1 Thessalonians Survey
Pr Edi Giudetti
1. POWER OF THE GOSPEL
STAND IN AFFLICTION
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, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; 4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
When the gospel of Christ is believed it has the effect of being able to withstand persecution and trials, afflictions and even the sentence of death. Paul speaks of himself enduring such afflictions and is well aware of that which will come against those who preach the Truth of the Gospel clearly Paul tells the Corinthians in the second epistle to them;
For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: (2 Cor 1:8-9)
He knew this practically also because his own planting of the Church in Thessalonica was compassed about with persecution and trials,most fervently by the Jews themselves. Acts 17 records that he was chased out of the city of Thessalonica after a multitude of the Greeks came to trust in Christ. Not only chased out, but they heard that he had gone into the city of Berea, some 70km to the west, preaching to the Jews. There we have recorded in Acts 17:11-12;
But the record goes on to tell us that the Jews of Thessalonica followed him to Berea and stirred up the people. So he left there and went on to Athens where he preached his famous sermon on Mars Hill (Acts 17:19-31).
The Thessalonians however received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.
Friends there is nothing easy about the preaching nor the receiving of the Gospel of Christ. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood we are so clearly told and the devil despises both the Gospel itself and those who both preach it and receive it.
So should we truly be surprised that it will be contended against?
The Thessalonians stood firm in affliction, they stood and willing moreover Choosing (What was recorded of Moses in the book of Hebrews) rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season (Heb 11:25). They where comforted in Christ, their hope was not here, but in the Lord, and they stood.
WITNESSED IN TRIAL
Clearly this had an effect on the churches and peoples that heard of their stand in the Gospel amidst the trials.
7So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
There is a fascinating effect that trials for the sake of the Gospel can have, both on the people who suffer in it but also on the witnesses who witness the trials of others;
- The sufferers become emboldened.
- The witnesses become encouraged.
The greatest and somewhat inexplicable joy that we have in the Gospel is that the greater the efforts have been made to quench its spread, the more it spreads. Throughout history all we have is example after exampleof the persecuted church of God being used to facilitate the spread of the Gospel to all corners of the globe.
The saying is given that the “Seed of the Church is the blood of the martyrs”.All the efforts of Satan to quench the fire of the hope of the Gospel by the physical destruction of the preachers of the Gospel, only ever furthered the propagation of the Gospel.
An interesting consideration is found in the very effort of the devil to kill him who he knew was the Christ. The very Crucifixion of Christ, began the church.
Let me ask you, if the devil knew, that in the Killing of Christ, he would have triggered all that was prophesied about Christ throughout Bible history, that in his death Jesus would draw all men unto himself, would he have done so?
The Bible describes the Church in the Old Testament as a “Mystery”, a “Hidden Wisdom” that was Hid in God.
Turn to 1 Cor 2:7-9
7But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery,eventhe hiddenwisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they knownit, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Beloved, don’t forget that Paul himself was the first most violent persecutor of the Church whom God turned about to become the greatest evangelist. Don’t underestimate your witness of Christ to the world through your own trials for the Gospel.
Sadly, Satan has learnt much over the years to build himself a toolkit of great value to him to quench the fire of the Gospel.
The Toolkit is called Complacency. Within it are three quality items;
Each one of these helps foster the overall purpose of the toolkit so appropriately named.
- Doubt tells of the questioning of the truth of the Gospel; read that as “Yea, hath God said….?”
- Deception tells of the direct denial of the Gospel; read that as “Ye shall not surely die”
- Distraction tells of things of value greater than the Gospel; read that as “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods”
So complacency seems to have had the greatest benefit to the devil, and most Christians today seem content to be used in his toolkit. The Thessalonians where witnessed to have turned from their Idols and serve the living God, who are you witnessed to serve in your life? That is not a small question and each of us should truly consider it and consider it honestly. Don’t put this question off.
EXPECTATION OF GLORY
The Thessalonians however also had a profound trust that the Lord Jesus would return soon, they had an EXPECTATION OF GLORY.
It was THE GREAT HOPE they were looking for;
10And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead,evenJesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
Recall that Jesus only ascended up to heaven about 20 years earlier. This letter was considered the first of all the Epistles written by Paul, between 49-51 AD.
Yet here they are, having turned from their Idols and can’t wait to see the Lord return. That does not really describe many Christians today. I could perhaps summarize most thoughts as;
“Jesus come quickly, but not yet”
That was not the Thessalonians, they desired the coming of Christ now, they knew that there was nothing better for them in their lives than to be taken home and ever be with the Lord and thinking of this gave them great comfort in their trials and afflictions for the Gospel.
I don’t mean to put a guilt trip on you….or maybe I do, but most of us are already comfortable and, being in need of nothing, are unaware of our poverty in making very few other people rich in Christ.
We need to see that for all the abundance of material gain we have, (and compared to the third world we do abound), we lose sight of that Pearl of Great Price, the Gospel.
The Thessalonians showed the Power of the Gospel through their lives to all around them.
2. WITNESS OF THE GOSPEL
Chapter two gives greater detail in the witness of the Gospel by the apostles to the Thessalonians.
WITNESS OUT OF CONTENTION
1For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: 2But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.
Paul gives to the brethren a witness of him and his companies trials in bringing the Gospel to them.
This was that part of Paul’s second missionary journey given us in the book of Acts Chapter 16, where he came from Galatia to Troas and had seen a vision of a man in Macedonia becoming him to come there. Then to Samothracia and Neapolis to Philippi where, as he said, they “were shamefully entreated”.
Being cast into prison and seeing the miraculous work where a prison Guard and his family were saved, and the Church in Philippi began.
All this preceded the Gospel coming to the Thessalonians. Paul and his company witnessed the Gospel out of Contention. This was the entrance made to them.
WITNESSED THOUGH INTEGRITY
But not only this, the Gospel pictured the loving truth of God, and the preachers of the Gospel witnessed the integrity of it, not in deceit but in truth.
3For our exhortationwasnot of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: 4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. 5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; Godiswitness: 6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, noryetof others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
Their desire was not to please men, but to preach Christ. They had no false impression that what they would preach would be popular, they were trusted therefore by God with the Gospel.
They flattered no man, but spoke the truth, they did not covet gain, nor popularity nor put forward a burden to the Thessalonians. Paul and the brethren worked with their own hands ministering to their own needs so that the Gospel would be preached without charge and faithfully, expecting nothing in return.
It is such a contrast to what we see today. Many ministers of the Gospel have such a lack of concern of the eternal state of their congregation that all they desire of them is to be loved and exalted and lifted up, to be made popular, to be seen on a big screen, to entertain and be a star.
And sadly, that seem to be very much what their congregation wants, to be told stories and giving platitudes and to laugh and cry and sing and be entertained.
That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: 10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: (Isa 30:9-10)
Jeremiah tells of such people witnessed in todays Laodicean Church 31The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people loveto have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? (Jer 5:31)
Incredibly near the end of Paul’s days in ministry he predicted that this would be the very outcome in the latter days.
Turn forward with me to 2 Timothy 4:3-4;
3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
Unlike Paul and Co, who preached the truth even in contention.
He WITNESSED THROUGH CONTENTION
HE WITNESSED THROUGH INTEGRITY
WITNESSED IN UNITY
13For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. 14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: 16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
The incredible unity of believers is not limited to the Holy Ghost coming into each, it is not limited to the New Birth, it is not limited to the common baptism. But it is also experienced through common experiences.
Paul’s experience of persecution and affliction for the sake of the Gospel, was also experienced in the Thessalonians for the same effort. But not only they, but also all the other churches of Judea who experienced from their own countrymen (the Jews), persecution for the sake of the Gospel as did the Greeks against the Greek Thessalonians.
We tell of our battle trials to one another, comparing stories and accounts of being contended against.
The Emperor Penguin resides in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, Antarctica.
During the Antarctic winter the winds rush through the land at speeds of over 200km/ph. The highest recorded wind speed was in 1972 which reached 327km/ph. Compare this to the South Pole with its highest recorded wind speed of only 100km/ph.
To weather the storms, they huddle together very closely. It’s the only way that draw comfort, and it’s the only way they can shelter the storms.
What’s really incredible about Emperor Penguins is that it’s during this most inhospitable time, in one of the world’s most inhospitable places, that the Emperor penguin breads and multiplies. This is not a bad picture of the early Church the Thessalonians witnessed.
3. STAND IN THE GOSPEL
Paul had his burden for the Thessalonians.
Knowing of their afflictions he had concern for their faith and how they fared. It was to him a burden that was unrelentingand he could no longer stand not knowing their state and sends Timothy to them to find out if their faith withheld their trials.
Would they STAND IN THE GOSPEL?
1Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: 3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. 4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. 5 For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.
I can tell you that it is one of the greatest griefs to know of a brother or sister in the Lord that is fallen away, that their faith has been tried and they themselves have been found wanting.
When all the work and all the time has been spent in sharing of the hope in Christ and of Christ, sharing of the future joy that will be attained, that they would abound more and more, but to find that they have drawn back.
Paul writes of this in the book of Hebrews saying,
38Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. (Heb 10:38)
This same burden he finds for the sake of the Thessalonians, especially during their afflictions. Afflictions he took care to warn them would come as it does to All who will live Godly in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:12)
And what will he find when Timothy returns?
Have they fallen away?
Will they turn back to the Idols that left for the affliction they suffer?
Has being a Christian, separated from the world and to the Gospel of Christ, been too much for them to endure?
Sadly, it does not seem to take much trial today to turn many from the faith. Instead of sharing of the “unsearchable riches of Christ” to the world, many today settle for the temporal gain of a world that will pass away.
But what of them?
6But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: 7Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: 8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord
What joy that is!
The apostle John relates such joy in his last Epistle;
4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth (3 John 4)
Certain that this is true for all people who have walked in the truth, suffered the trials that accompany it, and have come out with a faith not only unshaken, but strengthened.
Beloved we don’t put on a parachute in a falling plane for its comfort, we put it on for the knowledge that it will save us. The turbulence along the way has us hold to the parachute more tightly.
But what is difficult is wearing it when we are not looking for, nor does there seem to be any reminder of the sudden stop at the end of life, and we find in us a desire to make the journey more comfortable.
A parachute strapped to your back hinders a comfortable journey!
Trials remind us of the hope we look forward to. But, so too does watching for his appearing.
4. LIVE BY THE GOSPEL
ABOUNDING THE MORE
1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. 8He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.
9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. 10 And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;
Like the opening and closing of a parenthesis, verse one and ten conclude with the overarching desire that they would abound and increase more and more!
How such abundance is achieved is given us in the verses between one and ten.
- Abstain from fornication (Sex outside of marriage) Modern translations have deleted this word from their texts and replaced it with the ambiguous “Sexual Immorality”. But God is not in the Business of being vague. Few today think Sex outside the bonds of marriage is immoral. Fornication ONLY means Sex outside of marriage, abstain from it if you are a Christian.
- The Lust of Concupiscence is that of a Strong sexual desire, it is that in which the gentiles walk that know not God, and we see the preoccupation with sex abounding today.
- Defraud no man
- Love one another
Abiding by these will help you abound more and more and remove the obstacles to faith that hinder your abundance.
11And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.
The purpose of the passage is to help with both demeanour and diligence that we have no lack in anything needed but able to abound more and more.
To “Study to be quiet” is an exhortation that we ‘determine, or aspire’toward simplicity and peace, not strife or contention or confusion.
Remember the devil desires to stir up trouble, to make us DISQUIET and to make us ANXIOUS in life, living in fear, that is the devils desire.
But God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7)
Also, we are to be diligent in industry, to do your own business, and to work with your own hands. The purpose for this is that you will have need of nothing.
In 2 Thess Paul warns saying “that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”, so work, be responsible for yourself.
When Paul refers to do your own business, many think that it is a command to leave their current employment and to take on your own business without the support of a stable income, that is not Paul’s meaning.
If you are gainfully employed, you are in your own business. Far too many people think themselves slaves to their employer, but we ALL HAVE EMPLOYERS.
I am not speaking against those who want to start their own business, by all means if you find that the better opportunity, do it.
But if you are gainfully employed you need to think of yourself in your own business, if you do so and you serve your employer as if you are serving your best client, you will be the beneficiary of the fruit of your labor and lack nothing. Treat all your work and all your service you render as your own business.
COMFORTED BY HOPE
13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
No doubt we could spend a series of sermons on this passage in the Bible, this is the great hope we all look for, this is that passage which we turn to that most explicitly talks of what we refer to as the Rapture of the Church. We will speak more to this in 2 Thessalonians, as more detail is given us there.
Suffice to say Paul’s desire for the Church in Thessalonica is that they would be both comforted and comfort one another with these words.
They had sorrowed for those who have died believing they had lost the opportunity for the resurrection of the body, but Paul encourages them and tells them they will not go before those who are now dead. “shall not prevent them which are asleep”.
16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are aliveandremain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The language here is clear and not vague, when the Lord descends from heaven with a shout, we which remain will be “caught up” This is where the Latin word Rapture comes from, “caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air”.
What a most fantastic notion!
The passage is clear, but can we believe it is true?
Phillip was “Caught away” by the Spirit of the Lord in Acts 8
Paul was “Caught up” to the third heaven, “Caught up” into paradise in 2 Corinthians.
The man-child, Who we see as Jesus, was “Caught up” to God we are reminded in Revelation 12
These are all the same root word in the Greek and all very mystical in nature so we know that it is not unique to this passage in Thessalonians.
The event itself occurred before in both Enoch and Elijah, so we know that the act of the rapture is not unique in history.
The passage is clear, but can we believe it is true?
Whatever we can believe we know that these were words of comfort to them all, “Wherefore (“This is why therefore”) comfort one another with these words”
5. CULMINATION OF THE GOSPEL
Chapter five is the culmination of the Gospel, its placement is after the Rapture of the Church and Paul encourages them to walk circumspectly, to consider the times and the days in the light of the word that they be not surprised
\1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
Jesus charged his disciples to watch for his coming, he condemned the Pharisees because they could discern the signs of the sky but not “the signs of the times”
This passage alludes to the wrath that will come upon all the world not long after the Church is caught up from the world.
Verse 9 Paul reminds “For God hath not appointed us unto wrath”, the Church is caught up to the Lord to take her out of that which will come upon all the world, like Lot was caught away from Sodom before God could deal with it in his fury. This is the same end
Verses 11-15 Paul charges how we are time live in light of the hope of the Gospel.
To comfort one another, edify each other, warn the unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak and be patient toward all men.
This should be the life we live as long as the Gospel is front and centre in our hearts and minds, as long as we know the surety of that which is to come and the hope we long for.
16Rejoice evermore. (In the Greek, this is the shortest verse in the Bible and not Jesus wept)
17Pray without ceasing.
18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19Quench not the Spirit.
20Despise not prophesyings.
21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22Abstain from all appearance of evil.
From 15 verse sentences, the Apostle reduces his sentences to as little as a few words and he does so that we might know how to live expectantly in order to abound more and more.
These short verses beautifully summarize an abundant life. Consider what your life may be like if you could abide in these seven short verses.
Finally his blessing to the Church
23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
The challenge then remains for you to consider, how do you witness the Gospel?
Does your walk compare faithfully to that of the Thessalonians?
Would you rejoice greatly the heart of Paul and the Apostle John?
Do you WALK in truth of the Gospel or are you living as if you are waiting for this world to reward you?
Beloved I can assure you that you will not be lonely in either position, but which draws you nearest to he that calleth you?
I also pray with Paul that the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; andI pray Godyour whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.