Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians
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Introduction to Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians
Overview of Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians
While Paul was waiting at Athens for Silas and Timothy to arrive, he became deeply concerned about his converts at Thessalonica. As already mentioned, a very close relationship had developed between Paul and his Thessalonian converts during his three-weeks-plus stay with them; and now he desired to know how they were faring. Were they standing fast in the Christian teaching? Or was the pressure of persecution proving too much for them? The suspense was more than he could bear. (See I Thess. 3:1.) When Silas and Timothy at length reached Athens, Paul instructed them to return at once to Thessalonica, so that they could bring him a firsthand report of the situation there. Meanwhile, Paul himself pressed on to Corinth, bidding Silas and Timothy join him there when they returned.
The report that was brought to Paul at Corinth was a very encouraging one. The converts at Thessalonica continued to hold Paul in highest esteem, and they were holding fast in their faith, despite much bitter persecution. However, one problem had arisen, and this was sorely disturbing the converts. Some of the Christians at Thessalonica had died since Paul’s departure; in some instances this was the result of the persecutions, while other converts had passed away through natural causes. But Paul, during his ministry at Thessalonica, had taught that the Messiah would be soon returning, and His coming would be the time of fulfilling all the glorious expectations of Jewish teaching. This important question therefore arose: Would death rob these dear departed ones of all the joys and glories of the Second Coming? Indeed, many of the converts were saying, “How can this promised Parousia be a joyous event to us, unless we can share it with our dear ones?” Paul thereupon dictated his First Epistle to the Thessalonians, which was carried by Timothy to Thessalonica. This Epistle contains the apostle’s answer to the converts’ all-important question. Actually, the Epistle is a great message of assurance, stressing two outstanding points.
- Paul assures the Thessalonian converts of his deepest regard for them, and highly commends them for their steadfastness in the face of such bitter persecution.
- Paul further assures the converts that death will not rob their dear ones of the joy and glory associated with the Second Coming. Indeed, those who have died “in Christ” are to be given first place in meeting the returning Lord. The details of this outstanding passage should be carefully studied:
“But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall be always with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:13-18).
Introduction to Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians by Herbert J. Hunt, former Dean of Bible Studies for the Unity School of Christianity.
For our will (Saul) to be transfigured into a Spirit-led will (Paul), an experience of the light of Truth (“beatific vision” on the road to Damascus) is needed.
For this experience to be had, our will (Saul) must be made ready to receive this Light through a period of study of Scripture/Truth. This time and study will awaken one’s innate zeal for Truth (Timothy) and build up our current “rugged state of consciousness” (Silas) as we increase in understanding.
Our transformed Spirit-led will moves throughout our being (Macedonia), interfacing with our various cities/aggregations of thoughts and beliefs. In areas where we have studied much and gained deeper understanding (Berea), we have more receptivity to the Spirit’s prompts and leadings, whereas in areas or issues where we have not yet sufficient understanding and zeal, we remain tossing to and fro like billowy waves (Thessalonica).
Therefore, the bridge between the parts of our consciousness that are able to discern the will of God and Truth and those parts that are not, is a shift in understanding. We can facilitate this shift in our understanding by spending more time in the studying of the Word of Truth and conversations with God. These practices awaken in us more zeal for Truth (Timothy) and more understanding (Silas), which are needed to support our Spirit-led will (Paul) as it moves through our aggregated thought centers (cities) spreading the Word of Truth (evangelizing the nations).
3 Key Themes in 1st Thessalonians
- Encouragement to persevere: When your inner church soul is suffering serious persecutions (error thoughts or circumstances of life), this is the time to praise … to praise God for His Presence and power, and to praise yourself for your patient endurance and dedication to continue in faith, hope, and love.
- Hope for the return of Christ: Whether in times of crisis or times of peace, we have the opportunity and access to return our awareness, over and over again, to the Christ, the Truth, the Word of God. This is our hope, our connection, the anchor for our soul.
- Keep increasing your love for fellow believers: Love is an inner quality that sees good everywhere and in everybody. It insists that all is good, and by refusing to see anything but good it causes that quality finally to appear uppermost in itself, and in all things. (RW/love)
Introduction to Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians by Rev. Mark Hicks.
Our Inner Church
1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,1 to the assembly2 of the Thessalonians3 in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- See 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2
- Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. Paul represents the will, which is an important factor in expressing the Christ actively in the life. Understanding (represented by Silvanus) and zeal or the inspired reason united with faith (Timothy) must cooperate with the will, if man would express the Christ fully.
- Assembly or “church.” The true church is an aggregation of spiritual ideas in individual consciousness. To establish a new aggregation of spiritual ideas of God within us, a new state of consciousness must first be formed. (MBD/church), thus, every “inner church” begins as a mental perception and by degrees establishes itself in the whole consciousness.
- Thessalonians. Thessalonica's ancient name was Thermæ, because of the many hot springs that were there), a city of Macedonia (the enthusiasm and energy of Spirit that set the whole of our being aflame), from which Paul (our Spirit-led will) is driven away by our lack of discernment of Spirit/Truth (persecution by the Jews). Thessalonica in us is that phase of our unfoldment that lacks sufficient thinking balance to give tolerance and wisdom [to Spirit’s leading or to that which arises in our lives] (billowy, tossed by the waves).(MBD/Thessalonica)
1:2 We always give thanks to God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers, 1:3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope1 in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father. 1:4 We know, brothers loved by God, that you are chosen, 1:5 and that our Good News came to you not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance.2 You know what kind of men we showed ourselves to be among you for your sake. 1:6 You became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 1:7 so that you became an example to all who believe in Macedonia and in Achaia. 1:8 For from you the word of the Lord has been declared, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone out; so that we need not to say anything. 1:9 For they themselves report concerning us what kind of a reception we had from you; and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God,3 1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.
- Faith and labor of love and patience of hope. By the right exercise of these qualities we realize a consciousness of power that fills us with confidence and courage, and assures our success.
- And with much assurance. Understanding, love, and power come to us as we gain deeper and firmer faith in the Christ.
- How you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God. When we turn our faith Godward and look for that which is perfect in all that concerns us, steadily refusing to recognize imperfection, we become conscious of the ideal expression of good (Jesus), and learn to depend upon its regenerative influence.
Fillmore Study Bible annotations compiled by Mary Salama.
World English Bible Footnotes:
Truth and Love in Ministry
2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers, our visit to you wasn't in vain, 2:2 but having suffered before and been shamefully treated, as you know, at Philippi, we grew bold in our God to tell you the Good News of God in much conflict. 2:3 For our exhortation is not of error, nor of uncleanness, nor in deception. 2:4 But even as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News, so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, who tests our hearts.1 2:5 For neither were we at any time found using words of flattery, as you know, nor a cloak of covetousness (God is witness), 2:6 nor seeking glory from men (neither from you nor from others), when we might have claimed authority as apostles of Christ. 2:7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother cherishes her own children.
2:8 Even so, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not the Good News of God only, but also our own souls,2 because you had become very dear to us. 2:9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and travail; for working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached to you the Good News of God. 2:10 You are witnesses with God, how holy, righteously, and blamelessly we behaved ourselves toward you who believe. 2:11 As you know, we exhorted, comforted, and implored every one of you, as a father does his own children,3 2:12 to the end that you should walk worthily of God, who calls you into his own Kingdom and glory. 2:13 For this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that, when you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe. 2:14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the assemblies of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus; for you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews; 2:15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and drove us out, and didn't please God, and are contrary to all men; 2:16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always. But wrath has come on them to the uttermost.
- So we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, who tests our hearts. As recorded in Acts 16 and Acts 17, Paul and Silas had been run out of town by wealthy Gentiles and prominent Jews for casting out evil spirits and speaking truth. Many temptations are set before the followers of Jesus, one of the strongest being the desire to trim Truth to please the people. Covetousness, money-getting, is another temptation. Many teachers and preachers suppress absolute truth, because it may offend some of their wealthy supporters.
- Impart to you, not the Good News of God only, but also our own souls. Paul was aggressive, yet affectionate and loving. Through love our thoughts and our words of Truth are charged with an abundance of growth. Jesus said that his words were Spirit and life. When our words are charged with Spirit and life and our hearts overflow with love, our words impregnate receptive souls; in this way seeds of the new birth are sown in receptive soil.
- We exhorted, comforted, and implored every one of you, as a father does his own children. Paul’s labor among them was pure, sincere, unselfish, and truly righteous. Interpreting this part of our lesson metaphysically, we perceive the necessity of one’s being undivided in thought and belief, when he speaks the Christ Truth into the individual consciousness.
Paul’s Great Desire
2:17 But we, brothers, being bereaved of you for a short season, in presence, not in heart, tried even harder to see your face with great desire,1 2:18 because we wanted to come to you--indeed, I, Paul, once and again--but Satan hindered us. 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Isn't it even you, before our Lord Jesus at his coming? 2:20 For you are our glory and our joy.
- With great desire Desire is a deep and onward impulse. It springs from deep within our Being and it has enduring power. Deep desire is essential to spiritual growth. It is desire—earnest and intense—that draws the whole being up out of mortality and its transient joys into the power to appreciate and to receive real spiritual blessings. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit is continually urging us to forsake earthly things and desire that which is of heaven. The desire to excel should be encouraged and cultivated in the right direction. It is in all of us. (RW/desire)
Fillmore Study Bible annotations compiled by Mary Salama.
World English Bible Footnotes:
Paul’s Great Desire (continued)
3:1 Therefore, when we couldn't stand it any longer, we thought it good to be left behind at Athens alone, 3:2 and sent Timothy, our brother and God's servant in the Good News of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith; 3:3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you know that we are appointed to this task. 3:4 For most certainly, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we are to suffer affliction, even as it happened, and you know. 3:5 For this cause I also, when I couldn't stand it any longer, sent that I might know your faith,1 for fear that by any means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor would have been in vain.
- When I couldn't stand it any longer, sent that I might know your faith. [Our being anchored and grounded in the knowledge (faith) that God is working all things for good, can sometimes become shaken when we are going through stages of our transmutation (times of testing, temptation). When we feel that we have reached a point where we “can’t stand it any longer,” we need to encourage ourselves by reestablishing our minds back in the Word of Truth.]
3:6 But when Timothy came just now to us from you, and brought us glad news of your faith and love, and that you have good memories of us always, longing to see us, even as we also long to see you;1 3:7 for this cause, brothers, we were comforted over you in all our distress and affliction through your faith. 3:8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. 3:9 For what thanksgiving can we render again to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sakes before our God; 3:10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face, and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith? 3:11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you; 3:12 and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you, 3:13 to the end he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
- Have good memories of us always, longing to see us Good, the Absolute; the incomparable; that which is Godly in its character (RW/good). [We have been given the ability to stir up longing for God, for good, for holiness, and so on. We do this by purposefully calling the good, the Absolute, to memory.]
Fillmore Study Bible annotations compiled by Mary Salama.
A Life Best-Fitting for Oneness with God
4:1 Finally then, brothers, we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, that you abound more and more.1 4:2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 4:3 For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, 4:4 that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 4:5 not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who don't know God; 4:6 that no one should take advantage of and wrong a brother or sister in this matter; because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified. 4:7 For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. 4:8 Therefore he who rejects this doesn't reject man, but God, who has also given his Holy Spirit to you.
4:9 But concerning brotherly love,2 you have no need that one write to you. For you yourselves are taught by God to love one another, 4:10 for indeed you do it toward all the brothers who are in all Macedonia. But we exhort you, brothers, that you abound more and more; 4:11 and that you make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, even as we instructed you; 4:12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing.
- Walk and to please God, that you abound more and more. [When we practice and apply living by the Words of Truth and guidance of the Spirit’s Inner Voice, we walk in the way of aligning with God, and when we walk (live) in this way, we abound more and more, in every good thing, even in our ability to continue walking the narrow path.]
- But concerning brotherly love. In practical Christianity every man, who aspires to the highest attainment in the Christian life, “needs not” to be taught of man the doctrine of “brotherly love,” because in finding God he finds Divine Love; and this Eternal Principle springs forth from the heart of love in spontaneity to every man, his brother.
The Resurrection of Those Who Have Died
4:13 But we don't want you to be ignorant,1 brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep,2 so that you don't grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.3 4:15 For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep.4 4:16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God's trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first,5 4:17 then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds,6 to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. 4:18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
- We don't want you to be ignorant. Paul’s teaching of the resurrection of the body was an entirely new idea to Gentile converts and therefore they were confused about the parousia, or Second Coming of Christ. What would be the state of those who had died before hearing the Christ message, and what would happen to those who were alive when He came? (Be Ye Transformed 87).
- Concerning those who have fallen asleep. The Resurrection is the great doctrine of the Christ, which has its basis in the truth that man is Spiritual and not material, and continues to live, though the external manifestation may perish. In this Christian doctrine we “sorrow not for them which are asleep, as other who have no hope” of anything beyond the physical manifestation of life.
- God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For the reappearance of Jesus after his death is proof positive that man does not die, that death is a delusion; for “them that sleep in Jesus,” as immortal Spiritual beings, have a resurrection from this appearance of death to the consciousness of life. The continuation of the living Spiritual man in an unseen Spiritual body is accomplished by the power of the Divine within.
- We who are alive ... will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. Therefore, “In the day when the Son of man is revealed,” when we shall see with unbeclouded vision, we shall understand that those, who on the physical plane demonstrated immortality, shall not take precedence over those who make the same demonstration through laying down the physical.
- The dead in Christ will rise first. For the first in the demonstration of life are “the dead in Christ,” they who “lay down their lives for Christ's sake.” “He that loseth his life for my sake, shall keep it unto life eternal,” shall not lose it at all, but shall make the demonstration of Life Eternal. This was the inspiration of the martyrs.
- Then we who are alive ... will be caught up together with them in the clouds. In realization, ascending above material ideas, until material conceptions disappear as fully as to those who have laid down the body.
Fillmore Study Bible annotations compiled by Mary Salama.
The Resurrection of Those Who Have Died (continued)
5:1 But concerning the times and the seasons,1 brothers, you have no need that anything be written to you. 5:2 For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord2 comes like a thief in the night. 5:3 For when they are saying, "Peace and safety," then sudden destruction will come on them, like birth pains on a pregnant woman; and they will in no way escape. 5:4 But you, brothers, aren't in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief. 5:5 You are all children of light, and children of the day.3 We don't belong to the night, nor to darkness, 5:6 so then let's not sleep, as the rest do, but let's watch and be sober. 5:7 For those who sleep, sleep in the night, and those who are drunk are drunk in the night. 5:8 But let us, since we belong to the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and, for a helmet, the hope of salvation. 5:9 For God didn't appoint us to wrath, but to the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 5:10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 5:11 Therefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as you also do.
- But concerning the times and the seasons. But in making this greatest of demonstrations “times and seasons” are not to be considered; immortality is not a condition to develop into, but a realization of that which already is and ever was.
- The day of the Lord. A “day,” or state of realization, instantaneously “comes,” not by “times and seasons” but in eternity, in the measureless Now. “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation,” the moment of realization. Instantaneity is the “thief” that steals away “times and seasons.”
- You are all children of light, and children of the day. They who understand something of the hidden springs of conduct and character are “of the day,” while those who lack self-understanding are of “the night” and cannot steer a straight course in temperate living.
The Coming of the Lord
Be at peace among yourselves.1 5:14 We exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward all. 5:15 See that no one returns evil for evil to anyone, but always follow after that which is good, for one another, and for all.
5:16 Rejoice always.2 5:17 Pray without ceasing.3 5:18 In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you. 5:19 Don't quench the Spirit. 5:20 Don't despise prophesies. 5:21 Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good.4 5:22 Abstain from every form of evil.
5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit, soul, and body5 be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
5:24 He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it. 5:25 Brothers, pray for us. 5:26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 5:27 I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the holy brothers.
5:28 The grace6 of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
- Be at peace among yourselves. It requires patience and perseverance to master all the thoughts that make up the various planes of consciousness in each of us. There are the “unruly” thoughts that have not yet learned the law of order. Then there are the “feeble-minded” thoughts, those that believe in inability and inefficiency. Here is where we must rise in Spirit and affirm the might and power of the I Am, which is the image and likeness of the Omnipresent God.
- Rejoice always. In order to keep ourselves continuously in the Christ consciousness we should abide in the thought of God and express the faculties that help us to enter into this consciousness.
- Pray without ceasing. There are activities of the Spirit which the intellectual man may not have discerned, and among them is the inner flame that constantly recognizes the presence and power of God, and a certain concentration of the mind within the devotee quickens the brain centers in the organism, until they constantly quiver with the vibrations of the Spirit.
- Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good. The Christ stirs us to “prove all things” and “hold fast that which is good.” The authority of the Christ is native to each individual. Only the good is to remain unchanged.
- Spirit, soul, and body. This is the biblical reference for the metaphysical trinity of human beings. The greek word for body is soma, not sarx (flesh).
- Grace. Good will; favor; disposition to show mercy; aid from God in the process of regeneration (RW/grace).
Fillmore Study Bible annotations compiled by Mary Salama.
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