Why does Paul give so much attention to his personal relationship with the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 1-3?
Paul’s emphasis on his personal relationship with the Thessalonians was strategic. This relational emphasis was used to insure the church of his affections for them, remind the church of the loving and blameless service demonstrated amongst them, even in the face of persecution, in order to lay a foundation for exhortations regarding Christian living and doctrinal instructions to promote peace and clarity regarding the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead (DPHL, 932).
Paul’s introduction is filled with gratitude for the Thessalonian example. Their acceptance of the Gospel, love and service for one another, imitation of Paul, and joy in persecution led to a strong testimony for Jesus Christ that became known in all of Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thess. 1:2-10). Paul then reminded the Thessalonians of his coming to them in gentleness, without creating a burden, and not only in sharing the message of the Gospel, but also in sharing their lives. Paul, then, expressed his desires to return to Thessalonica and explained the reason Timothy was sent—to express this desire for continuing the work that had been started by establishing and exhorting the church in the faith (1 Thess. 3:1-5).
Paul concluded his letter with instructions on Christian living regarding sexual morality (1 Thess. 4:1-8). Additionally, the Thessalonians had lost several members who had passed away, leaving them grieving and concerned about the resurrection and the second coming of Christ. Perhaps they had missed it? Paul instructs them on the coming of the Lord and its significance for all who are in Christ whether dead or living that they might have peace (1 Thess. 4:13-5:11). Finally, Paul offers further instructions on how the Thessalonians should avoid idleness, encourage and lovingly serve one another with patience, pray without ceasing, and participate in the sanctifying work God had started in their lives (1 Thess. 5:12-28).
“Thessalonians, Letters to the”, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2009. Accordance Bible Software Version. 931-938.