1 Thessalonians 1:1 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. 2 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; 4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 5 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. 6 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. 8 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. 9 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; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
What a glorious blessing it must have been to these believers, mostly Gentiles (Acts 17:4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.), to receive such a blessed confirmation that they were a true church! And the evidence was so much so to this Apostle of Christ, that he even stated in writing that he was confident of their election of God! (v.4).
They had been but citizens of a thriving Roman city at the north end of the Aegean Sea in the Provence of Macedonia. But the Apostle Paul and his fellow missionaries had been driven over to their city by ill treatment in Philippi. (1 Thes. 2:2). And the Spirit’s effectual preaching through this ministry that this Jesus is Christ, (Acts 17:3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.), brought them into the life of the kingdom of God!
In verse one the Apostle Paul gets right to the point by stating that they were a church in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ! They were in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! Therefore they were of the one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all! For each of them, individually, had been given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ! (Ephesians 4:3-6).
They were in God the Father. For in chapter two and verse fourteen we read, For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: For this was no ecclesiastical influence sent to conform them to some religious order! Their souls had not been arrested in the bondage of usurped religious authority! They had actually been brought into the exact same spiritual character, as Gentiles in that far off Roman Provence of Macedonia, even as were the Jewish souls in the churches brought to Christ back in Judaea! Gal. 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And the apostle also states that they were in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the fourth chapter and the fourteenth verse he mentions their belief that Jesus died and rose again! And in verse six of our above listed text we read of their being followers, not just of some emotional influence from these preachers, but of their being spiritual followers of them, and of the Lord!
Listen to his additional confirming words in his second letter to them. 2 Th. 2:16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work. The apostle here prays for the same comfort and maturity of their hearts as only comes from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. And he wills that their maturity in the Holy Spirit should be unto the establishment of both their words and their works.
And as we have already noticed in verse four of our above listed verses, the Apostle Paul makes an amazing statement concerning his assurance of their election! But how can he know this? Sovereign election took place before the foundation of the world! Neither any human, nor angel was there, for it had always been in the eternal purposes within the personal consciousness of the Father. How then could he make such a seemingly irresponsible statement?
The evidences he saw of electing grace are given in the following verses. For election is unto salvation and holiness. (Eph. 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy…) And true, elected, blood-cleansed, Spirit invested salvation causes all things to be made new! Old things pass away and all things become new with it’s effectual introduction to the soul! (2 Cor. 5:17).
This is so much the case that the Lord says that men could be justified or condemned by their words! (Mt. 12:37) For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh! (Matt. 12:34) And he says that he would separate the elected and regenerate sheep from the unbelieving goats into their eternal places by their works! (Matt. 25:32ff.) For it is by their fruits that they shall be known. An apple tree doesn’t give forth apples to become an apple tree. It gives forth apples because IT IS an apple tree! The fruit reveals the nature of the tree! Matt. 7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Then in verse three of our text, he gives a three fold evidence of their election and it’s fulfillment in experienced salvation. For here he speaks of their work being energized by faith. And he refers to their service being motivated by love, and of their unwavering hope. And these are the three main graces of which he speaks to the church at Corinth. (1Cor. 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.) For to every believer, without exception, is given these three graces to bring them to their final and eternal rest in Christ! The faith once delivered unto the saints, (Jude 3), which overcometh the world, (1 John 5:4), is never dormant, but is an active, vibrant grace that always pleases God!
And the love of God is the motivating factor for their service to both God and man. For one cannot love God whom they have not seen if they cannot love their spiritual brother whom they have seen. And it is that eternally enduring grace that shall abide forever when faith and hope have finished their benefit on the earthly journey! 1Cor. 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
And that unwavering hope is the twin sister of faith which reaches out to that hoped for and lives on it as if it were already realized!
And there are additional examples of their identity as a true church of the Lord. First they were focused on and hated by the religious element in their community! In John 13:34,35 the Lord instructs us that the effectual commandment of loving one another will be within every individual believer. And he also instructs us that this love will expose our spiritual identity to the Harlot church! He say that “all men shall know that ye are my disciples” by this spiritually infused nature of His love. And then we read in Luke 21:17 that with that manifested identification we shall be “hated of all men!”
Now listen to the account of this situation as recorded in Acts 17. Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; 7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. 8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.
Wow! We should be thankful that our faithful Lord foretold us of this! His forewarning both gives us greater assurance that he is Lord, and knows all things; and it strengthens our faith! John 13:19 Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. 14:29 And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.
Couple this with 1 Thessalonians 1:6 & 7 and you will see that the effectual gospel Word, birthing souls in the midst of adversity, greatly strengthens their faith. 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.
And of this need to increase in the maturity of their faith the Apostle addresses in both his letters to these believers. In fact, it was in the wondrous providence of the Sovereign Lord that to the Apostle was first given great love and urgency to get back to this church, but then was given a hinderance from Satan to prevent him from doing so! 1Thess. 2:17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. 18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
And this produced, secondly, a fervent, and an astonishingly persistent spirit of prayer from the Apostle, both day and night, specifically in the matter for the maturing of their faith! 1Thess. 3:10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? The Lord’s ways are past finding out! Paul’s great love for them, coupled with the inability to get to them, caused him to constantly petition the throne of God, crying out to the Mediator for their safety and growth! So in this, the Lord had Timothy to go to them while His Apostle offered up effectual prayers for them!
For Paul was so very desirous to hear of the state of their perseverance that he sent Timothy, denying himself of his spiritual encouragement, so that he could learn of their well being! And it is amazing that he uses a term to describe Timothy’s report back to him that he has used for the preaching of the gospel. That term in verse six of chapter three, good tidings is, in fact, the exact same Greek word translated to preach the gospel in Romans 1:15! 1Th. 3:6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: 7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:
This also comes to the surface in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. Philippians 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. 17 Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.
Truly, God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith! (Romans 1:17).
Pastor Gene Breed
July 9, 2010