Fellow Bible students, we just began a journey through 1&2 Thessalonians, seeking God’s instruction and encouragement as we navigate waters in which we have never been. Our nation is a mess. In many ways, the church is a mess. Even believers are a mess! But God’s Word has much to say as we listen in to the teachings of the apostle Paul to the newborn church at Thessalonica. Yesterday, we began our study with Leaving “Church” and Becoming “Ekklesia,” as we gleaned from 1 Thessalonians 1:1-4. It is foundational, so I encourage you to begin there if you missed it yesterday.
Today’s excursion takes us into 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10, so I invite you to open your Bible and read all 10 verses of chapter 1 for context. I like the way one teacher divides this chapter because it puts things in simple context:
- Verses 1-4: The church is an ELECT people.
- Verses 5-7: The church is an EXEMPLARY people.
- Verse 8: The church is an ENTHUSIASTIC people.
- Verses 9-10: The church is an EXPECTANT people.
Let’s put meat on those bones! Yesterday, we learned that the church at Thessalonica was a brand new body of believers, but Paul recognized their work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope, leaving no doubt they had received the election of God. They were an ELECT people. BTW, God “elected” everyone when He died on the cross to take away our sin. However, one is not a true follower of Jesus unless and until you put your faith in Him and allow Him to be Lord of your life! If you have doubts, ask yourself if you have ever truly surrendered to Him. If not, do so! If so, get into His Word and doubts will cease as you immerse yourself in His promises!
Secondly, the church (the body of Christ…the ekklesia) is an EXEMPLARY people, according to verses 5-7. Based on verse 5, how did the Gospel come to them?
- It was preached in words, explanations of the truth.
- It was preached in power, the sheer confidence of the message of Christ.
- It was preached in the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by saved souls and changed lives.
- It was preached with full conviction, the assurance of truth.
Has the Word of God changed your life? Anyone can talk “Christian-eze,” but when power and the Holy Spirit accompany truth, there is conviction and full assurance. These were brand new believers and verse 6 indicates they became imitators of Paul. Who do you imitate? Does your pastor model discipleship? Do you have a mentor who is approachable, knowable and touchable? Paul lived among the people when he visited Thessalonica…he was approachable and available. If you have no one to imitate, ask the Lord for a mentor, and keep your eyes open for the answer to that prayer! Then, once you have begun to imitate, be a mentor to someone else! Nothing grows your walk with the Lord better than mentoring someone else!
Verse 6 also indicates the young believers suffered affliction. Of course! Imagine what it would have been like to live in a pagan culture as a new believer. Yet, they were on fire! Read the following passages and consider the exhortations of Jesus and Paul:
Spiritual attack is to be expected in the lives of believers. We are called to it because we are not of this world, nor does the world understand us. They hate what we stand for and the enemy will not sit quietly if we are living for Jesus. Think about it this way: as believers within the body of Christ, if we DO NOT face trials and tribulations, we should probably be concerned! But gain courage from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7! He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, and He comforts us in all our tribulation and trouble. In fact, it is hardship that brings about victory in our lives!
As an exemplary people, the Thessalonians also became an example to others. Are you an example to others? Do you encourage others? Do you help them succeed? That’s the model presented to us here.
Not only were the Thessalonian believers an elect people and an exemplary people, they were also an ENTHUSIATIC people. According to verse 8, the Word of the Lord sounded forth from them! This wasn’t rah-rah enthusiasm, this was like the blowing of a trumpet. The phrase “sounded forth” is the Greek word execheomai, meaning to blow like a trumpet, to repeat the call! Do you repeat the call? Do you share what you know about the Lord’s goodness and salvation?
But it gets better! I must admit, I do not own a 1933 Oxford Dictionary (though I wish I did!) English language scholars tell us that if you want a true definition, go to the oldest dictionary you can find. According to a trusted source, the 1933 Oxford Dictionary defines these words:
- Enthusiast: A person who is possessed by God.
- Enthusiastic: The activity or action displayed by a person who is possessed by God.
- Enthusiasm: The act of being possessed by God.
Broken down in an original language: En = internal, Theos = God, astic = reaction. Enthusiastic is an internal reaction to God! Are you enthusiastic? Are your actions those of one who is possessed by God? The Thessalonians were dynamic! The Word was received and was sounded forth like a trumpet call to those around them.
Finally, verses 9-10 tell us they were an EXPECTANT people. They had opened their hearts fully by turning to God from idols to serve the living and true God. Not only that, Paul had taught those brand new believers about the rapture! In fact, here is your homework assignment! At or near the end of every chapter in 1 Thessalonians, there is a reference to the return of Jesus for His church. Can you find them? (Hint: the first one is in the last verse of today’s passage!)
Friends, this is not deep theology, but rather simple things Paul taught to brand new believers living in a pagan culture. Have we made the Christian life too complicated today? If so, we need to get back to 1 Thessalonians 1 and learn from these babes in Christ.
Paul did not shy away from teaching them about the rapture. Even during the 1st century, believers thought they were living in the last days. Technically speaking, they were. The “last days” began when Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven. (Remember Jesus’s answer to the disciples’ question in Matthew 24:1-3?) We have the advantage of many year of history, and watching some end time prophecy (such as the rebirth of Israel) come to pass. We know the rapture is imminent…it could happen at any time. All the end time “signs” we see are prophetically related to the tribulation. There are no signs for the rapture! Thus, the very lessons Paul taught the Thessalonians regarding the rapture are very appropriate for us today. We must get our eyes off the world and live out this reality:
- We are an ELECT people.
- We are an EXEMPLARY people.
- We are an ENTHUSIASTIC people.
- We are an EXPECTANT people.
How are we doing on the “Thessalonian test?” Let’s stick together and learn together, fellow Bible lovers! This is our time to rise and shine, and we will do so as we live out the truths we find in 1&2 Thessalonians! See you tomorrow!