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Encouraged by Gospel Role Models (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

As we start a new series this morning in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians I pray that this morning you would be encouraged by these verses as Paul was 2000 years ago.

We are not just casual observers of this passage. This passage like all scripture is meant to teach us, rebuke us, correct us and to train us. I pray that this would happen this morning as God through his Spirit speaks to us.

Introduction

When you send a message to someone the way you start your message undoubtably says much about the relationship you have with that person. If you are sending a job application you may say dear sir/madam, respectful but not very personal. If like me you have ever had a fine sent through the mail for speeding (only one mind you in Sydney from 37 years of driving). From the office of state revenue. If you are writing a love letter to your wife, well for me I would write something like, to my dearest princess. Because that is my pet name for my wife. She is an absolute princess to me (in all of the good senses of the word). The sign off likewise speaks volumes Mark, Moo, Dad, Pastor Mark, Reverend Mark Penn, Mr Mark Penn. There is a different tone in every one of these names that I use for myself. It speaks of a different relationship. Likewise, we see the Apostle Paul throughout all but two of his letters stating upfront that he is an Apostle of Christ. However, here in both letters to the Thessalonians and in his letter to Philemon he doesn’t. I don’t think that we can ignore this. I think that this speaks about his relationship with the Thessalonians, the love he has for these Christians with whom he shared the Gospel and the way in which Paul has heard through Timothy about the lives worthy of the Gospel that they are living.

Paul, Silas and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace and peace to you. 1 Thess 1:1

Church, this is my encouragement to us today as well. Let us keep showing each other and the world that we are God’s children saved by the precious blood of Jesus by how we are living. This letter commends, reminds and encourages. But I want to say that it doesn’t rebuke. Paul doesn’t need to mention in the greeting that he is an Apostle of Christ set apart. He doesn’t need to stress his authority as God’s chosen instrument because the Gospel message that he, Timothy and Silas imparted to the Thessalonians has been not only accepted, but is also been lived, and shared.

Paul writes this letter to encourage the Thessalonians in their faith. To say keep going and increase in living out the Gospel. It is a letter of deep encouragement, and it is in response to Timothy’s visit and report regarding the Thessalonian church that Paul, Silas, and Timothy had recently planted. I believe that this letter paints a beautiful picture of a church living lives worthy of the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and doing this while facing real opposition.

Background

We know from the book of Acts in Chapter 17 that Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica and Paul for three Sabbaths preached and reasoned with the Jews from the scriptures.

 

Acts 17:1-9

When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.

But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea.

 We are not sure how long Paul stayed in Thessalonica. We know from 1 Thessalonians 2 v9 that Paul and his companions worked while they were in Thessalonica, for Paul writes

 

Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 

Paul and his companions worked during their time in Thessalonica and like some of the commentators I see this as saying that Paul spent more than weeks planting this church. I would suggest a few months.

As seen from ACTS 17 Paul had to leave because the opposition was fierce, and their very safety was on the line. Because of this Paul was also deeply concerned for the believers in the church that he had planted in Thessalonica. Paul was so moved with concern for these newly established disciples of Christ that he sent Timothy to encourage them to stand firm and also report back to him. We read in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3

So, when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them.

And friends this is where we find ourselves today as we start our journey through 1 Thessalonians. Timothy has brought word of the Thessalonian Church and Paul writes this letter to them to give thanks to God for the Gospel at work in them, to remind the Thessalonians of who they are in Christ and to encourage them to keep being imitators of Jesus, and in fact to do this more and more.

Remembering in Thanksgiving and Prayer

After Paul’s introduction he then goes onto talk about how he not only gives thanks often for the Thessalonians, but he also prays for them.

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.

Paul specifically prays for the Christians in Thessalonica. Paul then very helpfully in the verses that follow in today’s passage breaks down for us the reasons for thanksgiving and prayer. But before we look at these verses I wanted us to pause. For the structure of this letter is important. Paul is helping us in verse 2 to look at ourselves and our priorities. Friends if we were writing this letter to our church or say to some of the members of our church. Could we say these words? Could we say I thank God often for my church family, and I often mention them and their needs in prayer. There are a small group of us that indeed do this every Thursday lunchtime. We thank God for our church and the Gospel. Let’s all take this first point and turn it into action this week. Let’s give thanks to God for our Church and the living out of the Gospel at Chatswood. Let’s also be praying for our church to grow in Christ.

Paul includes every single Thessalonian believer in his thanks to God. Paul then reveals why he gives thanks for the Thessalonian Christians.

Paul’s first reason for thanksgiving – Faith Leading to Works

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith…1 Thess 1:3a

 The faith of the Thessalonian Christians was alive and active. Faith in Christ leads to the work that God has in store for us to do. We know this from Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Let’s make sure that we read this phrase the correct way as well. It is the work produced by faith, not the other way around. Now this work of faith could be many different things. It could be their faith in Christ leading them to tell others about Christ as we know they did. It could be the way in which they had stood firm in Christ even though they faced much persecution and opposition. It could also refer to the way in which their faith in Christ just meant that they now lived differently and treated others differently because they had been forgiven much.

Paul’s second reason for thanksgiving – Labor Prompted by Love

Secondly Paul thanks God for the Thessalonians Labor prompted by love. The love which the believer has for Christ has been manifested in their lives. Now yes there is crossover between work produced by faith in Christ and Love for others born out of love for Christ. Once again the love of Christ in the believer produces a result. The love shown to others which is the labor of that love is on display from the Thessalonian believers. We know from scripture that the greatest labor prompted by love was God sending his one and only Son Jesus Christ into the world to save. Romans 5:8 is the ultimate Labor of Love

 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The Thessalonians were showing their love for God in their lives.

Paul’s third reason for thanksgiving – Endurance Inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

And finally, their hope in Jesus Christ lead to endurance. Their hope in Jesus Christ lead to steadfastness. They were able to hang on no matter what happened because their sure and certain hope in Jesus was embodied in their lives. Endurance may well be the least known of these three for us. For the idea of endurance inspired by hope in Jesus is very much the idea of trusting in Jesus when there is much suffering, much opposition. For most of us here sitting in church today the greatest opposition that we have been subjected to would be through hurtful words. Perhaps someone has found out that you are a Christian and they think that Christians and bigoted and intolerant, and therefore they have used their words unkindly towards you. Friends these struggles are real. Yet I want to kindly say that what the Paul, Silas, Timothy and the Thessalonian Christians were facing for trusting in Jesus meant much deeper suffering then words. In our world today there are many countries where it is extremely dangerous to be a Christian. Open Doors has a 2024 list of the 50 most dangerous countries to be a Christian.

Paul often uses faith, hope and love and love together. This being most likely Paul’s first letter that we have in the Bible would also mean that this is the first instance, but we also well know 1 Corinthians 13:13 – Paul’s well known and these three remain, faith, hope and love. Gal 5:5-6, Col 1:4-5.

Paul prays this prayer of thanksgiving because he is thankful for the Gospel power that is obvious in the lives of the Thessalonians.

Reminder

After Paul has spoken of why works produced by faith, hope and love that mean that he remembers and gives thanks to God for the Thessalonians. Paul then reminds the Thessalonians of how this faith, hope and love came about. Of the fact that it is in the end because of God’s work in Christ that he can give thanks for the Thessalonians works of faith, love and hope in Christ.

The Power of God

As Paul continues he says in verses 4 & 5

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake

 Friends, it is all God. This is what Paul is saying. Give thanks to God.

Paul reminds them that they are loved by God, chosen by God, given the means of salvation (the Gospel) by God, and sealed with the Holy Spirit, sent by God. While Paul acknowledges that the believers in Thessalonica are living lives worthy of the Gospel. He also wants to take every opportunity to remind them, and us that it is indeed by this Gospel that we are saved.

What a great reminder. Every one of us here that is a disciple of Christ. Every one of us here that has confessed with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead is saved. We know this from Romans 10:9. But the reason we can confess this. The reason that the Gospel saves, is that God loves us and chose us.

Ephesians 1:3-5

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship[b] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—

The Gospel is as Paul says not merely words. Though it is indeed words. But it is the power of God. Once again in Paul’s own words from Romans 1:16-17 a memory verse for us over the last couple of years as I recall

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

In Love God chose the Thessalonian Christian.

The Gospel changes you

Paul then speaks about how they lived among the Thessalonians. He is really talking about how Paul, Silas, Timothy and his companions lived generally as Christians.

V6

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 

As those who place their hope in Christ, those who receive and accept the Gospel message life changes. You no longer imitate the world; you have been born again as God’s children. So, you know follow and imitate Christ. And as Paul says you imitate those who imitate Christ. That makes sense doesn’t it. As Paul is giving thanks to God for the believers in Thessalonica. He gives thanks for the proof of their faith. What do I mean by this? Well, they lived the Gospel. They lived their faith. Have a look at our final verses 7-10

And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 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, 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.

Church, Paul can give thanks for these brothers and sisters because they are role models of living the Christian Life. Now let me be clear that doesn’t mean that they are without sin. For we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. But as we read in 1 John 2:1-2

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

The Thessalonian Christians modelled Gospel living in faith, love and hope. So that everyone around them in Macedonia, in Achaia, and indeed everywhere either saw how they were living or heard how they were living and so the Lord’s message, the Gospel was made known because of their lives and witness. Their testimony as Paul goes on to say was that they had turned from worshipping idols to serving and worshipping the one true God. Paul again reminds them of the truths of the Gospel. They serve the one true God because they are waiting for Jesus to return, because God raised Jesus from the dead, and finally it is only by faith in Jesus that the believed escapes Judgement. That the believer escapes the coming wrath.

Friends Paul knows that the power of the Gospel is at work in the Thessalonian believers because in their lives, their faith, their love and their hope, he can see the power of God through his Gospel at work.

We have been over the first month of this year reminding ourselves what it means to be ready for the return of Jesus. And here in 1 Thessalonians 1 Paul shows us how the church in Thessonalica a great example of what this looks like. As Paul, Silas and Timothy had been role models for them, they were now Gospel role models for everyone around them.

So, all of this leaves us with the question of how we are living our lives. Is faith alive in how we live. Is Jesus the one we look to in every situation. Do we love like we have been loved by Jesus? 1 John 3:16

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Is this how we love each other at Chatswood Baptist. Do we love each other sacrificially? Friends, I think often we do. But as Paul will go on to say in chapter 4

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 

Only the Gospel saves. This is God’s work completed by His Son with the Holy Spirit. Once we have put our trust in God we are to live out the Gospel as we wait for Jesus’ return, our sure and certain hope.

Let’s pray.