1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
I have chosen to begin our study of Paul’s relationship to the churches by looking at the first letters that he wrote instead of the first churches he founded. On his first missionary journey he and Barnabas ministered among the Galatian people. It was on his second journey that Paul traveled to Thessalonica. Paul wrote at least 13 letters and the Thessalonian letters were probably the first. He had been driven out of the city by jealous religious leaders and he wrote the letters in Corinth to encourage the Thessalonians. He assured them that he was…
Praying constantly. Let’s look at the next verse 1 Thessalonians 1:2. We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,
What kind of thanks did Paul give for the Thessalonians? Looking down to verse four we see that Paul rejoices that God has chosen them. In the second letter Paul states that he was bound to give thanks for them because God chose them from the beginning to be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:13). We too should praise God for the people he is choosing in our communities and around the world. We cannot praise people for being saved because we know that salvation is ultimately due to God’s choice not ours. We need to constantly be praying for those whom God has chosen to step forward and acknowledge Christ. For those who think prayer should be short and sweet we have the words of Jesus found in…
Luke 18:1-5 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ”
We are reminded that twice Moses stayed alone with God on the mountaintop praying for the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 9:25-26; 10:10-11). Jacob wrestled with God all night seeking his blessing (Genesis 22:26). Jesus himself often withdrew and at times prayed all night (Luke 6:12). So he teaches us to be encouraged by our ability to pray continuously. When we are seeking God’s wisdom on a particular matter we should repeatedly bring the subject up with him in prayer. Paul, himself, pleaded with the Lord three times that his thorn in the flesh should be taken away (2 Corinthians 12:8). And then, of course, Jesus prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane asking the Father to remove the cup of suffering and separation from him (Mark 14:36-40).
Paul was following in an excellent tradition when he constantly praised God and prayed for the Thessalonian Christians. Part of his praise was…
Remembering their faith. Let’s look ahead to 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.
In chapter 1, verse three, Paul speaks of their “work of faith” by the choice of his words he indicates that faith is not some simple thing. In order for us to exercise faith we have to work against all the forces of this world and our flesh, strengthened by the devil, our spiritual enemy.
In the middle of the first letter we see that Timothy has brought a good report to Paul concerning their faith. Being separated from them caused him to be anxious about their spiritual needs and growth. With this report from Timothy he could stop being anxious and instead be comforted because of their faith.
Paul was also…
Remembering their love. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 4:9. Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
Obviously these new believers in Christ were able to work at their faith and then, note the change in the word, “labor” of love. We should all recognize that love should not be taken for granted — instead love should be worked at.
It is encouraging to me that Paul’s gospel fit the pattern established by Jesus. Jesus had told his disciples to love one another as evidence of their faith in him (John 13:35). Loving one another is evidence of the work of God in our lives. At the same time, we need to make an effort to show love. Today, many people, when they speak of love, speak of it as a noun. The word offered to us most often in Scripture that is translated “love” is a verb. Or as Don Francisco would have it, “Love is not a feeling it’s an act of your will!”
Now, let’s consider what loving action will result in. When you act lovingly you will ultimately feel a feeling of love that is the result of your choices. When we choose to love one another an outgrowth of that choice will be feeling love for one another. Paul would later write to the Corinthians telling them to, “Pursue love” over spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1).
As Paul was remembering their faith and labor of love he was…
Encouraged by their hope. Let’s look at 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Right through the Thessalonian letters we find this emphasis. Faith and love result in hope! The grace of God granted to us through our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father gives us hope to continue lives of faith. The kind of hope that is built on our relationship to God, through Christ, is steadfast and sure. And that kind of hope always gives us comfort and peace in this life.
Faith, love and hope guides us towards…
Following a godly pattern. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
When Paul preached to the Thessalonians he reminded them that God will lead them in the truth. It wasn’t just a matter of speaking the gospel there was a need for Holy Spirit conviction. That might occur in many ways! There could be miracles of healing and deliverance. There should be the miracle of changed lives. There will be a desire to imitate those who have shared the gospel with us. Not practice an imitation faith but pattern our faith after those who have taught us.
Many years later Paul would write to Timothy and tell him to take what he had learned from Paul and teach it to those around him so that they would then be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul did not hesitate to say, in many different ways, “If you are having difficulty in the Christian walk, follow my example until it becomes your pattern of life.” (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:7 are a few examples).
This confidence these new Christians were gaining allowed them to begin the process of…
Spreading the gospel to their neighbors. Let’s read on 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
One evidence of salvation in a person’s life is the desire to tell others. One example we can look to is what happened when Jesus delivered the man who had 1000 demons from his bondage. He, quite naturally, wanted to stay with Jesus and enjoy his presence. However, Jesus did not allow him to do that. Instead, he said to him “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19)
There are so many examples that we can turn to. An example that has always fascinated me is that of the Karen people in Burma, or Myanmar as it is now called, when our missionaries first went there they concentrated their efforts on the ruling class and ignored the many tribes out in the hill country. The Karen people had always known a story that a white man would come and bring a book to tell them about the eternal God!
Adoniram Judson had been confronted by a wild tribesman who was known to be a murderer and thief. Over a period of time Judson led this man to faith in Christ. However, he continued his effort to reach the upper class.
When a new missionary couple arrived, George and Sarah Boardman, they took on this wild man and began teaching him how to grow in Christ. When the Boardman’s moved out into the country to live the man whose name was, Ko Thah-byu, begged to go with them. He asked Boardman to baptize him and then he set out on a journey into the hills of southern Burma. As he entered each village he preached the gospel and virtually every person who heard it repented of their sin and turned to the Lord Jesus Christ! Very soon Boardman was being asked by the hill tribes to come and teach them! He was amazed to find village after village with many believers and a building set aside to worship God.
The Thessalonians had heard the gospel and made it their responsibility to carry the gospel all across what is modern day Greece. It was then known as Macedonia and Achaia. Paul had left behind a small embattled group of believers and when he wrote his two letters to them they had already been busy carrying the gospel to all the surrounding countryside even though they were constantly being opposed.
Their faith, love and hope caused them to be…
Looking forward to the coming of Christ. Let’s go back to the beginning and see what was said to the disciples after Jesus ascended into heaven. Acts 1:10-11 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Jesus had told the disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them and they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). To the amazement of the angels, these men did not begin looking for a way to fulfill the command! Instead, they settled into Jerusalem and only left when severe persecution came upon them. The angels could ask, “why do you stand looking into heaven?” So far as they were concerned, “Go” meant “Go”!
The Thessalonians caught on quickly and became witnesses to their city and all of the surrounding areas.
Next week, God willing, we will look at the letters of Paul to the Thessalonians. Since they were his first letters they’re going to teach us what he emphasized in his early preaching. Later, his writing would become more theologically mature. However, we must remember that all of the preserved writings of Paul and the other apostles are inspired Scripture. From Paul’s writings inspired by the Holy Spirit we learn that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We come to know that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Have you put your faith in him that is your only hope of eternal life and a home in heaven when you die.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.