My Wednesday night Bible study is doing First Thessalonians this year. Doing an overview is not part of what we do as a group but I personally find this helpful. I want to know, WHO wrote this book? WHAT are their circumstances and motivation for writing and WHERE were they when they wrote? Discovering the answers from their own hand helps me understand the message of the book. Finding the answers is not madness, it comes from method.
I start my author overview by marking every reference to the author(s) and the verb connected to their name or pronoun with blue pencil. This makes it easier for me to go back to make my list about the author. My first list is all the information I find connected to their name. I like to put my list on one page so that I can analyze it without needing to flip paper to see everything. The first thing I will be looking for is, who is (are) the author(s), what do they say about themselves in general?
There are three different people who credit themselves with authorship of this book. They are … (author information is from my past studies, not information pulled from this book)
Paul: a zealous man, raised by a family from Tarsus who were wealthy enough to send him to religious school in Jerusalem. He was raised by Rabbi’s from the time of his bar mitzvat. Rather then being a boarding school brat, he excelled in his studies. As a man, he became a leading member of TEAM TRADITION, persecuting any Jewish person who strayed from religion as he understood it. On a trip to Damascus, outside of the Roman empire, he had a dramatic confrontation with Jesus. From that day on, he was a believer in Y’shua-Jesus.
Sivanus: Very little is know about Sivanus or how he became a believer. Tradition says that he was one of the seventy whom Jesus sent out to witness to the Jews. If so, then he was a follower of The Way long before Paul. He may have even been one of the believers whom Paul persecuted
Timothy: This young man had a Jewish mother and a Greek father. His mother and grandmother were of the faith. Many believe that it was Paul rather then his mother or gram’ma who introduced him to salvation. However he happened to come to faith, he had an upbringing that was nearly the opposite of Paul’s yet Paul calls him his brother and fellow worker (1Thess 3:2)
What do they say about themselves? They are men who have been approved by God (as diverse as their backgrounds are). They are gentle, devout, upright, and blameless (1Thess 2:5, 10) They say they are constantly thankful to God (2:13). Thankfulness is important because it is an acknowledgement of God’s will for our lives. Next I am shocked by the statement that they are “destined for affliction”. This is important next to their approval by God. The affliction they suffer could be wrongly interpreted as God’s rejection. Something I need to keep in mind when it seems as if nothing is going according to plan… or maybe worse, falls short of the expectations of others. The authors are men who rejoice because of the Thessalonians, who are comforted by the faith of others and who pray with gusto. They also request prayer for themselves.
This letter is to the Thessalonians but that is not where the authors are when they write. The text tells me that they are in the Greek city of Athens, not a very happy place for the Apostle Paul.
What are the authors circumstances? Chapter 2 starts out telling me that they have suffered yet they spoke the Gospel boldly to the Thessalonians when they were there. Now they are hindered by Jews who do not want to see gentiles excel at their own religion. They are hindered by Satan himself in their desire to return to Thessaloniki (the name of the city of the Thessalonians). But again they make sure I know that they thank God as acknowledgement of His will. Even so, they say that they are at the end of their endurance and are afraid (3:5), yet comforted by the news Timothy brings them after his visit to their Thessalonian church. They encourage the believers that, even though they themselves are destined for affliction, that is not their final destiny. They watch for Y’shua to return knowing that their ultimate destiny is eternal Salvation. This is their motivation to Live for Him (5:9-10). In fact, living for God may be the motivation for writing this letter. Most of chapters 4 and 5 are about how to live for God in this world.
The book closes letting us know that none of us are alone. The authors ask for prayer and for the letter to be read to other churches.
Today has been tough. The days ahead are days when we need to encourage each other to “stand firm” (the meaning of A’men) on the Word of God.
Debs in Everett WA, October 14, 2017 …who is about to start her overview of the recipients.