Summary: There are some foundational characteristics that will manifest in every true believer. If they’re not there...
"For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.¨
This entire letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica is one of instruction and encouragement. In fact so focused is he on the positive that we might more accurately characterize it as a letter of encouraging instruction; putting the emphasis on the encouraging part.
He jumps right in, after identifying himself and those in ministry with him from whom this letter comes as though it was a group effort, assuring the Thessalonians that he and his company thank God for this church, praying for them and remembering their work and faith and their expressions of love through their labors in the body and their steadfastness of hope in the Lord.
So right from the beginning this is a joyful letter in nature and an expression of Paul¡¦s pleasure in all the reports he has received about them.
Now I think it’s safe to say that there were two things that made Paul happiest. One was preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the other was seeing people respond to the gospel positively in faith and life that is, belief and action that demonstrated that belief.
Today I want to talk about the marks of a true Christian, as my title makes evident, and I think we can use chapter one verses 9 and 10 as a foundation upon which to build. Before we get into that topic though I think it will be helpful to us to talk about the message that brings about this faith, and the sort of acceptance of that message that invites and results in the kind of life response and behaviors that identify a person as a true Christian.
THE GOSPEL COMMUNICATED
If you’ve ever been in a class on communication, one of the first things you will learn is how to define communication. Communication takes place when there is a two-way exchange. In other words, I can say something to you, but I won’t know whether I have actually communicated the thought to you unless and until you respond to what I have said in a way that expresses understanding.
And of course, once you respond to me, I have the opportunity to respond to your response and communication continues.
Paul demonstrates in verse 5 how the Gospel was presented to the Thessalonians, then in verse 6 he shows how they responded and received that Gospel, thus completing communication.
See how he ends verse 4? "knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you. As we go through this, remember that they were chosen by God.
They did not choose Him, although their response to the Gospel is celebrated by Paul in these verses and they are commended for their faith and action, ultimately, they were chosen by God.
This is a fundamental doctrine of the Church. Jesus told His disciples, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you¡¨ and in his second letter to the Thessalonians (2:13) Paul writes that they were chosen by God from the beginning for salvation.
There are many proof texts to support this doctrine, so we believe it and we move on.
"for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit¡¨
No matter how true words are, they are only words unless the Holy Spirit is acting in them. There are a lot of words floating around out there to be sure. Not all of them are true.
But Paul’s gospel is true and we know that to the Romans he said the gospel is "the power of God for salvation¡¦. But even that gospel that truth about Jesus Christ must be accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit in order to have its effect in the human heart and manifest the hearer as one of God’s chosen.
So Paul assures them, reminds them, that this message did not come to them in words only. This wasn’t just a group of well-meaning men standing before you and giving you good advice for living.
This was the good news of Jesus Christ being preached with conviction by men who in their lifestyle proved Godly and sincere, and it came to you in the power of the life-giving Holy Spirit of God!
So that’s the first half of the communication process. The truth was conveyed and it was brought through men but in supernatural power.
The second half of the process, finishing the communication and bringing about the results of completed communication, is recorded in the words "You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word.¨