Summary: This is the 4th of a series on 1st Thessalonians. In this sermon we discuss true marks of the Christian faith.
How’s Your Faith?
Text: 1st Thessalonians 2:17-3:5
By: Ken McKinley
Now, before we really get into tonight’s lesson I want to remind you of the historical context of this letter. Paul and Timothy came to Thessalonica around 49 or 50 AD. They found a synagogue and preached the Gospel there for 3 Sabbaths, showing from the Scriptures how Jesus was the Messiah. Only a few Jews believed, but a large number of Gentiles came to faith, including several prominent women. Then; because of the number of converts in the city, it brought about a strong reaction from the community, and a mob formed up and started a riot in the city. They attacked the house of Jason, a man who was hosting Paul and the others and this mob wanted to take Paul and Silas before the city counsel, but luckily the believers of the city had smuggled Paul and his companions out of town during the night. So instead the mob took Jason and some of the other Christians, and brought them before the governing officials and said, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king – Jesus.” We read about all of this in Acts chapter 17. Now you’ve got to understand that the Roman emperors were very paranoid. And so when they heard things like this, they didn’t see the apostles as religious leaders, they saw them as revolutionaries.
Now the problem here was that because Paul had to leave the church in Thessalonica so suddenly, it was left without any real leadership, and the people in the city, began to say that Paul must not have really cared about any of the Christians there, otherwise he wouldn’t have left so suddenly, and under cover of darkness. So Paul wrote this letter to explain a few things, things that he probably didn’t get to tell the Christians in Thessalonica before he had to leave.
So look at verses 17 and 18 (Read). Paul says, “We were taken away from you, and we wanted to come back to over and over again, but we were hindered by Satan…” Now in Acts 16 the Holy Spirit forbid Paul from going into Asia, but here Paul makes it clear that it’s Satan that is hindering their return. It’s actually a military term that he uses here, in other words, Paul is saying that there is opposition in the spiritual realm that was hindering them from coming. Now we don’t know exactly how that manifested in the physical realm, it might have been that Paul got sick, or that the Jews in the city kept things stirred up, or maybe even that Jason and the other Christians had to agree that Paul would not return as part of their bond/bail. We don’t know exactly. But the point is that sometimes Satan is active in trying to prevent us from doing the Lord’s work.
Then in verses 19 and 20 Paul goes on to say that, “You Christians in Thessalonica, you are our joy, our crown, because you’re going to be in the presence of the Lord when He returns.”
But Paul doesn’t just write them a letter, he sends his protégé Timothy.
Now look at chapter 3 verses 3 and 4 (Read). Now this is something, right here that we often don’t like to talk about in the prosperous west. Paul sent Timothy to encourage them in the afflictions they were going through, and he even says – “we were appointed to them.” That bothers a lot of people. It doesn’t mesh well with the prosperity and ease that we have here in the West, but have you ever noticed how much the NT talks about persecution and trouble? A lot, it is a regular part of the Christian life. So Paul is saying, I sent Timothy to you, because I know that you’re going through tough times. And he also knew that the tempter was out there.
Now remember, we already talked about how Paul was an ambassador of Christ, and he knew it, and understood it, and his life showed evidence of his faith. See Paul believed with all of his heart that the Gospel was the only hope for mankind, that’s why he endured the things he did, his faith showed itself through his life, and the things he did, and his passion for the Gospel. So Paul was anguishing over these Christians in Thessalonica, hoping and praying that they were doing alright. He was greatly concerned for them because he had to leave so suddenly. But for some reason he couldn’t return, and so Paul sent Timothy. Now let me just tell ya’ll that this was not a common thing to do. In those days it was dangerous to travel by yourself, or in a small group, and so the more people you had, the safer you would be, but Paul splits his group up because he is so concerned for the Christians in Thessalonica.