Thessalonians - Glorification by Faith in Christ

By E. S. (Emanuel Sprankel) Young



The Apostle Paul wrote nine letters to the seven different churches. Although First and Second Thessalonians were the first of these letters to be written, when they were put together in the Bible they did not appear first but last. The letters written to the seven churches contain the “all truth” spoken of by Jesus when He said, “Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

The truth contained in these letters to the seven churches is to be used because it contains everything about us. Many other inspired books have been written by holy men, but there seems to be this difference: the truth contained in these church letters is all about us, while the truth contained in other epistles is for us but not so definitely about us. As we learn these truths and obey them through faith in Jesus Christ, we become justified, as we learn from Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians; through faith in Jesus Christ in Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, we become sanctified and having made some progress in our Divine life through learning these advanced lessons in the school of grace, we are permitted to dwell with Christ in the Heavenlies; then, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in these Thessalonian Epistles we become glorified.

Romans finds us as sinners; Thessalonians puts us on the throne. In Romans, though faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we die and rise with Christ and we are assured of our position in Him. In Ephesians we are in Christ our Head and Christ in us, His Body. In Thessalonians we have completed our journey and are about to receive our blessed hope—the glorification of our bodies. Romans takes up the Jew and Gentile as sinners, individually; Ephesians, collectively, made “one new man.” Romans teaches that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The sinner is invited to accept Christ as his Saviour and thus brought out of sin and death.

We can see from the lessons presented in these different Church Epistles why the Holy Spirit has put Romans first, and Thessalonians last. This is the arrangement found in the Word of God, for which we have the same authority as for the books themselves. If man had arranged them he would have, no doubt, arranged them in chronological order. It is no wonder that the individual members of the Church are ignorant concerning the truth that Jesus gives in these Church Epistles when they will not study the text books in the order presented by the Holy Spirit. In all the different Greek manuscripts the arrangement of these Church Epistles is the same as we find here in the Word of God. This is not true of all the other books of the New Testament, but it is true of the Church literature written especially for our learning in this age of grace. This then, is the arrangement for the Church, due to the influence and power of the Holy Spirit.

The Christian has, in these seven Church Epistles, a complete course mapped out, beginning with Romans and ending with Thessalonians, and if studied under the direction of the Great Teacher, the Holy Spirit, he cannot help but receive a finished Christian education. They contain the course of study necessary for the Christian's standing and walk. The Christian may be ignorant concerning other books of the Bible without such great loss, but how can he be ignorant concerning the foundation of the Christian Church and that which is necessary concerning Him who is the Builder, the Head, and how can he understand the Christian's hope, unless he has made use of every one of these Church Epistles? The Apostle Paul says, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.”

We are living in the dispensation of grace. God has given us certain text books to be used during this period. In other dispensations God has truths suited for the time and when these close, the Truth abides for information to those coming later, but it has not the same application as it has for those to whom it was given. When this dispensation closes, these text books close with the dispensation. In the coming dispensation these books will be valuable for information, but will have lost much of their value because the period has closed for which they were given.


These letters are addressed to the Church of Thessalonica. Thessalonica, a prominent city of the Roman province of Macedonia, was situated in the northern part of the Aegean Sea. It was a wealthy and large city, and for a time, the most influential center in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. Many Jews had settled here and a flourishing Synagogue existed at the time the Apostle Paul came from Philippi.

The visit of the Apostle Paul to Thessalonica is recorded in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts. It will be well for the student to know some of the experiences that Paul had with his associates in establishing the church at Philippi. We learn in the study of the Acts why Paul was in prison. The magistrates of the city of Philippi had beaten the Apostle and his friends and put them in prison openly and uncondemned, being Romans, when God manifested His mighty power in opening the prison doors and releasing Paul with his associates. These magistrates became alarmed and wanted to get rid of them secretly, but the Apostle said, “Nay, verily, but let them come themselves and fetch us out,” and they came and brought them out and desired them to depart out of the city. They went out of the prison and entered into the house of Lydia, and when they had seen the brethren they comforted them and departed. Of this experience, the Apostle tells us in the first letter to the Thessalonians. Leaving Philippi with Silas (Silvanus) and Timothy, they went on their way to Thessalonica and passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia. When they arrived at Thessalonica, Paul followed his usual custom and visited the synagogue.

Paul tells us that for three Sabbaths he reasoned with them out of the Scriptures. The Scriptures, of course, were the Old Testament Scriptures, for the New Testament was not then in existence. He opened the Scriptures that were familiar to his hearers, and without mentioning the name of the Lord Jesus at all, he showed that the Old Testament teaches that the Messiah promised to them must suffer and rise from the dead. This great truth was forgotten by the Jewish nation, that the sufferings of the Messiah come first and the glory follows. This crucified Christ was their stumbling block. They looked only for the glory side, and the accomplishment, through Him, of the national promises. The predictions of the suffering and the resurrection of Christ were fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. In this Epistle we find that Paul taught more than this because he emphasizes in every chapter of the first book that Christ would come again. In the second Epistle he also shows that he had given them instructions in dispensational and prophetical truths (2 Thess. 2:5).

The Thessalonian Church was a model Church and had no need of reproof and correction such as we find in Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, and Colossians. This first Epistle contains the great doctrine so much needed by the Christian Church, and which was not clear to this Thessalonian Church, but made clear to them as well as to all future Churches (1 Thess. 4:13-18). These disciples had been instructed concerning the teaching of justification as found in the Book of Romans and had passed in a sense, the advanced truth set out in the Book of Ephesians,

This is the only one of the seven churches that was especially spoken of as “the Model Church.” Things were more in harmony than in any of the other Churches to whom the Apostle wrote. The main difficulty in this Church was concerning the Christians who had died and the Christians living at the coming of the Christ. In this last closing book of the Church Epistles presented by the Holy Spirit, he has no need to say what he has said in the former Epistles and therefore, we have no Epistle following this one. When we reach redemption of the body—glorification, there is no need to call attention to practical and doctrinal errors. It is true that in one place in this Church letter “we hear that there are some who walk among you in disorder, working not at all but busy bodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ that with quietness they work and eat their own bread” (2 Thess. 3:11-12). This is the one exception to the thing that we have stated before concerning this Church letter.

We have tried to emphasize the fact that this is a model Church. It is a model Church because of its missionary activities, and such doctrine as held by this Church produces faithful and fruitful service for God. We will not take up in this introduction the teaching of the various lessons, but you will find an exposition of this exception in the chapter where this occurs.