The Pathway of Faith
Mr. Thomas Richardson, Grangemouth, Scotland, has prepared this series of articles on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. We are sure that much benefit will be derived by a careful study of each exposition.
Acts 17:1-9; Thessalonians 1:1-10
A consideration of the experience of this early Christian church reveals the pathway of faith, its beginnings and its character.
The Apostle Paul made three great missionary journeys: the first into the Province of Galatia (Acts 13 and 14); the second into Macedonia (Acts 15:36-18:22); and the third into Asia Minor (Acts 18:23-21:17). It was on his second journey that he visited Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth.
At Philippi Paul and his companion Silas were shamefully manhandled, scourged, and thrown into prison. On their release from jail they left that city and proceeded to the garrisoned city of Thessalonica. There they soon found lodgings with one called Jason, and apparently, Paul, being a tent-maker, soon found suitable employment. In Thessalonica there was a synagogue of the Jews, “And Paul as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead.” For these three weeks, and probably more, they continued preaching the Word with remarkable results for we read, “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.”
The enemy, satanically inspired began to move and the whole city was stirred to an uproar. Finally, the two, Paul and Silas, were expelled and a security bond taken from Jason to see that they did not return. These servants of the Lord travelled on to Berea from which place Paul sent Silas back to Philippi and Timothy back to Thessalonica in order that they see how the young converts were enduring the storm of persecution that had broken upon them. These two workers returned to Paul after he had reached Corinth.
There was much in Timothy’s report about the Thessalonians to make Paul rejoice; notwithstanding, there were some matters which caused him concern. It would seem that the hope that had been so warm and bright in their hearts at the first had become dimmed. It is noticeable in chapter three that in his report Timothy makes no mention of their hope (verse 6). Since Paul’s absence, some of their loved ones had fallen asleep in Jesus and that had caused sorrow and misunderstanding which Paul had to dispel. This he did by explaining more fully matters relative to the second coming of Christ. Consequently, in this Epistle the return of the Lord Jesus has a very prominent place. From the references one concludes that Paul expected that wonderful event even in his own generation.
The doctrine of the second coming of Christ is presented in the Epistle in its relation to salvation (1:10), in relation to service (2:19), in relation to sanctification (3:13), in relation to sorrow (4:13), and in relation to sleep (5:6).
In this Epistle, the first one the Apostle Paul wrote by inspiration, there is laid out, moreover, certain statements relative to Christian doctrine. Mention is made of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (1:1, 1:5-6. 1:10). The great truth of election is likewise mentioned as is the subject of conversion (1:4. 1:7).
The death and resurrection of Christ are referred to (1:10), the judgment seat of Christ (2:19), the Lord’s coming for His saints (4:16), the Lord’s coming with His saints (5:2), and other similarly important themes.
Let us look at the content of the first ten verses. Paul, Silas, and Timothy who were co-workers are now co-writers. Paul was an apostle (Gal. 1:1), Silas a prophet (Acts 15:32), and Timothy a deacon (1 Thess. 3:2). Paul’s name in the Greek means little; he was a full-blooded Jew. Silas’ name means considerate; he was a Roman. Timothy’s name means honoured of God; he was a Greek. The fellowship which these three enjoyed in their service was a proof that all believers are one in Christ. In those early days it was customary to place the names at the beginning of a letter just as it is customary to place them at the close of a letter in our times.
This letter was addressed to a church, a local church composed of men and women. As brethren they were seen in God the Father, hence they had been born again; and in our Lord Jesus Christ, hence they had perfect security. Thessalonica was the sphere of their living, but being in God the Father was the source of their life.
“Grace to you,” wrote Paul using the Greek salutation, and “peace,” using the Jewish salutation. Grace is the root of peace, and peace is the fruit of grace.
The contents of this chapter may be considered under three subheadings: the prayer of God’s servants, the pleasure they found in the saints, and the pattern this early church presented to all.
THE PRAYER: Paul asserts, “We give thanks,” for praise precedes prayer. Notice the object of their praise, “We give thanks to God;” the scope of their praise, “For you all;” the season of their praise, “Always.” The writers were thankful men; they knew their converts in their new position, with their new possessions in Christ, and their new prospects. They saw, therefore, something in each one that produced praise. At the same time there were other things which led them to mention their names in prayer. Thanksgiving had an important place in the devotions of the Apostle Paul; he speaks of it here, in 2:13, and again in 5:18.
THE PLEASURE: The real cause of thanksgiving was the evidence of Christian graces in the lives of these young converts: their work of faith, their labour of love, and their patience of hope. These are the features of true Christianity. Faith looks backward, love looks upward, and hope looks onward. Faith appropriates Christ, love appreciates Him, and hope anticipates His return. In other words: faith accepts Him, love respects Him, and hope expects Him.
These same Christian graces are referred to again in verses 9 and 10 where it is suggested that through faith they turned, in love they toiled, and by hope they tarried. They turned from idols to the Living God; from false gods to the True God. They turned from idols, but not to idleness for faith without works is dead.
Near the close of this chapter we have a lovely word picture of the Lord Jesus. Christ’s sweetest name, “Jesus.” His highest title, “His Son.” His greatest act, “raised from among the dead.” His present work, “The Deliverer.” (See New Translation).
THE PATTERN: “Our Gospel came,” says the Apostle, “And ye became.” What did they become? They became mimics, models, and messengers.
MIMICS: “Ye became followers,” imitators. This word comes from the drama; an actor being one who imitates another. In following these servants of the Lord: Paul, Timothy, and Silas, they were following the Lord Jesus. Paul writes in another of his Epistles, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
MODELS: “Ye were ensamples.” There is something very passing and temporary about acting in a drama, but the idea of a model suggests something permanent. The sculptor chips away at his model to produce the statue which may stand in the city square for many years to come. This word ensample might also be translated into English by the word type. The printer by means of type produces as many copies as is necessary, for type is permanent. The assembly in Thessalonica had become a permanent model after which other churches might pattern themselves.
MESSENGERS: “From you sounded out the word of the Lord,” adds the Apostle. Their testimony had become like the sound of a trumpeter giving forth a clear and true note. The report of their testimony had gone so far that Paul did not need to speak elsewhere of their faith to Godward; it surely was spread abroad.
May the assemblies of God in these closing days of the Church era follow Thessalonica in this pathway of faith.