Scripture reading – 1 Thessalonians 1; 1 Thessalonians 2
Today’s devotional study brings us to the First Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians and considers 1 Thessalonians 1 and 2. For perspective and context, I invite you to recall our study in Acts 17. Paul had arrived in Thessalonica, the capital city of ancient Macedonia, and for three Sabbaths, he boldly “reasoned with them out of the scriptures” (Acts 17:2). What did he teach? He explained how “Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead” (Acts 17:3), and that according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53). The preaching of the Gospel was powerful, for many believed, including a great number of Gentiles. Of those who believed were “the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few” (Acts 17:4). Yet, the success of Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica provoked unbelieving Jews to envy, and they stirred up a mob, forcing Paul and Silas to flee the city (17:10).
Paul, having been away from Thessalonica longer than he wished, wrote his first letter to the believers of that city. Notice with me the “shepherd’s heart” of the apostle, and his longing for the believers of Thessalonica. Addressing the congregation, Paul wrote, “unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto 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” (1 Thessalonians 1:1b–2).
Notice the themes of the salutation: Grace, God’s eternal, loving favor present from before the world was formed; Peace, like grace, is a gift from God, through Christ when we walk pleasing to Him (John 14:22, 23, 27). Having greeted the believers, and expressed a longing and desire they would rest in the blessings of God’s grace and peace, Paul erupted into a prayer of thanksgiving: “2 We [Paul, Silas, Timothy] give thanks to God always for you all” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).
Paul identified three spiritual virtues that evidence saving faith (1:3)
Paul remembered the saints of Thessalonica with a fondness that stirred his heart to rejoice and give thanks to the LORD. Like all believers, they were not without their faults; however, they manifested three spiritual virtues that should inspire us all–Faith, Love, and Hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Paul wrote, “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” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). The faith of the Thessalonica believers was more than a profession, it was a working faith (1 Thessalonians 1:3a).
They demonstrated their faith by their works (James 2:18-22, 26). The second virtue, their “labor of love” (1 Thessalonians 1:3b), was an enduring motivation for ministering to others (Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Hebrews 10:24). The third virtue was “patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3c). Through persecutions, and afflictions the believers of Thessalonica were a testimony of longsuffering and steadfast hope in Christ.
The Sincerity of the Thessalonica Believers (1:4-9)
What a wonderful assurance Paul gave the believers, writing, “4Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God” (1:4). Paul remembered fondly their reception of the Gospel, not only in their verbal affirmation, but in their practice and walk (1:5-6). He reminded them of his, Silas, and Timothy’s example, and how the believers in Thessalonica “became followers” (literally, disciples), and examples to “to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia” (1:6-7).
Following Paul’s example, the believers of Thessalonica heralded the “Word of the Lord” throughout their region (1:8). In fact, so thorough was their witness, Paul wrote, “we need not to speak any thing” (1:8b).
Closing thoughts (1:9-10) – What motivated such faithfulness and dedication to sharing the Gospel? The believers lived and labored in anticipation of Christ’s return.
Paul feared false teachers and their heresies might persuade some to turn from the Truth, and follow after lies. Once again, the enemies attacked the messenger (Paul), that the message (the Gospel) might be discredited (2:1-6). Some accused Paul and his fellow ministers, of vain, unfruitful ministries (2:1). Paul answered his adversaries, and reminded the believers how, though they had suffered persecutions and afflictions, they were nevertheless bold and preached the Gospel even as they faced hostility (2:2). Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to weigh what they had known and seen in him, against what they were hearing (2:1, 2, 5, 9-11). Doesn’t every pastor deserve that same consideration?
Five Characteristics of Men of God (2:7-11)
In his defense, Paul highlighted five-character traits that should be true of ministers: 1) They love the saints in word and deed (2:7). 2) They are not afraid to be transparent (honest and sincere, 2:8). 3) They are not shirkers, for they labor out of love (2:9). 4) Their lives are a testimony of spiritual disciplines: holy, just, and unblameable (2:10). 5) They are passionate in ministering to others (2:11).
Closing thoughts (2:12) – Paul’s aspiration for believers in Thessalonica expressed the heart of every faithful shepherd for those to whom he ministered: “That ye would walk [i.e., in a straight line] worthy [reflecting God’s character] of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (2:12).
Do you reflect the spiritual and moral character of a child of God?
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