Summary: Expository sermon dealing with Paul’s commendation to these Christians for their (1)Service for the Lord (2)Receptivity to the Lord (3)Evangelistic Influence. Movie clip from "About Schmidt" as a contrast to these believers
Cause for Commendation
If God were writing a letter to us this morning, what do you think He would say? What would He commend and what would He correct? In the first few chapters of Revelation Jesus is walking among the candlesticks. His eyes are as a flame of fire and His countenance is as the bright shining sun. John is completely overwhelmed by His presence. There Jesus sends a personal letter to each of the seven churches in Asia. For each church there were things He commended and things He condemned. What He said to those churches is very instructive for us. For the things He looked for in those people He still looks for in us. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
As we consider Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we want to ask ourselves what God would be saying to us in some of the areas touched upon in chapter one.
The church at Thessalonica--does anyone know how this city got its name?
In 323 BC Alexander the Great died in Babylon. His kingdom was divided up by four warring generals. One of those generals was named Cassander and he ruled Macedonia. In 315 BC Cassander established his capital at an ancient city named Therma or Hot Springs. He then renamed that city Thessalonica after his wife who was Alexander’s step sister. Today the name has been shortened to Salonia or Saloniki.
In Paul’s day this capital city was the most important commerce center in the region. It was situated on the Via Egnatia (the great Roman road from west to east) and its harbor was strategically located at the head of the Aegean Sea. It was a thriving metropolitan area full of vice, full of greed, and full of false religion. The home of the gods, Mt. Olympus was located at Thessalonica.
On his 2nd missionary journey Paul had left Philippi and gone to Thessalonica to preach the gospel. His campaign there was very successful. People were getting saved. Great things were happening. A church was being established in a matter of weeks. But all that success was also stirring up opposition and persecution especially from the Jews. In Acts 17 we learn that a mob went to Jason’s house where Paul and his companions had been staying. When they couldn’t find Paul they dragged Jason out of his home and brought him before the city leaders bringing their accusations against the whole movement. With all of that going on some of the brothers persuaded Paul to flee to Berea. When we get into this epistle we will see the importance of knowing that background.
Paul later had to flee from Berea to Athens. There in Athens he sent Timothy to check on the Thessalonians and then went to Corinth. At Corinth Timothy brought Paul news of how the church at Thessalonica was doing. This epistle is Paul’s response to that report. It was written in about 50 AD which makes it one of the first letters Paul wrote.
Although there were issues that needed to be addressed, Paul was greatly relieved to hear that these young converts were remaining faithful in the midst of all their trials and tribulation. In this first chapter he commends them their continued efforts in the work of the Lord, the example they have become to others, and the expectation they have maintained toward the coming of the Lord. The commendation they receive is quite remarkable.
First they are commended for
I. Their Faithful Service to the Lord.
1 Thess. 1:2 “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.”
Now the reason for his thanksgiving—verse 3 “We continually remember before our God and Father...”. And now he mentions three hallmarks of their walk with God.
1st Your work produced by faith. These Christians had the kind of faith that produced good works in their lives. It was not just a lot of talk. It was a lot of positive action. The Bible clearly teaches that we are not saved by works. We are saved by faith in the work Christ did for us on the cross. We are saved by faith in Him.
Heb 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” NKJV
Do you believe that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him? What happens in our lives when we really believe that? We will diligently seek Him. We will seek to do those things pleasing in His sight. The obvious evidence of faith is a person’s actions. For the man who has no faith in God, he sees no reason to work for the Lord. In his mind it’s all going to end the same either way. Why not just pursue pleasure and ease? But for the person who believes there is a God and there is a day of reckoning —that person will seek to maintain good works. He doesn’t do it to get saved. He does it because he is saved and He believes that the Lord is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.