From July 3, 2006
This will be the beginning of a study through the Thessalonian letters by Paul. The series is titled LIVING AS CHRISTIANS IN OUR MODERN WORLD. I pray these articles will help and encourage you in your walk with the Lord.
I will try to keep them fairly short. If they seem to get a little long I will split them into two parts.
CHANGE, BY THE POWER OF GOD
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
As the second coming of Jesus is drawing near, we as Christians must know how we are to live in the world. “In the world, but not of the world”.
In looking at the first Thessalonian letter it appears that some of the people in the church were being led to believe the return of Jesus being near, they should leave their jobs, sell their homes and lands, and just “Live by faith”. The Scripture, no where, encourages God’s people to be foolish, but wise concerning the times.
The two letters to the Thessalonians teach a complete opposite of the above practice. Jesus’s coming is definitely near. We are to keep on yielding our lives to Him, and going about the daily Christian life as though He might not come for another million years. We are to keep on trusting and believing that He is returning soon.
First Thessalonians mentions the second coming of Jesus at the end, or near the end of each chapter. Chapter four gives us an indepth look at the “Catching away” of the Saints which is commonly referred to as the ‘Rapture of the Church’.
In Thessalonica there was much heathen, pagan worship. The church was greatly persecuted because they were living their faith. They would probably be called radical by even many professing christians of this day.
We live in a society that is quite similar to theirs. People do not mind what god you worship, or if you worship anything, as long as you keep it to yourself. “Keep it in the church building. Don’t take it to your job. Don’t take it on vacation. Don’t take it to your friends”, because if you do you will be tagged as a trouble maker, a rabble rouser, and you will be shunned by your peers.
Our world, society is certainly unfamiliar with God and godliness, and godly things. As Christians we need to be what Christ called us to be, and that is the salt and light of our world.Looking at these first ten verses we see the church of Thessolonica commended for their faith, and the hope that is in their heart. They are challenged, as are we, to live exemplary lives to show forth the change that God has wrought in their [our] lives.
The study actually begins in Acts 17:1-10 which tells of Paul’s short ministry there. It was only about three weeks in duration, but three weeks there was an established church – a body of believers worshipping, praying, studying the Scriptures, and breaking bread together. The believers fearing for Paul’s and Silas’s safety sent them away (Acts 17:10).
Paul is man of God greatly concerned about this young church. He sends Timothy to them and Timothy sends word back to Paul of their growth and stedfastness of faith. Paul is thrilled, and fully knows that it is the work of God’s Spirit. He sends them a letter to assure them of his prayers, to encourage them, and to exhort them to continue strong in the Word and faith, no matter what comes their way.
“Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” v. 1
In looking at verse one Paul begins the letter in pretty much his normal way. Only he adds Silvanus [Silar] and Timothy. These are men the people at Thessalonica were familiar with. He also acknowledges that they are a church in God and the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what counts. It really does no matter if a board of men or a government recognizes a church; as long as it is in God and the Lord Jesus, it is a church.
Paul sends them a familiar greeting “Grace and peace”. True grace and peace can only come through God and His Son.
“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;” vv. 2-3
There is thanksgiving in Paul’s heart for this church, and their faithfulness. He also assures them of his prayers for them.
Their faith that works; the love they show to others ministering to others and one another; their patience in God – knowing He always knows best in every situation; these were all known by Paul as their spiritual leader and he remembered them.
“Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” v. 4
Paul knows these people as the “Elect of God” – chosen by God to be His representatives to others, and to live an exemplary life holy and pure. That is the life every child of God is to live. We have been chosen by God. We are the “Elect” of God. You have been chosen, and from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). That is one of the blessed things of the gifts of God, ie. knowing that God has chosen us, elected us as His own. As the “Elect of God” we are called to live lives which are holy and pure.
“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.” v. 5
The gospel, when it is to be effective, is to be not only words, but there is also power [signs of change], and it is in the Holy Spirit – He who convicts of sin is also the One who comforts in Christ.
These messengers of the gospel lived exemplary lives. Paul, Silas, and Timothy kept themselves in the power of the Lord.
People who are messengers of God in the world today should live lives to glorify our Lord as well. There is no excuse for sin, and it should be especially so in the lives of the people of God, and the spiritual leaders whom God calls out. As Paul, Silas and Timothy were living lives that honored Christ and brought no shame on others who were serving Christ Jesus, so too should all God’s people in our modern world.
“And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: 7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.” vv. 6-7
Everyone needs an example to follow. Everyone [Believers in particular] needs to be an example to others. As Paul, Silas and Timothy were following the Lord, so was the people of the Thessalonian church. Even in the midst of affliction [persecution], they were living int he joy of God’s Spirit, and it had reached Paul that these people were having an impact on others lives.
Many in our modern world like to follow others. The sad thing about that is, many of these people are not people to follow for righteousness and holy living. There are sports figures who many follow, taking drugs, steroids, and indulging in immoral behaviors that would cause shame to the child of God who is right with God.
We as God’s people need to be sure we do not exalt figures in sports, or movies, etc., or even the pulpits of the world who are not living exemplary lives which do not glorify Jesus Christ.
“For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.” v. 8
When people have a real faith in God it not only is spoken, but is acted on by others and themselves.
There was no rebuke needed here. Their faith had been heard about, even in other lands.
What have “other lands” heard of the faith of the Christians of the United States of America? It is my fear, that what others are hearing is not good. In looking it appears to me that there is a lack of dedication to Christ Jesus in living and more dedication to gaining the worlds things. There is a great lack of prayer in God’s people of the USA. There is a lack of burden for calling the condemned people of our nation to faith in Christ Jesus. There is more of a push for pleasure, leisure, for entertainment, than there is for the glory of the Lord.
O God, give us a heart for Jesus like those who are suffering for the cause of Christ in other parts of the world.
“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” vv. 9-10
Jesus had so impacted their lives, that the idols they had previously worshipped had been destroyed. They repented [turned from idols, and turned to God], and decided to worship the living God. The One wo could, would, has and does answer prayer. The One who has promised to deliver from “The wrath to come”.
To wait is to continue living the life until He returns with great expectancy. This “Living God” raised His Son from the dead, and has promised He will return.
Being ready means living by the power of the Spirit of the Lord which is in you who know Jesus as Savior. We must always be ready. We do not know the day or the hour when our Lord will come in the clouds and call us away.
Let’s look at a comparison of verses 3 and 10 –
In verse three Paul refers to “Your work of faith”. Verse 10 says, “You turned to God from idols”
Verse three, “Your labor of love”. Verse 10 “To serve the living and true God”.
Verse three, “And patience of hope”. Verse 10 “To wait for His Son from Heaven”.