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New Testament Survey
Lesson Thirteen

I Thessalonians

Paul was at Philippi and left for Thessalonica (Acts 17:1), which was a large city at that time, and today is named Salonika.  He travelled up the Egnation highway through the cities of Amphipolis and Apollona.  Thessalonica was founded in 315 B.C. by Cassander who named it in honour of his wife, the half-sister of Alexander the Great. It was a free city, with an excellent harbour and was located on rich plains.  It was a centre for trade.  The culture of the city was Greek.  Prior to conversion the non-Jewish believers were idol worshippers.

There was a Jewish colony in Thessalonica which had a synagogue. Paul preached in the synagogue for about 3 weeks (Acts 17:2-5).  The major emphasis of Paul's message was that the Messiah of the Scriptures must die and rise again.  This was a new idea to the Jews who thought of the Messiah only as a king.  The point Paul made was that Jesus of Nazareth fit the prophetic description and should be received as the Messiah.  The obvious conclusion, although not specifically stated was that He should be accepted by all true Jews.

The message brought a violent division.  Some Jews believed as did a good number of Gentile proselytes.  There was a considerable tension between the converts of Paul and the unbelieving Jews.  Paul was exasperated with the petty jealousy that caused them to hinder his presentation of the gospel to the Gentiles.  The unbelieving Jews rioted and Paul was forced to leave the city.  He went to Berea and preached in the synagogue there.

Some time after, while Paul was at Corinth, Timothy brought news form Thessalonica.  It was good news for the most part, although there were matters that troubled him.  The church was making fine spiritual progress.  There were Jews, however, filled with prejudice and hate who were casting negative reflections on Paul's character and ministry (2:3-10), undermining his influence for good.  There were questions concerning those who had died and their place when the Lord would return so they had questions that needed to be answered.  They were new believers so need to be instructed that the immoral conduct that had been such a part of their former life must be put away from their lives.  They also needed to respect those God had placed over them.  

1. 1 Thessalonians has 5 chapters consisting of 89 verses.

2. It was written by the Apostle Paul.  The internal and external evidence leaves no question that he was the author.  His signature appears in 1:1. The style of the writer is clearly that of Paul.

3. This is the first letter that Paul wrote.  It was written in about A.D. 52.

4. It was written when Paul was engaged in ministry from Achaia, after he received a report which Timothy brought to him at Corinth. 


The theme of the book is practical christian living especially in the light of the coming of Christ.  It deals with how we should respond to the truth of His coming.


Christ is seen as the risen Lord, who has delivered us from the wrath of God.  He is the coming King.

Key Words

The key words are gospel, sanctification and coming of the Lord.

Key Verse

1 The. 3:13 To the end that He may stablish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.


1. One purpose was to encourage loyalty in the midst of persecution by the Jews.

2. It was given to instruct them in holy living.

3. Paul wrote to give a defence against the slanders that were circulating.

4. It was written to answer their concerns regarding those who had died prior to the coming of the Lord.

5. It gives us a brief view of the Scriptural teaching of the return of the Lord.

6. Paul wrote to express thankfulness for their spiritual progress and steadfastness.

7. It was given to warn the Christians against the misapplication of the doctrine of the coming of the Lord in daily life.


Events and Characters

Paul begins with greetings and thankfulness for their example to the Christians in other areas.  He answers the charge that he is unloving by expressing his tender care for them, not only in imparting the gospel but also in the travail and labour which he had engaged in on their behalf.

He encourages them in the midst of their persecutions and in the fact that he had been forced to leave them when they needed his instruction.  He sent them Timothy to strengthen their faith.  Paul is comforted by the good news of their spiritual progress brought to him by Timothy.

They are called to be honest and forsake the evils of sexual immorality.  Love for one another is to be a part of their life. They are to work, minding their own business and helping others.   He then deals with their questions concerning the coming of the Lord. He will come and those who have gone before will come with Him then we will be reunited in the air.  The time of it is unknown.  It will be a surprise, like the visit of a thief. We are to be prepared so we will not be taken unawares.  We are children of the light.

Those who are over us in the Lord are to be respected and followed. The unruly are to be warned, the weak supported and they are not to work vengeance.  He gives some other instructions regarding their walk and conduct.

Lessons to Remember

1. We are to maintain the joy of the Holy Spirit even in the face of persecution and opposition.

2. The preaching of the gospel, to be successful requires labour and travail.

3. The continue faithfulness of those we bring to the gospel is a source of blessing and comfort.

4. We have been called to cleanness, faithfulness, love, honesty and work.

5. Christ will come and we are children of light so prepared to meet Him.

6. Retribution is not for us, we are to pray and give thanks shunning even the appearance of evil.


I. Paul:  Past and Present Dealings with the Church     1  -  3

    A. Greetings and thanksgiving    1:1  -  10
    B. An apostle's ministry    2:1  -  20
    C. Timothy's report     3:1  -  13

II. Christian Living in View of the Return    4  -  5

    A. Holiness and Love        4:1  -  10
    B. Conduct to those outside    4:11  -  12
    C. Catching away and Return of Christ     4:13 - 5:11
    D. Various Instructions    5:12  -  28

Outline (Alternative)

I. Salutation    1:1

II. The State of the Church    1:2  -  10
    A. Character of the church        1:3
    B. Election of the church    1:4  -  7
    C. Reputation of the church    1:8  -  10

III. Apostolic Relations with the Church    2:1  -  3:13

    A. Paul's conduct toward the church       2:1  -  12
    B. Paul's reception by the Thessalonians      2:13 - 16
    C. Paul's concern for the church    2:17  -  3:10
    D. Paul's prayer for the church    3:11  -  13

IV. The Problems of the Church    4:1  -  5:11

    A. The problem of sex morality    4:1  -  8
    B. The problem of social conduct    4:9  -  12
    C. The problem of the state of the dead     4:13  -  18
    D. The problem of the times and seasons     5:1  -  11

V. Concluding Exhortations and Greeting    5:12  -  28



The Thessalonian Christians received the message from Paul and were undoubtedly joyful for the communication; however, it did not answer all the questions.  There appears to be a misunderstanding of his meaning concerning the coming of the Lord.  They seemed to take the idea of the sudden coming to mean the immediate coming.  Presumably the men who delivered the first letter now returned with the report of the confusion in the Thessalonian thinking.  A few members seem to have become idle and disorderly in their conduct because of this misunderstanding (3:6-14). It seems that some had fanatical tendencies.  They assumed the return was almost immediate so were leaving their employment and being a burden on the church for their maintenance.  They were falling prey to temptation and becoming busybodies, which disrupted the peace of the church. There is also indication that someone sent a letter purporting to be from Paul, but it was a forgery, (2:2; 3:17).  Therefore Paul, while still at Corinth, writes 2 Thessalonians.  He writes to corrects the doctrinal error and to admonish proper conduct.

1. The book contains 3 chapters with 47 verses.

2. There is no question that the author was the apostle Paul.  His signature appears twice in the book, (1:1; 3:17).  The style is clearly that of Paul.

3. The book was written a few months after 1 Thessalonians so it is around A.D. 52 or A.D. 53.

4. Paul was still in Corinth so the book was written from there.


The theme is the need for good work habits and practical conduct in the light of the coming of Christ.


Christ is seen as the coming King, the great Judge and the Faithful One who directs our hearts.

Key Words

The key words are patience, coming. faith, glory(ified), revealed and judgment.

Key Verse

2 The. 3:5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patient waiting  for Christ.


1. The main purpose of the book is to further explain the doctrine of the Return of Jesus.

2. Another purpose  would be to give further comfort for them in their tribulation.

3. He wrote to exhort them to stand fast in the face of difficulties.

4. He gave  instructions on how they should live in the light of the coming of the Lord.


Events and Characters

Paul gives the greetings and includes Silas and Timothy as a part of it.  He expresses his thankfulness for their continued growth in spite of the persecutions and tribulations they were forced to endure.  He reminds them that God will, at the coming of Christ, recompense those who have opposed His kingdom with everlasting destruction.  He will then be glorified in His saints.

He reminds them of the coming of the Lord and that it would be delayed.  They were not to be moved by those who taught an imminent return.  There were forces at work that must be dealt with before that day would arrive.  They were to be comforted by the truth of the return and continue in every good work.

He requests their prayers that he might have the freedom to preach the gospel and be delivered from men of evil intent.  Those who were unruly and lazy were to be separated from the body and certainly not be able to receive support or food from the sacrifice of fellow believers.  If they would not correct their error, the believers were to withdraw from them that they might be ashamed.

Lessons to Remember

1. Faith can and does grow in times of persecutions and tribulations.

2. We are to live in a way that glorifies the name of Christ.

3. The subject of the return of Christ should not be a frightening subject nor shake us.

4. We have been chosen to salvation and sanctification.

5. We are to pray for other ministries.

6. When a fellow believer becomes lazy and disorderly we are to withdraw from that person.

7. If a person won't work neither should he eat.

8. A believer under discipline is not to be treated as an enemy but corrected and admonished as a brother.


I. Encouragement in Persecution     1

II. Instruction Regarding the Day of the Lord     2

    A. Present attitude        1  -  3
    B. Order of events        3  -  12
    C. Thanksgiving and prayer        13  -  17

III. Proper Conduct in View of His Return    3    

    A. Request for prayer        1  -  2
    B. Confidence in God's doings        3  -  5
    C. Command concerning the disorderly         6  -  15
    D. Closing and prayer        16  -  18

Outline (Alternative)

I. Salutation    1:1  -  2

II. Expectation in Persecution    1:3  -  12

    A. Thanksgiving for growth    1:3  -  4
    B. Explanation of purpose    1:5
    C. Expectation of outcome    1:6  -  10
    D. Prayer    1:11  -  12

III. Explanation of Events    2:1  -  17

    A. Alarms quieted    2:1  -  2
    B. Apostasy predicted    2:3  -  7
    C. Antichrist revealed    2:8  -  12
    D. Attitude of faith encouraged    2:13  -  17

IV. Exhortations to Readiness    3:1  -  15

    A. To prayer    3:1  -  5
    B. To industry    3:6  -  15

V. Benediction and Salutation    3:16  -  18

Feed Yourself Students:

Before the next lesson arrives do the following:

1.  Read through the Books of I & II Timothy 2 times each.

2.  Create a list of all the things a church leader should be and do as taught in these two books.

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