A hub of political and economic power. People known for idol worship. Welcome to Thessalonica, the capital city of the Roman province of Macedonia. This month we’ll begin by reading Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, probably written from Corinth in about 51 A.D., during Paul’s second missionary journey.
The bustling city of Thessalonica had a population as high as 200,000. Located at the intersection of major trade routes, it boasted one of the best harbors on the Aegean Sea. People in the city worshiped Greco- Roman gods and some Egyptian gods, as well as the emperor (Caesar). Many of these religions included acts of sexual immorality among their rituals.
Paul and his team had planted the Thessalonian church, which included some Jews but was mainly made up of Gentiles. He’d only been able to stay in the city a few months because active Jewish resistance to the gospel had forced him out of town (Acts 17:1–9). Paul is clearly identified as the author of this letter (1 Thess. 1:1). Silas and Timothy are named as fellow missionaries. Timothy had apparently just visited Paul with a good report about the Thessalonians (3:6–8), and would likely have carried this epistle back to them.
Paul knew the Thessalonian church needed more teaching than he’d been able to give in his short time there. Therefore, his purpose in writing this letter was—within the larger context of Christ’s Second Coming—to encourage the young church to stand firm and keep growing, to give further instruction on godly living, and to reassure them that one day all believers will be raised to eternal life. Additional themes of the book include the transforming power of the gospel, righteousness, suffering, and the end times.
>> We encourage you to begin this month’s study by reading the first of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians in one sitting. Worried about time? It will take you at most 10–15 minutes!
Dear God, thank you for the teaching we have access to in your Word. Thank you for mature leaders like Paul and Silas whose lives and teaching point us to you.