Summary: The good news that Timothy reported to Paul prompted him to write this first letter to the Thessalonians. I trust that as we look at some of the basic principles in the epistle to the Thessalonians, the Lord will help you to see what He desires from you a
Let’s look at Acts 17 to see how the church at Thessalonica began. Verse 1 says, “When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they [Paul and his companions] came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews.” When Paul entered a city to spread the gospel, he generally went to the synagogue first. He found the greatest opportunity there since he was Jewish himself. Furthermore, he realized that if he went to the Gentiles first, the Jews would not be willing to listen to what he had to say. So he initially preached in the synagogues to win some Jews to Christ so that he could gain support for reaching the city. Verses 2–3 report the content of Paul’s preaching: “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; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” The Jewish people had difficulty accepting Jesus as the Messiah because He had once died. Most Jewish people did not understand the concept of a suffering Messiah, which was prophesied in such places as Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Therefore, Paul spent time showing them that the Messiah had to suffer to fulfill God’s plan. As a result of Paul’s preaching, “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” (v. 4).
1. A SAVED CHURCH
The church at Thessalonica was a saved church. That is significant because many churches today don’t know the meaning of salvation. The Thessalonian church was an assembly of born-again Christians. Paul could thank God for the Thessalonians because they were all “in the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 1). They gave evidence of personally knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. That’s where lies the beginning of an effective church.
The reason so many churches are ineffective is that there is a mixture of wheat and tares, even among the leadership. Having unregenerate people in places of responsibility works against God’s purpose and confuses the church’s message. They were making such an impact that the Jewish leaders were tearing their hair out, saying, “Ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine” (Acts 5:28). When you have a totally regenerated assembly of people moving through town in the power of the Holy Spirit, they are bound to make a great impact. It was no different for the Thessalonians. Paul said, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance, as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake” (1 Thess. 1:5).
2.A SURRENDERED CHURCH
Verse 6 of chapter 1 says, “Ye became followers of us, and of the Lord.” The genuine character of the church’s salvation is apparent in that statement. The Greek word translated “followers” is mimçte(s, from which the English word mimic is derived. The Thessalonian Christians weren’t just talkers; they were imitators. They didn’t merely talk about their Christian experience; they actually modeled their lives after Paul and his companions. Not only are Christians to be collective representatives of Christ on earth but also individual representatives as each believer strives to be like Him. The pursuit of the Christian is to be like Christ. That’s the key to unity in the church.
Quote: A. W. Tozer said that if a hundred pianos were merely tuned to each other, their pitch would not be very accurate. But if they were all tuned to one tuning fork, they would automatically be tuned to each other. Similarly, unity in the church isn’t the result of running around and adjusting to everyone else. The Thessalonian church was surrendered to Christlikeness.
3. A SUFFERING CHURCH
First Thessalonians 1:6 says, “Ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” The Thessalonian church didn’t have it easy. In fact, any church that is saved and surrendered to Christ is going to have a difficult time. As soon as the Thessalonian assembly had begun, they experienced opposition. Acts 17 records what happened: “The Jews who believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain vile fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city in an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them [Paul, Silas, and Timothy] out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come here also” (vv. 5–6). Persecution began immediately for that church.