“I command you in the name of the Lord to read this letter to all the brothers and sisters. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (1 Thessalonians 5:27-28 NLT).
Unlike those who viewed the acquisition of “secret knowledge” as the path to spiritual enlightenment, Paul the Apostle did not seek to hide the teachings of Christianity from a larger audience in favor of a select few. Instead, Paul told the church at Thessalonica, “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.”
This seems to have been Paul’s standard practice in his letters to the first-century church. For instance, he told the church at Colosse, “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). While Paul might have chosen to limit his message to a few select individuals, he instead made certain to share these teachings directly with all the members of the Thessalonian congregation. That helped limit the potential for misunderstanding (1) and enabled everyone to learn and grow together.
As one source observes, “For all the Christians to hear this, it had to be read in a public meeting—there were not enough copies to circulate. Paul wanted to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to hear his message because he was answering important questions and offering needed encouragement.” (2)
Another commentator summarizes the overall message of 1 Thessalonians with the following insight: “There are two important truths we should learn and apply to our lives from this First Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians. First, the Lord Jesus is coming back; and secondly, we are to be involved in a labor of love for Him while we watch and wait for His return.” (3)
Finally, this epistle closes with an expression of God’s grace. “Grace” refers to God’s unmerited favor towards undeserving human beings- and its appearance within the closing portion of this letter is significant. Much like an image that is reflected in a mirror, God’s gracious favor towards the church at Thessalonica was reflected in their “…work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thessalonians 1:3 ASV).
But how did the Christian community at Thessalonica respond to the letter we know today as 1 Thessalonians? Well, the answer to that question will be given to us in our look at the book of 2 Thessalonians.
(1) Unfortunately, this was not entirely successful as we’ll see later in the book of 2 Thessalonians.
(2) Life Application Study Bible NKJV [1 Thessalonians 5:27] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers
(3) Dick Woodward. Mini Bible College Study Booklet #14 Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus and Philemon (p. 26).