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1 and 2 thessalonians

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					                           Paul’s Letters to the Church in Thessalonica
                                            (Long: 1 and 2 Thessalonians)
                                            (Short: 1 and 2 Thessalonians)

Background Information
   I.     Chronology
          A. Paul, Silas, and Timothy founded the church on his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-9)in
               approximately 50 CE
               1. Paul and Timothy and Silas were forced to leave due to a Jewish-inspired mob attacking Jason’s
                   house where they were staying
          B. Paul, Timothy, and Silas went to Athens, where Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica and Silas
               elsewhere.
          C. Paul continued to Corinth where Timothy rejoined him. In approximately 50-51 CE, Paul wrote the letter
               to the Church in Thessalonica known today as 1 Thessalonians.
          D. Being in Corinth for 1.5 years, Paul probably wrote 2 Thessalonians from there in 51 CE.
   II.    Thessalonica
          A. Modern Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece; city has been in continuous existence since 316
               BCE, with its Roman ruins located among and under modern buildings.
          B. An ancient location of many temples dedicated to a variety of gods/goddesses; Greek and Roman
               paganism was rampant; on a clear day one can see Mount Olympus, the dwelling of the gods. Idolatry
               was pervasive.
          C. Along with idols, philosophers abounded that continually tried to persuade the masses with their new
               philosophies. They would quickly leave town when the masses were through with them.
          D. The Church was dominated primarily by Gentile Christians who “turned from their idols” (1:9) and
               joyfully turned to the gospel despite persecution (1:6; 2:14), which probably stemmed the Christians’
               unwillingness to worship idols like their neighbors.

1 Thessalonians
    I.     Purpose of Writing
           A. Paul writes about eschatology and ethics, about holiness and hope in a pagan world. He writes to
                encourage the believers in Thessalonica to remain examples to the world around them of faith, love and
                hope (1:3, 7-9).
    II.    Outline and Notes
           A. 1:1       Opening
                - Three authors are identified: Paul, Silas (Silvanus), and Timothy
           B. 1:2-3:13           Thanksgiving – Turning to God: Paul, the Thessalonians, and the Gospel
                1. 1:2-10               The Authenticity of the Thessalonians’ Conversion
                - (1:3; 5:8) A three dimensional conversion: faith, love, hope
                - (1:9-10) Summary of Paul’s Gospel: Summons pagans to do three things: (1) turn from idols; (2)
                   serve the one living and true God and (3) to wait for God’s Son from heaven.
                2. 2:1-12               The Authenticity of Paul’s Ministry
                - (2:4-6) Paul defends his ministry by saying that they were not trying to please men, but to serve
                   God; hence they took no money.
                - Paul ‘s ministry is an example the Thessalonians can and should follow
                - (2:7-12) They had apostolic privileges they could have taken, but didn’t.
                3. 2:13-16              The Common Bond of Suffering
                - (2:14-16a) Paul assures them that their suffering is normal for Christians – it is what unites them
                   together as one body
                4. 2:17-3:13 Timothy’s Visit: Absence, Concern, and Reassurance
                - Paul gave everything he had while with them, and now reminds them he continues to care for them
                   from a distance. He is eager to visit, is sending Timothy in his place, and prays for them.
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               -  (2:18) Paul says it was Satan who stopped him coming to Thessalonica
               -  (3:2) Paul sent Timothy in his place to encourage and strengthen the believers there
               -  (3:5) Paul worried deeply that the Thessalonians would give up their faith and his work would be in
                  vain.
           C. 4:1-5:11 Instructions – Serving God and Waiting for the son
              1. 4:1-12        Serving God: The Call to Holiness
                  a. 4:1-3a            The Call
              - (4:3a) Those who serve God are called to live lives of holiness, which for the Thessalonians are
                  countercultural lives; sanctification
              - (4:1) Paul taught them this in person when he founded the church
                  b. 4:3b-8            Sexual Purity
              - The world of pagan idolatry is filthy with sexual practices: prostitution, fertility gods/goddesses,
                  homosexuality, bestiality, etc., especially in a city like Thessalonica
                  c. 4:9-12            Love for One Another and Relations outside the Community
              - Brotherly love is the second way to “serve God” – we do this by leading quiet lives, minding our own
                  business, and working hard (not being dependent on others when we are capable of earning a
                  living).
              2. 4:13-5:11 Waiting for the Son: Eschatological Hope and Challenge
                  a. 4:13-18           Hope for the Dead
              - Ancient grave markers often bore the words: “I was not, I am not, I care not.”
              - (4:15) Paul’s gospel offered hope based on the past resurrection and return of Christ; but they had
                  questions about those who died before Christ’s return; they have hope, Paul says!
              - (4:16) When Christ comes, the dead will rise first, and then the living are “caught up in the clouds
                  together with them to meet the Lord in the air” (4:17)
                  b. 5:1-11            Challenge to the Living
              - (5:2, 6) We don’t know when Christ will return – like a thief in the night, so be alert and self-
                  controlled
              - (5:8) Put on faith and love and hope while you live now as you await his return
              - (5:10) Christ died not only to forgive sins, but to reorient our lives – we might live with him during
                  these days!
           D. 5:12-28 Closing Exhortations and Final Matters
              - Seventeen exhortations on how to treat one another and God during these days
              - The church gathers as a community of worshipping and mutually supportive family members who
                  experience God, Christ, and the Spirit together.

2 Thessalonians
    I.     Purpose of writing
           A. Due to a worsening of circumstances in Thessalonica since Paul’s first letter, he now writes to admonish
                them to Christlike faithfulness and goodness as they await the Lord’s return, which contrary to the
                beliefs of some, is still in the future.
           B. Persecution has increased, and so has the Thessalonian’s endurance (1:4)
           C. Some believers have claimed apostolic and/or Spirit-inspired authority to proclaim that the day of the
                Lord has already arrived (2:2)
           D. The problem of idleness has not gone away and has worsened (3:6-15)
    II.    Outline
           A. 1:1-2 Opening
                - Paul, Silas, and Timothy are all named and identifies the recipients as those in the Church in
                    Thessalonica. The greeting differs from the first letter’s by specifying that grace and peace come
                    from the Father and Son (1:2)
           B. 1:3-12 The Meaning of Persecution
                1. 1:3-4         Thanksgiving for Endurance
                                                          2
                -  Hope is restated in strengthened form by saying “steadfastness” which is joined with faith in the
                   face of persecution. Paul views their “perseverance” or “endurance” as proof of the Thessalonians’
                   part in the future reality.
               2. 1:5-10        The Future of Believers and Nonbelievers
               - Paul says the persecution is evidence of God’s righteous judgment and has the purpose of ensuring
                   the worthiness of believers for God’s kingdom (1:5; cf. 1:11)
               - Those who oppose God now will face his wrath. They will be punished with everlasting destruction
                   and shut out from the presence of the Lord (1:9)
               - Just as the believers share in Christ’s suffering, so also will they share in his glory (1:10)
               3. 1:11-12       Prayer for Faithfulness
            C. 2:1-3:5 Persecution and the Parousia
               1. 2:1-3a        Warning against Error
               - Some are saying in the Church that the “Day of the Lord” has already come and say this word came
                   through a report or letter from Paul (2:2)
               - These people may have had a “realized eschatology” that attributed full, spiritual salvation to the
                   present.
               2. 2:3b-12       Two Events before the Parousia
               - One: the “rebellion” (NRSV, NIV) or better, “apostasy” (NAB)
               - Paul says nothing more about this here, but in other NT apocalyptic traditions, an expectation of
                   faithlessness in tribulation and/or departure from the truth appears (Mark 13:22 and parallels)
               - Two: the “lawless one” (NRSV, NAB) or “man of lawlessness” (NIV)
               - This “lawless one” has parallels in other NT places: false messiahs of the synoptic tradition (Mark
                   13:14-23 and parallels; the first beast in Revelation 13, and the “antichrist” of the Johannine letters.
               - According to Paul this One will be revealed (2:3, 8), will exalt himself above all deities, take a seat in
                   the temple of God, and declare himself God 2:4), is an agent of Satan (cf. Rev. 12:7-13:8), will
                   deceive people with miracles (2:9) and will be destroyed by Jesus – specifically by the ‘breath of his
                   mouth’ – at Jesus’ own parousia (2:3, 8).
               3. 2:13-3:5      Exhortations and Prayers for Faithfulness
            D. 3:6-15 The Error of Idleness and the Obligation to Work
               1. 3:6-10        Apostolic Example and Teaching
               - Paul commands them to stay away from those Christians who are being “idle” and not following
                   Paul’s example of hard work. “If a man will not work, a man will not eat.”
               - They were probably not working, either because they thought there was no point because Christ’s
                   return was imminent (1 Thess.) or because they thought Christ had already come! (2 Thess.)
               2. 3:11-15       Dealing with the Idle
               - Busybodies have no place and Paul commands those who do obey him to not associate with those
                   who refuse to follow his teachings (3:6, 14)
               - He tells them to get to work (3:12)
            E. 3:16-18 Final Matters

Paul’s Use of the Old Testament
   I.       1 Thessalonians
            A. Paul views the Thessalonians as God’s eschatological people: true Israel
                 1. 1:4 – They are “loved by God” – language originally applies to Israel (Deut. 32:15; 33:12; Ps. 60:5;
                     108:6; Isa. 44:2; Jer. 11:15; 12:7)
            B. 1:9 – They have “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
                 1. Israel turning to God (Hos. 5:4; 6:1; Joel 2:13) and Gentiles turning to God (Ps. 21:28; Isa. 19:22; Jer.
                     18:8)
                 2. “Living and true God” - common descriptors of God in the OT (“living” : Num. 14:21, 28; Deut. 5:26;
                     32:40; Josh. 3:10; 1 Sam. 17:36; 2 Kings 19:4, 16; Ps. 42:2; Isa. 37:4, 17; Jer. 10:10; 23:36; Dan. 6:20,
                     26; Hos. 1:10; “true” : Exod. 34:6; Num. 14:18; 2 Chron. 15:3; Ps. 86:15; Isa. 65:16; Jer. 10:10)
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                3. A God unlike the gods they formerly worshipped in Thessalonica
            C. 2:15 – Paul speaks of Jews who killed Jesus and the prophets
                1. Known tradition concerning the killing of the OT prophets (1 Kgs. 18:4; 2 Chron. 36:15-16; Neh. 9:27;
                    Jer. 2:30)
            D. 4:3-8 – Theme of holiness
                1. Holiness is the attribute by which God’s people were to be known by among the nations in the OT
                    a. Mount Sinai: Exod. 19:5-6 – “You will be to me a distinctive people out of all the nations….You
                         will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
                    b. Deut. 26:18-19 – “And the Lord has chosen you today that you may be to him a distinctive
                         people…in order that you may be a holy people to the Lord your God.”
                    c. Lev. 11:44 – “You shall be sanctified/made holy and you shall be holy, because I, the Lord your
                         God, am holy.”
    II.     2 Thessalonians
            A. 2:3-4 – “man of lawlessness”
                1. Ps. 88:23 – “The enemy shall have no advantage against him, and the son of lawlessness shall not
                    hurt him”
                2. Isa. 57:3 – “But as for you, come here, you sons of lawlessness….Are you not children of destruction,
                    a lawless seed?”
                3. Applied to Antiiochus Epiphanese III who set up an altar to the pagan god Zeus during Maccabees
                4. Applied to Pompey who entered the holy of holies in 63 BC
            B. 2:8 – “with the breath of his mouth”
                1. Isa. 11:4 – the prince of David’s house “will strike the hearth with the word of his mouth, and with
                    the breath of his lips he will destroy the ungodly.”

Discussions about Authorship
    I.      Paul’s authorship of 2 Thessalonians is affirmed by approximately one-half of Pauline scholars..
    II.     They argue that it is so different in style, vocabulary, tone, and eschatological conviction that it could not
            have been written by the author of 1 Thessalonians. It is les personal and more forceful than the first.
    III.    Major difference is that in the first letter Paul expresses hope in an imminent parousia, whereas in the
            second letter he presents an apocalyptic hope that pushes the return of Christ into the more distant future.
    IV.     Solution: Paul wrote both – many of his letters differ in style and tone. The circumstances have worsened in
            Thessalonica and so the tone is more stern. Paul was primarily a pastor. And since the circumstances are
            different, the theological emphases are different. In 1 Thessalonians he writes about the coming of the Lord
            to ‘comfort the afflicted’ and to ‘afflict the comfortable.’ So he stresses the suddenness and certainty of the
            parousia. In 2 Thessalonians, some are saying that the Lord has already come and so Paul says that it won’t
            come until these things happen, which haven’t yet. He is a good pastor, speaking to the needs of his
            congregants/converts.

Read for Next Week: 1 Corinthians
                     Long: 1 Corinthians
                     Short: 1 Corinthains 1-3, 5, 7-8, 10-15




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posted:11/26/2011
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