1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote this letter to the church in Thessalonica, around AD 51, to encourage them to grow in their faith as they waited for Christ’s return. The church was mostly Gentile, and was started by Paul just two years earlier.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 Jesus . . . rescues us from the coming wrath.
Believers in Jesus Christ are saved from sin, Satan and death. But ultimately, we are saved from the wrath of God. Sin is more than a violation of God’s law; it is a personal insult to the Trinity. The Father is angry for the Son and the Spirit; the Son is angry for the Father and the Spirit; and the Spirit is angry for the Father and the Son. Sin incites the wrath of all three members of the Triune God. [A] fire will be kindled by my wrath, one that burns down to the realm of the dead below (Deuteronomy 32:22), said God.
In 1874, a fire started in a Chinese coal mine that burned for over a hundred years. Over two million tons of coal was consumed every year, causing great damage to the environment. The government spent a fortune fighting the blaze, and finally put it out in 2004. But there is a fire that never goes out–it burns down to the realm of the dead below. The greatest need of sinners is to be saved from the wrath God.
1 Thessalonians 2:12 God . . . calls you into his kingdom and glory.
Paul wanted the Thessalonians to keep the end of their journey in view. God had not called them to an uncertain future, but to his kingdom and glory. Even if their journey was hard, it would be worth the trouble.
A missionary came home for a visit, and was invited to speak in church. He began by saying I am called . . . . But then he had a heart attack and died. He was probably going to say I am called to China, or wherever he was serving at the time. We are all called to serve God somewhere, but ultimately, we are called to his kingdom and glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:13b [T]he word of God [is] at work in you who believe.
When Paul preached God’s word to the Thessalonians, they accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13a). Even after Paul left the Thessalonians, his words continued to work in them, strengthening their faith and shaping their lives.
God’s word will do the same for us, as we get it into our hearts. Like a vitamin taken in the morning, providing nutrients throughout the day, the word of God works in those who believe. Many think that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and morning may be the best time to read a chapter of the Bible. An excellent habit for life is to read a chapter of the Bible almost every day, and to share what you learn with someone else.
1 Thessalonians 3:2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith.
Paul was in Thessalonica for just a few weeks, before he moved on to another town. He did not want their faith to waver, so he sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage them. First they were evangelized, then they were discipled. New believers are infants in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1), and must be cared for by those who are mature.
The person who brought me to Christ followed up extensively by making sure I was going to church, reading my Bible, and spending time in prayer. I wonder what might have happened to me without the help of my friend. He was God’s agent to strengthen and encourage me. You might be God’s agent to strengthen and encourage someone else.
1 Thessalonians 4:6 The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins.
Christ took the punishment we deserve (Isaiah 53:5), so we are never punished out of justice, but we can be punished out of discipline. [T]he Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son (Hebrews 12:6), says Hebrews. In fact, this can be severe.
Years ago I belonged to a church with many new believers. A couple began sleeping together and started missing church. Then they moved in together and quit church completely. Then there was an accident that led to an amputation. Then they broke off the relationship and started coming to church.
Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path (Proverbs 15:10), says Proverbs. [I]n faithfulness you have afflicted me (Psalm 119:75), wrote the Psalmist. God has forgiven all our sins (Colossians 2:13), but will punish us for our good, to keep us close to him.
Reflection and Review
Why is God angry at sin?
Who has helped you grow in your faith?
Should Christians be afraid of punishment?