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1 Thessalonians chapter 1

New Living Translation

What does 1 Thessalonians chapter 1 mean?

Thessalonica was a major city of Greece, a hub of culture and commerce. Paul had visited this city during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1–4), establishing groups of new believers there. That success was not without hardship, as Paul experienced significant backlash from the people of that region, most especially from Jewish critics (Acts 17:5–9). As a result of that controversy, he moved along to Berea, where he found the Jewish population to be much more receptive to his message (Acts 17:11).

Despite suffering persecution and trials, it seems that the church in Thessalonica flourished. In this, his first letter to the Christians of Thessalonica, Paul seems thrilled to hear good news about their growth. These believers are not only thriving, spiritually, they are working hard to spread the gospel to the rest of the world.

This opening chapter is relatively short, only ten verses, but it sets the tone for the rest of Paul's letter. The primary message of this passage is that Paul has heard good things about the churches of this region. For this reason, Paul praises God—saying he "constantly" mentions them in his prayers to God. Part of the reason for this praise is given in later passages, such as chapter 2. Not all cities responded to Paul's message as warmly as Thessalonica. This contrast between apathy—even abuse—and loving support certainly made an impression on Paul.

Paul's introduction here also sets the stage for the rest of the content of his letter. With a general background of praise and support, Paul will address concerns expressed by the Thessalonians themselves. These include unfair attacks from outsiders, rumors about Paul himself, questions about the return of Christ, and other matters. Paul will also address a few spiritual areas in which the Thessalonians need to be corrected.
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