'Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you' (1 Thessalonians 3.6). This verse puts Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians into its context; the letter is something like a giant sigh of relief.
He has been very anxious for the Thessalonian Christians, having founded the church there, but having had to leave these young Christians because of fierce and violent opposition. Not surprisingly he was anxious for his children in the faith, hoping that they were surviving, hoping that their faith had not been shaken. He had wanted to return to them, 'but Satan stopped us' (2.18); presumably it just wasn't safe. So, when he could bear the suspense no longer, Paul sent Timothy to find out how they were. Now Timothy has returned, with good news.
The first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians – more than half of the letter – are Paul's thankful sigh of relief. Whereas in Galatians there was no opening thanksgiving, but a cry of pain at the Galatians' fall from faith, in 1 Thessalonians Paul starts joyfully with the words: 'We always thank God for all of you' (1.2). He goes on to speak of their faith, love and hope (1.3), and then recalls their conversion (1.4–10), his ministry among them (2.1–13), their sufferings (2.1416), his forcible separation from them and his subsequent anxiety for their welfare (2.17–3.5). But now Timothy has come, and Paul is overjoyed: 'For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?' (3.8–9).
Paul's deep affection for his converts is clear in Galatians, though the affection there is mixed with anger and pain at how they have been seduced. 1 Thessalonians is an equally emotional letter, but this time it is a case of deep affection mixed with initial anxiety and