Timothy had good news for Paul: the church they had founded in the city of Thessalonica was growing. The members were loving one another. They were standing firm in their beliefs. They were holding up under persecution for their faith. The gospel is sounding forth from their city. Paul is overjoyed to hear this, and (with Timothy and Silvanus) writes them a letter to encourage and instruct them.
This is one of the most positive letters from Paul to a church. Paul overviews his history and relationship with the church members (which you can also read about in Acts 17:1–9), commends them for their excellent example, and goes on to list ways that they can “excel still more” until Jesus returns:
- Sexual morality
- Understanding the Lord’s return
- Basic Christian conduct
The Thessalonians set a good example for churches in the area (1 Thes 1:7), and they still set a good example for us today.
Theme verse of 1 Thessalonians
“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. (1 Thes 4:1)
1 Thessalonians: the infographic
Here’s a quick breakdown of 1 Thessalonians in infographic form:
Get the infographic
Here’s a link to the printable PDF. You can save it for future reference or send it straight to the printer.
1 Thessalonians’ role in the Bible
Paul opens his letter commending the Thessalonians for their “work of faith,” “labor of love,” and “steadfastness of hope” (1 Thes 1:3)—themes that echo throughout his letter. Paul writes to remind, encourage, and instruct them concerning a few areas of interest:
- Encouragement for the Thessalonians. Paul had sent Timothy to them, and Timothy had returned with a glowing report. The Jews in Thessalonica had opposed Christianity since it came to the city (Acts 17:5), and the church there had come under persecution from their own countrymen. But despite the present suffering, the Thessalonians stood firm in their convictions. Paul commends them: they are following the examples of Paul, the church elders in Judea, and even the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (1 Thes 1:6).
- Expression of Paul’s affection for them. Paul communicates his pride in the Thessalonians, even calling them his glory, hope, joy, and crown (1 Thes 2:19–20). He was both mother and father to this church (1 Thes 2:7, 11), and he loves them dearly.
- Instruction for future growth. The church was setting a fine example (1 Thes 1:7), and Paul challenges them to do more and more (1 Thes 4:1). He reminds them of the hope of Christ’s return (1 Thes 4:13–5:11) and lists ways to act until He does (1 Thes 5:12–24).
Paul also points to the return of Jesus throughout the letter:
- Paul recalls the Thessalonians turning to Jesus and waiting for His return (1 Thes 1:10).
- The Thessalonians will be Paul’s hope, joy, and crown when Jesus returns (1 Thes 2:19).
- Paul prays that their hearts will be established at the coming of Jesus (1 Thes 3:13).
- Paul wants them to be prepared for the day of the Lord (1 Thes 4:13–5:11).
Quick outline of 1 Thessalonians
- Commendation for faith, hope, and love (1Thes 1–3)
- The Thessalonians’ example (1 Thes 1)
- Paul’s history with them (1 Thes 2)
- Timothy’s visit and report (1 Thes 3)
- Challenge to grow in these areas even more (1Thes 4–5)