1 Thessalonians 1_1-3
Overview of 1 Thessalonians The church in Thessalonica was a very special church in the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul. He had the privilege under the leading of the Spirit of God in his life to take the message of the gospel into the Gentile world. And even though he was an Apostle to the Gentiles, every time he went into a new city, he went immediately to the synagogue. And the first thing he did was endeavor to evangelize the Jews and see if he couldn’t see some of them come to faith in their Messiah. The Lord graciously allowed him that and so he had some folks to help him with the evangelization of the Gentile population. In the places that he went, the Lord allowed him to establish churches. In establishing those churches, obviously, there were some great joys. But not all of those churches brought him unmixed joy. There was the Corinthian church that caused him no small heartache. He wrote at least four letters that we know about, two of them included in the Scripture, very long letters, trying to straighten out the carnality and the sins and the worldliness and the indulgence and divisiveness and pride and animosity and everything else, corruption, drunkenness, prostitution, if you will, of the Lord’s table into something ugly. And the Corinthian church was not a church necessarily to make a pastor happy. And then there was the church at Colossae, the church at Colossae also struggled to be faithful to the Lord. The church at Colossae was drawn toward carnality and drawn toward sensuality, and drawn toward mysticism, and drawn toward legalism. And then there was the church at Ephesus, proud, lacking humility, impatient, following patterns of sin from its past life, lacking forgiveness. There were many sins in Ephesus that had to be addressed as well as evidences of spiritual weakness, in spite of the extensive ministry Paul had there. The Galatian churches, more than one, proved to be defective and disloyal and even abandoning what had been begun by the Holy Spirit for the causes of the flesh, causing him no end of grief. The Philippian church which in many ways might seem like a good church was characterized by discord, complaining, worry and two cantankerous women were so much a distraction in that church that their named in Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. When he wrote to those churches in every letter that he wrote, he addressed problems in the church, things that were grief to him, serious griefs to him. Stole his joy. In fact, even threatened the fact that he had begun a work there, because that work could disappear. He was afraid, for example, in the case of the Corinthians that he had labored in vain for nothing, it was that bad. Paul pastored many churches from their beginning. And most of those churches, all but one of those churches, gave him all kinds of concerns. But not the Thessalonian church. This is the letter that he wrote to a church that brought him the greatest joy…the Thessalonian church. That was the exception to the rule. Many pastors have endeavored to lead carnal churches and many carnal churches are the product of carnal pastors. It’s a rare day to find a church that brings its pastors and its shepherds nothing but joy…nothing but joy. In Hebrews chapter 13, as that book comes to an end, believers are told, “Obey your leaders, submit to them for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief.” That’s the exception, being able to do a ministry in a church with joy and nothing but joy. One church brought that to Paul, this church, the church at Thessalonica. Similar to the letter of Colossians, Paul’s letter to the Thessalonican church is one that is full of theology and rich in truth. It covers a large breadth of topics from Church polity, to the newness of the believer, to endurance in the midst of suffering, to the end times. Although only 5 chapters long, it is one that you could spend a lifetime reading and still find yourself learning from it. It is a convicting letter. An encouragement for sure to the readers, and a letter that we shouldn’t take so lightly as well. For any person who believes that they have done enough, this letter will surely cause you to rethink what you believe. The work of a disciple is never over. The necessity of the message of gospel to be preached is not going to come to end while we await the Lord’s return. The task if slaying our flesh, of denying our flesh and taking up our cross does not end at the moment we receive the free gift of salvation. A major theme that is all throughout the letter of 1st Thessalonians is the theme to carry on with your work. 1:7; 4:1,7; 5:23 is an example. C.H. Spurgeon “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” “The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us.” A. W. Tozer Leonard Ravenhill “Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?” Jesus “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” We have a lot of work to do. When you come to the Scriptures, if you do not come face to face with the fact that you are a sinner and that the chief end of man is to give God the glory and to enjoy him forever then I’m sorry. You aren’t changed. You haven’t come to know my God, the only true God. In addition to the major theme that all believers need to carry out the work God has placed for them is also insight on His Second Coming. In fact, 1/2 Thessalonians the Olivet Discourse, and the Apocalypse of John form the main prophetic portions that we have in the New Testament. Now, this letter is written by Paul and we know this easily enough because he identifies himself as the human author in vs 1. We can also see that Sylvanus (Silas) and Timothy are also contributors to this letter in some form or fashion. They may not have penned any of the words, but they are also mentioned and so they should not be neglected as contributors to this letter. We read of his intent for writing the letter in 3:6-7. We also know who he is addressing. He is addressing the church in Thessalonica. These are believers based on the tone of the letter and the exhortation that he gives about them. We see that clearly in vs 4 where he calls them as having been “chosen by God” in vs 9. And again in 2: 13-14. He continuously calls them his brothers and sisters as well. We also know that these people were enduring through great suffering. Vs 3:3 In addition to the pressure from the Roman Empire and the Jewish leaders persecuting the Christians, they also were in a city that had many idols. It was located on the Via Egnatia, the main highway that connected Rome with the East. So, these people were most likely Gentile believers and it enjoyed a strong Jewish community as well. We read of Paul’s visit here in Acts 17 and we read that they had their own synagogue. We read in Acts 17 that the Jews are greatly disturbed about the teaching of Jesus and they stirred up a gang to find them. If one believes that Paul wrote Galatians before the Jerusalem council, then this letter would be Paul’s second letter that he wrote (49 AD). If you believe that Galatians was written after the second missionary journey, then this would be his first and would make it the very first book we have of the New Testament (54-55 AD). This epistle written with great certainty around 50 AD. Now, with that background in mind. Let’s go ahead and read this letter as it was intended…as a letter. 1 Thessalonians 1-5 As you heard and as we read, holiness is a major theme. God has always called His people to holiness. When you read the OT, as the people are brought out of slavery in Egypt the Lord tells them that they are to be holy as He is holy (Lev 11:44; 20:8,26). We see that same pattern in this letter. Vs 1-3 We read a similar message in Colossians that should be present in every pastor. They ought to care for their sheep. Praying for them and exhorting them to righteousness. And his prayers are also an encouragement for the readers. They are being acknowledged for the work of their faith. Now Paul in no way is implying that salvific faith is one that requires works. That is not even what the statement says. But what we do see is that any believer with true, saving faith bears fruit in obedience to the Lord. We see that their fruit was two fold: 1) Labor of Love 2) Steadfast in their hope 1) Labor of Love This love is shown by their obedience to God and welcome travelers. This love is not one that they learned from man as well. It was taught to them by God. They had a love that is commendable. A love for God with all their heart, soul and mind and a love for His people. 4:9-10 2) Steadfast in their hope. They were holding on to the assurance that Jesus was coming back and that although they are going through struggles and persecution, they would be delivered from it. In this introductory statement we read of the triad “faith”, “hope” and “love”. (5:8, Rom 5:2-5; 1 Cor 13:13; Gal 5:5,6; Col 1:4-5; Heb 6:10-12, 10:22-24; 1 pet 1:3-8,21,22). It was for the true, saving faith that they had that Paul continuously keeps them in his prayers and is a reason for him to give thanks to God. The Thessalonians' response to the gospel and their continuance in the faith caused Paul and his companions to thank God for them continually. "Continually" is hyperbole meaning very often. Obviously Paul did not mean that he spent all his time praying for the Thessalonians. Three characteristics of these Christians stood out to Paul. First, they had turned to Christ in faith. Second, they had served Him out of love. Third, they had borne up under tribulation patiently because of the hope that lay before them. Each virtue found its object in Jesus Christ as they lived before God. They had exercised faith in the past when they first trusted Christ. They were loving Him in the present, and they were hoping for His return in the future (cf. 1 Cor. 13:13). "These three Christian virtues—faith, love, and hope—occupied a large place in early analyses of Christian responsibility. The expectation was that in every life faith would work (Gal 5:6; James 2:18), love would labor (Rev 2:2, 4), and hope would endure (Rom 5:2-4; 8:24, 25). This threefold balance probably arose even before Paul's doctrinal stance had matured and perhaps came from the teachings of Christ himself." "The triad of faith, hope and love is the quintessence(embodiment) of the God-given life in Christ." In these two verse we read what a true believer looks like. When you walk into this building you must come across that triad. We have it on the tiles as a reminder to each and every person here what are the marks of a believer. And if you are not a believer, you see what you are lacking. Apart from Christ, you have no faith. Hebrews 12:2 “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Apart from Christ you cannot love. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4:18 If you love me, keep my commands. John 14:15 And finally apart from Christ, you have no hope. Everyone knows John 3:16. How about 17. How about 18? Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. If you do not have Christ you have no hope, but fearful expectation of the judgment. If you are saved, then you know this because you have faith. What is true faith. True, saving faith always produces in the life of a believer, works. Always. If you tell me you are saved, but do not need works, then I know that you were never saved. True faith brings love. Love for God with all your heart and soul and mind. And you have hope. If you are living without a look into the future. You aren’t living. You can trust that God never lies and will fulfill his covenant. He will come again and He will draw His people to Him and cast out those who have rejected Him.