21 April 2017

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

“For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.” (vv. 9-10)

Psalm: Psalm 146


The first letter to the Thessalonians was one of Paul's earliest letters. It was written round about AD51. Thessalonica (now called Salonica) was in Greece. The city had been named after a half-sister of Alexander the Great. It was a free city, in that it was never occupied by Roman troops, and had its own assembly and magistrates. Thessalonica had a large harbour, and its main street was part of the road linking Rome with the East. Thus East and West converged in the city. Therefore the coming of Christianity to Thessalonica was crucial because there was a good chance that it could spread towards Rome and Asia.

Paul had made a great impression on the people in Thessalonica. But he subsequently received news that some preaching on the Second Coming of Jesus had resulted in some people stopping work and waiting in anticipation. Paul had to address these issues, together with the potential divisions among the people.

In the verses preceding today's passage Paul talks about the need to encourage one another. In chapter 5 he deals with the question of the Second Coming (Parousia) which the people of that time expected to happen soon. Paul says that people need to carry on with their lives as usual because no-one knows when Christ will come again. The reference to the "day of the Lord" (v. 2) means the day when Christ will break into time: when things that are wrong will be put to rights; when grief will turn into joy. Paul is offering a message of hope and comfort, not of fear. Paul encourages the people to be alert and awake: to embrace comfort and hope rather than sin and death. It was for this reason that Jesus died and rose again. The references to the thief (verses 2, 4) are not to scare, but to say that things can happen unexpectedly. Ultimately, Paul says that those who follow Christ are people of the light and the day, not of the night and the darkness.

To Ponder

  • How does this passage contribute to your understanding of Jesus' resurrection?
  • How important is the message of life and hope in today's world? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Lynita Conradie

Lynita Conradie is a Methodist presbyter in the Nottingham North Circuit. Originally from South Africa, she was a human rights' lawyer before entering the ministry and being ordained by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.