See Acts 17:1-10.
It was during Paul’s first missionary journey that the light of the Gospel first broke into the darkness of pagan Thessalonica.
The apostles were beaten and jailed in Philippi. They also were forced to flee Berea. Paul’s stay in the city was brief due to the violent persecution.
Acts 17 says it lasted through three successive Sabbath days, almost a month.
Despite the brevity of his visit, he instructed these new believers in many of the great doctrines of the faith.
The Trinity—v. 1 and 5-6
The Holy Spirit—1:5-6, 4:8, 5:19
The Lord’s Second Advent—1:10, 2:19, 3:13, 4:14-17, 5:23
5. Sanctification—4:3, 5:23
6. Christian Behavior—2:12, 4:1
One of the most important themes of the Epistle is the return of the Lord. It is mentioned at least once in each chapter. Also mentioned in each Chapter is the second epistle.
The teaching of the Epistle would indicate that a believer who is expecting the return of the Lord momentarily has no room for:
1. Idols in his heart—1:9-10
2. Slackness in his service—2:9-19
3. Divisions in his fellowship—3:12-13
4. Depression in his mind—4:13-18
5. Sin in his life—5:23
The Thessalonians displayed three outstanding spiritual virtues, which gave Paul reason for constant thanksgiving.
1. Their work of faith – The working of your faith
This would primarily refer to their conversion to God.
Then it would also include their life of faith following conversion.
Their faith was not of the empty theoretical kind.
It was a living, vibrant, energetic faith that manifested itself in power and intensity, in the face of adverse conditions.
It was the driving force that energized them in their work for God.
This was the same kind of faith that urged the heroes of Heb 11 to toil and die in their service for God. See Heb 11:33.
Their faith gave substance to the unseen things of which the Scriptures speak.
2. Their labor of love
1. Self-denying labors of love to each other.
2. This speaks of their service for God motivated by their love for Jesus Christ.
Theirs was a determined, self-sacrificing love. This love drove them to labor and toil to the point of weariness and fatigue. Their love for Christ never wavered despite the tremendous cost. First love.
3) Their patience of hope – endurance of hope – Persevering endurance.
This hope is given by the indwelling Spirit.
This hope is their steadfast waiting for the return of the Lord.
These new believers were enduring tremendous persecution because of their faithfulness and love for Christ.
Despite the pressures, they were unmoved from their hope of the Lord’s return. Even though the evidences of their arduous circumstances were contradictory to their hope of the return of the Lord, they remained unshaken.
They believed God. Such hope produces unshakable steadfastness. See I Corinth 15-58.
V. 4—“Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” See 2 Thess 2:13.
“Brothers, whom God loves, we know that He has chosen you.”
Paul knew that they were among the elect by the way they received the gospel, and by the spiritual characteristics they displayed in their life.
Many people when viewing the Biblical truth of Election, picture God as a tyrant, damning or saving men at will.
The teaching of scripture rather gives the impression that election proceeds from God’s love.
It is not a device for sentencing men to eternal torment, but rather for rescuing them from it.
Election prevents us from thinking of salvation as dependent on human effort, and roots it squarely in the grace and will of God.
Our being saved is only because God by His Spirit convicted us and then saved us by His grace.
Our election took place before the foundation of the world. Eph 1-4.
V. 5—Notice how the gospel came to the Thessalonians.
It came with power—it came in the Holy Spirit—it came with assurance.
1. Paul’s presentation of Christ in the Gospel was not merely carefully arranged rhetoric, i.e. in word only.
As he preached, God’s power swept through the company. We need this power today.
The dynamic of the Gospel worked in their lives with spiritual energy, producing conviction of sin, repentance and conversion.
2. The Gospel
Also came to them in the Holy Spirit.
There are many kinds of power in the professing church (organization, publicity, oratory, wealth, music, talents of all descriptions).
But the kind of power that was seen in Thessalonica was the Holy Spirit’s power, which breaks the stony hearts of unbelief and leads men and women to Christ for salvation. Grips the mind, disturbs the conscience, makes drunken men sober, crooked men straight, warms the heart, saves the soul, and sanctifies the life.
3. The Gospel of Christ also came in much assurance.
The full assurance of their faith in Christ was the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives.
They knew whom they had believed, etc. I Tim 1:15.
They were saved and they knew it and were fully assured that all the promises of God would be fulfilled, especially with regard to the Lord’s coming.
The Model Church
V. 7 The Thessalonians became reproducing Christians.
The spirit-filled church reproduces, it is indigenous, recreative, procreative, and generative. Their example under adverse conditions was an inspiration to the believers throughout Greece.
No other church was singled out by Paul and set forth as an example by which other churches should measure themselves.
The church at Thessalonica was an “evangelical church.”
V. 8 From you sounded forth the Word of God.
Not only was this young church an “evangelical church” – it was also a missionary church.
The Gospel sounded forth from them like the clear piercing blast of a trumpet, and like a roll of thunder echoing throughout Greece and re-echoing in distant places.
Rivers of life-giving water should flow from every assembly to those around, and then on into the regions beyond.
Another example of an evangelical and missionary church is the young church at Antioch.
There were five characteristics seen in their activities.
1. They preached the Lord Jesus.
2. The hand of the Lord was with them.
3. Great numbers believed.
4. They were a giving church
5. They were a missionary church.
V. 9 They turned to God from idols.
“The dearest idol I have known
Whate’er that idol be
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only Thee.”
To serve the living and true God—they were the living slaves of Christ
Rom 12:1, 2. Present your body. Living and true God in contrast to the dead and false idols.
Rom 6:19. As you presented your members as slaves to lawlessness, now present them as slaves to righteousness. Missionary.
The truth of sanctification. See Ch 4:3 – Ch 5:23. This is a setting aside of the total man for God. This entails being broken, God can only use broken believers. The power of sin must be broken – We must be totally at the Lord’s disposal.
V. 10 Wait for God’s Son from heaven.
God’s people should be waiting for the coming of the Lord momentarily. We should be watching as well as waiting.
The one we look for is God’s Son, Jesus, who will deliver us from the wrath to come.
This may be understood in two ways
1. The Lord delivered us from the eternal punishment of our sins.
On the cross He endured the wrath of God against our sin.
Through faith in Him, God reckoned our debt paid.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Rom 8:1.
2. The second aspect is that the Lord will deliver us from the coming period when the wrath of God will be poured out on a world which rejected His Son.
This period is known as the Tribulation and the Great Tribulation.