THE MODEL CHURCH
The thanksgiving (vv. 2–5) is blended with an affirmation (vv. 6–10) of the church. Both together praise past actions of the Thessalonians with the intent (as becomes clear later in the letter) of encouraging the continuation and expansion of praiseworthy Christian deeds and character.
- GOD’S MISSION & THE CHURCH
The Church is a community which is loved and chosen by God.
1. The Third Dependent Clause
The third participial clause dependent on the thanks: “knowing…” [1:4].
a. The Assurance
Paul was assured about the status of the church in Thessalonica: “knowing, brethren beloved…” [1:4].
§ εἰδότες - “knowing” [1:3], perfect active participle, ‘to have seen and believed and hence know’; ‘to know intuitively or instinctively’;
2. The Election of the Church
Paul now presents the second and most profound reason for thankfulness to God in
a. The Election
Paul is assured about election: “your election of God” [1:4].
§ ἐκλογὴν ὑμῶν - “your election” [1:4], from ἐκλέγω; the idea of ‘selection’ is predominant; ‘to seek out or select’;
b. The Old Testament
Paul follows the example of Moses in bringing “love” and “election” together:
§ God’s love and election of Israel was not based on who or what they were: “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous…” [Deu.7:7].
§ The explanation for God’s love and election of Israel is hidden in himself: “but it was because the Lord loved you” [Deu.7:8].
c. The Root Cause
i. The New Social Identity
The identity: “brethren beloved of God…” [1:4].
§ ἀδελφοὶ - “brethren” [1:3], ‘male sibling’; ‘male child of the same parenthood’; in Judaism used to express group identity or a loose sense of group kinship’;
§ They gained a new social identity as ‘those who called God their Father’ [Rom.8:15], ‘professed themselves to be God’s adopted children’ [Gal.3:26], and ‘understood Christ, the Son of God, to be their brother’ [Rom.8:29].
§ The church has been alienated from their society due to their new religious allegiance.
§ But their new social identity is forged by the One who is their Father.
ii. The Love of God
The love of God: “brethren beloved of God…” [1:4].
§ ἠγαπημένοι - “beloved” [1:4], perfect passive participle, in the Old Testament, ‘a spontaneous feeling which impels to self-giving or, in relation to things, to the seizure of the object which awakens the feeling, or to the performance of the action in which pleasure is taken’;
§ ὑπὸ [τοῦ] θεοῦ - “beloved of God” [1:4],
3. God’s Mission
God’s plan for humankind: “that the purpose of God according to election might stand…” [Rom.9:11].
§ πρόθεσις - “purpose” [9:11], ‘plan, purpose, will’; ‘a divine decision that transcends history’; “to them who are the called according to his purpose” [Rom.8:28].
§ A setting forth, presentation, an exposition, determination, plan, or will. It involves purpose, resolve, and design. A placing in view or openly displaying something.
The question: ‘does God have a mission for his Church or does God have a Church for his mission?’
§ The mission: “as the Father has sent me, even so I send you…” [Joh.20:21].
§ Paul’s knowledge of their election is based on the transformation that took place in their lives when he and his colleagues preached Christ to them.
Paul knew the Thessalonians were part of the chosen people of God because he knew the character of the gospel the Thessalonians received (v. 5) and saw the observable results of conversion in their lives (vv. 6–10).
MAKE THE ELECTION OF GOD THE TRANSITION FROM ONE SERMON TO THE NEXT
- THE GOSPEL OF GOD PROCLAIMED
1. The Message
The planting of the church was the direct result of the preaching of the gospel:
a. The Gospel
The good news: “our gospel came not unto you…” [1:5].
§ εὐαγγέλιον - “our gospel” [1:5], ‘good news’; ‘well’ plus ‘message’;
§ The news of transcendent events in the life of the emperor, as well as his decrees and discourses, was proclaimed throughout Italy and the provinces as “good news”.
§ Paul’s gospel was “the good new of Jesus Christ…” [Acts 17:2].
§ ἐγενήθη - “came” [1:5], aorist passive, ‘to come to exist’; ‘to come into being’;
§ εἰς ὑμᾶς - “unto you” [1:5], ‘motion up to and into’ Thessalonica;
§ ἐν λόγῳ - “in word” [1:5], ‘a word as embodying an idea’; ‘statement’; ‘treatise’;
b. The Messengers
The human messengers: “our gospel came not unto you…” [1:5].
§ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν - “our gospel” [1:5], first person genitive plural, genitive of origin; ‘belonging to us’;
§ It was the gospel of Paul, Silas, and Timothy; it was the apostolic preaching of the cross: “that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you…” [1Joh.1:3].
§ The ‘passing on’ of the gospel: “our gospel”, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν, came “unto you”, εἰς ὑμᾶς.
The gospel is the “word of God” which comes in God’s vocabulary. It must be articulated and verbalised.
2. The Accompaniments
Four qualifiers explain the manner in which the gospel came to the Thessalonians.
a. The Presence of Accompaniments
The message of the gospel: “came not unto you in word only…” [1:5].
§ μόνον - “only” [1:5], ‘by itself’;
§ ἀλλὰ καὶ - “but also” [1:5],
§ ἐν - “in” [1:5], ‘withinness’; focus on the spatial;
§ ἐν λόγῳ - “in word” [1:5], ‘a word as embodying an idea’; ‘statement’; ‘treatise’;
b. The Powerful Events
The powerful accompanying events: “but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost…” [1:5].
§ ἐν δυνάμει - “in power” [1:5], ‘strength’; ‘ability to perform an activity’;
i. Some Examples
The preaching of the gospel was accompanied with signs and miracles in apostolic times:
§ The Corinthians: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” [2Cor.12:12].
§ The conversion of Gentiles in Romans: “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” [Rom.15:19].
§ Ephesus: “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul” [Acts 19:11].
c. The Holy Ghost
The presence and work of the Holy Spirit: “in the Holy Ghost…” [1:5].
§ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ - “in the Holy Ghost” [1:5], ‘withinness’;
§ The ἐν has the idea of the spatial: ‘the word was preached within the boundaries of the ministry of the Holy Spirit’.
§ The word of God is the Spirit’s sword: “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” [Eph.6:17].
i. The Necessity
The truth of the Word, the conviction with which we speak it, and the power of its impact on others all come from the Holy Spirit.
§ The new birth: “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit…” [Joh.3:5].
§ Jesus’ promise: “when the Comforter is come he will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement…” [Joh.16:7-11].
§ The Spirit and the messenger: “Paul was compelled by the Spirit and testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ” [Acts 18:5].
§ The Spirit and the recipients: “eye has not seen…but God has revealed them to us by his Spirit” [1Cor.2:10].
§ The combination: “my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” [1Cor.2:1-5].
d. The Conviction of Messengers
The conviction of the messengers: “in much assurance” [1:5].
§ [ἐν] πληροφορίᾳ - “in assurance” [1:5], literally ‘supreme fullness’; ‘the fullness of the divine work’; ‘complete certainty’;
§ πολλῇ - “much” [1:5], ‘a great number’; ‘extensive quantity’;
§ ‘Power describes the objective result of the preaching; conviction the subjective state of the preacher’.
§ Paul was sure of his message, of its truth and of its relevance, and in consequence was bold in proclaiming it.
The “deep conviction” (or perhaps “profound assurance”) may refer either to the conviction demonstrated by the missionaries or the assurance that developed in the hearers of the gospel.
§ In fact, all four phrases could be understood as descriptions of the Thessalonian reception of the gospel.
§ They heard the words of the gospel, miracles occurred in their midst, the works of the Spirit were evident, and evidence was seen that they were fully persuaded of the truth of the gospel.
The Spirit without the Word is weaponless; the Word without the Spirit is powerless.
§ The word is powerful: “The word of God is sharp and powerful…” [Heb.4:12].
§ It is the Holy Spirit that illumines our minds, so that we formulate our message with integrity and clarity:
§ It is the Holy Spirit that assures us of the truth of God’s Word so that we preach it with conviction.
§ It is the Holy Spirit that carries the Word home with power, so the hearers respond to it in penitence, faith and obedience.
3. The Testimony of the Thessalonians
a. The Demonstration
Just as Paul knew what the gospel had done for the Thessalonians, so the Thessalonians knew what kind of people Paul and his fellow-missionaries were: “and you know what manner of men we were among you…” [1:5].
§ οἴδατε - “know” [1:5], perfect active indicative, ‘to have seen and perceived and hence know’;
§ οἷοι - “manner” [1:5], ‘what sort’; ‘what kind’;
§ ἐγενήθημεν - “were” [1:5], aorist passive indicative, ‘come into being’; ‘to exist’;
§ [ἐν] ὑμῖν - “among you” [1:5], focus on the spatial, ‘in your midst’;
§ διʼ ὑμᾶς - “for your sake” [1:5], ‘on account of’;
b. Alternative Interpretation
Understanding vv. 4–5a as descriptive of the Thessalonians (not descriptive of the way Paul presented his gospel) fits well in the context of the comparative clause that concludes v. 5. The comparative adverb (kathōs) “just as,” which should introduce the last statement (“you know how …”), is not translated in the NIV. The result is to obscure the intended comparison between vv. 4–5a and v. 5b. The apostle asserted in these verses, “We know” (v. 4a) the genuineness of your faith because we have seen its impact in your lives, just as (kathōs) “you know” (v. 5b) what sort of lives we lived while we lived among you.
The Thessalonians remembered it well the kind of people the apostles were.
§ A gospel proclaimed in “word” must also be a gospel demonstrated in our character and in our actions.
§ Our evangelism must be so evidently characterised by truth, assurance and power, that like Paul we may be able to appeal to others to testify to it.
- THE GOSPEL OF GOD RECEIVED
1. The Message Received
Paul now goes on to give a full description of the Thessalonians receiving the gospel.
a. The Embrace
The Thessalonians received the Word despite the suffering: “having received the word in much affliction” [1:6].
§ δεξάμενοι - “received” [1:6], ‘receive or accept an object’; ‘to receive or welcome a guest’.
§ The aorist middle participle points to the moment of embracing the gospel.
§ τὸν λόγον - “word” [1:6], ‘a word as embodying an idea’; ‘statement’; ‘treatise’.
b. The Outward Opposition
The welcomed the Word despite the suffering involved: “in much affliction…” [1:6].
§ ἐν - “in” [1:6], ‘withinness’; focus on the spatial;
§ θλίψει - “affliction” [1:6], from thlíbō, ‘to crush, press, compress, squeeze’, which is from thláō, ‘to break’; ‘tribulation, trouble, affliction’;
§ The possibility social isolation when a person believed may also be considered: “everyone who has forsaken houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother…” [Mat.19:29].
i. Acts 17
We see the evidence in the book of Acts: “Paul reasoned with them out of the Scriptures…” [Acts 17:2].
§ The opposition: “the Jews, who did not believe, moved with envy…” [Acts 17:5].
§ The persecution: “set the entire city in an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason…” [Acts 17:5].
§ The persistence of the persecution: “when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the Word of God was preached in Berea, they came there also and stirred up the people” [Acts 17:10-15].
c. The Inner Joy
ii. The Joy
The welcomed the Word with joy: “with joy of the Holy Ghost” [1:6].
§ πολλῇ - “much” [1:6], ‘a great number’; ‘extensive quantity’;
§ μετὰ - “with” [1:6], ‘in company with’;
§ χαρᾶς - “joy” [1:6], ‘state of rejoicing’; ‘denotes both the state and the object of joy’;
§ The ‘charis, “grace”, is that which brings wellbeing among men’; the ‘chara, “joy”, is the individual experience or expression of this wellbeing’;
i. The Holy Ghost
The joy was given by the Holy Ghost: “joy of the Holy Ghost…” [1:6].
§ πνεύματος ἁγίου - “Holy Ghost” [1:6], genitive singular,
§ The genitive of source or origin: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” [Gal.5:22].
The same Spirit that gave power to those who preached the gospel gave joy to those who received it.
A gospel heard; a gospel received; a gospel enjoyed;
2. The Messengers
a. The Imitators
They began to follow the example of the apostles and of the Lord: “you became followers of us…” [1:6].
§ ἐγενήθητε - “became” [1:6], ‘to come to exist’; ‘to come into being’;
§ μιμηταὶ - “followers” [1:6], ‘to imitate, mimic’; ‘to do what is seen to be done by someone else’;
§ ἡμῶν ἐγενήθητε καὶ τοῦ κυρίου – “of us and of the Lord” [1:6], ‘continuity’;
§ Unlike many modern students, the ancients deeply appreciated the value of imitating model lives as a means of moral education, whether those models were parents, heroes, or teachers.
i. The Apostolic Continuity
It is a complete transformation of behaviour through a close following of Christ and his apostles.
§ Imitators of God: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children…” [Eph.5:1].
§ Imitators of Paul and of Jesus: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ…” [1Cor.11:1].
b. The Role Models
They were also role models in the way in which they received the gospel: “so that your were examples…” [1:7].
§ γενέσθαι - “you were” [1:7], aorist middle infinitive, ‘to come to exist’; ‘to come into being’;
§ τύπον - “examples” [1:7], literally ‘to blow’; by metonymy, ‘the impression made by the blow mark, trace’; ‘image’; ‘model to be imitated’.
§ The τύπον could be (i) the example or model that would be used to produce clay pots; (ii) a relief carving or painting that represented not only the one depicted but also the person’s character; (iii) the seal that leaves an impression; (iv) the mould by which some material, such as soft clay, was shaped.
§ πιστεύουσιν - “all that believe” [1:7],
By mentioning the behavior of both the missionaries and the church (vv. 4–5), the letter leads into an affirmation of the church as faithful imitators of the apostolic faith
§ Leon Morris: ‘the imitators in their turn were imitated’;
§ The church in Thessalonica was a model Christian community for other congregations.
§ Four new relationships seem to be implied: the opposition of the world, the joy of the Holy Spirit, the imitation of the Lord and his apostles, and being a model to the rest of the church.
§ There is continuity and consistency with the apostolic message and messengers and with Jesus himself.
§ The Thessalonians’ imitation of Paul and of the Lord consisted in their experience of great distress accompanied by the “joy of the Holy Spirit” at the time of their conversion.
- THE GOSPEL OF GOD PROCLAIMED
1. The News Being Spread
a. A Faith Demonstrated
The Thessalonians expressed their new-found faith: “for from you sounded out the word…” [1:8].
§ ἀφʼ ὑμῶν - “from you” [1:8], ‘separation off’; ‘motion away from’;
§ ἐξήχηται - “sounded out” [1:8], from ek, ‘out or forth’, and ēchéō, ‘to sound’; ‘to sound out, sound abroad’; ‘echo or noise’; ‘to ring our from’;
§ The perfect passive indicative points to ‘a resounding report that goes out in every direction and is repeatedly and widely heard’.
§ ὁ λόγος τοῦ κυρίου - “word of the Lord” [1:8],
b. The Faith Made Known
The news of their faith spread far and wide: “not only in Macedonia and Achaia…” [1:8].
§ οὐ μόνον ἐν - “not only in” [1:8], ‘by itself’;
§ παντὶ τόπῳ - “every place” [1:8], ‘place’; ‘area of space’;
§ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν - “your faith” [1:8],
§ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν - “to God-ward” [1:8],
§ ἐξελήλυθεν - “spread abroad” [1:8], perfect active indicative, from ek, ‘out’, and érchomai, ‘to go or come’; ‘to go or come out of a place’;
c. The Redundant Media
The message was spreading without human media: “for they themselves show of us…” [1:9].
§ αὐτοὶ - “they themselves” [1:9],
§ περὶ ἡμῶν – “of us” [1:9], ‘concerning us’;
§ ἀπαγγέλλουσιν - “show” [1:9], ‘to report, announce, inform’;
We are a very media-conscious generation; use of every modern media of communication
§ There is a more effective way: holy gossip; the transmission from mouth to mouth of the impact which the good news is making on people.
§ A new society is coming into being in Thessalonica; with new values and standards, characterised by faith, love, and hope.
2. The Content of the Message Proclaimed
a. The Kind of Reception
The kind of reception: “what manner of entering in we had…” [1:9].
§ ὁποίαν - “manner” [1:9], ‘what sort of’; ‘what kind’;
§ εἴσοδον - “entering in” [1:9], ‘entrance’; ‘means or place of entering’;
§ ἔσχομεν – “we had” [1:9], ‘to have, hold, possess’;
b. The Conversion
i. The About Turn
The conversion of the Thessalonians: “how you turned to God from idols…” [1:9].
§ ἐπεστρέψατε - “turned” [1:9], aorist active indicative, from epí, ‘to’, and stréphō, ‘to turn’; ‘to turn upon, toward’; “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” [2Cor.3:16].
§ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν – “to God” [1:9], ‘motion towards, up to’;
§ A technical term for conversion and true repentance: “repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…” [Acts 3:19].
ii. A Change of Allegiance
A decisive break with idols: “away from idols to serve…” [1:9].
§ ἀπὸ - “from” [1:9], ‘separation off’; ‘motion away from’;
§ εἰδώλων - “idols” [1:9], ‘formed object that is worshipped’;
§ The reference here must be to Gentile converts in Thessalonica to whom the gospel came because Paul was driven out of the synagogue by the Jews.
§ Gentile pagans in idolatry: “when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods” [Gal.4:8].
The experts call this a ‘power encounter’, for it is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ in which the spell of the idol is broken and the superior power of the living and true God demonstrated.
§ The idea of “serving” is getting busy for Christ on earth.
§ The more sophisticated “idols” of today are all the God-substitutes of modern society.
§ There was no syncretism between their new faith and old religious loyalties. Nor did they take a half-step by adopting God into their pantheon, placing him alongside their other religious loyalties.
§ They took the radical step of abandoning those gods that were part of the worship of their family and their community.
c. The New Allegiance
The report of the conversion of the Thessalonians was further described with two infinitival clauses.
i. The Service
There is the beginning of a new life in the active service of God: “to serve the living and true God” [1:9].
§ δουλεύειν - “to serve” [1:9], present active infinitive, ‘to be a slave’; ‘to be under the control of’;
§ ζῶντι - “living” [1:9], ‘to have life’;
§ ἀληθινῷ - “true” [1:9], ‘real, genuine’;
§ The contrast with the “idols” who “have eyes but they do not see” [Psa.115:5].
ii. The Waiting
The service is carried out with an attitude of waiting: “and to wait for his Son from heaven…” [1:10].
§ ἀναμένειν - “wait” [1:10], present active infinitive, from aná, an emphatic, and ménō, ‘to remain, wait’; ‘to wait for, await, expect’;
§ τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ - “his Son” [1:10],
§ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν - “from heaven” [1:10], ‘the place of present rule’;
d. The Son of God
i. The Resurrected Christ
The Son of God has been raised from the dead as the vindicated Mediator of his people: “whom he raised from the dead…” [1:10].
§ ἤγειρεν - “raised” [1:10], aorist active indicative,
§ ἐκ [τῶν] νεκρῶν - “from the dead” [1:10], ‘motion away from’ the dominion and power of death;
§ The resurrection of the Son of God is His vindication: “justified in the Spirit…” [11Tim.3:].
§ The resurrection of the Son of God guarantees the resurrection of his people: “he is become the firstfruits of them that slept” [1Cor.15:20].
ii. The Saviour Son of God
The Son of God is the Saviour: “who delivered us from the wrath to come” [1:10].
§ ῥυόμενον - “delivered” [1:10], present middle or passive participle, ‘to draw or snatch from danger’;
§ ἐκ τῆς ὀργῆς - “from wrath” [1:10],
§ ἐρχομένης - “to come” [1:10], present middle or passive participle, ‘to come, go’; ‘to move up to or toward’;
§ The final act of Jesus as Saviour of his people: “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God” [Rom.2:5].
The activity of service is conducted in the context of persistent anticipation. Commending their patient expectation in the past served to encourage continued endurance.
This passage (1:2–10) began as an expression of thanks to God (1:2–5). The affirmations growing out of Paul’s prayer of thanks explained the basis for his thankfulness. But beyond this, and more importantly for the message of the letter, the recital of examples of faithfulness on the part of the Thessalonians were calculated to (1) support the good already evident in the Thessalonian church, (2) strengthen existing goodwill between Paul and the church, and (3) anticipate the message contained in the remainder of the letter. The need, especially for the second of these items, is evident as Paul reviewed his behavior in Thessalonica.