James Grant provides a helpful, basic method on The Literary Structure of 1 and 2 Thessalonians:
Step 1: First Reading
Read the letter for your first impressions. Answer some of the following questions:
- What is the general tone or atmosphere of the letter?
- What are Paul’s purposes for writing the letter? Does he seem to have one over-riding purpose in writing?
- What are you personal impressions of the book? Which parts or topics interest you the most?
Step 2: Second Reading
The Greek text of 1 Thessalonians consists of 18 paragraphs (thought units) that together merge to communicate Paul’s message. Read each paragraph and then assign a title to each (a paragraph title is a summary in your own words of the central idea in the paragraph). The paragraphs are: 1:1; 1:2-10; 2:1-12; 2:13-16; 2:17-20; 3:1-5; 3:6-10; 3:11-13; 4:1-2; 4:3-8; 4:9-12; 4:13-18; 5:1-11; 5:12-22; 5:23-24; 5:25; 5:26-27; 5:28.
Step 3: Outline the Book
Go through the letter again (in comparison with your paragraph titles) and see if you can find any paragraphs that are of similar content. Construct a master outline of 1 Thessalonians based on your study thus far.