Summary: 1st in series on 1 Thessalonians (1 of 8)
WHAT EVERY CHURCH SHOULD BE
INTRO: No doubt you have heard some preacher say, “If you ever find the perfect church, please don’t join it. If you do, it won’t be perfect any more!”
Since local churches are made up of human beings, saved by God’s grace, no church is perfect. But some churches are closer to the New Testament ideal than others. The church at Thessalonica was in that category. At least four times in this letter, Paul gave thanks for the church and the way it responded to his ministry (1:2; 2:13; 3:9; 5:18). Not every pastor can be that thankful.
What characteristics of this church made it so ideal and such a joy to Paul’s heart?
I. AN ELECT PEOPLE (vv. 1-4).
The word church in verse 1 means “a called-out people.” Whenever you read about a call in the Bible, it indicates divine election--God is calling out a people from this world. Let’s notice some obvious facts about divine election.
1. Salvation begins with God. “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation” (2 Thes. 2:13). “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). The entire plan of salvation was born in the heart of God long before man was created or the universe formed (see Eph 1:4).
2. Salvation involves God’s love. (1:4) Paul called these saints “brethren beloved”--not only beloved by Paul, but also beloved by God.
3. Salvation involves faith. “For by grace...” (Eph 2:8). Paul, Silas, and Timothy brought the Gospel to Thessalonica and preached in the power of God. Some people who heard the message believed.
4. Salvation involves the Trinity. As you read this letter, you discover the doctrine of the Trinity. Christians believe in one God existing in three Persons. Keep in mind that all three Persons are involved in our salvation.
As far as God the Father is concerned, I was saved when He chose me in Christ before the world began. As far as God the Son is concerned, I was saved when He died for me on the cross. As far as God the Holy Spirit is concerned, I was saved one Sunday night in 1947 when I heard the Word and trusted in Jesus Christ. At that moment, the entire plan fell together and I became a child of God.
5. Salvation changes the life. How did Paul know that these Thessalonians were elected of God? He saw a change in their lives. The person who claims to be one of God’s elect but whose life has not changed, is only fooling himself. Those whom God chooses, He changes.
A local church must be composed of elect people, those who have been saved by the grace of God. One problem today is the presence, in the church family, of unbelievers whose names may be on the church roll, but not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Every church member should examine his heart to determine whether he has truly been born again and belongs to God’s elect.
II. AN EXEMPLARY PEOPLE (vv. 5-7).
From the very beginning of this Church, Paul looked to them with joy and gratitude as Christians worthy of the name. There were examples in several areas of their lives.
1. They received the Word -- verse 5. The Gospel came to them through the ministry of Paul and his associates. Many traveling preachers and philosophers in that day were only interested in making money off of ignorant people. But the Holy Spirit used the Word in great power, and the Thessalonians responded by receiving both the message and the messengers.
2. They followed their spiritual leaders
-- verse 6a. The word followers is actually imitators. These new believers not only accepted the message and the messengers, but they also imitated their lives. This led to severe persecution.
It is important that newborn Christians learn from mature leaders in the church. Just as a newborn baby needs a family, so a newborn Christian needs the local church and the leaders there.
3. They suffered for Christ -- verse 6b. In turning from idols to serve God, these believers angered their friends and relatives, and this led to persecution. No doubt some of them lost their jobs because of their new faith.
4. They encouraged other churches -- verse 7. Christians either encourage or discourage each other. This principle applies also to churches. Paul used the churches of Macedonia as a stimulus for the Corinthian church. Even though they were new believers, the Thessalonians set a good example that encouraged the surrounding churches.
In every way, the church at Thessalonica was exemplary. The secret was found in their faith, hope, and love; for these are the spiritual motivators of the Christian life.
III. AN ENTHUSIASTIC PEOPLE (v. 8).