Online Bible Commentary
Spreading the Gospel
1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, 4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. 5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. (NKJV)
The undisputed writer of this letter is Paul. Paul and Silas planted a church in Thessalonica in early 50 A.D. on Paul’s second missionary journey. Thessalonica, now known as Thessaloniki or Salonika, is the second largest city in Greece and the capitol of Greek Macedonia. It was a hub of commerce, located on a major trade route. As such it was a prime city for the spread of the gospel.
Paul visited the synagogue “for three Sabbaths” and “reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). He reasoned the Gospel, explaining how Christ had to die, was buried, and was resurrected to fulfill prophecy (Acts 17:3). Through Paul’s teaching many of “the devout Greeks” and more than a few of “the leading women” of the city converted to Christianity (Acts 17:4).
After leaving Thessalonica because of persecution Paul and Silas spent eighteen months (Acts 18:11) in Corinth, Greece. When Timothy joined them he gave a good report on the new church in Thessalonica, which prompted the writing of this letter in late 50 or early 51 AD. Timothy delivered the letter to the church shortly thereafter. This was Paul’s second letter, after his letter to the Galatians.
Paul includes Silas and Timothy in addressing the Thessalonica believers (v. 1a). The name Silas is the contracted from of the name Silvanus. Paul sends “Grace…and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 1b). Grace is the underserved and unmerited favor of God and peace is the result of this grace.
Paul gives “thanks” for the new believers and lets them know that he has been praying for them (v. 2). He continues to encourage them by writing that he is always remembering “their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”, which is also “in the sight of our God and Father”, who called them through His foreknowledge (vv. 3-4).
Paul completes this passage by writing “our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit” (v. 5a). The “Gospel” is the good news of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel is expressed not just in words but also by the power of God and the earthly works of the Holy Spirit, God on earth. This Gospel can be trusted because the new believers “know what kind of men we were among you” (v. 5b). The believers know the Christian character of Paul and his followers. A good reputation helps to spread the Gospel.
As Christians we should all be in the business of spreading the Gospel. There is power in our words when we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us. It is also important to display good Christian character. This is referred to as lifestyle evangelism.