Summary: some churches are closer to the NT ideal than others. The church at Thessalonica was in that category.
TEXT: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
TITLE: WHAT EVERY CHURCH SHOULD BE
No doubt you have heard people say, “If you ever find the perfect church, please don’t join it. If you do, it won’t be perfect any more!”
Since local churches are made up of human beings, saved by God’s grace, no church is perfect. But some churches are closer to the NT ideal than others. The church at Thessalonica was in that category. At least four times in this letter, Paul gave thanks for the church and the way it responded to his ministry (1:2; 2:13: 3:9; 5:18).
Characteristics of The Ideal Church
First we notice verse 3. “Your work of faith.” The meaning of this is “Your work which springs form faith.” Paul is very emphatic that salvation is a matter of faith, not works, and he uses the very strongest of expressions to make it clear that man is not saved by works at all. But he also speaks of good works that characterize the life of faith. Faith, for Paul, is a warm personal trust in a living Savior, and such a faith cannot but transform the whole of life, and issue in “work” of many kinds. Read James 2:14-18. It has been said, “We are not saved by faith plus works, but by a faith that works.”
Second, we see the words, “labor of love.” Paul is saying that out of love they have labored to the point of weariness. The word expresses the cost of their love, not its result. With or without visible success, love gives itself unstintingly.
Third, we see the words, “patience of hope.” “Patience” is better rendered “steadfastness”. What is meant is not a quiet, passive resignation, but an active constancy in the face of difficulties. As William Barclay says: “It is the spirit which can bear things, not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope.” This springs from hope, that hope which is more than pious optimism. It is a solid certainty. In the NT hope is always something which is as yet future, but which is completely certain.
Fourth, let’s look at verse 5. They received the Word. The Gospel came to them through the ministry of Paul and his associates. The Holy Spirit used the Word in great power, and the Thessalonians responded by receiving both the message and the messengers. In spite of the persecution in Philippi, Paul and Silas had been “bold...to speak…the Gospel” (2:2); and the people believed and were saved. They never lost that eagerness for the Word of God. Chapter 2:13 says, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
The gospel “came…in power.” In many places we see evidence that the gospel is power, for God is in it. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” It is not simply that the gospel tells of power, though this, too, is true. But when the gospel is preached God is there and God is working. The gospel is power. Whenever the gospel is faithfully proclaimed, there is power.