Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians is likely his oldest extant work. It was written while with Timothy and Silas during their mission in Corinth.
Thessalonica was positioned at the Northern coast of the Adriatic (present day Soloniki). It was an important trade city (even as it is today) and was also the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. Paul traveled there on his second missionary journey.
Paul, Timothy and Silas had preached for about three weeks in the Synagogue in Thessalonica. Although they only preached for a few weeks they had some positive results. Most of the converts were Gentiles, yet there were some Jewish converts. The established Jewish church, along with the local authorities, thought Paul a trouble maker so they set about driving him out of the city. Leaving behind Timothy and Silas to continue the good work, Paul went to Berea (where he was also harassed by the authorities). Then he went on to Athens where he was invited to teach in one of the local philosophic schools.
Later Paul moved on to Corinth where he was reunited with Silas and Timothy. They brought news of the church and described some disputes that were occurring over the Second Coming of Christ. They were also suffering from persecution. In spite of their difficulties, the Thessalonians remained firm in their belief in Christ.
In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul praises the steadfastness of the Christians in that town. He also admonishes them to work hard and to set a good example. He exhorts them to be kind to all persons (not only to Christians), as a way of showing others the truth and superiority of the Christian Faith. As for their questions about the second coming of Christ, he stressed that all those who die in the Faith will be saved. Their struggles for Christ Jesus will not have been in vain.
The two letters to the Thessalonians go into some depth on what Paul considered the great Christian virtues of "joy, endurance and hope." He also emphasized the importance of having a good work ethic, going so far as to state "Whoever refuses to work is not allowed to eat." (2Thess 3:10) He was adamant about leading by example. Paul did not accept money for his own maintenance, but continued to work in his spare time at his trade as a tent maker.
The Thessalonian letters are a good short study that roundly illustrate Paul's missionary message. It is a good book for youth groups as well as adult study. The letters are short, concise and straightforward. Like all of Paul's letters, they are an interesting read.
Thessalonians and Philemon: A Life Application Bible Study is inexpensive and contains 13 lessons, charts, maps, study questions and notes. Visit our Life Application page for more information on how to use this work in a Bible study.
Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, by William Barclay is great both as an in-depth study for a group and as a daily guide for individuals. Visit our page on Barclay for more information on how to use Barclay's works in a Bible study.