“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.”- 1 Thessalonians 1:1
Not long after the Jews returned to their land from Babylon in 538 BC, hope for the glorious restoration foreseen by the prophets faded. It became clear that since impenitence continued to broadly characterize the Jewish community, the full restoration would be delayed (Neh. 13; Mal. 4:5–6). The new covenant prophesied in Jeremiah 31 could not begin until the Messiah came and atoned for sin (Isa. 53; Luke 22:14–20).
According to the prophets, once that new covenant was instituted, it was time for the nations to join with the Jews in the worship of the God of Israel, who is the only true God and Creator of all things visible and invisible (Isa. 19:16–25; 66:18–21; Mic. 4:1–5; Mal. 1:11). And so, through the ministry of Christ’s Apostles, especially the Apostle Paul, the gospel began to go forth to the gentiles soon after the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost.
In the year AD 49/50, Paul’s missionary journeys brought the Apostle and his ministry partners Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy to the city of Thessalonica (Acts 16:1–17:9). As the principal city of the Roman province of Macedonia and a major seaport, Thessalonica was a strategic location for a church to be planted. So, Paul and his friends spent about three weeks there, proclaiming Jesus as the promised Messiah on three successive Sabbaths in the synagogue. Several people converted to faith in Jesus. These converts included some Jews, God-fearers—gentiles who worshiped the God of Israel and held to the Jews’ moral code but did not adopt the Jewish ritual laws—and several of the city’s “leading women,” who were also likely God-fearers (Acts 17:1–4). But Paul and his partners were forced to leave Thessalonica because a mob of Jews caused an uproar. Paul could not stay and provide months or years of instruction to the new Christians as he did in other places such as Ephesus (19:1–10).
Although the Christians in Thessalonica did not receive much instruction, their faith was real. Paul sent Timothy back to them from Athens, one of the next stops on his travels (1 Thess. 3:1–3; see Acts 17:10–34). And after having taught the Thessalonians, Timothy returned to Paul, most likely at Corinth, with a good report (1 Thess. 1:2–10) and some questions the Thessalonians had raised. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to address these issues, giving us the first of two divinely inspired letters for our edification.
Paul opens 1 Thessalonians with a greeting expressing grace and peace to the Thessalonians. Indeed, the whole of the Christian life is lived in the grace of God, which produces peace between the Lord and His people. Let us thank God for His grace and His peace this day, and let us seek His peace, endeavoring to live in harmony with other believers, as we show our gratitude for the grace of our salvation.
Passages for Further Study
1 Thessalonians 5:28
2 Thessalonians 1:2
1 Peter 1:1–2