A seemingly negative chapter is crammed with profound comments on false teachers and the immense danger of association. It reviews their infiltration of the church throughout time, and warns believers of growing used to surrounding worldliness and the power of secret sin.
Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is a letter with much biographical information.
Less than a year before, Paul had gone to Thessalonica with Silas and Timothy and began to preach, and a most dramatic result followed as people came to the Lord. The city (population c.200,000) was large and rich; it had free status in the Roman world and was very proud of itself as the Roman capital of Macedonia. Yet, from the thousands of Gentile pagans and superstitious idolaters, many were converted and came to Christ. So the church was large and full of young believers, some of them very young believers. But they are standing firm.
Paul was in Thessalonica for at least three weeks (probably longer) according to the records in Acts 17 and Philippians. Early visits to the Thessalonican synagogue had reaped a small harvest among Jews, but antagonism and opposition quickly arose and it became very vehement and fierce. In the meantime, Paul, Silas and Timothy went on preaching to the Gentiles. But ultimately there was great uprising and trouble, and Paul and his companions had to be spirited out of the city.
Paul now writes around AD 51, from Corinth. His first letter to the Thessalonians is full of tender encouragement. He was tremendously uplifted by the way they had received the gospel, the tremendous changes in their lives and the progress that they had made.
And so he writes this great letter of exhortation. Remember that the Judaisers, the heretics, were prowling. They followed the mission of Paul among the Gentiles wherever he went, and they would soon turn up and seek to draw aside the churches (largely composed of Gentiles) into error. So the churches had to be taught, strengthened, warned, and drawn close to the Saviour.
But this letter, as with 2 Thessalonians, is particularly famous for what it teaches about the last days and the return of Christ. It also gives a wonderful insight into Paul’s methods, which are normative for us. He commands us to be imitators of him, to follow his methods. Paul is called by God to provide not only the gospel and the teaching but also the methods to be followed by the churches of Christ, and he discloses much about his methods in 1 & 2 Thessalonians.