Summary: 2nd in a series on 1 Thessalonians, this message focuses on the people to whom Paul wrote this letter.
WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
This morning we are going to return to the 1st Chapter of Thessalonians as we continue with our series A Sure Faith For Uncertain Times…As we noted last week, the people of Thessalonica to whom Paul originally wrote these words lived in a time and in a culture not unlike our own…As men and women seeking to live out a Christ-like life, they often experienced troubles and tribulations…It was not always easy living a life of authentic faith then, any more than it is for us today.
Last week we looked in detail at Paul’s visit to Thessalonica—how he came to minister there and what his ministry looked like…A year or so after he left the city, he wrote this letter to them, and the opening chapter gives us a pretty good picture of the type of people to whom he was writing…So this morning we’ll attempt to answer the question, Who Are These People?
Let’s start reading with verse 2 of 1 Thessalonians, chapter 1:
1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 2 We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. 3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
From these verses, we can identify at least four truths about the original recipients of this letter.
I. THEY WERE DELIVERED
We know that the people to whom Paul was writing were delivered—that is they were saved—because they were a part of the church at Thessalonica…But Paul specifically identifies these people as saved… In verse 9 he makes it clear that these Thessalonians have a testimony of an authentic relationship with God.
1 Thessalonians 1:9 …They [the people in Macedonia and Achaia] tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
Paul is describing here the process of repentance:
• Turning to God.
• Turning from idols.
• Serving the true and living God.
There is a definitive order of events described here…Starts with turning to God, then turning from idols, which results in being able to serve the living and true God.
• Too many people get it backwards.
Paul makes two things about salvation very clear in this passage.
A. Salvation Was Imparted by God
1 Thessalonians 1: 4-5 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction…
God is the author and initiator of salvation…It is God who makes us aware of our sins…It is God who reaches down to us and makes us aware of His great love…It is God who opens His arms and invites us into a relationship with Him…Although many people profess to “seeking God”, the truth is that apart from God reaching out to us, we’d never even know that we were sinners in need of a Savior.
Paul refers to these Thessalonian Christians as loved by God…The Greek term translated this way was used a few other times in the NT, usually to describe the love of God the Father for God the Son…
Paul speaks here of our gospel—the gospel Paul preached…We don’t have to guess what Paul preached, because we looked at it last Sunday in Acts 17…It is the message of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ…And Paul gives all the credit for the salvation of these believers to the power of the Gospel…To Paul, and to these believers in Thessalonica, the Gospel was not just some abstract idea…It wasn’t a theory or a philosophy…It was, as Paul describes elsewhere in the NT, the power of God unto salvation.