Summary: In this sermon, we work through the first chapter and learn the characteristics that made the church of the Thessalonians a model church.
A. No doubt you have heard a preacher say, “If you ever find the perfect church, please don’t join it. If you do, it won’t be perfect anymore!” Right?
B. I came across a poem based on that statement. It goes like this:
“If you should find the perfect church, without one spot or sore.
For goodness sake! Don’t join that church! For it won’t be perfect anymore.
If you should find the perfect church, where all anxieties cease.
Then pass it by, lest you join it, and mar the masterpiece.
But since no perfect church exists, with perfect women and men,
Let’s stop looking for that church, and start loving the church that we’re in.”
C. That sounds like a great plan, don’t you think?
1. Let’s love the church we are in and strive to make it the best it can be.
2. Even though there are no perfect churches, some churches are closer to the New Testament ideal than others, both in doctrine and in discipleship.
3. We certainly want to strive to be as close to the ideal as possible.
D. The church at Thessalonica was not a perfect church, but they were closer to the ideal than many.
1. In this first chapter of 1 Thessalonians, Paul praises the church for many things, and he holds them up as a model for us to follow.
2. So what can we learn from the Thessalonians about being a model church?
3. What characteristics did Paul praise that we should be striving toward?
F. Let’s work our way through the first chapter and see what lessons God would want us to learn.
G. Before we get into the body of the chapter, let’s notice something about Paul’s salutation.
1. As was typical of first century letters, including Paul’s letters, the proper form began with identifying the author – who was writing the letter, and then identifying the recipient – who was to receive the letter, and then ended with giving a simple greeting.
2. So Paul began this letter like this: 1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.
a. Paul, Silas and Timothy were well known to the Thessalonians. They had all been a part of starting the church in Thessalonica, and Paul had sent Timothy back to check on the church after they all had to abruptly leave because of persecution.
1. It is significant that Paul made no mention of his apostleship as he did in the introduction of many of his letters – perhaps he didn’t because his apostolic status was not being questioned.
2. Paul simply and humbly identified himself and his co-laborers as if they were all equals.
b. Then Paul identified the recipients as the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. We who are in the church don’t just know about God and Jesus, we are in a union with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ – What a privilege that is!
c. Paul concluded the salutation with his common greeting “Grace and peace to you.”
1. We need God’s grace and peace in a daily portion – nothing is more needed and more valuable than God’s grace and peace!
H. The next thing that was characteristic of Paul’s letters was his opening prayer.
1. Sometimes Paul would offer a prayer for them in the body of the letter, and other times, like here, he would just tell them that he constantly prayed for them and what it was he constantly prayed.
2. Paul wrote: 2 We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.
3. And the reason for Paul’s thanksgiving for them will be our first point for today.
I. They were a Model Church because of their Faithful Service.
A. Paul wrote: 3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Paul was indeed so thankful for them and for the evidence of God’s work in their lives.
2. Paul thanked God for their faith that worked, their love that labored and their hope that endured
– this trio of Christian virtues was a favorite of Paul’s.
a. At the end of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul wrote, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13)
b. Because the major theme of the letters to the Thessalonians is being ready for Christ’s coming, Paul shifted hope to the end of the list to make it the focus.
3. Let’s look more closely at Paul’s description of their example of faithful service.