v. 1. Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians, which is in God the father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you and peace from God, our father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
v. 2. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
v. 3. remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
v. 4. knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
In this, probably the first letter written by St. Paul to any congregation, we find all the characteristics which give to his epistles the vigor and the charm that unfailingly impress the reader. Since his apostolic authority at this time had in no way been questioned or assailed, he opens his letter with the simplest form of salutation: Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus to the congregation of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It was Paul's letter, dictated by him in his capacity as teacher of this second Macedonian congregation. And yet, so little of pride is found in him that he joins the names of Silvanus, or Silas, and Timothy, his two assistants in the work at Thessalonica, to his own, not as coauthors, but as fellow laborers. Silas was a Jewish Christian, originally one of the leaders and a prophet of the congregation at Jerusalem, Act_15:22. He had been one of the bearers of the resolutions which had been passed by the great church assembly in Jerusalem, to be delivered to the congregation at Antioch and to be brought to the attention of the Gentile Christians everywhere. After the altercation with Barnabas, Paul chose this man as his companion on the second missionary journey, Act_15:32. He was not bound by Judaistic scruples, but realized the necessity of entering upon the work among the Gentiles with all aggressiveness. He was at Paul's side in work and suffering, before magistrates, in prison, in prayer, in miraculous deliverance, in flight, Act_16:19; Act_17:4; Act_18:5. Later we find him mentioned as a faithful brother, 1Pe_5:12, and an assistant of Peter in the work in Asia Minor. Timothy had been, ever since the second missionary journey, a faithful assistant and fellow-laborer of the apostle, whom the latter loved both as a brother and as a son in faith. No man was so near and dear to the great missionary of the Gentiles as Timothy.
Paul addressed his letter to the church, or congregation, of the Thessalonians, not merely to the officers, the presbyters and deacons, but to all the members. There were no hierarchical distinctions in those days, neither did men think of restricting the study of the Word of God to the preachers or priests. The entire congregation, all the true believers in Christ in the city, were in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This profound and stately expression does not denote merely a fellowship with God and the Savior Jesus Christ, but it emphasizes that the entire life of the believers is in God, that their entire sphere, their whole state of existence, is in the Lord, Rom_16:11; Joh_15:4; 1Jn_2:5; 1Jn_5:20. The fact that the Christians are in Christ and in God, the two persons of the Godhead being one in essence, makes them new creatures, separates them from the world and consecrates them to the Lord. The apostolic salutation to this congregation of consecrated believers is brief, but comprehensive: Grace to you and peace. He wishes that the kindness, the favor, the mercy of God may be theirs for the sake of Christ, and that thus they might enter into the right relation with God once more, a relation which had been torn asunder by the Fall. He that is the possessor of the grace of God through Jesus Christ will also be sure of the peace with God in Jesus Christ,
The first thought which Paul voices, as in most of his other letters, is one of thanksgiving to God: We give thanks to God always on behalf of all of you, making mention of you in our prayers without ceasing. See Php_1:3-4; Col_1:3. To the apostle the great works of God for man's salvation, as they appear in the church at Thessalonica, seem ever anew great and worthy of praise and adoration. At the same time he wants every single one of his readers to understand that he is included in this prayer of thanksgiving, that the spiritual welfare of every single Christian engages his attention. He remembers them all in his prayer of thanksgiving, and that without ceasing, regularly. It had become habitual with the apostle to recall the state of every congregation and to lay the needs of every congregation before the Lord in prayer, never omitting the words of thanksgiving for all the spiritual favors of the past and for the many which would surely come through the Gospel in the future.
In this attitude Paul was strengthened by his knowledge of the spiritual condition of the brethren at Thessalonica: Remembering your work of faith and your labor of love and your patience of the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ before God and our Father. Neither distance nor new interests made any difference in the love of the apostle, because he could not forget the faith, the love, and the hope of the Thessalonians, the three cardinal Christian virtues. Their faith in Jesus Christ, by which they had themselves firmly grasped their redemption, did not remain idle and dead, but became manifest in a course of action with all vigor and strength, as should ever be the case. Genuine faith always gives evidence of its existence in good works. Paul remembers also their toil of love, their strenuous, devoted, fatiguing labor. Faith has laid hold of the grace of God in Christ and breaks forth in action: love guides this action in the paths of unselfishness, it seeks ways and opportunities of serving the neighbor, of coming to his assistance, even if that course should demand some measure of real sacrifice. And so, finally, Paul can speak of their patience of hope, their unwearied constancy in suffering and affliction. Patience is the inseparable companion of hope, for it is only in view of the future glory that we Christians are able to bear the suffering of this present time, Rom_8:18; 2Co_4:17-18; Heb_11:26. This hope is based upon Christ, who is its object. He has given to His Christians the promise of eternal salvation, and His return in glory will result in our entering upon the inheritance of the saints in glory. Therefore the hope of the Christians persists in spite of delay and discouraging hardships. They hold it before God and their Father; sure of their adoption, of their sonship in Jesus Christ, they are looking forward to the inheritance promised to them by the gracious will of the Father.
By the side of his remembrance of the Christian virtues as they were practiced in the midst of the Thessalonians, which prompted him to raise his voice in thanksgiving to God, the apostle places another reason: Knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election. He has the knowledge, the firm assurance, impressed upon him by the condition of affairs at Thessalonica, that these Christians, whom he designates as the beloved of God, are also the elect of God. Their faith and the evidences of their faith are to him a proof of their having been elected by God unto eternal salvation; the election of God has manifested itself in bringing about the change in their hearts which showed itself in their Christian virtues. That is the great comfort of every believer: the fact that he knows Jesus to be his Savior, the fact that God has wrought faith in his heart, is to him a guarantee of his election unto eternal life.