The First to the Thessalonians: Titles such as this were apparently not part of the original text. Ancient manuscripts show that the titles were added later, doubtless to make it easier to identify the books.—See study note on 1Co Title.
Silvanus: This is likely a Latinized version of the Greek name Silas.—See study note on 2Co 1:19.
the congregation of the Thessalonians: Thessalonica was the principal seaport of Macedonia and a prosperous city when Paul and Silas arrived there about 50 C.E. (See Glossary, “Thessalonica.”) This visit and their ministry in Thessalonica led to the founding of a congregation that endured much persecution. (Ac 17:1-10, 13, 14; see study note on 1Th 1:6.) Paul likely revisited the city while he was passing through Macedonia during his later travels.—Ac 20:1-3; 1Ti 1:3.
your faithful work, your loving labor, and your endurance because of your hope: Paul links the qualities of faith, love, and hope with the activity of the Thessalonian Christians. In Greek, the words here rendered “faithful,” “loving,” and “hope” are actually nouns. So this passage could also be translated “your work based on faith, your earnest effort out of love, and your endurance based on hope.” These qualities stimulated the Thessalonian Christians to work hard and to persevere in God’s service. The Bible repeatedly connects zeal in God’s service with the qualities of faith, love, and hope.—1Co 13:13; Ga 5:5, 6; Col 1:4, 5; 1Th 5:8; Heb 6:10-12; 10:22-24; 1Pe 1:21, 22.
because of your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ: A Christian can endure even severe trials if he puts his hope in Jesus Christ. That hope includes faith in Christ’s coming as King of God’s Kingdom and in the fulfillment of God’s promises. (Ac 3:21) When that hope is fulfilled, any suffering that was experienced will seem insignificant. The hope will help the Christian not to give in to despair and lose faith in Jehovah. (Ro 5:4, 5; 8:18-25; 2Co 4:16-18; Re 2:10) Later in his letter, Paul compares hope to a helmet.—See study note on 1Th 5:8.
with strong conviction: Or “with full assurance; with complete certainty.” The Christians in Thessalonica could see that Paul and his companions firmly believed what they preached. Their conviction was evident both in how they spoke and in how they lived.
under much tribulation: This refers to the persecution experienced by the Thessalonian congregation soon after Paul and Silas introduced the good news to them. Enraged by the spread of the good news, fanatic Jewish opposers incited a mob to storm the house where Paul was staying. Not finding Paul there, they dragged his host, Jason, and some others before the city rulers and accused them of sedition. The brothers urged Paul and Silas to leave the city under cover of night and travel to Beroea. (Ac 17:1-10) Remarkably, the holy spirit enabled those Thessalonian Christians to maintain joy despite this persecution.
the word of Jehovah: Or “the message of Jehovah.” This expression is frequently used in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it often refers to an inspired prophetic message from Jehovah. (Some examples are Isa 1:10; Jer 1:4, 11; Eze 3:16; 6:1; 7:1; Jon 1:1.) In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term refers to the Christian message that originates with Jehovah God and that features the important role of Jesus Christ in the outworking of God’s purpose. It is often used in the book of Acts to describe the spread of Christianity.—Ac 8:25; 12:24; 13:44, 48, 49; 15:35, 36; 16:32; 19:20; for the use of the divine name in this verse, see App. C3 introduction; 1Th 1:8.
sounded out: This phrase renders the Greek word e·xe·kheʹo·mai that occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures; it suggests a sound that spreads out from its source, reverberating in all directions. Paul is clearly pleased that “the word of Jehovah” has spread into the Roman provinces of Macedonia and Achaia and beyond. In commending the Thessalonian Christians for their role in the spreading of the good news, Paul indicates that not only the apostles but all Christians must preach.
you turned to God: Paul uses a verb that means “to return; to turn back (around)” in a literal sense, but here and in other contexts, it denotes turning to God from a wrong course. (See study note on Ac 3:19.) Those Christians had rejected and abandoned their idolatrous ways and had wisely turned to worshipping “a living and true God.”
your idols: Idolatry was a prominent feature of life in Thessalonica. The city abounded with sanctuaries to such gods as Dionysus, Zeus, Artemis, and Apollos, along with some Egyptian deities and the cult of Cabirus, a patron god of Thessalonica. Additionally, refusal to participate in emperor worship could have been viewed by some as rebellion against Rome. Some of the city’s idol temples promoted promiscuity and sexual immorality, and Paul warned the Thessalonians against such practices.—1Th 4:3-8.
to slave for: Or “to serve.” The Greek verb rendered “to slave” refers to serving others, usually an individual owner. Here the term is used figuratively, referring to serving God with undivided devotion. (Ac 4:29; Ro 6:22; 12:11) Paul knew that “to slave for a living and true God” is to live a happy life, far better than one of slavery to lifeless idols, to humans, or to sin.—Ro 6:6; 1Co 7:23; see study notes on Mt 6:24; Ro 1:1.
the wrath that is coming: Paul here refers to a future time of divine judgment, the ultimate expression of God’s righteous wrath against this unrighteous world and those who refuse to acknowledge God’s sovereignty.—Compare 2Th 1:6-9.