• Length: Five Chapters

Author: This is one of the seven undisputed letters by the Apostle Paul. The earliest of any surviving letters, it was written around 50 BC. 

Recipients: Thessalonica was the capital city of the region of Macedonia, and served as a vital trade center and port city in the Roman empire. Paul founded the church in Thessalonica shortly after he left Philippi (see Acts chapter 17). 

Paul writes the letter we now call 1st Thessalonians after he had moved on to Corinth and Athens. Concerned for their development as a new congregation in his absence, Paul sent Timothy, one of his co-workers, to check on their welfare and then report back to him. This letter then is Paul’s response to Timothy’s report. 

As was he custom, Paul first brought the message about Jesus the Messiah to the Jews in the local synagogue and then expanded his missionary ministry to the local Gentile population in the area. At one point Paul praises how these Gentile believers turned from worshipping false idols to worshipping the one true God (1 Thess. 1:9). 

Paul defends the motives and integrity of his ministry from some who were appar-ently suspicious of him while he was in Thessalonica. He points out that he did not come to them out of greed, deceit or selfish ambition, but rather as a pure and genuine response to Christ’s commission to spread the gospel (2:3-6). 

This letter shows Paul’s great affection for the Christian communities he founded. Here he uses the image of a wet-nurse who tenderly cares for her children as a metaphor for his deep caring for them (2:7-8). In a manner of speaking, since Paul was the one who first brought the message about Jesus to them, he did “give birth” to these new children in Christ. A few verses later, Paul uses a second image, the image of a concerned father, as an example of his sincere desire to encourage them in their newly developing lives of faith (2:11-12). 

In this letter, Paul praises the Thessalonians’ for their faith, love, and hope, lifting them up as virtues by which Christians are to orient and live their lives. He also speaks of living as children of the day, living in the realization and joy of God’s plan for salvation as revealed through Jesus Christ. 

There was concern among the Thessalonian Christians about the timing of Christ’s return. Paul himself believed that Christ would return sooner than later. Paul emphasized the hope of all Christian believers in Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrec-tion, and reassures them that all Christians, both those who have died and those who are alive, will together experience the fullness of God’s promise of eternal life (5:13-18).