1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 Receiving the Gospel WC McCarter
I have a scenario that I would like for you to imagine, and some of you may have been in this situation at one time or another. Imagine that you have an awful, life-threatening disease. Imagine how desperate you would be. Now imagine that you have the cure: you have the medicine and the treatments. You know exactly what it takes to cure the disease, and there are millions of people all over the country and globe that have the same disease. What would you do? Would it suffice to think that you could just live a healthy life, be positive and encouraging, and people would see you and discover the cure? Could you just set a great example of what a cured person looks like?
What if you had a neighbor that lived directly beside your house, a woman who had the same disease that you had? Would you just smile and wave when you saw her? Could you love her to the cure? Or, what if another neighbor had a teenage son who was struggling with the same disease and was on his deathbed? Would you visit him and show him how healthy you are? Would you keep your mouth shut and let your life do all the talking? Or, would you visit the woman beside you and tell her exactly what combination of treatments and medicine she needs? Would you visit the teenaged boy and his family to tell them how simple the cure is? Would you lead the way with your life and example as well as with the words and directions to the cure?
I hope that you would open your mouth and share.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
The apostolic team greets the Thessalonians and state their practice of regularly giving thanks to God for the church. The missionaries are confident that the Thessalonians are born again. They have seen the fruit of it with their own eyes, and their faith was being talked about all over the place.
Faith, Love, and Hope (1-4)
Isn’t it nice to have some Christian friends whom you can be thankful for? How often do we give thanks to God for those people? How often do we thank the Lord for our church family? Paul could not help but remember the wonderful conversion of the Thessalonians and the relationship that he had built with them in only a short time. When he thought of them, he could not help but be thankful to God for them.
Notice what it was that he remembered. There is a triad of things in the third verse that the missionary team constantly remembered of them: (1) work of faith, (2) labor of love, and (3) patience of hope. Here we can see one of Paul’s favorite triads: faith, love, and hope which has been called by another author, “The trinity of classic Christian virtues” (Green, 89). Chapter three shows us that Timothy returned to Paul and the others with the report of the Thessalonians faith and love and their steadfastness (see 3:6-8). These three fruits are “in our Lord.” These are activities that they are carrying out because of their conversion. They are being changed from the inside-out. We can spend day-after-day and year-after-year attempting to change someone’s behavior, but only the work of God in someone’s soul can do that. They may, for a time, be able to get things straight, but it would only be artificial. Behavior can truly change for the long-term if there is an inner conversion. That is what happened among the Thessalonians Christians.
It seems to me that these three actions are in a certain order. Faith comes first. We must believe that Christ is who He claims to be. We must trust that what He has done on the cross is enough to bring us into a right relationship with God and to save us. The next phase in the Christian’s conversion is growth in our love for God and one another. We may even say that love for our neighbors develops so that we evangelize those around us. Love is what Jesus said is the fulfilment of all the Law, and it is the theme of the New Testament. As we continue to develop in our Christian lives, we begin to see more clearly and want more deeply to experience the return of Christ. Our hope is in Him for the future and for all eternity. So, these three virtues are not some abstract idea. These are experienced deep in the soul and effect how we interact with the world around us. We are not closed off from the world. We live in the here and now working by faith, laboring in love, and patiently hoping in God. Paul knew the Thessalonians were the “elect of God” because he could see the work of God in their lives and in their church. I hope the same is said of us.
The Gospel’s Coming (5)
Another triad is given in verse five. The Gospel most certainly came to the Thessalonians in words. The Gospel always comes in words. We should strive to demonstrate the Gospel in our behavior, but the Gospel must be shared in words. Think back to our original scenario of being cured from a life-threatening illness. If we found a cure for cancer, we would broadcast it all over the world, wouldn’t we? We would write articles about it. The news would show it endlessly on TV. We would write books about it. We would call our friends. We would post it on the internet and more. The Gospel must be in shared with words. It must be shared fervently. Pulpits may reach a few people. I may be able to share the Good News with 70 on a Sunday, but if each of us shared the Good News during the week, how many could we reach?
Excitingly, Paul says that the Gospel came to them not simply in words but was accompanied by: (1) power, (2) the Holy Spirit, and (3) much assurance. Then, at the end of verse five, we are told that the word also came by example. We should strive to live a life that exemplifies the Gospel AND to open our mouths and share it. God uses that testimony and works miracles in people’s lives. The power comes from Him. By the Spirit, He changes folks inside-out.
The Marks of True Conversion (6-10)
How does the apostle know that the Thessalonians are the “elect of God?” He can see their faith, love, and hope. He can see the fruit of their Christian commitment. There are marks of true conversion that are showing in their lives and in their church. The apostle recognizes growth in the believers.
The have become imitators of the apostolic team and the Lord (6). They received the Gospel in much affliction. Like their apostle and their Lord, they suffered much, but continued with the joy of the Spirit. Their church was born into affliction, but they pressed on.
Not only did the Thessalonians receive the Gospel, but, in turn, they became preachers of the Gospel. Like Paul, they experienced Christ’s redeeming work and wanted others to have the same. Remember, Paul says in another place, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Disciples are disciple-makers. Disciple-making is a mark of true conversion.
The have become a model for the gospel (7-10). In every place people were talking about them (7-9a). Their conversion is exemplary (9b-10). They welcomed the apostolic team (9b). They turned away from idols (9c). They turned to the true God and now await eschatological salvation (10).
Description of Jesus: God’s Son
raised from the dead
delivers us from the wrath to come
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) What fruits have you seen in your life and the lives of those around you that confirm a new birth?
(2) What kind of example are you setting for those around you? Should we plan to influence others?
(3) Do you have the Spirit? He is our only guarantee.