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Purpose of The Book of 1 Thessalonians:
Paul's first letter to the church at Thessalonica deals mostly with questions about what happens after we die and the nature of Christ's return. It seems that some confusion or misinformation about the last days were negatively affecting the church at Thessalonica, and Paul wrote this letter and another later letter in order to correct certain false doctrines about the second coming.
Summary of The Book of 1 Thessalonians:
In this letter, Paul demonstrates loving concern for his friends in Thessalonica who were enduring suffering for the sake of the gospel. Paul calls them to pursue holiness in the area of sexual relationships because God’s will for them is their sanctification. Paul calls them to be ready for the return of Christ, who will bring the present story to a glorious end.
Author and Dates of The Book of 1 Thessalonians:
Many of the details in this letter correspond to accounts in Acts that place Paul in Corinth during the time of composition. This would suggest that the letter was written around 51 AD, making 1 Thessalonians one of Paul's earliest canonical writings.
Thessalonica was the capital and largest city of Macedonia. Acts 17:19 tells us that Paul visited this city and began his ministry in the Jewish synagogue, but broadened his outreach to Gentiles as well. He was not able to stay long, thus the Thessalonian church was still quite young and untrained, and made some errors in applying Paul's teachings to their lives. Moreover, they may have felt a bit abandoned as Paul fled the persecution that they undoubtedly had to endure.
Outline of The Book of 1 Thessalonians:
Themes of The Book of 1 Thessalonians:
Paul's Ministry: Like in Galatians, Paul finds himself needing to justify his actions and his ministry, and insists that his behavior and his preaching testify to his pure motives and divine calling (2:5-12, 17-20).
The End: Paul has to clarify some of the teachings that the Thessalonians had misunderstood. It seems that the Thessalonians may have gotten a bit excited about preaching the end of the world, as Paul has to remind them to mind their own business, lead a quiet life, keep their day jobs, and not preach and wait too zealously for an imminent return of Christ (4:11-12; 5:1-11).
Resurrection: Another misconception that the Thessalonians had was that Christians would not have to die. They figured that Jesus would soon return and gather all those who believed in Him, and when members of their own church started to die, they didn't know what it meant. Paul revisits the doctrine of the resurrection to assure them that, when he returns, Christ will gather all those who believed in Him, both alive and dead (4:13-18).