The Agora
Waiting For His Son - Thessalonians

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I. Greetings (1:1)

v. 1
"Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ."


"Silvanus": This is the Latin equivalent of the Greek (or Aramaic) "Silas", which was itself the equivalent of the Hebrew "Saul." Silas was a prominent member of the Jerusalem ecclesia, and was chosen as a messenger (along with Judas Barsabbas) to deliver the apostolic decree to Antioch (Acts 15:22,27,32). When Paul fell out with Barnabas, he chose Silas to accompany him on his second missionary journey; thus Silas was closely associated with Paul in Philippi (Acts 16), Thessalonica (17:1-9) and Corinth (18:5). Along with Paul, Silas was a Roman citizen (16:37) -- which would account for his second, Latinized name. In later years, Silas was Peter's assistant (1Pe 5:12).

"Timotheus": The full name signifies "honor ('timee') to God ('Theos')." Timothy is one of the best known and closest of Paul's fellow-laborers. He was converted by Paul and is referred to as Paul's "own son in the faith" (1Ti 1:2). He joined Paul's company on his second journey, and worked with him thereafter till the end of Paul's life.

His father was a Gentile (Acts 16:1), and Timothy was not circumcised although he knew the Holy Scriptures from childhood (2Ti 3:15). His mother Eunice and grandmother Lois were faithful believers (2Ti 1:5), but his father and grandfather were not so mentioned. It would appear from this that faithfulness was on the female side of the family and probably in the face of difficulties.

Paul's choice of Timothy to accompany him, as well as Timothy's subsequent field of labor, was apparently indicated by the Holy Spirit (1 Tim 1:18).

Timothy lived at Lystra (Acts 16:2), in eastern Asia Minor. When Paul arrived there on his second journey, Timothy joined him and traveled eastward with him through Asia Minor to Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.

Some have assumed, from Paul's exhortations to him to "endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" and to "let no man despise thy youth", that Timothy was timid and lacking in missionary fervor for the work of the Truth. But surely the picture we get of him in this his earliest appearance in the work, where the brethren were experiencing persecutions, shows him to be exceptionally faithful, zealous, courageous, and devoted.

From Thessalonica, Timothy rejoined Paul at Corinth and stayed with him for the rest of the second journey. He accompanied Paul on his third journey (which ended with Paul's arrest and transferal to Rome), three years of which were spent in Ephesus. He was with Paul on the return trip to Jerusalem, at the end of which a riot occurred in Jerusalem and Paul was imprisoned.

We have no record of Timothy while Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea, nor on the journey to Rome. He appears again with Paul in Rome -- part of the time, at least, a prisoner himself -- for Heb 13:23 records that Timothy had been "set at liberty", as Paul himself was then expecting to be.

"Church": The word "ekklesia" (Greek: assembly or congregation) is used of the first body of believers in Jerusalem and Judaea (Acts 5:11); of the bodies of believers organized in various cities of the Empire, as in Thessalonica; and of the whole body of believers throughout the world, without regard to location (Eph 1:22,23). Sometimes it refers to a small "house-meeting" (Phm 1:2; Col 4:15): in Rome, for example, there were at least three house-ecclesias (Rom 16:3,5,14,15).

"In God the Father": This phrase defines the status of Christ's brethren, a high and holy calling. In one sense all the world is "in God the Father", even though not "in the Lord Jesus Christ."

As Paul told the Athenians:

"... in Him we live, and move, and have our being, as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also His offspring" (Acts 17:28).
But this obviously is not the sense in which Paul uses the phrase in his greetings to the ecclesias. The relationship which believers have with God the Father is not biological; it is mental and moral, a matter of enlightened choice and intelligent obedience. This "Fatherhood" is restricted to those who are born anew, in faith (Gal 3:26; John 3:1; 5:4) through baptism (Rom 6:3; 8:10), which constitutes "adoption" ("huiothesis": placing in the position of a son; sonship) (Rom 8:16,17; Gal 4:5).

"Grace": The Greek word is "charis" -- a gift, or favor -- any and all of God's blessings and gifts of the Holy Spirit; but it certainly signifies much more as well.

Grace is the favorable attention, and love, and care, and comfort and guidance from God the Father toward us. To receive grace from God is to come within the scope of His glorious light, and to be accepted as part of His chosen family, constantly overshadowed by His angelic protection.

This grace is extended without partiality to all who, in Truth, yield themselves entirely to Him: this means placing ourselves in His hands and allowing His Word to work in us. We must allow the Truth as it is in Jesus to dominate all aspects of our lives -- endeavoring to give our all to him, holding nothing back, in hope of the day when we will be "filled with all the fulness of God". Just holding certain beliefs, and attending the meetings of believers, will not guarantee God's grace upon us. We must also be receptive to Him; we must be moved to activity according to His purpose. Then and only then may we enter into the glory of the grace of God.

"Peace": To the Greeks and Romans, as to the western mind today, "peace" means simply the absence or cessation of war and external strife. But the Hebrew "Shalom" carries the deeper spiritual sense of unity of mind and purpose, of mental harmony and tranquillity.

This "peace" is the blessing we all need most. It only comes through the grace of God. This peace is an impervious mental shield against all fears and anxieties. It is not freedom from external conflict: that is not important. It is freedom from internal conflict, which is everything.

Jesus said, just before the terrible suffering of his crucifixion:

"Peace I leave with you: my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid... These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 14:27; 16:33).
And Paul, beaten sorely and chained in the Philippian prison for the sake of the glorious gospel he preached, sang hymns of praise at midnight (Acts 16:25). Later he assures the brethren in Philippi, who had been so moved by his earlier witness, that the "peace" he had experienced and revealed to others could be their "peace" as well:

"the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phi 4:7).
"From God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ": A number of manuscripts omit this repetition, with the suggestion that it is possibly borrowed from earlier in the verse. Thus it does not appear in the NIV and RSV.


A brief glance at Paul's introductory words, in this as in his other letters, reminds us of an important truth. 1 Thessalonians is a real letter written to real people. It is not, first and foremost, a theological treatise to be analyzed. As a letter, written probably hurriedly in the midst of an incredibly busy life, it requires reading as if through the lips of first-century believers. Something of the fires of persecution and trial, or at least of sacrificial labor, must flavor our study of such letters. We must rouse ourselves from the comforts of our easy chairs, take our "talents" out into the "marketplace" of the world, and work there for God, before Paul the beloved apostle may begin to speak to our hearts, and not just to our intellects.

* * *

This introductory verse is significant also for some things which it does not say. We notice that, in contrast to others of his letters (ie, Rom 1:1; 1Co 1:1; 2Co 1:1; Gal 1:1, etc), Paul does not assert his apostleship. Even in this, one of the earliest if not the earliest letter, Paul was experiencing denigration from his enemies (1Th 2:6), but so far his apostleship itself was not being called in question.

* * *

Throughout his two letters to the Thessalonians (as here in v 1), Paul constantly associates the Father and the Son in the closest of fashions (v 3; 1Th 3:11-13; 5:18; 2Th 1:1,2,8,12; 2:16,17; 3:5). Though Jesus is obviously subordinate to his Father, he is nevertheless exalted to the highest position in the divine hierarchy (Phi 2:9-11). What Christ does, God does. In line with this is Paul's application to Jesus of the title "Lord" ("Kyrios"). This is a word which implies mastery of all things (Mat 28:18), and recalls the glorious promise of Gen 1:28 -- that one day man in his perfection, Christ, will have ultimate dominion over all God's creation (Psa 8:4-6; 1Co 15:27; Eph 1:20-22).

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