1 Thessalonians

Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Chapter 1

(1) Beloved, Paul wrote this letter with his friends, Silvanus and Timothy. It was the first of two correspondences that went to the church at Thessalonica, a large city in the Roman province of Macedonia. As always, Paul offered them grace and peace.

(2-3) Paul routinely thanked me for my Spirit’s work in the churches and asked that I would continue my work among them. Like them, be faithful to your calling, which is love. I know that it can be hard to press in with love when so much of the fallen world resists it, but you know that a magnificent life is coming, which is life in my Son’s presence. Hold on to his return with hope.

(4-6a) Dear child, never forget how much I love you. You rightly believe that because I am love, I love all my image bearers, but I want you to hear this: I love you. I chose you. I have revealed my word to you. The Bible is not a lifeless book, simply one volume in a library; its words fill you with life because you meet me there. As you read, it is my very Spirit who stirs your soul, knitting my words to your DNA, and it is changing you. Much like Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, you are becoming the kind of person who tries to imitate my Son’s life, by my Spirit and for my glory.

(6b-9) Even when you are criticized or disregarded for believing my word, do not let it steal the joy that only my Holy Spirit can give. Your joy in me will encourage others. The way you carry yourself will have a much greater impact upon others than you would expect. When my word is carried by the lips and lives of joy-filled saints, the effect is striking. People cannot help but share the stories of the work of my people when my Spirit is at work within them, because the changes are truly miraculous.

(10) Keep hoping in my Son, through thick and thin. He was crucified, bearing the sins of mankind and he rose again, victorious over death, and rose into heaven, returning to my presence. One day, he will return again and all things will be set right. All evil will be destroyed.

Chapter 2

(1-2) Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians came through some pain and conflict, but it was not fruitless. Beloved, consider Paul’s life: he boldly advocated for my Son, even where it was hard to do so. Like Paul, you may face a lot of pushback and conflict from both the church and the world. Stand firm.

(3-6) My story of selfless love is the most beautiful message you can imagine. As you share it with others, allow it to come from a pure heart. Never use my word to manipulate, control, or deceive. Seek pure motives—love for me and love for others.

(7-8) As you seek to love others, be gentle. Have you ever witnessed the tenderness of a nursing mother with her newborn baby? Be like that. Let your care for others flow from the love that fills you and enlivens you. Honor the preciousness of everyone, knowing that they are my beloved children.

(9) Work hard at what you do. Do not let laziness be a barrier to telling people about my Son. Let others see how much you value my truth by your willingness to be poured out for it.

(10-12) Live well before others, believers and non-believers alike. Live a life of love. Do not let your character be an excuse for people to reject my word. Teaching people about my kingdom involves modeling it yourself, just as parents do with their children.

(13) Paul knew that when he spoke, it was really my message he was sharing. Like Paul, rejoice when you see people grasping the truth that my Son changes people from the inside out.

(14-16) You learn through imitation and observation. Imitate my Son, practicing the same love that he showed, knowing that doing so is countercultural, upsetting both religious and non-religious people. The Bible is filled with stories of faithful people who suffered and died for my truth. No one likes to be confronted about their self-centeredness and grasping for power. Expect resistance. They will do whatever they can to impede my message, but in the end, my justice will always be served.

(17-19) Paul knew the power of personal connection. He relished the face to face time he had with the Thessalonian believers, knowing their time together had been cut short because of persecution, but their physical separation did not negate his affection for them. In fact, he tried repeatedly to see them face to face, but Paul was repeatedly prevented. Paul valued the opportunity to bear witness to the maturing of the saints as they awaited my Son’s return. Becoming like my Son is where true glory and joy are found.

Chapter 3

(1-2) Paul ministered in a time before mass communication was possible, so he often did not know what was happening with the churches he had planted for long stretches of time. Ministry is about personal connection. Working in Athens, Paul was eager to hear what was happening, so he sent Timothy to gather news and to encourage the Thessalonian church.

(3-5) Paul understood that affliction is a part of life. Beloved, in different times and different ways, you also will face seasons of suffering. The pain may be mild, or it may be severe; it may be brief or seem unending. Hold fast to me. Do not be surprised by suffering, because the world has not yet been completely renewed. Birth pains remain. Check in on people who you know are suffering, because pain is often difficult to manage. Nietzsche famously said, “Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger.”[1] He was on to something, but incomplete. Whatever kills your old self, though painful at the time, strengthens your new self. Encourage others to press into their pain so that they may know me more deeply and stay alert to deception. 

(6-8) The Thessalonians were living lives of faith and love, and they reciprocated Paul’s longing to connect. Tell others your story. Learn from them and let them learn from you.

(9-10) Always give thanks for the people in your life—people who care for you, challenge you, and walk alongside you. Remember them all in your prayers because they are each uniquely helping you to become the person I want you to be. Be filled with joy about what you see happening in others. Pray that you might minister to their needs as they minister to yours.

(11-13) Beloved, as you live, love, and relate, remember that I am with you. I am present wherever love happens because I am love. As you strive to know me more intimately, the flow of my love in you will spill out and wash over others too. My love is not a shallow, stagnant pool; it is a tidal wave that sweeps over everything. Do you want to understand holiness? It is love. Pure love is pure holiness. Do you seek to live out your sainthood? Then seek to become love.

Chapter 4

(1-2) Beloved, I have called you to live a life of wholeness and holiness. You know the stories about all that my Son taught and did. My word, together with my Spirit, prompts you to continue growing in me. I am so proud of you when I see you striving to grow. Day by day, year by year, you are becoming who I created you to be.

(3-4) Your sanctification is my will. Sanctification means growing in becoming like my Son. The impurities within you are removed as you reflect his glory. C.S. Lewis captured the truth of sanctification when he wrote, “Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”[2] My Spirit is molding your flesh into the image of my Son, though you have already been made perfect by his death on the cross. Seek to get a handle on your desires. Practice saying no to fleshly passions. Honor your body by seeking wholeness; do not try to split yourself between acting holy on the one hand and surrendering to unholy passions on the other.

(5-6) The kingdom of the world gives little to no thought to unrestrained passions and lusts. They do not know the wholeness that is found only in me, so they seek after fulfillment wherever they can find it, not realizing they are cleaving their souls and relationships. I will not allow this culture of unwholeness to proceed unfettered forever; the souls of my image bearers are too important to me. My corrective will be painful but necessary, like the setting of a broken bone.

(7-8) I have created you for wholeness without a trace of impurity. My Son is 100% pure and in him, you also are pure, holy, and righteous. Because your life is in him, you are already pure. My Holy Spirit, who is in you, testifies to this truth. When you disregard my Spirit, you disregard me and deny who you already are. Be who you are by my Spirit.

(9-10) You already know how much I value love. My Son himself said, “As I have loved you, so you should love one another.”[3] It warms my heart when I see the love that happens between believers. When you willingly seek to meet one another’s physical, relational, and spiritual needs, it is a testimony of love. Allow your generosity to be stretched.

(11-12) Here is a good thing to remember: work hard, live a quiet life, and mind your own business. Help others when you can and allow them to help you when you are in need, but do not take advantage of them. Do not refuse charity when you are in need, but beware of the temptation to exploit and manipulate it.

(13-14) Beloved, I know you have questions and ideas about what happens to people after death. What happens to Christians who have died? What about the Old Testament saints? Do not worry, I have it all in hand. Of course, you will feel the sting of grief when a loved one dies; my Son did too,[4] but it is not a hopeless grief, because you know that I will restore life. My Son is the shining example of the resurrected life, but resurrection is true for all. Like my Son, all who have died will be made physically alive again.

(15-18) Those who are still alive when my Son returns have no advantage over the dead. Jesus will descend again with much fanfare, loud voices and trumpets announcing his return. The grave will be unable to restrain the dead who will burst forth to celebrate the returning King. Then, all who are alive will be swept into the cloud of my glory in my kingdom. We will not dance together in the grave, but in the fresh, clean air of Zion. Be encouraged. I will set everything right once more.

Chapter 5

(1-2) Do not give a moment’s thought to exactly when my Son will come back. You will not be able to predict it. The many who have tried and failed dishonor my sovereignty. Simply trust that I have eternity in hand.

(3-5) Some people will believe that everything is good and safe when the world begins to fall apart. They will feel confused and crestfallen, no longer feeling the world offers them security. But you have no need to be surprised because you are child of light. You see my hand at work as though it were full daylight. Your life does not exist in shadow, but in the penumbra of my glory.

(6-8) Keep your eyes open, aware that I am always at work in you and in the world. Stay attuned to the evidence of my work. Do not live in ignorance. I have clothed you with faithfulness and love. Allow the truth of your salvation to protect your mind so that your thinking does not veer off course.

(9-11) Listen, beloved: I have not destined you for wrath, but for salvation in my Son. My anger is directed against those things that ensnare and seek to destroy my image bearers. I hate sin because of the way it fractures my saints. In order to restore wholeness, I will pour out my anger against all things that threaten you. Keep encouraging one another, remembering that I am doing what is necessary to make you whole.

(12-13) Be respectful of others. You are all involved in working for my kingdom. Let graciousness clothe you. Show a lot of love and mercy because kingdom work can be difficult at times. Seek to live at peace with others.

(14) As you live with one another, do not be afraid to give a push to those who are at a standstill, give encouragement to those who are floundering, and help those who seem to be falling behind, always doing so with patience.

(15) Do not retaliate. My kingdom no longer operates according to the principle of an “eye for an eye.” Instead, always seek to improve the situation, doing good to friends and enemies alike.

(16-18) Let your life be a prayer, a constant communion with my Spirit, your true source of joy. Give thanks for everything because it is all a part of your story. A life of prayerful union is my will for you.

(19-22) My Holy Spirit is the inner fire that encourages, instructs, and admonishes you. Do not throw cold water on him. Be willing to truly listen to other believers, but test everything you hear by my Spirit so that you are not led astray. There are innumerable forms of evil; stay away from all of them.

(23-24) Beloved, hear this: I am the God of shalom, which is true wholeness and peace. I am in the process of forming you into exactly who I created you to be. In the meantime, remember that my Son has already called you perfect and you will be kept that way until his return. I guarantee it.

(25-28) Pray for one another. Do not be afraid to show affection. Believe my word, trusting in the security of your salvation. Every day remember the truth of my grace.

[1] Frederich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 1888.

[2] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Harper One, 1952), 177.

[3] John 13:34.

[4] John 11:35.