Summary: The Thessalonian believers had it right. Turn from idols to the living God, serve Him and one another, wait with great anticipation for Christ’s return.
8 “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. 9 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, 10 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.”
Sometimes when beginning to study for a sermon one of the first things I will do is go to my books and also websites to find sermons and commentaries on the passage I am about to teach. Sometimes I will read all that another preacher has to say on the target passage; other times I will just browse their outline or even go down a list of sermon titles just to get a feel for how others have approached the passage.
I was doing just that in preparation for beginning this sermon and I ran across this catchy title by Pastor Darrin Hunt. “The Stained Glass Aquarium”.
I did not go on to read that sermon, but the title itself says a great deal about where this pastor was going to go with it and although my primary focus is in a different direction it is worthy of mention that we as Christians and the church as an organization in the world are indeed on display.
The gospel message is either helped or hindered in its delivery to the world around us by the reality of our conversion or the hypocrisy of our witness, insofar as they are able to discern and decipher what they see.
TRUMPET BLASTS AND ROLLING THUNDER
The language guys tell me that the word translated ‘sounded forth’ there in verse 8 is exclusive to the New Testament and means ‘to blast forth’ or to ‘sound forth very intensely’ and might have been used to refer to a blasting trumpet or rolling thunder. (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – 1&2 Thessalonians J. MacArthur)
Paul is commending the believers in Thessalonica for their faithful proclamation of the gospel in the Greek regions around them, saying that their efforts have been so constant and so intense that everywhere Paul and those traveling with him were going they were hearing good reports of the young church in Thessalonica.
In fact, he says in verse 9 that ‘they themselves’, meaning the inhabitants of these other regions, ‘…report about us what kind of a reception we had with you”. In other words, the news was traveling faster than Paul and company, so that when they came to a new place they were hearing stories about themselves and the reception the gospel got in Thessalonica, before getting a chance to tell it themselves.
If you were to look at a map of the regions around the Mediterranean, perhaps in the back of your Bible, and find Thessalonica and then see what area Paul was talking about when he mentioned Macedonia and then Achaia, then went on to say, ‘but also in every place your faith in God has gone forth’, it might inspire you to imagine what an amazing thing it would be to hear this news.
Imagine having a letter come in the mail to our church, or perhaps generally to our association of churches here in the region in which we live, stating that the one writing the letter keeps hearing good reports about us as he travels in Denver and Cheyenne and Salt Lake City and Santa Fe and even Phoenix.
Not stories about how big we’re growing or the buildings we’re building, or how we’re working to rid our community of drugs and crime or some other social improvement, noble and good as those things might be, but evidences of our faith in God even in the throes of persecution (vs 6), and the spread of the gospel message through our lives and our efforts to sound it forth.
I do not know what the precise setting was in which these reports came to the ears of Paul and his companions. Since it was being conveyed as joyful news it most assuredly came from other Christians, and probably primarily from leaders of local churches.
I suppose then, that the modern day equivalent would be pastor’s conferences.
Now I don’t usually attend pastor’s conferences and seminars and conventions. The few that I have attended have not given me anything helpful to come away with and men whose opinions I trust have referred to these events in words that encourage me to save my money and stay home with the family.
One relatively well-known preacher that I have listened to often has indicated on more than one occasion, his disgust with the triumphalism and the breast-pounding and the disdainful size comparing he has witnessed between pastors at many of these functions.