1 Thessalonians 1:1-3
The Power of the Gospel
We now turn to Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica. We learn that Paul traveled west from Philippi to that city and planted this church there from Acts 17:1-10. It appears that though his time in Thessalonica was brief, reasoning in the synagogue for only three Sabbath days, many Jews were persuaded along with “a great many devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.” However, it wasn’t long before some Jews out of jealousy created an uproar among the people, and the believers there immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night for their safety. I note two things from this: first, the passage tells us that Paul “reasoned” from the Scriptures (and likewise in Berea, 17:10-11). The Bible is not a book of religious lore and spiritual fluff but one of reasonable assertions and historical accounts written under the inspiration of the Spirit of the Second Person of our Triune God who is called, “the Word,” in Greek, “logos” (λογος), from which we derive the word, “logic.” And second, that God’s Spirit does not move according to a clock or calendar. In some cases, it takes seven years to see someone come to saving faith, as with William Carey in India; here, the Spirit took only a few weeks. Our Lord said, “The wind blows where it wishes”; such is the way of the Spirit (John 3:8).
So preach Paul did and believers were called out of this world into the Kingdom in Thessalonica and were gathered together into an infant church. Paul was then run out of Berea and then scorned in Athens before winding up in Corinth (Acts 17:10-18:5). Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia perhaps with good news that the brethren in Thessalonica were well. So Paul dashed off this joyous letter grateful that God had preserved them from the hatred of their compatriots and for the purpose of encouraging them and filling in some gaps in their understanding of the gospel which he might not have had time enough while there to teach fully, for instance the relationship of the Second Coming with the resurrection (Leon Morris, NICNT, 1-11).
With the short space I have left, I refer to 1:3 where Paul remembers their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” These believers were not hearers only but doers of the word (James 1:22). Faith expresses itself through love, and hope expresses itself as we “wait for his Son from heaven” (1:10). Persecuted though these Thessalonians were, they blessed those who cursed them through the name of the one Paul preached to them and in whom they believed. Three Sabbaths is plenty of time for God to recreate a new people after His Son.