Study on the Book of
1st Thessalonians

 
1 THESSALONIANS STUDY 2005

September 30, 2005

FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE.

 

I.  INTRODUCTION TO 1 THESSALONIANS

 

A.  Open your Bibles if you would to 1 Thessalonians chapter 1.  This is going to be our first study in what was probably the first letter every written by the Apostle Paul to the Church.  Let me read you the first few verses here starting in verse 1.

 

1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  

2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,

3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,

4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.

 

LET ME PRAY FOR US THIS MORNING.

 

B.  It was 49 AD; Paul and Silas were off on their Second Missionary Journey and things had not been going very well.  And in fact, they were about to get worse.  They had just pulled into Philippi and run into a group of ladies having a prayer meeting down by the river.  Paul tells them about Jesus, they get saved.  One of them is seller of purple fabric named Lydia.  Following that, they run into a slave girl that was demon possessed who made her masters a lot of money through fortune telling.  Paul casts the demon out of her and she gets saved.  Unfortunately for her masters, her gift of divination is now gone, so the cash cow has gone dry.  This really upsets them so they dragged Paul and Silas before the local magistrates who end up beating Paul and Silas with rods and throwing them into dungeon of the Philippians jail where they have them in chains.

 

  1.  Around midnight, Paul and Silas decide a worship service, they are praying and singing and worshipping God.  And apparently all heaven joins in and it gets a little rowdy because the result was an earthquake that threw open the jailhouse doors and knocked all of the chains off of the prisoners.  This freaked the jailer out who was personally responsible for all of the prisoners and he was about to kill himself, so Paul speaks up and says, “we are all here, do yourself no harm.” The jailer grabs a light and comes in trembling and says, “What must I do to be saved” And of course Paul by the Spirit comes back with this classic line, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household.”

 

  a.  Well after a tumultuous send off, Paul and Silas go through Amphipolis and Apollonia and they come to Thessalonica, which is modern day, Salonica.  When they got there they were in pretty bad shape, they were beaten and bruised, they had been kicked out of just about every town they had gone through, they had traveled on foot for over a hundred miles just to get there.  And yet they were still up for doing ministry, so they did what Paul always did, they went into the Synagogue in Thessalonica and they reasoned with the Jews from the Scriptures.

 

   b.  And I want you to see the focus of Paul’s message, it’s found in Acts 17:3.

 

3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ."

 

   c.  The Jews were looking for this conquering Messiah, Paul was showing them, from the scriptures, that the Messiah had to suffer, and die, and then be raised from the dead on the third day.  And of course that pointed to one person, Jesus Christ.  And people responded to his message, it tells us in verse 4 that,

 

Acts 17:4

4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

 

   d.  So as a result of Paul’s teaching, Jews from the Synagogue were saved, a great multitude of devout Greeks were saved, and a bunch of the cities leading woman were saved.  This was the Church at Thessalonica, there were Jews who had come out of the Synagogue, Greeks who left their Temples and their idols, and a group of leading women who probably came out of both.  That is quite a mix.

 

   e.  Well Paul’s effectiveness didn’t empress the Jewish leaders in the town, in fact it down right made them mad.  So they gathered together a bunch of hoodlums from the marketplace and they set the city in an uproar and they came upon Jason’s house, which was where Paul and Silas had been staying.  It seems that Paul and Silas had gotten wind of this and not wanting another licking, had split the scene.  So they dragged Jason before the Magistrates and they come up with one of my favorite lines in the Book of Acts.  “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here as well” Don’t you love that?  That was how effective Paul and Silas were with the Gospel, everywhere they went, they turned the place upside down.

 

   f.  Actually this statement is not quite true, they didn’t turn the world upside down, they turned it right side up.  The world is upside down already.  Oh that we would have that same reputation, that people would say of us, watch out for those Calvary Chapel people, everywhere they go, they turn the world right side up.  Would I love that?

 

    g.  After that, Paul and Silas go to Berea, where the people there took the teaching of Paul back to the Word of God to see if it was true.  Paul commends them for doing that.  From there Paul at least went on to Athens, and it’s here that Paul sent Silas back Philippi, and Timothy, who had now joined the team, back to Thessalonica.  Paul wanted to know if anything that they had done had stuck.  Lots of people had made professions of faith, but had any of them hung in there, had a church been formed in any of these cities.

 

   h.  From Athens Paul goes on to Corinth and there he awaits news from Silas and Timothy.  Timothy comes back with a glowing report; the Church in Thessalonica has taken off, so much so that they were now spreading the Gospel in other parts of Macedonia and Achaia.  This Church was on fire.  This of course thrilled the heart of Paul and so he immediately communicates to them by letter, which becomes the Book that we are studying today, the Book of 1 Thess.

 

C.  What is so neat about this Book is that we can see from it, what Paul had taught these folks while he was with them for those brief, three weeks, I think that you are going to be surprised at what Paul taught this group of new believers.  And then we get to see what he thought was important for a young Church to know.  The message of 1 Thess is so simple, it is so pure, it is what every Church would have heard if things in the Church hadn’t gotten so messed up.  This was the Church before the Judaizers, it was the Church before the Gnostics, it was the Church before politics and the weirdness, it was the Church before things got complicated.  The Church that Paul wrote to here was a just a group of people who loved Jesus and wanted the whole world to know about Him.

 

  1.  The Book of Thessalonians was what a group of people like that needed to hear.  Which means that it contains the things that we need to hear today.  These are the basics of the Christian life; these are the foundational elements that we as Christians should be about.  If we think that we are beyond these things, we are mistaken, if we think we need a little more meat then what the Book of 1 Thessalonians has to offer, and then we have lost sight of what makes the Christian life so wonderful.  The Book of 1 Thess brings us back to our first love and the things that He thinks are important for our Christian lives.  Let’s dive in here and see what Paul had to say to this church.

 

D.  Notice in verse 1 that Paul and Silas and Timothy are writing to the CHURCH at Thessalonica.  The word for Church here is Ekklesia, which means “the called out ones” It, was used of almost any religious gatherings or place of worship, Synagogues included.  But it took on a deeper meaning when it was used of the Church of Jesus Christ.  These were the ones who were called out of the Old Covenant, called out of Idolatry, called out of the world, into a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  These called out ones had been made a part of something brand new, this living organism called the Church.  It wasn’t something you joined, it was something that you supernaturally were made a part of.

 

  1.  To say that you were a part of the Ekklessia in this day was a very special thing.

 

   a.  This Ekklessia was in God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.  It wasn’t the way to God, which is the hope of every other Ekklessia and religion, this Church exists in the Father and in the Son.  It functions within the sphere of their Presence and Power and love and Life.  You can’t separate the Church away from God or God away from His Church.  The One exists inside of the Other.  The Church is in the Father, it is in the Son.

 

E.  To the Church Paul sends this greeting, Grace to you, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

  1.  So we have only gone two verses and twice we have the Phrase, “God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ”.  In Paul’s mind and theology the Father and the Son cannot be separated.  In just a few verses he will add the Spirit into this mix as well.  The God that Paul is presenting here in his very first letter is a Triune God, One God, three personalities, One God, three distinct functions.  God the Father, God the Son, the God the Holy Spirit.

 

   a.  From God the Father and God the Son, Paul sends Grace and Peace.  Some here see the standard Greek greeting and the standard Jewish greeting combined although both of these words are Greek words.  This is much more then that, these are two things that uniquely belong to God that Paul wanted to impart to these saints.

 

   b.  He wants them to know and experience the Grace of God.  What is the grace of God?  Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve; it is God’s bounty at Christ’s expense.  All the blessings that we have from God are His grace gift to us.  His Love, His forgiveness, His mercy, His Salvation, His life, His precious promises, are ours, not because we deserve them or have come to earn them, but because it is His nature to give them freely to us.

 

   c.  If you want to see one of the main differences between Christianity and every other religious system, here it is, every other religious system is about what you have to do for God.  Christianity is about what God has done for you.  That is what makes reading the Bible so exciting, the Bible is the story of what God has done and will continue to do for you.

 

   d.  The Christian life then becomes our response to God’s grace.  Here is an example, The great commandment is that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, but we love God, why?  Because He first loved us.  The more that you know His love; the more you are going to love Him in return.  We serve others, why, because Jesus first served us.  So then watch this, the more you know and experience the grace of God, the more useful and effective you will be for Him.  That’s why Paul is asking for a fresh imparting of God’s grace into their lives.

 

   e.  He wants them to know God’s grace, and to be walking in God’s grace, and to be fully enjoying God’s grace.

 

   f.  And folks that is what I want for you, if you are consumed with what God has done for you, if you are totally focused in on all of the blessing that are yours in Christ, if you are immersed in and are fully enjoying all that Jesus secured for you on the Cross, your living out of the Christian life is going to be a cinch and a joy.  If you are not fully immersed in and enjoying the grace of God, then the living out of your Christian life is going to be a drag.  Paul wanted them to know and be fully experiencing the grace of God.  I hope that you are constantly being surprised by the grace of God.

 

  2.  Then Paul wanted them to know and fully experience the Peace of God.

 

   a.  As I said earlier, this is the Greek word for Peace, but there is no doubt that what Paul had in mind here was the Hebrew word which is Shalom which is the peace that produces wholeness and health.  To the Hebrew mind, peace was not the absence of something, but the presence of something, something very powerful.  This is what Paul had in mind here.

 

   b.  This peace will be manifest in three different ways in our lives.  First the peace of God brings peace WITH God.  Paul tells us in his Book to the Ephesians that our sin has made us the enemy of God.  God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all, what fellowship can light have with darkness?  As long as we remain in sin, we are at war with a Holy God.

 

   c.  This is what makes the work of Jesus on the cross so amazing; on the Cross He became our sin, taking away that which separates us from God.  He paid sins penalty so that sin would no longer be an issue.  Because of that we who were far away, have been brought near by the Blood of Jesus.  Through His sacrifice on the Cross, the Believer is now at peace with God.  There is nothing more wonderful then that, to know that you are at Peace with your Heavenly Father.

 

  3.  Secondly, the peace of God brings peace within; we are at peace with ourselves.

 

   a.  One of man’s greatest foes can be his own conscience, a conscience that is being fueled by the sins and the failures of the past.  If Satan can turn us over to guilty conscience, his work is done.  He just lets us beat ourselves up.

 

   b.  But again, the work of Jesus on the Cross, speaks peace to the guilt and failures of the past.  Not only does the Blood of Jesus cleanse us of our sins, it washes away the guilt of our sin.  Forgiveness brings peace with God and it brings peace within.  There is nothing like being at peace with yourself because you know that old things have passed away and behold all things have become new.

 

  2.  Thirdly the peace of God allows us to be at peace with the people around us.  It was really interesting for me to live through the peace and love of the sixties.  We all so desperately wanted for love to be the main thing and for peace to rule on earth.  But the willing of it never could make it happen.  In fact I remember being on Haight Street one time with a friend of mine who lived in San Francisco and he was telling me, “you really have to be careful down here, this is one of most dangerous parts of the city” Wait a minute, what happened to the epicenter of love and peace?  What went wrong here?  The answer is that without the Prince of Peace, there is no peace.  You can will it all you want, but peace is not something that we can generate, especially this kind of peace.

 

   a.  When you know peace, with God and with yourself, you can then bring peace to those around you.  Jesus has actually given His people the capacity to be peacemakers, those who know the peace of God, can bring the peace of God.

 

   b.  My prayer for you is that the peace of God would reign in your heart and mind; that you would know His peace and you would bring His peace where ever you go.

 

   c.  That is what Paul wanted for these saints, he wanted them to know and be fully enjoying the Grace of God and the Peace of God.

 

F.  From here, Paul goes right into a prayer of thanksgiving.  Look at verses 2-3

 

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing

 

  1.  The Greek word for prayer here is very interesting.   It is Euchomai, which is the standard Greek word for prayer that meant, a religious act of skillful bargaining.  This is what the professional religious priests in the Temples did.  You went to them and most of the time paid them to skillfully bargain with the gods on your behalf.  What Paul does is that he takes this word, and then add the prefix “pros” to it, proseuchomai, which shifts the focus away from the one praying to the One who is being prayed to.  For the Christian, the power of prayer is not bound up in the one who is praying, prayer is powerful because of the One that we are praying to.  What this means is that prayer is an amateur event that every Christian do.  Isn’t that good?  

 

   1.  The heart of Paul’s prayer is thanksgiving.  He is really not making requests of God on behalf of these saints; he is simply thanking God for them.  This gives us a little insight into how we should pray doesn’t it.  The Bible tells us that God knows our requests before we ask, now that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ask, we should.  It just means that prayer can be, and should be, more of a dialogue.  We don’t have to worry about making sure that God knows every detail of our every request, no, we can spend time just thanking Him, we can actually spend more time just listening to Him.

 

    a.  Chuck Smith said one time that the older he gets, the more he wants to listens in prayer because he has figured out that what God has to say to him, is more important then what he thinks that he needs to say to God.  That is so true.  So Paul in this prayer does nothing but thank God for these Saints.  Try this sometime, I think that you will find it very refreshing.

 

G.  Paul was thankful for four things.  Their work of faith, their labor of love, their patience of Hope, and their election by God.  Let’s think about each one of these.

 

  1.  There is no doubt that Paul believed that the foundation of our sanctification was Faith, Hope, and Love.  If a Christian is to function in this world and in the world to come, these three things need to there in abundance.  I believe that Paul would go so far as to say, that if you can’t find these three things in a persons life, then they are not believers, they are not a Christian.  These three things are the fruit, the outflow, the proof that we have been born again.  That is why Paul was thrilled and very thankful to find these things in this Church.

 

  2.  First he was thankful for their Work of Faith.

 

   a.  If you know Paul’s writings you know that these two words, Work and Faith, are usually in conflict with one another because Paul is using them within the context of our Salvation.  Paul wants it to be clear that we are not saved by works, lest any man should boast, but what saves us?  Faith.  So what Paul is talking about here is not their salvation.  What Paul is talking about here is the outflow of their salvation, the proof of their salvation if you will.  We are not saved by good works, but the person who is truly saved will do good works.

 

   b.  What Paul is referring to here is the activity that faith inspires.  And make no mistake, genuine faith will inspire activity.  In other words, genuine faith is going to inspire us to do things, or in some cases, not do things, that will show people that we are truly Born Again.

 

   c.  James put it this way, James 2:18

 

18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

 

    a.  The faith of these saints was not dead, it was alive.  People could watch the way that they lived and they knew, they were people of faith, living faith.  

 

    b.  So let me ask you this, what actions does your faith inspire, what are the things that you are doing or not doing, because your faith is real?  I would hope that there are some obvious things.  The faith of the Thessalonians was inspiring them to do wonderful things for God and Paul was thankful for it.

 

  3.  Next Paul was thankful for their labor of Love.

 

   a.  The word that Paul uses here for love is Agape, this is the highest form of Love, this is God’s love that loves without demanding anything in return.  The word here for Labor is Kopos, which means to labor to the point of exhaustion.  Again, these seem like funny words to put together, a love that is spontaneous and free, with labor that is intense and hard.

 

   b.  But folks this is the way that love works.  Or maybe better put, this is the way that love of God gets worked out of us.  The love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts is lived out in the trenches of life and those trenches are very difficult, very demanding.  

 

    c.  Jesus said, anyone can love those who love them, what is hard, and what the Lord requires is that we love those who don’t love us; we love those who are in fact unlovable, that we love those who are very hard to love.  And there is no getting around this, that is going to take work, that is going to hard labor.  But the result is love that is so rich, so full, so satisfying.

 

   d.  When you think about the love that God wants to have flowing in the life of a Church, you know that is going to take work, when you think of the love that God wants to have flowing in a marriage, you know that is going to take hard labor, sometimes a life time of hard labor.  When you think of the love that God wants to have flowing between parents and their children, that is going to take intense labor.

 

   e.  But the results of loving like this are so amazing.  It baffles the world when we can love through the hard times, it baffles the world that we will hang in there and love in difficult situations.  I was just a part of the renewal vows for a couple who had gone through some horribly tough times.  And yet in the midst of it, they never stopped loving, and it was hard, it was painful, it would have been so much easier not to love.  But here was the result, after the renewal of vows was over a non-believer came up to me and said, I don’t understand this, how could they keep loving through all of that junk?  And I said, “it was the Lord, it was the Grace and Mercy of God” And they had to agree, love like that is supernatural.

 

   f.  That is what these saints had, a supernatural love that labored to the point of exhaustion it was a love that proved it’s self by hanging in there.  Our culture today is so quick to bail out, so quick to throw in the towel, some celebrity marriages are being measured in hours, not months or years, but hours.  What we miss in this is a depth of love that is beyond anything this world has to offer.  Folks that kind of love can be real in you and there is nothing like, nothing like giving it, nothing like receiving it.

 

  4.  Then Paul was thankful for their patients of hope.

 

   a.  One of the key ingredients of the Christian life that is often passed over is Hope.  We talk a lot about faith; we talk a lot about love.  But we don’t talk a lot about hope.  And yet hope is a critical ingredient for Christian living.  And it’s important for this reason, hope is the anticipation of something good, and it’s that anticipation that enables us to hang in there when things are really tough.

 

   b.  That is what Paul is getting at when he says that he is thankful for their Patients of hope.  This does not mean hope that has the ability to wait a really long time for something good to happen.  That would be another Greek word, the word that Paul uses here means to be able to stand up under pressure, the ability to hang in there when things are really tough, because you know that God can cause something good to come out of it.

 

   c.  Now of course the main object of our hope as Christians is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which is one of Paul’s main themes in this book.  He mentions the second coming or the rapture in every chapter.  Because they believed that Jesus was coming back, they were able to endure all kinds of hardships, which the saints at Thessalonica definitely had to endure.  That is kind of the grand object of our Hope.

 

   d.  But this hope can invade every area of our lives, the hope that salvation is going to come to family members and love ones, the hope that God is going to move in our marriages, the hope that God is going powerfully impact the lives of our children, the hope of revival in Santa Barbara.  Because we have the hope that something good is going to happen in these areas, we hang in there; we persevere when things are really tough.  And they will get really tough.  But there will be a huge pay off when God comes through.

 

   e.  There is another aspect of this as well; God wants us to be ministers of hope in the midst of a hopeless world.  That is going to take amazing patients on our part.  But can I tell you that this is one of the primary ways that we are going to impact people for the Gospel.  We can see and understand what they can’t see and understand, we know that God is going to work all things together for God to those who love Him, we know that God is at work even in the gnarliest circumstances, we know that God is working on levels that we can’t even imagine.  So we can bring hope and perspective where there is only pain and despair and confusion.  God wants us to be agents of His hope.

 

   f. I believe that this was happening through the saints in Thessalonica.

 

  5.  This was all made possible because of the last thing that Paul was thankful for here, their election by God.

 

   a.  Now I know that this concept freaks a lot of people out because it gets us in this huge debate between the Calvinists and the Armenians, which comes down to the Sovereignty of God verses the Freewill choice of the believer.

 

   b.  Folks I don’t care what side of the argument you come down on, one thing is irrefutable, you were chosen by God from before the foundation of the world.  Now, I happen to believe that my freewill choice played a part in that, other don’t.  But here the bottom line, if you are a believer in Jesus today, you were elected, chosen by God to be saved from before the foundation of the world.

 

   c.  What this means is that we don’t find God, God finds us.  And aren’t you glad He did, aren’t you glad that God didn’t leave it up to you to find your way to Him?  I am.  Because I would have never made it.  Period.  

 

    d.  Now I know what some of you are dying for, you are dying for me to tell you how our freewill and God’s Sovereignty fits together and I have to tell you, I am not smart enough to figure that out.  I wish I was, but I’m not.  I just know that I see both sides of this is the scriptures, God asks us to believe, He asks us to choose, He asks us to come to Him, and yet behind it all is His election and choosing of us.

 

   e.  All that I know is that I am thankful that God does it this way and so was Paul.  Paul knew that on the day that he walked into Thessalonica, there were people that God had hand picked for salvation, and when he gave them the opportunity to receive Christ they were all over it.  Now I know how Paul put forth this offer, he made it available to all, it was put out to whom so ever will.  And those who God had foreknown, and predestined, and called, came forth.

 

   f.  What an amazing process, it’s the same process that happened to you.  One day, you finally gave in to His love and His forgiveness and His salvation, you opened up your heart and Jesus came in.  As soon as He did, you knew that had been chosen by Him, that He had appointed the day of your salvation, He had written our name in His Book.  That shouldn’t puff you up, that should humble you, because you know that is the only way that it could happen.  If there were any part of this that was left up to us, we would mess it up.  I am so thankful that God chose you; I am so thankful that when God shaped you and formed you in your mother’s womb, that He set you aside for Himself.

 

  6.  What a wonderful God, what a wonderful Savior.

LET ME PRAY FOR US THIS MORNING.