Series: Maintaining this hope
Message – Paul… to the Thessalonians
Paul… to the Thessalonians
We are going to start looking at the hope of the gospel and its fulfillment at the return of the Lord in Paul’s letter to the church of Thessalonica.
Turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 1…
1Thess. 1:1-7, “(1) Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy: To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace. (2) We always thank God for all of you, remembering you constantly in our prayers. (3) We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, labor of love, and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, (4) knowing your election, brothers loved by God. (5) For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we were among you for your benefit, (6) and you became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with the joy from the Holy Spirit. (7) As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”
Paul, Silvanus [Silas] and Timothy were the ones who first came to Thessalonica with the gospel and so it was only quite natural that Paul cited all three in this initial address. These were familiar and much loved names and men.
Faith, Hope & Love
Paul was grateful for these believers, not only because they were believers but because they first believed in the presence of persecution and still defended not only the faith, but also the lives of these men.
Paul recalls the four most important aspects of the Christian faith, three of which he most famously outlined in his letter to the Corinthians – chapter 13, often referred to as, ‘the love chapter’ which concludes with these words, “…and now there remains Faith, Hope & Love, these three, but the greatest of these is Love.”
Paul remembers the sincerity of all three in these believers…
- Your WORK of faith – by which is meant works which are produced by genuine faith. This was and is the highest form of praise for any believer.
- Labor of love – This was the force and motivation spurring on their faith and energizing the tirelessness of their work.
- Enduring hope – Hope, being a favorable expectation, also played a key role in their motivation. Knowing that their labors of love were not in vain, but would certainly end in the reward of their faith becoming sight at the return of the Lord when they would finally realize the fulness of their salvation by conformity to His image.
- Joy in the Holy Ghost – The one thing that enables us to persevere is the Joy we have in our koinonia (our fellowship with) the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.
- Rom. 14:17, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
So upon remembering them, which no doubt they did often, it was always with thankfulness and prayers for their spiritual and natural well-being.
Now, to make your understanding of these people more well rounded and complete, let’s turn to Acts 17, which is Luke’s chronicle of when Paul, Timothy and Silas brought the message of the gospel to these people.
Even though Macedonia in northern Greece was located nearly a thousand miles from Jerusalem, Paul did a fair amount of ministry in that area.
Since this too was well within Roman domain, the roads they built aided the accessibility of the gospel to these towns. One of the roads which you may have heard of before was called the Egnatian Way. It passed through several towns in Macedonia visited by the apostle Paul in the New Testament as he established churches in Philippi and Thessalonica (Acts 16-17).
Acts 17:1-15, “(1) Then they traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. (2) As usual, Paul went to them, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, (3) explaining and showing that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead, and saying: “This is the Messiah, Jesus, whom I am proclaiming to you.” (4) Then some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, including a great number of God-fearing Greeks, as well as a number of the leading women. (5) But the Jews became jealous, and when they had brought together some scoundrels from the marketplace and formed a mob, they set the city in an uproar. Attacking Jason’s house, they searched for them to bring them out to the public assembly. (6) When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too, (7) and Jason has received them as guests! They are all acting contrary to Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king–Jesus!” (8) The Jews stirred up the crowd and the city officials who heard these things. (9) So taking a security bond from Jason and the others, they released them. (10) As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea. On arrival, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. (11) The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (12) Consequently, many of them believed, including a number of the prominent Greek women as well as men. (13) But when the Jews from Thessalonica found out that God’s message had been proclaimed by Paul at Beroea, they came there too, agitating and disturbing the crowds. (14) Then the brothers immediately sent Paul away to go to the sea, but Silas and Timothy stayed on there. (15) Those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible, they departed.”
“(8) For the Lord’s message rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place that your faith in God has gone out, so we don’t need to say anything.
(9) For they themselves report about us what kind of reception we had from you: how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, (10) AND to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead–Jesus, Who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
“1) For you yourselves know, brothers, that our visit with you was not without result.
(2) On the contrary, after we had previously suffered and been outrageously treated in Philippi, as you know, we were emboldened by our God to speak the gospel of God to you in spite of great opposition.
(3) For our exhortation didn’t come from error or impurity or an intent to deceive. (4) Instead, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please men, but rather God, Who examines our hearts.”
This is a healthy mindset the early apostles attempted to instill in the early church. We do WHAT we do before the all seeing eyes of God! He ALWAYS examines each heart, just like we read last Wednesday night in Jeremiah 17:10,
“(10) I, the LORD, probe into people’s minds. I examine people’s hearts. I deal with each person according to how he has behaved. I give them what they deserve based on what they have done.”
“(5) For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives–God is our witness– (6) and we didn’t seek glory from people, either from you or from others. (7) Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, instead we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother nurtures her own children.
(8) We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.
“(9) For you remember our labor and hardship, brothers. Working night and day so that we would not burden any of you, we preached God’s gospel to you. (10) You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers.”
“ (11) As you know, like a father with his own children, (12) we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, Who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”
“(13) Also, this is why we constantly thank God, because when you received the message about God that you heard from us, you welcomed it not as a human message, but as it truly is, the message of God, which also works effectively in you believers. (14) For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, since you have also suffered the same things from people of your own country, just as they did from the Jews.”
“(15) They killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecuted us; they displease God, and are hostile to everyone, (16) hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. As a result, they are always adding to the number of their sins, and wrath has overtaken them completely.”
“(17) But as for us, brothers, after we were forced to leave you for a short time (in person, not in heart), we greatly desired and made every effort to return and see you face to face. (18) So we wanted to come to you–even I, Paul, time and again–but Satan hindered us.”
“(19) For who is our hope, or joy, or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? Is it not you? (20) For you are our glory and joy!”
Examples of WHY disciples producing fruit is a glory and joy for a teacher…
- 2Timothy 2:15, “(15) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
- Php. 2:14-16, “(14) Do everything without grumbling and arguing, (15) so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. (16) Hold firmly the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run in vain or labor for nothing.”
- Gal. 4:11, “(11) I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.”
- 1Jn. 2:28, “(28) And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
And this is echoed yet once more in the next chapter which is where we will end for today.
“(1) Therefore, when we could no longer stand it, we thought it was better to be left alone in Athens. (2) And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s co-worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith, (3) so that no one will be shaken by these persecutions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.
(4) In fact, when we were with you, we told you previously that we were going to suffer persecution, and as you know, it happened. (5) For this reason, when I could no longer stand it, I also sent to find out about your faith, fearing that the tempter had tempted you and that our labor might be for nothing.
(6) But now Timothy has come to us from you and brought us good news about your faith and love, and that you always have good memories of us, wanting to see us, as we also want to see you.”
“(7) Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution, we were encouraged about you through your faith. (8) For now we live, if you stand firm in the Lord.
(9) How can we thank God for you in return for all the joy we experience because of you before our God, (10) as we pray earnestly night and day to see you face to face and to complete what is lacking in your faith?
(11) Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you. (12) And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we also do for you.
(13) May He make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. Amen.”
Now this is a VERY encouraging reprieve from the letter Paul had to write to the Galatians. Here he has NOTHING to say by way of reproof or rebuke, but only praise and encouragement for their whole hearted response to the Gospel.
Next week we will pick up in chapter 4 where Paul further encourages them to continue as they have in the faith, only with even more zeal and then to make sure they understood one of the key messages of the Gospel that they might walk before God in sincerity and holiness and that is the doctrine regarding Christ’s return.