Summary: 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 s
The apostle Paul first preached the gospel to the Thessalonians during his second missionary journey. After he left them, he sent Timothy to find out how they were doing. When Timothy returned, he came with a fantastic report that we find in 1 Thessalonians 3:6–7: “When Timothy came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and love, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you; therefore, brethren, we were comforted.” 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 and how your church can be what He wants it to be.
5. A SECOND-COMING CHURCH
Verse 10 says the Thessalonians had turned from idols to serve God “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come.” Jesus promised that He would come back and gather the faithful to be with Him forever (John 14:1–3). Consequently, the ideal church awaits His return. Did you know that many churches aren’t waiting for Christ’s return?
Peter said, “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Pet. 3:3–4). Some people today claim to be Christians, but they don’t ever talk about the return of Christ. In fact, I heard a preacher say, “I never talk about the return of Christ—there’s too much confusion on that issue.” Maybe it’s fortunate for the people in his church that he doesn’t. There’s no sense in adding more confusion to what already exists. But that doesn’t excuse him from speaking the truth. Every church that is truly committed to being what God wants it to be must be aware that Jesus is coming. Christians should be anxiously waiting for Christ’s return. Anticipation of the future motivates us to live godly lives for His service in the present. The last recorded words of Jesus are these: “Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev. 22:12). Knowing that Christ is coming gives me a sense of urgency about sharing the good news with others. After His resurrection Jesus said, “Ye shall receive power, after the holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me” (Acts 1:8). When He had ascended into heaven, two angels appeared and said, “This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (v. 11). Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:11, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” When I realize the impending judgment of God, I can’t help but persuade men to be “reconciled to God” (v. 20). A church that doesn’t believe in the return of Jesus Christ has no sense of rewards or urgency to deliver the ungodly from judgment. The Lord wants us to remember His return.
6. A STEADFAST CHURCH
First Thessalonians 3:8 says, “Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” Paul was saying, “When we got the message that you were standing fast in the Lord, we were really living! That report made our day!” Standing fast in the Lord means two things: not wavering doctrinally and maintaining a steadfast love. A person can stand fast doctrinally but dry up spiritually. That is why a Christian needs to stand fast in terms of love. Unfortunately the church at Ephesus didn’t. Our Lord reproved them, saying, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4).
The Thessalonian church stood firmly on the Word of God. Paul said, “Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit.… And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction” (1:5–6). Paul also told them, “Ye received the word of God … not as the word of men but as it is in truth, the word of God” (2:13). And he said, “We were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith” (3:7). How exciting it is when a church doesn’t waver from its doctrine or its commitment to love one another!
7. A SUBMISSIVE CHURCH
This final principle isn’t as obvious as the others. In no other New Testament epistle does Paul make as many unqualified and undefended commands as in this one. For example, when Paul wrote to the Corinthians, it was necessary for him to defend his instructions because they did not have the submissive mentality of the Thessalonians (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:10–2:5; 2 Cor. 10:1–13:10).