1Thessalonians 1

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 22, 2000


Paul didn’t spend a lot of time in Thessalonica.  He had just been run out of town in Philippi, having been beaten and jailed, then he first came to Thessalonica.  He only preached for three consecutive Saturdays before the unbelieving Jews became jealous of Paul’s success, and he was run out of town in Thessalonica.

Yet as Paul got news about how this young, struggling group of believers was doing in the middle of great persecution, he was thrilled.  The gospel had taken root in Thessalonica, and there was a genuine church of Christians established there.  This first chapter is all about Genuine Christianity.

:1  Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus

Paul, Silas, and Timothy.

:2  making mention of you in our prayers;

mentionmneia – remembrance, memory, mention


Reminding God in prayer

The language that Paul is using about his prayers for the Thessalonians reminds me very much of the picture of the high priest’s garments:
(Exo 28:29-30 KJV)  And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually. {30} And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.

The names of the people would be on the stones of the breast piece.  When Aaron would walk into the holy place, their names would be there to remind God (a “memorial”) of the people.  These names were also carried over Aaron’s heart, being a picture of the priest carrying these people in his heart, caring for his people.

In the same way, Paul is “making mention” (making memorial) of these people before God, reminding God of these special qualities concerning these people.
An important aspect of ministry is learning to bring before God the people you minister to.

Yesterday at the Men’s Conference, Jeff Johnson shared with us a little story about Hudson Taylor, the missionary that opened up China to the gospel.  When asked why his ministry seemed to be enjoying such effectiveness while other people had failed, Hudson shared that he spent time regularly praying for the people he ministered to by name, bringing them before the Lord.

:3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith,

without ceasingadialeiptos – without intermission, incessantly, without ceasing

rememberingmnemoneuo – to be mindful of, to remember, to call to mind; to think of and feel for a person or thing; to hold in memory, keep in mind; to make mention of

workergon – business, employment, that which any one is occupied; that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking; an act, deed, thing done:

Faith has a “work”.  The other day a pastor said something about faith being a “verb”, and that it was action oriented.  The word “faith” is not a verb, but it is still action oriented.  It produces a “work” in your life.


Working Faith

Sometimes we get the idea that having “faith” means doing nothing.  But when you genuinely trust the Lord, it results in action in your life.
If God speaks to you and tells you to move, and you REALLY believe in Him, you’ll move.
Before David became king, he learned to ask God for direction and follow God’s leading.

(1 Sam 23:1-5 KJV)  Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors. {2} Therefore David inquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the LORD said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah. {3} And David's men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines? {4} Then David inquired of the LORD yet again. And the LORD answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah: for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand. {5} So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.

Because David trusted in the Lord, he knew that he needed to obey the Lord.  If David didn’t really think that God was real, he might have played it safe and done nothing.  But because he knew that God was real, he risked his life and ended up saving the people of Keilah.

As you grow in the Lord, you will be experiencing more and more times when God will be directing and leading you.
He might start leading you to stop certain things in your life that are displeasing to Him and harmful to you.
He might start leading you to do certain things to help others.
He might start leading you to tell others about Jesus Christ.

If you trust Him, then do what He says.

:3  labour of love

labourkopos – a beating; a beating of the breast with grief, sorrow; labour; trouble; to cause one trouble, make work for him; intense labour united with trouble and toil

loveagape – brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence.  This is God’s kind of love, based on the will and not the emotions, an unconditional love that is characterized by giving.  It is choosing to put value on another individual.


Difficult love

Just as faith results in “work”, there is a “labor” involved with love. 
Jesus said:
(Luke 6:27-29 NLT)  "But if you are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. {28} Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. {29} If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.
Loving others the way God wants us to isn’t easy.  Sometimes we want to “beat on our chest” because it’s so difficult.
A little girl stayed for dinner at the home of her first-grade friend. The vegetable was buttered broccoli, and the mother asked if she liked it. The child replied very politely, “Oh, yes, I love it.” But when the bowl of broccoli was passed she declined to take any. The hostess said, “I thought you said you loved broccoli.” The girl replied sweetly, “Oh, yes, ma’am, I do, but not enough to eat it!”
Jesus doesn’t want us to just “say” we love people, He wants us to demonstrate it, like eating the broccoli! Jesus said that if we are REALLY His disciples, we’ll have love, even when it’s difficult.
(John 13:34-35 KJV)  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. {35} By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

:3  patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

patiencehupomone (“under” + “remain”) – steadfastness, constancy, endurance; the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.  It means sticking it out through difficult times.

hopeelpis – expectation of good, hope


Endurance through hope

I remember hearing about tests done with laboratory wharf rats.  These are the rats that live under the piers along the waterfront.   One group of rats was placed in a large container of water, in the dark, with no place to stand on, they had to keep swimming.  They all drowned within fifteen minutes. The second group was placed in a similar container, yet every ten minutes the lab technician would open the container, take the rats out, stroke them a few seconds, and put them back in the water.  They didn’t have time to rest, they just got a little encouragement.  These rats went on swimming for over 12 hours (or something like that...).
They could endure because they had hope.
The Optimist

There is a story of identical twins. One was a hope-filled optimist. "Everything is coming up roses!" he would say. The other twin was a sad and hopeless pessimist. He thought that Murphy, as in Murphy's Law, was an optimist. The worried parents of the boys brought them to the local psychologist.

He suggested to the parents a plan to balance the twins' personalities. "On their next birthday, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford, and give the optimist a box of manure." The parents followed these instructions and carefully observed the results.

When they peeked in on the pessimist, they heard him audibly complaining, "I don't like the color of this computer . . I'll bet this calculator will break . . . I don't like the game . . . I know someone who's got a bigger toy car than this . . ."

Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their little optimist gleefully throwing the manure up in the air. He was giggling. "You can't fool me! Where there's this much manure, there's gotta be a pony!"

Do you have hope in the Lord?
Do you believe that He loves you and wants the best for you? If you do, then you can endure tough times.

:4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.

electionekloge – the act of picking out, choosing; of the act of God’s free will by which before the foundation of the world he decreed his blessings to certain persons; of persons: God’s elect

This is Paul’s reason to keep praying for them, that they belonged to God.

:5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost,

wordlogos – word

powerdunamis – strength, power, ability.  This might be talking about the power to perform miracles, but it can also be talking about the power to live as Jesus wants you to live.  The power comes from the Holy Spirit.


A powerful gospel

Following Jesus isn’t just about learning interesting religious facts. It’s about allowing the power of God to change your life.
Jesus’ own disciples had claimed to be fearless, yet when Jesus was arrested, they all ran.  Peter even denied the Lord three times.
Yet something happened in Acts 2.  These cowardly men began to talk openly of Jesus, even standing up and preaching to crowds.  They knew they were risking their lives, but they continued to preach.
What happened?  They were filled with the Holy Spirit.
The evangelist Dwight Moody told a story of walking down the street one day when he was stopped by a drunk.  “Mr. Moody,” said the drunk, “you converted me at one of your meetings!”  Moody replied, “Well it certainly looks as if I converted you.  If Jesus had converted you, you wouldn’t be drunk!”
The real gospel has power in it.  It changes lives.
Soon after Saint Augustine’s conversion, he was walking down the street in Milan, Italy.  There he accosted a prostitute whom he had known most intimately.  She called but he would not answer. He kept right on walking.  “Augustine,” she called again.  “It is I!”  Without slowing down, but with assurance of Christ in his heart, he testified, “Yes, but it is no longer I.”
Augustine had experienced the power of God in his life.  His life had been changed.

:5  and in much assurance;

assuranceplerophoria – full assurance, most certain confidence

:5  as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

what manner of menhoios – what sort of, what manner of, such as

Paul will give us a bit more of his example when we get to chapter two.

These people didn’t just hear words from Paul, they saw up close that what he talked about was real because of what they saw in Paul’s life. His walk matched his talk.

:6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord,

followersmimetes – an imitator


They need to follow Jesus

Even though we may at times be the examples for others to follow, we don’t want to make followers of us, we want to see people be followers of Jesus.

:6  having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:

Part of the way that these people had become imitators of Paul and Jesus was in that they were believers in God’s Word, even through hard times.  And they were people who knew the joy of the Holy Spirit.

afflictionthlipsis – a pressing, pressing together, pressure; metaph. oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits

How a person gets through difficult times will often tell whether or not their faith was genuine. 

(Mat 13:20-21 KJV)  But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; {21} Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
If a person has no deep root in the Lord, they will be blown away by difficult times.  They will walk away from the Lord and join those people who say, “Well, I tried Christianity, but it didn’t work for me.”  The problem isn’t that Christianity didn’t work, it’s that a person wasn’t clinging to Jesus in the difficult times.

We often want to keep people from having to go through trials.  We’d like to rescue them from their hard times, like a parent that constantly holds the child’s hand to keep them from falling.  But sooner or later you need to let them walk on their own.  Sooner or later they will need to experience a scraped knee or two.  It’s the trials that refine our faith, that make us stronger.

(James 1:2-4 NLT)  Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. {3} For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. {4} So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.

joychara – joy, gladness

David wrote,

(Psa 16:11 KJV)  …in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

When the Holy Spirit is in your life, you are immersed in God’s presence.

In the very earliest days of the church, the apostles were arrested several times and told not to talk about Jesus.

(Acts 5:41 KJV)  And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
How could these guys have joy when their lives are now in danger?  The Holy Spirit.

:7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.

ensamplestupos – the mark of a stroke or blow, print; a figure formed by a blow or impression; of a figure or image; an example; in the technical sense, the pattern in conformity to which a thing must be made; an example to be imitated

Macedonia and Achaia – The northern and southern parts of Greece.  Thessalonica was in the northern, Macedonian part of Greece.  Paul is writing from Corinth, located in the southern part, Achaia.


Being an example

The Thessalonians had followed Paul and the Lord.  Paul had been their example.  Now they were an example to many others.
People need to “see” the gospel.
Frightened by the clamor of thunder in the night, a little child cried out.  Holding her securely in his arms, her father explained that she needn’t fear.  God would take care of her because He loved her greatly.
“I know God will take care of me and love me,”  she replied. “But right now, Daddy, I want someone with skin on to love me.”
That’s what people need, for us to be God’s love to them with “skin on”.

: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.

sounded outexecheomai – to sound forth, emit, sound, resound.  The word carries the idea of to “echo out”.

spread abroadexerchomai – to go or come forth of; with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the point from which he departs; to be made known, declared; to be spread, to be proclaimed

There were people from Thessalonica that eventually were a part of Paul’s team, including Aristarchus and Secundus.

(Acts 20:4 KJV)  And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.

(Acts 27:2 KJV)  And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.

These guys had come to the Lord in Thessalonica, but ended up preaching around the world with Paul.

:9 For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you

entering ineisodos – an entrance; the place or way leading into a place (as a gate); the act of entering.  NLT – “the wonderful welcome you gave us”

:9  how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

turnedepistrepho – to turn to; to the worship of the true God; to cause to return, to bring back; to the love and obedience of God

to servedouleuo – to be a slave, serve, do service; metaph. to obey, submit to

:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven,

to wait foranemeno (“again” + “remain”) – to wait for one (with the added notion of patience and trust).  The verb is a present tense, meaning that it’s a continuous waiting.

:10  whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

deliveredrhoumai – to draw to one’s self, to rescue, to deliver.  Almost the picture of a lifeguard who swims out to a person in distress, pulls the person up close to them and swims them safely to shore.


The Gospel

God’s wrath will one day come upon the earth.  God will one day take all the things in this world that are wrong and unjust and He will make it all right.  God’s wrath will come against all sin.
The problem is that all of us are sinners.  And that means that we all are facing God’s wrath, unless someone can do something about the huge debt we owe because of our sin.
God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross and pay the penalty for our sins for us.  He paid a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.
After being in the grave for three days, Jesus rose from the dead, proving that He had paid the debt in full.
Jesus offers to pay for our sins as a free gift, but as with all gifts, we need to “receive” the gift if we want any benefit from it.  It doesn’t matter that I have the winning Lottery ticket in an envelope under my Christmas tree unless I open the envelope and cash in the ticket.  Jesus offers you something better than a Lottery ticket.  He offers you eternal life.  But you need to say, “Yes, I need this”.
When we receive God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, we are rescued from the “wrath to come”.


Signs of conversion

Paul mentions three things that are a type of proof that the Thessalonians were indeed genuine Christians.
1.  Turning from idols
There had been a definite change in their lives.  They had given up their old ways.  They had turned their backs on the things that were displeasing to God.
2.  Serving the Living God
They had begun to serve the Lord.  They weren’t just Sunday Christians.  They lived for the Lord through the whole week.
3.  Waiting for Jesus’ return
Jesus is coming back soon.  Very, very soon.
Are you paying attention to what is happening in Israel?

Much of the problem is surrounding Jerusalem.

(Zec 12:2-3 KJV)  Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. {3} And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

In the end times, Jerusalem will not be a popular place.  All the nations will be against Jerusalem.  Those that will try to help the Jews will be “cut in pieces”.

Ezekiel prophesied of a time near the end when a large army of allied nations comes against Israel, including the nations of Russia, Iran/Iraq (Persia), Ethiopia, and Libya.

(Ezek 38:8-9 NLT)  A long time from now you will be called into action. In the distant future you will swoop down on the land of Israel, which will be lying in peace after her recovery from war and after the return of her people from many lands. {9} You and all your allies--a vast and awesome horde--will roll down on them like a storm and cover the land like a cloud.

It may be that all of these things are just wake up calls for us.  After all, many thought that the Lord was coming back during the Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973.  But what if this is the time?  Are you ready?

(Mat 24:44-51 KJV)  Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. {45} Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? {46} Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. {47} Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. {48} But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; {49} And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; {50} The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, {51} And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Are you a servant who is expecting his Lord’s return, doing the things He wants you to do?  Or are you like the servant who said, “My master isn’t coming for a long while”?