Summary: Identifying traits of a remarkable church.
A Remarkable Church
In our first look at this letter to the Thessalonian church, we noted that Paul had established the work during his second missionary tour, and that Timothy and Silas had accompanied him in the work. We know that he preached at the synagogue on three Sabbath days, but what we don’t know is how long he actually stayed in the city of Thessalonica. I think that the time period was longer, but that is only a guess at best. What is obvious is that regardless of how long he preached, there were many who accepted the gospel and were saved, possibly hundreds of them, for we noted that in this city of about a quarter million people, had only a few of them been saved, no one would have cared, but from the account in Acts 17, so many were saved, and evidently so many influential people were saved that the city was moved with rage against the Apostle Paul, for as they said, he and the others were turning their world upside down.
As we look at the rest of chapter 1 tonight and put it together with what we’ve already seen in Acts 17, I want you to notice that the church at Thessalonica was really a remarkable church. I mean that when these folk came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, they didn’t just make him a part of their lives and fit His form of religion into their belief systems, accepting Christ meant a total life change, and the result of their changed lives was that they caught the attention of a watching world. Listen, when a church gets on fire for the Lord, people will take notice, but its not just people who take notice, the Lord takes notice as well.
The Lord God is still looking for His churches to come alive with a sense of purpose and direction for Him. He is still waiting and watching for a group of people who know Him to come alive with love and passion for Christ and for a lost and dying world, and when the Lord’s churches come alive, not only can a watching world claim that it is a remarkable thing, the Lord finds that church to be remarkable as well.
I want for Woodlawn Baptist Church to be found remarkable in the Lord’s eyes. I want for Him to be able to brag on us in the heavenlies because His name is being glorified and Christ is being exalted and people are being drawn to Him through us. What makes for a remarkable church? I think in the opening statements of 1 Thessalonians 1, we find some important traits that ought to be true of our church and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Their Lives Had Been Changed
I want you to notice particularly verses 4-6 & 9,
"Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost…For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God."
This change the Thessalonians experienced began in salvation, for Paul spoke of their election, or their election by God to salvation. The doctrine of election is undoubtedly one of the most difficult doctrines of the Bible to grasp, and like one preacher said, "If you try to explain election you may lose your mind, but if you try to explain away election you may lose your soul."1 Election certainly is one of the more difficult teaches of Scripture to understand, but thankfully we don’t have to understand everything about salvation in order to experience it.
The Bible teaches that those who have accepted Christ are the elect, and those who reject Him are not. J.R. Alexander, long-time Missionary Baptist preacher and Seminary instructor, explained election this way,
"God possesses the power and attribute of foreknowledge, which simply means to know beforehand. In eternity, before the time ages began, God foreknew how every responsible sinner of Adam’s race would respond to the convicting influence of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the gospel, though He did not determine nor decree the response of any individual. Those whom He foreknew would repent and believe on Christ, He elected to salvation, and predestinated them to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. This election was made in eternity, it was an election of grace, and it was a sovereign choice."2