I have been looking forward to this Sunday for a long time. For over a year I’ve been praying about the opportunity to preach through the book of 1 Thessalonians at LifePoint. This week we kick it off, with part 1 of The Hope and the Burden. It looks to be a 12-week series that will lead us right up to the doorstep of Easter (April 5).
Most people who are familiar with the Bible will probably recognize some phrases and verses from 1 Thessalonians, but it is (oddly) not one of Paul’s more popular letters. I’ve grown up in church my entire life, and I can’t remember hearing more than a small handful of sermons from 1 Thessalonians. I’ve definitely never heard it preached through line by line, as we will do at LPC over the next 3 months.
Here are a few things I have grown to love about this book:
1) It is a ground-breaking letter.
The first letter to the church at Thessalonica is likely the very first written document of the New Testament. Paul’s letters were being written, sent, copied, and passed from church to church before the publication of the gospels and the other NT writings. Mark’s gospel, likely the first gospel compiled, was published sometime around AD 60. First Thessalonians probably pre-dates Mark by at least a decade, meaning that Paul sent this letter to the church in Thessalonica less than 2 decades after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Gordon Fee (and there is wide-ranging agreement with him on this) dates the letter to around AD 49-50.
2) It is an encouraging letter.
From the very first chapter through the end, there is constant encouragement, hope, and exhortation. One of the first things Paul calls them is “brothers, loved by God.” Whereas letters like Galatians begin with more of a reprimand, 1 Thessalonians is a very positive letter from the outset. Paul was seeking to encourage a very young church very early in the development of the Church at large.
3) It is a transparent letter.
Paul doesn’t mince words or hide behind some apostolic veil in 1 Thessalonians. The letter is raw and real. He refers to the “shameful treatment” they received at Philippi, as well as the desires they (he, Silas, and Timothy) had to return to Thessalonica. He addresses some big issues like sexual purity, grieving loved ones who have died, and the second coming of Jesus.
4) It is an affectionate letter.
Paul refers to the recipients of this letter as “brothers” 20 times in only 89 verses. In chapter 2 alone, Paul talks about the leadership he, Silas, and Timothy exercised toward the church as both a “nursing mother taking care of her children” and “like a father with his children.” He also beautifully describes the relationship this way: “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
5) It is a hopeful letter.
We have chosen to call this series The Hope and the Burden because we think that is a solid representation of the subject matter in 1 Thessalonians. The church in Thessalonica (like the church today) faced heavy burdens; from persecution, suffering, grief, sin, etc. But at the same time, the Word of God sounded forth in the church and through the church. As the gospel took root in Thessalonica, the church was learning it, living it, and leading others to it.
 Some debate that Galatians may precede it, but the date on Galatians is less clear, whereas internal and external evidence helps us date 1 Thessalonians with more accuracy.
 Fee, NICNT.
 1 Thessalonians 1:4.
 Chapter 2.
 Chapter 4.
 Chapter 4.
 Chapters 4, 5.
 1 Thessalonians 2:8.