The letters that Paul wrote to that church are much discussed today, if for all of the wrong reasons. His first letter, written about 50 – 51 AD is very likely Paul’s first pastoral letter. This was done during the time of Paul’s second missionary journey, after he had visited Thessalonica, and while he was staying in Corinth. We can easily see what occasioned his writing: The Thessalonian church was a very young church, having been in existence for only a short time. It was located in a challenging environment, where it was finding itself under serious persecution right from the start. Paul wrote to this church to urge them to remain in the faith- to urge them to continue down the road of discipleship as followers of Christ. As we read this letter, it is vital that we keep this in mind, lest we make the mistake of reading it in light of current day theories about things that Paul is not discussing in the letter.
The letter follows the typical Pauline pattern, one common in his day of letter writing. It begins with a greeting in which the writer identifies himself, and then moves on into a thanksgiving passage. Next comes the body of the letter, and it ends with a final greeting. Paul varies from this format only once in chapter 2 where he includes a second thanksgiving and we’ll cover it when we arrive at that point.
This is a letter that all of us should concern ourselves with for it has much to teach us. Of course, you can say that about any book of Scripture, but the letters to the Thessalonians have more than most that applies directly to our circumstances in the modern world. Most of us don’t live under anything that can be called persecution, but I would imagine that most of us experience temptations similar to those of Thessalonica, namely to avoid standing out in our communities as being “different” so as to avoid embarrassment or the wagging tongues of those who are not followers of our Lord. Obviously, the Thessalonians had far more serious repercussions to deal with than most of us do, and as I see it that should make the silliness of our fears all the more starkly obvious.
Well dear reader, there is the “preview”: We’ll begin in earnest tomorrow as we charge ahead into chapter one of a most amazing new adventure into Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church; see you then!