A life of grace and peace: 1 Thessalonians 1:1.
1. Recognize the Context:
Acts 17:1-10 presents the initial establishment of the Thessalonian church by Paul and his companions.
Later Paul wrote a letter to the church in Thessalonica to encourage them and address several issues. He utilized the general letter-writing structure of the first century. In verse 1, he naturally included the senders, recipient, and a greeting. However, he didn’t hesitate to adapt the contents as needed. Some of his changes included the identification of co-senders within the letter and an adjustment of the greeting, which was enough to grab the reader’s attention with Christianized terminology.
2. Read the Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 1:1
Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.
3. Reflect on the Scripture: Sender(s)
In verse 1, Paul mentioned Silas (also known as Silvanus) and Timothy as co-senders. They were included because of their involvement in establishing (Acts 17:1-10) and strengthening (1 Thess. 3:1-6) the Thessalonian congregation.
The Thessalonians were identified as the church (Greek-ekklesia) in their city. This word means “assembly” and was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to identify God’s people. By using this word with the prepositional phrase “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” the Thessalonian community was presented as the continuation of God’s plan found in the pages of the Old Testament brought to fulfillment in Christ. As God’s people, they were identified by their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
While the words grace and peace are commonly used Christian words today, to the first-century Greco-Roman audience this greeting would have stood out as a modification of the traditional word for greetings, a cognate of grace. The addition of peace, probably from Paul’s Jewish heritage, resulted in more than kind words or a pleasant salutation.
These words became two fundamental concepts that describe vital elements of the Christian life. Grace is God’s unconditional loving unmerited favor extended to humanity, as demonstrated in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Peace is the overall state of wholeness and well-being experienced by those who have received God’s reconciling grace. This includes peace with God, and peace is meant to govern one’s life with others.
4. Relate to life:
Now it's time to get your hands dirty today. Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have probably heard the words grace, peace, and church numerous times. Perhaps they have lost the meaning and significance they once had. Today, prayerfully consider these words anew and ask God to give you a fresh perspective on their significance in your own life. Today, what would a life characterized by grace and peace look like for you?
From your prayerful consideration of grace and peace, what is one action step you can take today with the Holy Spirit’s help?
Consider the word church. Do you think of people or a building? Why? How are you contributing or how can you contribute to the lives of fellow believers with whom you assemble?
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)
Use a website like biblegateway.com or a Bible app to search for other passages on the church, grace, and peace.
Read the historical background in Act 17:1-10 about the start of the Thessalonian church on Paul’s second missionary journey.