Summary: Lessons we can learn from what Paul called a ’model’ church...
Our text this evening is taken from verse 7... “And you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia”. Tonight we consider ‘A Model Church’.
What is a model church? Is there such a thing? We don’t mean a children’s piece of Lego – not that kind of model! We mean a church that is worth copying. A church that is a wonderful example to others.
The young church at Thessalonica may have been young and inexperienced, but it was a church that one could learn from. How easy to think that because a Church or Christian is new and inexperienced that we can’t learn from them.
Well, the Thessalonian church was a model to those fellow Macedonian churches and those in the nearby province of Achaia. And in verses 1-10 we see 6 ways in which the church was model to be emulated.
1. A Model Church is an Active Church
At the Church Members Evening we alluded to this aspect of the Thessalonian church.
vv2-3, It was a church that is active in faith, love and hope.
John Calvin calls verse 3 “a brief definition of true Christianity”.
True Christians in a model church are Believers, Lovers and Hopers.
Faith, love and hope are outgoing...
Faith looks to God and what he has done in the past for our sins.
Love looks to others and what we must do for them now.
Hope looks to the future which will be glorious.
Faith, love and hope are also productive... it says...
Faith produces works of obedience.
Love produces a commitment to practically love others even when it’s difficult to.
Hope produces endurance. Because we know this world is NOT what it’s all about for us, because we know we have a glorious and eternal future with Christ, we are able to get through the difficulties and griefs of this current life.
Verse three is a great challenge to us:
If a so-called Christian is not working out his or her faith obediently we can ask: where is his faith?
If a so-called Christian is not labouring at loving others we can ask: Where’s your love?
If a so-called Christian is not able to endure tough times of opposition we can ask: Where’s your hope? A model church is an active church – active in faith, love and hope.
2. A Model Church is a Chosen and Loved Church
Verse 4, Paul says the believers are chosen and loved by God.
What a wonderful thought. They are not Christians by accident. They are not second best citizens. They are specially selected.
A study of the doctrine of election in the Bible will discover that God’s people are never chosen and loved by God because they are better than anyone else. But there is one reason given for the choice and that is all: Deuteronomy 7:8 “It was because the Lord loved you.”
He loves us because he has decided to love us – not because he thinks we are lovable. That is a comforting thought! It means that every time I am unlovable – which is quite often.... He will love me anyway because he has already decided to! But we move on to another point connected to this one...
3. A Model Church is a Responsive Church
You see, Paul is able to say in verse 4, WE KNOW God has chosen and loved you. So how did Paul and his missionary team know the Thessalonians were chosen?
Verse 5 has the answer: “Because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.”
‘With power’ is the way the gospel came to the Thessalonians. Paul’s words had a powerful effect on them.
‘The Holy Spirit’ is the Person the power came from as the gospel was preached.
‘Deep conviction’ is the evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit. The word for deep conviction means entire confidence and passion. In other words, as Paul preached with entire confidence in his message and in the power of God, the message was received with deep conviction and entire confidence.
To those among us here tonight who are preachers and teachers of God’s Word – in church or Sunday school – and to those of us who try to share the gospel with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues..... ask yourself a question: Do I share God’s Word with entire confidence and with passion? Let’s pray for each other that this will be true of us!
However, notice something very interesting here! When Paul saw that their hearts were touched by his preaching he didn’t say, ‘O my preaching was good today’. Rather, he said I can see God has plans for you because your hearts are responsive – that is, in both my preaching and your receiving of the message I see a power at work.