Route 66 / Stop 52: I THESSALONIANS

Audio File: 
Dr. Rich McCarrell
Sunday, July 8, 2018


The Apostle Paul (1:1, 2:18, 3:5, 5:27). Paul links Silas and Timothy with himself, because they had a part with him in founding the church and obviously shared his interest and concern that the work continue.



Most scholars place the writing somewhere around AD 51-52, during Paul’s stay in Corinth on his second missionary journey. Paul earnestly desired to visit Thessalonica  (3:10), but this was impossible, due to concerns over his own safety. So he sent Timothy from Athens (3:1, 2) and he brought back a good report to Paul (3:6).  This came to Paul while he was in Corinth (Acts 18:1-5) where he was staying for a year and a half. This is one of, if not the, earliest of Paul’s epistles and in fact many believe this was the first one he wrote. Both I/II Thessalonians were written from Corinth in a brief period of time.



The church of the Thessalonians (1:1). The founding of this church is recorded in Acts 17:1-10! Paul, Silas and Timothy came to the Macedonian port city of Thessalonica from Philippi after their persecution and imprisonment in that city. Philippi had been the  first place the gospel was preached in Europe. Thessalonica was the second. Thessalonica was about 100 miles southwest of Philippi. It was a large and very   influential city. In fact it still is an important city in modern-day Greece. Today its name  is Salonika. One of a few cities Paul ministered in that still exist today in unbroken continuity of history. A port city on the Macedonian Gulf which is in the northwest corner of the Aegean Sea. “Google” it for a great read!!

  In Paul’s day, the city contained very fertile farmland and also an excellent harbor. It was predominately Greek in culture and at the time of Paul’s visit, the city’s population consisted mostly of native Greeks, Roman colonists, a few Asiatic people and a large number of Jews. It is interesting to note that Acts 17 states that Paul spent only “3 Sabbaths” in the local synagogue reasoning with the Jews. This would put his time in this city, ministering among the Jews, at only 3 weeks. Yet his ministry was so effective  that the “ranks” of the synagogue were depleted and the Jewish leaders were “rankled”. I think he spent a bit more time in the city as he also had a large group of Gentiles convert to Christianity. In fact, obviously more Gentiles than Jews comprised this church (Acts 17:1-5). But he was not here for long when the Jewish Leaders incited a riot and Paul and his party felt it best to depart, and so they went to Berea, 50 miles southwest of Thessalonica (17:10-13). Thessalonica was the first place where Paul’s preaching  achieved a prominent following, and it remained to him a triumphant crown of God’s grace upon his efforts (1:8-10). Notice the order of events!! (2:19-20).



The second coming of Christ. This theme is mentioned in each chapter (1:10; 2:12, 19;  3:13; 4:13-18; 5:1-11, 23)


The sudden departure of Paul after a few weeks or at the most months, left the newly-formed church exposed to great persecution and theological unpreparedness. Paul did not have time to teach them adequately, so at the earliest opportunity he sent Timothy back to see how the Thessalonian Christians were doing. When Timothy returned to him in Corinth, he brought good news of their steadfastness and zeal in sharing the gospel, but reported that, as with any new, zealous believers, there were certain problems. Some were ethical problems, doctrinal problems, but the main one was their concern with those who had died in the Lord, and would they be at a disadvantage, not being alive when the return of the Lord occurred. So, in this short letter, though Paul touches on all of the major truths such as: * the deity of Christ (He is called “Lord” some 40 times), * Christ’s vicarious death, * His physical resurrection,    * the conversion of the sinner, *separated lifestyles, and * many other essentials for the Christian walk (which he didn’t have the time to fully develop when he was with them), the main doctrine is the truth of the Lord’s return. Since we know this is one of Paul’s earliest writings, we also know that this doctrine of the return of the Lord did not evolve over the centuries, but was a central thought from the earliest days of the church and Paul’s writings. What a great source of encouragement these verses must have been to this church and ought to be to us!!


  1. His Pastor’s thankful concern for them and their spiritual health (2:13-18)
  2. To defend his apostleship and ethics against those who were slandering him (2:3, 9-10)
  3. To share his deep love for them and his desire to see them again (3:10)
  4. To share with them the danger of cliques within the church (5:13, 20, 26-27) and
  5. To clear up any confusion over the second coming of Christ, and already departed believers. (4:11-18, 5:1-6)
  6. Encourage them in persecution (2:14) (3:2-3) (4:1-10).
  7. Exhorting them to live pure lives (4:3-6).




This letter can be divided into two main sections

  1. The personal (chapters 1-3) (Paul’s past and present concerns for the Thessalonian believers) This is one of the most revealing texts of Scripture in showing us the intimate side of Paul.
  2. The practical (chapters 4-5) (Paul’s instructions concerning how we should live in view of the imminent return of our Lord.




There is a great thread which runs through this book. Look for it and note it. It is the thread of the three tenses of our salvation. Justification (past) Sanctification (present) Glorification (future)! (1:9-10 – Faith/Love/Hope) (5:23-24)


For an in depth study into this book, we remind you that PR taught through I and II Thessalonians in a Sunday morning series (August 14, 2011-August 19, 2012) and available on the podcast.