Acts 15:36–18:22 records Paul’s second missionary journey in AD 49–51. Paul and Silas were the only two when the journey began (Acts 15:40–41). Timothy joined them in Lystra (Acts 16:1–5), and Luke joined them in Troas as well (Acts 16:10, notice Luke says “we”). The four went to Philippi, apparently left Luke behind (cf. Acts 17:1, “we” becomes “they”), and arrived in Thessalonica in AD 49.
While in Thessalonica, Paul spent three Sabbaths in the synagogue (Acts 17:2). During this time, Paul worked as a tentmaker (1 Thess 2:9; cf. Acts 18:3) and received financial gifts from the Philippians as well (Phil 4:16). This need for funds implies a longer stay than just three weeks, maybe two or three months. Whatever the case, some unbelieving Jews made the situation so dangerous for Paul and Silas that the believers sent them to Berea (Acts 17:10). These same unbelievers came after Paul in Berea, so the brothers sent him by sea to Athens (Acts 17:14–15). Paul then went to Corinth where he stayed for eighteen months (Acts 18:1; cf. 18:11). It was during this time that Paul wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians in AD 50 or 51.
When the Berean brothers sent Paul to Athens, Silas and Timothy stayed behind (Acts 17:14–15). They later met Paul in Athens, and Paul and Silas sent Timothy back to Thessalonica (1 Thess 3:1–5). Paul then went to Corinth while Silas went to Macedonia, the region of Philippi and Thessalonica (cf. Acts 18:1, 5). Perhaps Paul sent Silas to check on the Philippians as Timothy checked on the Thessalonians. Wherever Silas went, he and Timothy eventually returned to Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:5). Timothy returned to Paul and Silas, so it seems that Silas had returned first (cf. 1 Thess 3:6).
Timothy’s return to Paul and Silas in Corinth prompted the first letter to Thessalonica (1 Thess 3:1–10; esp. 3:6). As people continued to travel between the two cities, Paul wrote to them again, perhaps when the carrier of 1 Thessalonians returned. He took care to note that this second letter was indeed from him (2 Thess 3:17; cf. 2:2). After his time in Corinth, he eventually returned to Antioch where he had left for this missionary journey (Acts 18:18–22; cf. 15:35).
Paul would visit Thessalonica time and again. He sent Timothy and Erastus to them in AD 54 (Acts 19:21–22). He returned and stayed three months in AD 55 (Acts 20:1–6; cf. 1 Cor 16:5). He experienced persecution there again but met Titus and received their money to help believers in Jerusalem during a time of famine (2 Cor 2 Cor 1:16; 2:13; 7:5; 8:1; 9:2, 4; 11:9). He would see them later in AD 64–65 (cf. 1 Tim 1:3).All quotes ESV. Articles by Pastor Huffstutler are at davidhuffstutler.com