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I. IMPORTANCE OF THE EPISTLE
II. CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH
1. Luke’s Narrative in Acts
2. Confirmation of Luke’s Narrative in the Epistle
III. CONDITIONS IN THE THESSALONIAN CHURCH AS INDICATED IN THE LETTER
IV. ANALYSIS WIENER, ORIGIN OF THE PENTATEUCH THE EPISTLE
1. Paul’s Past and Present Relations with the Thessalonians and His Love for Them
2. Exhortations against Vice, and Comfort and Warning in View of the
V. DOCTRINAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE EPISTLE
VI. THE EPISTLE’s REVELATIONS OF PAUL’s CHARACTERISTICS
I. The Importance of the Epistle.
The letter is especially important as a witness to the content of the earliest Gospel, on account of its date and its well-nigh unchallenged authenticity. According to Harnack it was written in the year 48 AD; according to Zahn, in the year 53. It is likely that these two dates represent the extreme limits. We are thus justified in saying with confidence that we have before us a document that could not have been written more than 24 years, and may very easily have been written but 19 years, after the ascension of our Lord. This is a fact of great interest in view of the contention that the Jesus of the four Gospels is a product of the legend-making propensity of devout souls in the latter part of the 1st century. When we remember that Paul was converted more than 14 years before the writing of the Epistles, and that he tells us that his conversion was of such an overwhelming nature as to impel him in a straight course from which he never varied, and when we note that at the end of 14 years Peter and John, having fully heard the gospel which he preached, had no corrections to offer (
II. Circumstances of the Founding of the Church.
1. Luke’s Narrative in Acts:
For the founding of the church we have two sources of information, the Book of Ac and the Epistle itself. Luke’s narrative is found in
2. Confirmation of Luke’s Narrative in the Epistle:
The historicity of Luke’s story of the founding of the church is strongly supported by the text of the Epistle. Paul, for instance, notes that the work in Thessalonica began after they had been shamefully entreated at Philippi (
Paul tells us that he was forced to labor for his daily bread at Thessalonica (
Perhaps, however, the most marked corroboration of the Ac which we have in the letter is the general harmony of its revelation of the character of Paul with that of the Acts. The reminiscences of Paul’s work among them (
It may seem irrelevant thus to emphasize the historicity of Ac in an article on Thessalonians, but the witness of the Epistle to the historicity of the Gospels and of Ac is for the present moment one of its most important functions.
III. Conditions in the Thessalonian Church as Indicated in the Letter.
There were, however, shadows in the picture. Some persons were whispering dark suspicions against Paul. Perhaps, as Zahn suggests, they were the unbelieving husbands of the rich ladies who had become members of the church. It was in answer to these criticisms that he felt called upon to say that he was not a fanatic nor a moral leper, nor a deceiver (
One wonders whether Greece was not peculiarly infested at this time with wandering philosophers and religious teachers who beat their way as best they could, living on the credulity of the unwary.
Paul’s anxiety to assure them of his intense desire to see them and his telling of his repeated attempts to come to them (
Some also were saying that Paul was a flatterer (
More than this, we can see plain evidence that the church was in danger of the chronic heathen vice of unchastity (
IV. Analysis of the Epistle.
The letter may be divided in several ways. Perhaps as simple a way as any is that which separates it into two main divisions.
First, Paul’s past and present relations with the Thessalonians, and his love for them (
1. Paul’s Past and Present Relations with the Thessalonians and His Love for Them:
(1) Greeting and Thanksgiving (
(2) Paul reminds them of the character of his life and ministry among them (
(3) The sufferings of the Thessalonians the same as those endured by their Jewish brethren (
(4) Paul’s efforts to see them (
(5) Paul’s surrender of his beloved helper in order to learn the state of the Thessalonian church, and his joy over the good news which Timothy brought (
Second, exhortations against vice, and comfort and warning in view of the coming of Christ (1Th 4:1-5,28):
2. Exhortations against Vice, and Comfort and Warning in View of the Coming of Christ:
(1) Against gross vice (
(2) Against idleness (
(3) Concerning those who have fallen asleep (
(4) Concerning the true way to watch for the Coming (
(5) Sundry exhortations (
V. Doctrinal Implications of the Epistle.
The Epistle to the Thessalonians is not a doctrinal letter. Paul’s great teaching concerning salvation by faith alone, apart from the works of the Law, is not sharply defined or baldly stated, and the doctrine of the cross of Christ as central in Christianity is here implied rather than enforced. Almost the only doctrinal statement is that which assures them that those of their number who had fallen asleep would not in any wise be shut out from the rewards and glories at Christ’s second coming (
The Epistle, however, bears abundant evidence to the fact that this contemporary of Jesus had seen in the life and character and resurrection of Jesus that which caused him to exalt Him to divine honors, to mention Him in the same breath with
VI. The Epistle’s Revelations of Paul’s Characteristics.
We notice in the letter the extreme tactfulness of Paul. He has some plain and humiliating warnings to give, but he precedes them in each case with affectionate recognition of the good qualities of the brethren. Before he warns against gross vice he explains that he is simply urging them to continue in the good way they are in. Before he urges them to go to work he cordially recognizes the love that has made them linger so long and so frequently at the common meeting-places. And when in connection with his exhortations about the second coming he alludes to the vice of drunkenness, he first idealizes them as sons of the light and of the day to whom, of course, the drunken orgies of those who are "of the night" would be unthinkable. Thus by a kind of spiritual suggestion he starts them in the right way.
Bishop Alexander, the Speaker’s Commentary (published in America under the title, The Bible Comm., and bound with most excellent commentaries on all of the), New York, Scribners; Milligan, The Epistles to the Thessalonians (the Greek text with Introduction and notes), London, Macmillan; Moffatt, The Expositor’s Greek Test. (bound with commentaries by various authors on the , Philemon, Hebrews and James), New York, Dodd, Mead and Co.; Frame, ICC, New York, Scribners; Stevens, An American Commentary on the New Testament, Philadelphia, American Baptist Publication Society; Adeney, The New Century Bible, "1 and 2 Thessalonians" and "Galatians," New York, Henry Frowde; Findlay, "The Epistles to the Thessalonians," Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, New York, Putnams; , "The Epistles to the Thessalonians," Expositor’s Bible, New York, Doran; the two latter are especially recommended as inexpensive, popular and yet scholarly commentaries. The Cambridge Bible is a verse-by-verse commentary, and Professor Denney on "Thess" in Expositor’s Bible is one of the most vital and vigorous pieces of homiletical exposition known to the present writer.