Leaving “Church” and Becoming “Ekklesia” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-4)

I am so glad you have chosen to study with us! As we swam out of the eye of the election storm, knowing our nation was about to head down a terribly ungodly path, we took a look at current events…lawlessness in our country and around the world, the trajectory of the current US administration in relation to our allies and enemies, and the looming War of Gog and Magog, prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39.

Add all that on top of a worldwide pandemic no one can contain, and even the faith of stable Christians seems to be shaken. But, God’s Word has answers, and that’s where we are turning! Indeed, if we are to be the “island of righteousness in a sea of paganism” (as Erwin Lutzer would say), we must plant ourselves firmly upon the Solid Rock…the Lord Jesus Christ. Many who call themselves “Christians” will fall away in these tumultuous days, so it is time to determine if your house is built on the solid rock or on sinking sand.

We’re still in our America, Israel and the Church study, but we will focus on the church for a while. The Bible teaches us how to live as we await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to take us home. We will study from 1 & 2 Thessalonians, so put a bookmark there!

The apostle Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians in 51-52 AD, after spending only 3-4 weeks with the Thessalonians, establishing the church (Acts 17:1-4). In a very short time, Paul taught them about God’s ability to preserve them in trials and testing, about what happens to those who die in Christ, about the rapture of the church, about Jesus’s Second Coming, and about church conduct. Those same doctrines and principles apply to us, and we’re going to mine the nuggets of gold!

1 Thessalonians 1 teaches us about an elect people (verses 1-4), an exemplary people (verses 5-7), an enthusiastic people (verse 8) and an expectant people (verses 9-10). Stop and read chapter 1. Can you identify those discriptions?

In verse 1, Paul writes to the church of Thessaloniki. Yet, if we go to the original language (Greek), the word translated “church” is actually the Greek word ekklesia. (The link will take you to a lexicon for the full definition.)

  • What is the definition of that word?
  • In your thinking, how does it differ from “church?”

Ekklesia was actually a very common word in the culture of the day, and it wasn’t a “religious” word. It simply meant a gathering of people for a common purpose. But what makes it special for the Thessalonians and for us? Re-read verse 1 and pay close attention to the phrase that follows “To the church of the Thessalonians…”

Did you catch it? “…in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The difference between us as believers and a group that gathers to watch a football game is that we are IN God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! We’re not in a room, watching an event. Church may be a social club, but ekklesia is not! We are participants, a called out people, set apart for the work of the Lord. We don’t even need a building! Thus, we need to get out of the “church” and become the ekklesia…set apart ones!

Think about it: when the world sees you, do they see anything different than any other person? Read 1 Peter 2:9-10.

  • According to those verses, what is your identity?
  • How does that set you apart from others?

Read John 10:27-29.

  • Do you hear His voice? Do you follow Him?
  • How secure are you in His possession?

The ekklesia will grow strong in this season, and we should long for everyone we know to be part of the ekklesia.

Paul longed for it, and expressed gratitude for the newborn ekklesia in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4. Keep in mind Paul was in their presence for only about 4 weeks. Those new believers had to grow up quickly, and Paul gave thanks and remembered them. According to verses 3, for what did Paul remember them?

Work of Faith
We don’t work to earn our way into God’s good graces. However, true faith produces works. If we say we have faith, our works will bear out the truth. Read James 2:18-22 and ask yourself, “Do the things I do reflect my faith, or do I do things in an attempt to gain God’s favor?” Paul was thankful and remembered the Thessalonians for their work of faith!

Labor of Love
Paul saw them doing things for one another and living life together. True love produces labor. How often do we hear of a need and either do nothing, or send out an “I will pray for you,” rather than actually helping to meet the need? Read Hebrews 10:24-25 and say privately to the Lord, “Please put someone in my path today that has a need, and slow me down enough to love them by meeting that need.” The Thessalonians were acting out their love for one another and Paul was grateful. We can all do the same. That is ekklesia in action!

Steadfastness of Hope
The world has no hope and offers no hope. True hope produces patience and steadfastness, but the only source is our Blessed Hope, the Lord Jesus Christ. What do these verses say about hope:

In 1 Thessalonians 1:4, it was obvious to Paul by what he saw that the Thessalonians were believers. A tree is known by its fruit!

43 For there is no good tree that bears bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree that bears good fruit. 44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

~Luke 6:43-45

What kind of fruit is on your tree? Are you “playing church” or have you become part of the ekklesia? It is time for us all to determine how the remainder of our days on this earth are spent. The world is tugging at us to go our own way. Discouragement says, “You can’t make it in this world with Godly beliefs and character.”

But the Bible says, “Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world!” Be bold, be strong, hold tight…our Redeemer is coming for us soon!

See you tomorrow! God bless you!

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