Summary: Introductory Message to a series on 1 Thessalonians focusing on the foundation of our faith despite the uncertain times in which we live.
LIVING IN AN UPSIDE DOWN WORLD
How does a person live for Jesus Christ in a society where his faith is constantly under attack—where he can be ostracized or blacklisted for openly professing that he is a Christian?...How can you raise children with a healthy reverence for God when those around you live in open defiance of God’s commandments?...How are you supposed to live a life of integrity when everyone around you is cutting corners and doing whatever they can possibly do to get an advantage over you?
Those are the kinds of questions I am frequently asked as a pastor…But these aren’t just questions posed by 21st century Westerners…They describe the dilemma faced by Christ-followers in the first century city of Thessalonica…In fact, a close look at their world reveals some eerie similarities between their society and our own…And like us, they needed a SURE FAITH FOR UNCERTAIN TIMES.
Today, we begin a new series of messages from the first letter of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians… Although they lived in an era before television, computers and iPhones, the core problems that they faced and the challenges that they experienced are remarkably familiar…And the counsel offered under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can buttress our faith as surely as it did theirs.
You don’t need me to tell you that we live in uncertain times…Individually and as a society, it just seems that so much is heading in the wrong direction…From the shaky economy to the shifting morality of our day, it often seems that our world is collapsing all around us.
But rather than throw up our hands in discouragement, the brief letter which Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica challenges us to live out our faith in an authentic and consistent manner…To people who may have had as many reasons to be discouraged as we do—maybe even more—Paul encourages them to develop A SURE FAITH FOR UNCERTAIN TIMES.
Over the next several weeks, we’re going to go through this letter verse by verse and chapter by chapter, seeking to gain counsel to help us navigate the times in which we live…As we begin our study today, we’re going to try to understand how Paul came to minister to these Thessalonians in the first place, and how he was in a unique position to give them advice on LIVING IN AN UPSIDE DOWN WORLD.
We’re going to start, appropriately enough, with THE BEGINNING OF THE LETTER in 1 Thessalonians 1:1.
I. THE BEGINNING OF THE LETTER
1Thessalonians 1:1 1Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…
This letter begins like most first century correspondence—identifying the:
A. The Writer
There isn’t much serious disagreement that the human author of the letter is the Apostle Paul…He identifies himself as the writer in this opening verse—which was customary in his day, as opposed to our practice of waiting until the end of the letter to sign our name—as well as a little later, in 2:18.
Silas was Paul’s companion on his second missionary journey—we studied about this a few weeks ago, when we saw that after Paul & Barnabas got into an argument, Paul decided to launch on his missionary journey with Silas…Some Bible Scholars believe that Silas may have actually penned this letter as it was dictated to him by Paul.
Timothy, of course, was Paul’s protégé, and a special friend to the believers at Thessalonica…While Silas and Timothy may have contributed some thoughts to this letter, it’s primary author was Paul…Of course, the real author is the Holy Spirit, who inspired Paul to write these words, and that is what differentiates this from the correspondence that you and I are more familiar with.
While some Bible Scholars believe that 1 Thessalonians was the first of the inspired letters written by Paul, most believe that the letter to the Galatians was written somewhat earlier, making 1 Thessalonians the 2nd such letter penned by Paul…It was written while Paul was in Corinth, probably around A.D. 51.
B. The Recipients
Again, there’s not much room for uncertainty or speculation about the intended recipients of the letter, identified as …the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…Let’s consider first of all:
THE CITY [SLIDE of Ancient Macedonia]
Thessalonica was the capital city of the province of Macedonia…It was the center of commerce for the region—a first century New York or London, with an estimated population of some 200,000 people… There were a number of wealthy citizens in Thessalonica, and a fairly large middle class, for that era…It was a bit of a melting pot, with a large population of Greeks, but also Romans and a sizable Jewish minority…There was a pretty liberal attitude towards religion, with a number of pagan religions practiced among its citizenry.