Kingdom of God. They send greetings to Colossae, and Paul also greets the brothers at Laodicea, asking that they exchange the letters he is sending. Paul writes a concluding greeting in his own hand: “Continue bearing my prison bonds in mind. The undeserved kindness be with you.”—4:18.
12. What refreshing truths did Paul’s letter to the Colossians provide, and with what benefit to the congregation?
12 We can imagine how quickly the news of the arrival of the two brothers from Rome circulated among the brothers at Colossae. With keen anticipation they would assemble, possibly at Philemon’s house, to hear the reading of Paul’s letter. (Philem. 2) What refreshing truths it provided on the exact position of Christ and the need for accurate knowledge! How clearly were philosophies of men and Jewish traditions put in their place, and the peace and the word of the Christ exalted! Here was nourishment for mind and heart for all in the congregation—overseers, husbands, wives, fathers, children, masters, slaves. Certainly there was good advice for Philemon and Onesimus as they entered once again into the relation of master and slave. What a fine lead was given to the overseers in restoring the flock to right doctrine! How Paul’s words sharpened the Colossians’ appreciation for their privilege of working whole-souled as to Jehovah! And the upbuilding counsel to the Colossians on getting free from the enslaving thoughts and practices of the world remains as a living message for the congregation today.—Col. 1:9-11, 17, 18; 2:8; 3:15, 16, 18-25; 4:1.
13. What does Paul admonish with regard to gracious words, prayer, and Christian association?
13 Excellent advice for the Christian minister is set out at Colossians 4:6: “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.” Gracious words of truth will prove appetizing to honesthearted persons and will work to their permanent benefit. Also, the wide-awake prayer of the Christian, expressed from an appreciative heart, will bring rich blessings from Jehovah: “Be persevering in prayer, remaining awake in it with thanksgiving.” And what joy and upbuilding refreshment is to be found in Christian association! “Keep on teaching and admonishing one another,” says Paul, “singing in your hearts to Jehovah.” (4:2; 3:16) You will find many other gems of sound, practical instruction as you search through the letter to the Colossians.
14. (a) What reality is highlighted in Colossians? (b) How is the Kingdom hope emphasized?
14 Concerning the observances of the Law, the letter says: “Those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.” (2:17) It is this reality of the Christ that is highlighted in Colossians. The letter refers frequently to the glorious hope reserved in the heavens for those in union with Christ. (1:5, 27; 3:4) Such ones can be most thankful that the Father has already delivered them from the authority of the darkness and transplanted them “into the kingdom of the Son of his love.” Thus they have become subject to the One who is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities.” This One is eminently qualified to rule in righteousness in the Kingdom of God. Thus, it is that Paul admonishes the anointed Christians: “If, however, you were raised up with the Christ, go on seeking the things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”—1:12-16; 3:1.
Bible Book Number 52—1 Thessalonians
Place Written: Corinth
Writing Completed: c. 50 C.E.
1. (a) How did First Thessalonians come to be written? (b) When was this, and what distinction does the letter thus enjoy?
IT WAS about the year 50 C.E. that the apostle Paul, during his second preaching tour, visited the Macedonian city of Thessalonica and there established a Christian congregation. Within a year, while in Corinth accompanied by Silvanus (Silas of the book of Acts) and Timothy, Paul was moved to write his first letter to the Thessalonians to comfort them and build them up in the faith. It was likely late 50 C.E. This letter apparently enjoys the distinction of being the first of Paul’s writings to become part of the Bible canon and, with the probable exception of Matthew’s Gospel, the first book of the Christian Greek Scriptures to be put into writing.
2. What evidence is there for the writership and authenticity of First Thessalonians?
2 The evidence supporting the authenticity and integrity of the letter is overwhelming. Paul identifies himself by name as the writer, and the book is internally harmonious with the rest of the inspired Word. (1 Thess. 1:1; 2:18) The epistle is mentioned by name in many of the earliest catalogs of the inspired Scriptures, including the Muratorian Fragment.* First Thessalonians is either quoted or alluded to by many of the early ecclesiastical writers, including Irenaeus (second century C.E.), who mentions it by name. The Chester Beatty Papyrus No. 2 (P46), of about 200 C.E., contains First Thessalonians, and another papyrus of the third century (P30), now in Ghent, Belgium, contains fragments of both First and Second Thessalonians.*
3, 4. What resulted from the early success of Paul’s ministry at Thessalonica?
3 A glance at the brief history of the congregation at Thessalonica, prior to the writing of this letter, establishes the background for Paul’s deep concern for the brothers in that city. From the very beginning, the congregation underwent severe persecution and opposition. In Acts chapter 17, Luke reports the arrival of Paul and Silas at Thessalonica, “where there was a synagogue of the Jews.” For three Sabbaths, Paul preached to them, reasoning with them from the Scriptures, and there are indications that he stayed there even longer than this, for he had time to set himself up in his trade and, above all, to establish and organize a congregation.—Acts 17:1; 1 Thess. 2:9; 1:6, 7.
4 The record at Acts 17:4-7 graphically relates the effect of the apostle’s preaching in Thessalonica. Jealous about the success of Paul’s Christian ministry, the Jews organized a mob and threw the city into an uproar. They assaulted Jason’s house and dragged him and other brothers to the city rulers, crying out: “These men that have overturned the inhabited earth are present here also, and Jason has received them with hospitality. And all these men act in opposition to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king, Jesus.” Jason and the others were compelled to provide bond before they were released. For the sake of the brothers in the congregation, as well as for their own personal safety, Paul and Silas were dispatched by night to Beroea. But the congregation at Thessalonica was now established.
5. How did Paul show his concern for and loving interest in the Thessalonian congregation?
5 Fiery opposition from the Jews pursued Paul to Beroea and threatened to stop his preaching there. He then moved on to Athens, in Greece. Still he longed to know how his brothers in Thessalonica were faring under tribulation. Twice he attempted to return to them, but each time ‘Satan cut across his path.’ (1 Thess. 2:17, 18) Filled with concern for the young congregation and painfully aware of the tribulation they were undergoing, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to comfort the brothers and make them more firm in the faith. When Timothy returned with his heartwarming report, Paul was overjoyed with the news of their stalwart integrity amid violent persecution. Their record by now had become an example to believers throughout all Macedonia