1 Thessalonians Series Intro
We’re in the second half of Advance 2018, and this fall we’re diving deep into 1 Thessalonians. You might be surprised to hear it, but first century Thessalonica was a lot like the cities that make up the Triangle. It was inhabited by the affluent, cultured, educated, and powerful, right alongside the marginalized, impoverished, and enslaved. Thessalonica was a hub for its region, a governmental seat, a commercial area, and a cultural capital; the parallels keep on going. While your mental image of 51 AD might feature camel riding, sandal wearing, unwashed bumpkins, that’s far from the truth. We have a lot to learn from the Thessalonians.
Over 11 weeks we’ll look at the work of the Holy Spirit in the church at Thessalonica and how the gospel was advancing through them to the surrounding regions. We’ll spend a few weeks looking at the Thessalonians’ example of faith and evangelical efforts (weeks 1-4), before getting to some of the recommendations Paul had for them towards the end of his letter (weeks 5-11). As we study this letter we’ll gain both an understanding of real life believers advancing the gospel in their city and an understanding of where we can grow in doing the same.
Background on 1 Thessalonians
This is maybe old news, but Paul was a missionary, and sometime around 48-49 AD he passed through the city of Thessalonica. Paul ministered in Thessalonica for about a month or two before the new church started to feel any heat, but eventually Jewish opponents of the church stirred up a riot and ran Paul out of the city. 4-5 months later, after getting an update on the Thessalonian church from Timothy, Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians. This timing is one of the reasons the book offers us such an authentic, forthright example of Paul’s pastoral relationship with other Christians.
You’ll get much of the structure of the book from the Bible Project video above, so definitely check that out. In it, the Bible Project folks mention that the Thessalonians were bearing up pretty well through persecution. In 1 Thessalonians Paul encouraged the church both for their faith and towards further faithfulness. This dynamic will be important for us as we read this book together. Sometimes we read commandments in scripture as a condemnation for our behavior, telling us to do something while assuming we aren’t already doing it. As we get into the last half of the series, with all of Paul’s recommendations for the Thessalonians, it’ll be helpful for your group to receive these commands for what they are: an encouragement towards further faithfulness.