1. 1 Thessalonians 1:1 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

How would many of the Thessalonian Christians have understood the word “church”?

1 Thessalonians 1:1 (ESV)

1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

The Greek word behind church (ἐκκλησία) is an important word in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is used to refer to the people of God, often as they were gathered together in assembly to hear the word of God (e.g., Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 18:16). Many of the Thessalonian Christians (the Jews and God-fearers) would have been familiar with this translation through teaching in the synagogue, and would have understood that Paul was viewing the Thessalonian believers as part of the historic people of God (i.e., the Jews) by calling their gathering a church. This was remarkable: even Gentiles who had up to this point in history been excluded from the covenant people had now become a part (cf. Ephesians 2:11–13)!1,2