Study 2 THE CHURCH OF THE THESSALONIANS
THE LETTERS TO THE THESSALONIANS
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: 1 Thessalonians 1: 1-10
Our title is found in 1 Thessalonians 1:1. What is its exact significance? We need to read Acts 17:1-10, where we have an account of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica. It is a stirring record. Notice that as a result of Paul’s preaching the gospel there, a number of people believed and so a Christian Church was founded – “The Church of the Thessalonians”. Whenever a few Christians meet together for worship and service there is a Church (Matthew 18:20).
What kind of a Church was it? We need to ask: What were the members like? – because the Church is the sum total of its members. In 1 Thessalonians 1: 1-10 we are told seven things about the Christians, and Paul tells us in verse 7 that they were “a model” to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
1. God had elected them to be His very own (verse 4)
The doctrine of election is a difficult one, and yet how clearly it is stated and presented in the Scriptures! You and I, by the grace of God, are the Lord’s – not because we deserve to be but because back in eternity past He chose us to be His own. Look up Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2. Compare Romans 8:30, noticing the sequence “predestined…called…justified…glorified.”
2. When they heard the gospel preached in the power of the Holy Spirit they joyfully believed and received the Word (verses 5 and 6)
By referring again to Acts 17:5, we learn that all who heard the Word did not receive it, but verse 4 tells us that a great number were persuaded, they believed. The important thing to notice is that they not only heard the Word but they were persuaded, not only in an intellectual sense, but they received, or they believed in their hearts, Romans 10:9. Many people hear the Word but never really open their hearts to the Lord (Acts 16:14).
3. They were soundly converted people (verse 9)
What does it mean to be converted? A converted person is one who has “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God”. An idol is an object of worship which claims our affection and homage. These Thessalonians had worshipped and served false gods; now they turned to serve the living God. Now their lives had come under the mastery and sovereignty of Christ Himself. Have you experienced this turn-around? Once, you served the ugly idols of Self, Sin and Satan (Isaiah 53:6) – you went your own way and ran your own life; but God elected you to be His own and He made the gospel known to you; you believed, received it, and you were converted.
4. Their lives were “hidden with Christ in God” (verse 1)
How secure this Church was, and how secure the members were – “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!” Look up and compare Colossians 3:3, for this is true of every single Christian, everywhere. It is significant that Paul says that they were in God the Father, not in God the Creator. Why does he say this? Because now they had been born into the family of God and by the miracle of the new birth they were now His own dear children – look up 1 John 3:1. Always remember that the Church is a divine institution, “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”, and all who belong to the Church are brought into this relationship by the Holy Spirit – look up 1 Corinthians 12:13.
5. They were an evangelistic and missionary-hearted people (verses 7 and 8)
The words “rang out” convey the idea of a musical sound, and the operative word is the word “out”. How many Christians and churches are concerned with the word “in”! But these believers were missionary-hearted, and the Word of God was sounding out from their little assembly along all of the trade routes into and beyond Asia Minor. Is your church like that? Are the members of your church ringing out the Gospel? – or has your church become a little self-contained society of people who are only concerned for their own salvation and well-being? – look up Matthew 28:19 and compare Luke 14:21.
6. They were living in the light of the Lord’s Return (verse 10)
They were young converts but they had been well taught about the Second Coming – that Jesus had said that He would come again (John 14:1-3); that the angels had confirmed His own promise (Acts 1:9-11); and that His coming would mean the rapture of the church – the raising of “the dead in Christ”, and the changing of all living believers. The important word in verse 10 is the word “wait”. We are not to wait for death or the end of the world, but we are to wait for “this same Jesus” (Acts 1:9-11), and this should be the daily attitude of every Christian – compare 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8 with 1 John 2:28.
7. They had been delivered from the wrath to come (verse 10)
From the moment they believed they were delivered from “the coming wrath”, and that is true of every Christian. But what is “the coming wrath”? Look up John 3:18; 36; and Romans 1:18; and in particular read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9; and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9. What solemn times are ahead for the unbeliever! – but, thank God , not for the believer, for surely these Letters make it clear that before ever God’s great judgements begin upon the earth His Bride, the Church, will be caught up into His presence to be “with the Lord for ever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)! It seems clear that the Church will not go through the Great Tribulation. All true members of the Church of God are rescued from the coming wrath.
This is the inspired picture of “the Church of the Thessalonians”, of the Christians who were members of that Church. How do we measure up to these early Christians?