Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "Earlier New Testament Epistles"
First Thessalonians


Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible



    1. The writer: "Paul" 1a
      Peter calls Paul's writings "Scripture" (2 Peter 3:16; the Holy Spirit is author)

    2. Those written to: The Thessalonians 1b
      Church "in Thessalonia" is the local church; Church "in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" is the Church spiritually viewed--the universal Church.

      Four things concerning the word "church"; we have been:

      1. "called out" FROM our former manner of life

      2. "called out" BY the Holy Spirit. Not by a human being. although a human being is usually used by God as an instrument.

      3. "called out" TO not merely a different mode of living, not to an organization, but called out to a Person, the Lord Jesus, 1 Corinthians 1:9.

      4. "called out" FOR not merely to gain heaven, or receive
        blessing, but FOR the purpose of bringing glory TO the person TO whom we have been called out BY the Holy Spirit FROM our former manner of life.

        The phrase "in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" shows that:

        The Church is not pagan, because the pagans knew nothing of God the Father.
        The Church is not Jewish, because the Jews believed nothing of Jesus as Lord and Christ.

        Thus the Church is an absolutely new thing, neither Gentilic nor Jewish, itself forming a third classification of humanity in this age (1 Corinthians 10:32).

        Christ is "the firstborn among many brethren."
        Before the resurrection it was "the God of our fathers"; now it is "God our Father."

    3. Salutation 1c
      Grace and peace -- the minute one rests in grace he has peace. The order is never reversed in the N.T. The practical use of grace leads to the peace of God.

    4. Thanksgiving and prayer 2-4

      1. Continual thanksgiving 2a

      2. Continual prayer 2b

      3. Cause of thanksgiving and prayer 3-4a.

        1. What he remembered of them 3

          1. (1) Their work, produced by faith. Their part was receiving it, retaining it, and revealing it; but it was a work of faith throughout. It grew up out of the seed plot of faith.

          2. (2) Their labor, produced by love, therefore akin to God's own love (John 3:16). Love toward God, not man, is the cause of my labor. If I truly love God, I will truly love man (1 Timothy 3:16).

          3. (3) Their patience, produced by hope.
            Patience = endurance, being able to stick it through (Romans 12:12). Endurance in trial, yet rejoicing in hope. Hope is necessary that labor might be. If there is no hope, labor becomes mechanical and then ceases. The reason for this is because there is no need for it when hope is gone. Compare the death of a loved one; we labor incessantly till hope ceases with their death. The hope of Christianity is the coming of the Lord. It was this that gave endurance to the Thessalonians.

        2. What he knew of them 4
          Their "election" (cp. Luke 10:22; Acts 1:2,24; 13:17; 1 Corinthians 1:27; Eph. 1:4). Election means "to choose, " not so much to salvation as to service. Paul did not know this by intuition or revelation but by observation (cp. v.5b). Verse 3 showed them to be genuine believers.

    Paul is always giving thanks for this church. In verse 7 it is called a "model" church. They had a Christianity that was a pattern of what true Christianity really is. We should therefore observe what made them a model church.

    1. The CHARACTER of Early Christianity 1:5-10

      1. Its foundation 5
        "Our Gospel": not that the gospel originated with Paul (2:2), but God gave it to Paul (Gal. 1:11-12). "We preach this message that was given us by God."
        The gospel message contains three basic things with double emphases:

        1. Our Lord's Person (God and Man)\

        2. His Work (Death and Resurrection)

        3. His Second Coming (Rapture and Return) The appeal of the gospel
          Not merely a fact, an appeal to the mind; or eloquence, an appeal to the soul; but an appeal to the heart and will and spirit of man which, in the power of the Spirit, regenerates him. It comes "in much assurance."

      2. Its manifestation is seen in their: 6-8

        1. Following the Lord's Person 6a

        2. Trusting the Lord's Spirit 6b

        3. Publishing the Lord's Word 7-8
          Real missionaries! "Sounded out" (8) means not whispered but "thundered forth."

      3. Its scope 9-10

        1. Commencement or origination (Salvation)
          "Turned to God from idols. " Modern preaching is: "Turn from idols to God." It is not our business to get people to turn from anything, but to get them to turn to Someone who can turn them inside out. It was not the repelling power of the idols but the impelling power of God that caused the Thessalonians to turn. In turning to God they necessarily turned from idols. A person might turn from idols and still not turn to God, but never the reverse.

        2. Continuation (Service)
          "To serve the living and true God." The "living God" as contrasted with dead idols; the "true God" as opposed to false gods. In serving God, we truly serve men.

        3. Consummation (Second Coming)
          "And wait for His Son from heaven." The hope of Christianity is the Son's coming. Two things are coming: the Son is coming and wrath is coming. Wrath for those who have not turned to God from idols, and the Son for those who have turned to God from idols.

    2. The MINISTRY of Early Christianity 2:1-4:12

      1. The character of that ministry 2:1-16
        Paul in his ministry covered the whole range of Christian service:

        1. As an evangelist, he imparted spiritual life 2:1-6 Power of the evangelist: "bold in our God 2 Preaching of the evangelist: "the gospel of God" cp. 1:5 Practice of the evangelist: "so we speak." No flattery, no softening of the truth; we are to look upon the gospel as something which is "in trust." We of PCB are in danger, not of denying truth, but of omitting things that should be said.

        2. As a pastor, he nourished spiritual life 2:7-8
          Pastor here is pictured as a trained nurse who is the mother of the child, caring for her own children. (Baby might want, and mama as mama might want to give it, but mama as the trained nurse won't give it.) Love and skillful knowledge combined.

        3. As a minister, he strengthened spiritual life 2:9-12

          1. By example 9-10 (the figure is changed to a "father.")

          2. By exhortation 11

          3. That they might walk worthy 12

        4. As a witness, he bears testimony to that life 2:13-16

          1. They had received their word as the Word of God 13

          2. They became followers of the churches of God (in Judea) which are in Christ Jesus 14a

          3. They had suffered for His name 14b-16

      2. Opposition to that ministry 2:17-18
        Opposition to the gospel does not arise from the various cults or evils, but from Satan. He is the opposer of the Christian minister. Satan often oversteps himself. So here, in hindering Paul. Satan hindered Paul from going but that is why Paul wrote this book. He kept Paul from going to a handful of Christians but millions of Christians since then have had this book that Paul wrote. Satan must kick himself around the block every time he sees anyone reading it. There is comfort in this thought, because if we do the thing next hi line when hindered by Satan in our primary object, we may under God accomplish more than the primary object would have accomplished.

      3. The crown of that ministry 2:19-20
        Souls saved! (Joy and crown today is in statistics; "annual report")

      4. The spirit (heart-attitude) of that ministry 3:1-5
        Always thinking of them; keeping them on his heart. What a minister Paul was! He puts us to shame.

      5. The comfort of that ministry 3:6-9
        Joy in their growth is comfort indeed. Note the words "faith and love" (v.6). Absence of "hope" is significant in view of 4:13-18.

      6. The desire of that ministry 3:10-13
        That he might continue to help them, but only as God directs him!

      7. The instruction of that ministry 4:1-12

        1. Concerning their walk before God: "Holiness" 1-8
          They had come out of paganism and were surrounded by things in the very worship of pagan religions which were not acceptable to a holy God. They had a terrifically immoral background --"glorified lust." How different is Christianity!

        2. Concerning their walk before one another: "Love" 9-10
          We should be satisfied with Christ, but not with our Christian life; always abound more and more!

        3. Concerning their walk before outsiders: '' Un-blamable" 11-12
          "Learn to be quiet"; well-poised; not easily knocked off our balance and upset.

    3. The HOPE of Early Christianity 4:13-5:11
      The coming of the Lord to the air FOR His saints. Paul is here teaching a new thing. He had taught them from the O.T. concerning the return of the Lord to the earth. (The charge brought against him was that he preached "a king" -- evidently Christ's coming to earth. Acts 17:7). But either for lack of time or misunderstanding of what he did teach or more likely because the Lord had not yet revealed to him the details of His coming as related to the Church, he now finds it necessary to give instruction to the Church concerning His coming to the air, the Rapture. Verse 15 indicates that he had a definite revelation concerning these things.

      1. In relation to "sleeping ones" 4:13-16
        vv.13-14 "if we believe... " A. T. Robertson calls this "the IF of certainty";
        "if. . .as the case most assuredly is. . ." We would say, "whereas we believe..."; because this is true, the rest follows certainly. It is just these important things that Paul so stressed that the Church is most ignorant concerning today. He is not saying that we shouldn't sorrow, but but we shouldn't sorrow as others. Ours is not a hopeless sorrow. Our Our sorrow is tempered and lightened by this sure hope. Just as Jesus died and rose again, just so surely will our loved ones be raised and share in that glorious earthly kingdom.

        vv. 15-16 But how can He bring them back to earth with Him (14)?
        Their bodies are still in the grave. Verses 15 and 16 tell us the process by which Christ will take them to be with Him, so that He may bring them back when He returns to earth. He will (according to this new revelation to meet their special need) come first to the air to catch up His Church to heaven (both those who have died in Christ and those who are alive); then later bring them back to earth when He comes to set up His kingdom. ("Sleep" = "made to sleep" involuntary. This is God's euphemism for a believer's "death.")

      2. In relation to living ones 4:17-18
        Living believers will not ascend before those who "sleep. " Nor will "sleeping" (dead) believers ascend first. They simply "rise" from the grave. Both the resurrected (rise "first" from grave) and living believers (we who are "alive and remain") will be changed instantly and will go up together to meet the Lord in the air. Isn't it just like the Lord to arrange that we will go hand in hand with our loved ones into His presence!! What comfort!

        NOTE: The NATURE of His Coming 16

        1. It is a personal coming--"the Lord Himself shall descend. If He does not come again in person, there is no reason to believe that He came in person the first time; and if He came in person the first time, there is no reason to doubt that He will come again in person the second time. The second coming is not death, nor the coming of the Holy Spirit, nor the conversion of the individual soul, nor the destruction of Jerusalem, but a literal, bodily Person who comes.

        2. It is imminent.
          There are many things that have to happen before Christ comes to earth, but there is nothing revealed in Scripture which must happen before He comes to the air. Hence His coming may be at any moment. Distinguish this from a "soon coming" belief based upon the growing fulfilment of certain signs that will accompany the Lord's coming to earth.

        3. It is a well-marked event--not a process.
          There is a trumpet, a shout, and we are gone (1 Corinthians 15:52; Revelation 4:1-2).

        4. All saints are included. There is not the slightest hint of any exception.

        5. Earth left. Everyone belonging to God, in or on the earth--GONE!

          TRANSLATION (Rapture to AIR) INVASION (Return to EARTH)
          Christ comes to the air Christ comes to the earth
          Christ comes for His saints Christ comes with His saints
          Church goes up to meet Him Church returns to earth with Him
          Translation "to air" of living saints Living saints left on earth for kingdom age
          Before "70th Week" of Daniel 9 After "70th Week" of Daniel 9
          Reunion with loved ones Reign with Christ
          Judgment seat of Christ (Church.) Judgment of apostate Israel and Gentiles
          "Fullness of Gentiles" Rom. 11:25 End of "Times of Gentiles"
          As Bridegroom As Judge
          As Lord As King
          "Comfort one another!" "Burn as an oven"
          "Morning star" "Sun of Righteousness"


      3. In relation to the earth 5:1-11

        1. They had already been instructed concerning "times and seasons."
          These are in the Father's hands (Acts 1:7). They were to witness and work while expectantly watching!

        2. The Day of the Lord will be unexpected by the world. 2-3

        3. But Christians know judgment is in store for the world. 4-5
          This age is the period of the world's darkness (night). But we are children of the day! We are working on the night shift, rescuing as many as possible from eternal night.

        4. Paul exhorts them to live soberly and watchfully in view of these facts. 6-11 (Compare 2 Peter 3:11.)
          In verse 7, Paul warns against "sleeping" (acting like worldlings in being careless and not watching) and against "drunkenness" (acting like worldlings in "drowning our sorrows" with the pleasures of this world). We cannot afford to be influenced by the world's attitude of "things will always go on as usual." The Lord is coming. He may come today! We should be awake and watching.

          NOTE: The term "Day of the Lord" refers to the period of judgment that begins with the translation of the Church. "The Day of the Lord Jesus Christ" or "The Day of Christ" appear to refer to the judgment of believers' works in heaven (1 Corinthians. 1:8; Philippians 2:16) while the judgment of unbelievers (Day of Lord) is taking place on earth. (See appendix note on this phraseology of various days.)

    4. The PRACTICE of Early Christianity 5:12-22

      1. In relation to leaders 5:12-13
        These men are gifts to them by the Lord (Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:3-11; 1 Corinthians 12). "Over you in the Lord"; not to "lord it" over you but to care for you as a shepherd.

        It doesn't say to esteem them very highly for their personality's sake, but "for their work's sake. " "And be at peace among yourselves" (in relation to these ministers). This is a much ignored exhortation which explains much of the trouble that churches have over pastors.

      2. In relation to fellow believers 5:14-15
        "Unruly" = out of rank or out of step. Those that err in doctrine or practice.
        "Warn them. " Hard to do, but this is the work of the saints.
        "Feebleminded" = faint-hearted or easily discouraged. Make sure you are not "feebleminded" yourself and then keep near them and support them.
        "Longsuffering" = patient. Long-tempered, not short. Take injury rather than cause trouble

      3. In relation to the personal life 5:16-18
        Unceasing: joy, 16; prayer, 17; praise, 18. "For this is the will of God" applies not only to the last of these, but to all three.

        2:14 shows that they are suffering, and yet 3:3 shows that their sufferings are appointed of God (Romans 8:28; 1 Peter 2:19-23).

        Since this is the will of God, they are to give thanks in everything. Giving thanks is like priming the pump (Psalm 103). If we praise the Lord for the blessings we do have, the rest will come.

      4. In relation to the truth 5:19-22
        "Quench not the Spirit"; and in close succession, "despise not prophesying, " "prove all things." Three sins to avoid are, do not:

        Vex the Spirit - when we do things against Himself
        Quench the Spirit - when we do things against His own
        Grieve the Spirit - when we do things against ourselves

        "Quench not the Spirit" means "do not despise prophesyings." Listen to your brother and don't discount what he has to say because you think you have all the truth of doctrine, or because you do not like him. God may have something to say to you through him. But listen to these things discerningly and hold fast that which is good (21).


  3. CONCLUSION 5:23-28

    1. His desire 23
      What a prayer!

    2. His assurance 24
      Without blame, not without blemish. We should have a clear conscience before God. Should have our sins confessed "up to date." His assurance was not in them but in the One who had called them. God's purpose: to make us like His Son. God's power: He does it. God's promise: He has given His oath.

    3. His request 25
      If Paul needed their prayers, how much more do we need prayer!

    4. His salutation 26
      A kiss in the Orient was the sign of equality and unity.

    5. His charge 27
      The epistle was for all. No secret code in Christianity!

    6. His benediction 28

      Note "grace" is a characteristic in all Paul's benedictions. (Some think that it has significance in Hebrews 13:25 as indicating Paul as author.



"Mason's Notes"

(formerly Philadelphia Biblical University, Philadelphia College of Bible.)
Copyright 2012 to present,
All rights reserved.

Cairn University

200 Manor Avenue
Langhorne, PA 19047
United States of America
"Mason's Notes" Study materials on this website are made available here free, through the generosity of Cairn University, and may be copied for use in Bible study groups, in limited numbers, providing that no charge is made for them.  No further distribution or use of these materials is allowable under U.S. or International Copyright Law without the express permission of Cairn University.