Summary: The third sermon in our series on 1st Thessalonians. This sermon discusses the fact that there are only two types of people in the world, those who are in Christ, and those who aren’t.
Which Side Are You On?
Text: 1st Thessalonians 2:13-16
By: Ken McKinley
Well as we continue on in our study of Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians we come to our text. If you remember, the first 12 verses of this chapter we saw that Paul had a deep conviction of his stewardship to preach the Gospel. But Paul never knew what kind of reaction he was going to get when he did preach. Prior to coming to Thessalonica Paul had faced persecution, so he didn’t know for sure what was going to happen when he came to Thessalonica, if they would receive the Gospel, or if he would have to wipe the dust from his feet, he just knew that he was supposed to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. But Paul had a good result with the Thessalonians, at least in the church, and he was filled with thanksgiving at the way they had embraced the message, and that’s what he writes about in our text.
Now there are some people who think that verses 14, 15, and 16 are anti-Semitic and some of the so-called “Liberal Theologians” say that there is no way that Paul could’ve written this, and that it must’ve been added at a later time. But there’s no evidence for this at all.
Paul was not anti-Semitic, he was anti-unbelief. Paul loved his fellow Jews, and he longed for their salvation. It was his practice to come to a city and first he would preach at the synagogue before going into the homes of Gentiles. He loved his country men according to the flesh, but; he wasn’t going to avoid the fact that his own countrymen had also rejected the prophets, one after the other – something that Jesus even said in Matthew 23. They had killed not only God’s prophets, but also were now rejecting the Messiah that they had been waiting for.
Now like I said, that doesn’t make Paul anti-Semitic, it makes him anti-unbelief. In other parts of Scripture, he uses just as strong language to describe and condemn unbelief among the Gentiles. What Paul teaches, and what all of Scripture teaches, is that anyone, whether Jew or Gentile, anyone who opposes the message of salvation, is opposed to God Himself. That’s why Paul says in verse 15 that they were contrary towards all men. The most loving thing a person can do for another is to allow them access to the message of the Gospel. Or better yet; present it to them.
I once took a graduate level class on the psychology of learning, and in that class we talked about the way people learn. And I remember one time we were talking about babies and how they perceive certain things. It was kind of amusing actually, but they did a study where they would sit a baby down and then build a tower of blocks, three or four blocks high, with a red block on the top of the tower. The baby would watch with fascination and the idea was that the baby was taking it all in and that he or she was satisfied with the logic of it all. Then they suspended the red block in the air, with no visible means of suspension. Meaning that the baby couldn’t see how the red block was floating in mid-air. And even babies were troubled by this; it was illogical to them. In-other-words, they couldn’t attach meaning to what they were seeing. And sometimes I think that’s how people can be with the Gospel. They hear the message, but it doesn’t register with them. They can open a Bible, or come to church and hear a pastor preaching the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, but to them it’s only words. For those kinds of people, the Gospel doesn’t come in power, it doesn’t weigh on them, there is no sense of personal application of the message, no embrace of the message. It’s like the teacher from the Old Charlie Brown shows:
“Whaa – whaa, whaa – whaa –whaa - whaa.”
This is the one true thing that divides the human race. What they do with the Word of God. You may have two people who live in the same town, one knows the Word of God, believes it to be true, and lives it. The other person doesn’t know the Word of God, rejects it, and lives how they think they should. Now those two people may eat the same kinds of food, shop at the same stores, attend the same football games and so on the outside, it seems that they are no different; but the reality is that there is a vast, eternal difference between them. That difference is more than obvious to God, and it should be obvious to all of us, in how they live. And that’s what Paul is saying when he writes this. He says, “You saw how we lived our lives before you, and of course so did God, so now we are telling you to live the same way; live in a way that its obvious Who you belong to and Who you serve.”