). They are also chosen according to the purpose of God (Rom 9:11; Acts 9:15). Since we are in Christ, God loves us as much as he loves his Son (John 17:23). How thankful we must be for God’s great love and his salvation!
How do we know we are chosen by God? 1:5-10.
In Christian life nothing happened by accident. How did Thessalonians know that they were loved and chosen by God? In Chapter 1:5-9, we find the answer to that question. The gospel reached them through the preaching of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:8-10). They received the gospel when they were awakened by the Holy Spirit (1:5). The gospel is the power of God to save sinners (Rom 1:16-17; 1 Cor 2:3-4). Paul preached gospel with full conviction that it is the sure and faithful Word of God (2 Pet 1:19; 1 Tim 1:15). Only the Holy Spirit can bring salvation and transformation in life (John 16:8; Acts 17:6). Thessalonians became imitators of Jesus Christ and the apostles (1:6). Christians are called to imitate Christ by following his steps (1 Pet 2:21-23; Mat 5:16). They received the gospel in much affliction with joy of the Holy Spirit (1:6)). Christ is the source of their joy (John 15:11). Paul rejoices that they became example for other believers in the province of Macedonia and Achaia (1:7). Their faith in God was known to all people because they turned from worshiping idols to serving the true God (1:9). Anything that becomes more important than God in life is an idol. From the very beginning this church was a Christ-centered church . Conversion produces both positive and negative results. They did not get religious but turned from idols to serve the true God. Christian character and conduct should go together. They lived in anticipation of the return of the risen and glorified Christ (1:10; 4:16). They hoped in the second coming of Christ to deliver them from the wrath to come (1:10). God's wrath is his holy aversion to all that is evil and it is essential to divine righteousness. Their faith in Christ was active and not passive, visible and not hidden. The epistle of 1 Thessalonians is a message of good news from start to finish. Pray that the gospel truth would encourage us to share the gospel with others.