1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Stephen Caswell © 1996
We have all heard the sayings " True Blue, " " Dinky Di, " " The Real Thing, "or " The genuine Article." Today I want to look at that. What does it mean to be a " True blue Christian," what does " The Genuine Article " look like.
Harry and Bill:
There were two mates who were real battlers, their names were Harry and Bill and they were garbage men. They used to love talking about making it big and having lots of money and all that goes with it. They would talk for hours about their dreams and plans when they made it big. They would buy their lotto tickets each week and carefully choose their lucky numbers.
One day they both linked up with a third garbage man who had been placed on their run. Harry began to tell this new companion of how he and Bill had spent so many years together and were great mates. He went on to say how they intended to make it big one day when they win the lotto or something. Then he said you know if Bill won 2 million dollars he would give 1 million dollars to me because we are such good mates. Isn't that right Bill? yes that's right Harry. Then Harry said if Bill won 2 Mercedes Benze motor cars he would give me one, right Bill? Yes that's right Harry. Then Harry said you know if Bill had 2 push bikes he would give one to me, right Harry? No way said Bill, you know that I have 2 push bikes! Bill's generosity for his mate was only talk. As long as it didn't cost him something. He was extremely generous with vast sums he didn't have, but miserly with the little he did have.
Have you heard the saying "Practice what you Preach"?
Today I want to look at this very concept. Talk is cheap and words can be spoken now and forgotten a minute later. A good example of this is the promises made at election time. The politicians will say almost anything to get your vote, but once the election is over they usually don't care about you or what they have promised.
The Thessalonian Church
I would like to look at the Church at Thessalonica this evening; and the way they lived out the gospel. In verse 2 we read that Paul gave thanks to God for these Thessalonian believers and mentions them in his prayers. Then in verse 3 he tells us what he gives thanks for. He continually remembered their work of faith, labour of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul here is reflecting on the Thessalonian Church that he had started. He had only been able to stay there for some 3 weeks because he was driven out of town by the Jews. (Acts 17:1-10) But Paul was concerned for this small new Thessalonian Church and sent Timothy to see how they were going. They had turned to Christ in the midst of opposition and persecution. Paul then writes his epistle to them after Timothy returns and informs him how well they are doing.
The Thessalonians had a : A Sound Conversion
The Thessalonians received the gospel from Paul, Silas and Timothy. We read this in chapter 1:5-6 and chapter 2:13-14. They received it as the very word of God. This was exactly what Christ commanded people to do; in John 6:29 we read Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. Paul remembered their salvation history and he says this in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3: We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 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,
The Thessalonian believers had placed their faith in Jesus Christ and received the gospel as God's word. Their work of faith was their obedience to the gospel. The persecution they suffered did not deter them. They were convinced of what they had believed, they were sure it was true. But how could they be so sure? How did they know these men were telling them the truth? Maybe these men were just after their money and seeking to use them. How could they tell if these were The Genuine Article or not? After all they were only in town for about three weeks. How did they know these men were honest?
Choosing A Precious Stone.
If you are buying a precious stone and you want to know if it's the real thing or not you examine the stone under a bright light. You use a strong magnifying glass and examine it very closely from every angle. In the case of a diamond you can expose it to great heat or test its hardness. And if it's genuine it will pass all these tests. You see a genuine diamond is hard, pure and flawless. Such testing will further prove it's remarkable qualities and hidden beauty.
The Thessalonians did just that with Paul and his companions. The Thessalonians saw Paul and his companions come through the test of persecution and suffering for the gospel with flying colours. They saw them patiently endure only returning love and kindness for the abuse they received. They saw their genuine concern and love for people. Paul could say that their ministry amongst them was like that of a nursing mother and a caring father. He gave a list of behaviour traits they did not exhibit in 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6.
They were not:
1.Deceitful or unclean. verse 3
2.Seeking to please men, but God. verse 4
3.Flattering them or showing covetousness. verse 5
4.Seeking glory from men. verse 6
1.Were gentle as a mother cherishes her children. verse 7
2.Affectionately longed for them. verse 8
3.Labored and toiled night and day. verse 9 (that they might present the gospel freely)
4.Behaved justly, blamelessly and devoutly. verse 10
5.Exhorted, comforted, and charged as a father does his children. verse 11
The Greek word translated deceit in verse 3 comes from the word that means fish bait. When going fishing you put a live worm on your hook to entice the fish to swallow it. Then when he's been tricked you sink the hook. Paul didn't do that, what you saw was what you got. This genuine demonstration of the Christian faith is what made the message so effective, so powerful. The Holy Spirit was obviously at work in the lives of these men and the Thessalonians could easily see it. There was assurance in their words. This gave the message an authentic stamp of approval. Paul Timothy and Silas practiced what they preached, they were genuine. Paul writes these words 1 Thessalonians 1:5. 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.
The Thessalonians saw this genuine testimony and this resulted in a Sound Conversion. 1:6 Have you placed your faith in Christ? Do you possess a sound conversion that rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ? The Thessalonians had a Sound Conversion, and they also had a:
A Sincere Conversation:
They became imitators of Paul and his companions. 1 Thess 1:5-6, 2:13-14 Paul describes the way in which the Thessalonians displayed their faith in 1 Thessalonians 1:3: 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; Paul was continually thankful to God for the fruitful faith of the Thessalonians. Firstly He thanks God for their work of faith. They had believed the word of God; they had obeyed the gospel. Remember without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb 1:6) The testimony they bore to Christ and their life styles all showed the mark of faith. This was a mark of maturity displayed in a very young church. These were only young believers, but they were very zealous to serve the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 1:8 tells how they shared their faith: For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. The message they sounded out was their faith toward God. They had possessed the faith and now they proclaimed it. Their commitment to Christ was now being shared verbally. They were so excited about their salvation they told everyone about it. Their faith was the most important part of their lives.
But it did not stop there. Paul says that he remembers their labour of love. The Thessalonian believers didn't just preach the gospel, they practiced it. They put it into action in their lives. You see what we do is just as important if not more important than what we say. People may not accept our witness for Christ, they may refuse to allow us to tell them about the gospel. But they cannot stop us living it out before them. Paul said it like this in 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.
My Fair Lady
In the movie my fair lady there is a young man who falls head over heels for Eliza Do-little and speaks to her in poetry and gives her flowers trying to be very romantic. And Eliza sings a song in reply to this young man along these lines. Talk is cheap don't tell me you love me but show me! She was not looking for words of poetry, she wanted proof of his love, action.
John says this about of love in action. 1 John 3:17: But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? Talk is cheap, action costs something, and real love is prepared to pay that cost. There is a Don Francisco song that talks about real love. A line in the chorus says this. " Love is not a feeling it's an act of your will! " In fact Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 13:8-10 that to love is to fulfil the law. Paul and his companions showed it by their genuine concern for the Thessalonians. (1Thess 2:8) Love is spelt G.I.V.E. If your service for God doesn't cost you it's dead. Love described in the Bible is always active. God loved and He gave. Let's not tell people we love them, rather let us show them.
Paul, Timothy and Silas were not unfruitful. Their service amongst the Thessalonians involved labor, toil, suffering and gently caring for these new believers. They worked so as not to be a burden to the Thessalonians financially. Their love was not just an emotional feeling but rather it was clearly displayed with actions. Now the Thessalonian believers were imitating them. No wonder Paul rejoices at their faithfulness to Christ. This is where our message will stand or fall. The power of the gospel is shown through changed lives. Lives that are lived for others. Lives that evidence care and good deeds to those in need. Lives that are willing to pay the cost.
Paul is able to say about the Thessalonian believers that everyone is talking about them. They have a good reputation that precedes them. 1 Thessalonians 1:9 says: For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
People knew that they had forsaken their pagan lifestyle and served the living God. Their testimony and their lives showed a marvellous change. They were not discouraged by persecution, but remained faithful to God. Paul says twice in the early chapters of his epistle that they were imitating Paul and his companions and by doing this imitating the Lord.
The Thessalonian believers had a Sincere Conversation, their lives matched up with their words. Do people see your work of faith as you live amongst them. Do you share the gospel with them? Do people know that you are one of Christ's disciples because of your love for one another? What are you doing to show your love for others? Or are you all talk?
Paul says one more thing about these Thessalonian believers. He said that he remembered their patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Thessalonians had a Sound Conversion, a Sincere Conversation and they also had:
A Single Conviction:
In verse 3 we read that they displayed patience of hope, or some translations say steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. The thought here is one of perseverance, endurance, pressing on. This was commendable since they were suffering great persecution for their faith. But they had an object of focus and this was the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul had taught them many doctrines including that of Christ's return. I believe they had this in mind while they were suffering.
Christ's Attitude towards Suffering
In Hebrews 12:2 we read of Christ's attitude towards suffering: Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. The Thessalonians knew the suffering would not continue indefinitely. In 1 Thessalonians 9 & 10 we read: For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
To Serve The Living God
These verses link the Thessalonians service to God with their expectation that Christ would return and deliver them from their present suffering. As we observed in the previous verses they had laboured in love. The Thessalonians had sounded their faith abroad. Their faith was and love were active and could be seen by all. The lifestyle that they now lived gave Paul cause to continually thank God. The Thessalonians lives were so different now from their former days of pagan idolatry. They had set their hope on Christ's return and spending eternity with Him. This gave them extra courage and joy for the suffering that they were enduring at the time. They both served God and waited for Christ's return. They had set their minds on the Blessed Hope.
In Titus 2:13 we read: Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
To Wait for His Son From Heaven
Some folk say that some Christians are so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good. Well that can be a problem if believers lose focus. Even at Thessalonica we read that Paul had to correct some disorderly believers for being unbalanced. Some had stopped working and were sitting around waiting for Christ to come back. They were living as gossips and busybodies, causing strife in the fellowship. Paul had to correct this is his second letter to them. However most of them weren't doing this.
The French Resistance
During world war 2 much of Europe was overrun by Hitler's armies. But not all of those who were conquered accepted this. Many chose to work against the Germans by sabotage and espionage. They formed resistance movements and worked together with the allied troops. They constantly risked their lives and if captured endured incredible torture rather than betray their fellow countrymen. They lived like this and took those risks with the hope that one day their country would be free. They worked to that end knowing it would help the allies in their plans to come and liberate them. They expected the allies to come and free them and that was their motivation for enduring great hardships. It would have been crazy for them to risk their necks if it didn't do any good. If they didn't have this hope of obtaining freedom when the allied armies came, they would be fighting for nothing. There was an end in sight, Freedom, Deliverance, and Peace.
This is what it's like for believers, there won't always be suffering and persecution. Christ will return and cause evil to cease. We have a bright hope in the future and that begins with the return of Christ. So we can be encouraged to suffer now, and bear all kinds of ridicule and shame; because it is only for a moment; eternity promises great reward for faithfulness.
The Blessed Hope and Holiness
But there is another benefit received from the blessed hope as well as endurance and good works and that is a life of holiness and purity. Those who have their minds set on Christ's return hold very loosely the things of this world. They live as travellers and abstain from the pleasures of this life. They want to please their master and be unashamed at His coming. In 1 John 3:2-3 we read: Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Do you notice it says that everyone who has this hope? What hope? The blessed hope, the sure hope of Christ's return. The summary of having A Single Conviction is A life of Purity. The Thessalonian believers had a Single Conviction and that was to live their lives with the expectation of Christ's return. They would please Him and therefore be ready at any time.
The Thessalonians were balanced in their Christian experience. They evidenced Faith, Hope and Love. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 we read this: And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Firstly they had A Sound Conversion. They knew what and who they had believed. They shared their faith in God to those around them. Are you sure of our faith? Do you share it? Do we tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ or are you a secret disciple?
Secondly they displayed A Sincere Conversation. Their message was matched by their lives. They loved one another and cared for those in the community. Do your works match your words? Are you the genuine article? How are you showing your love with those around you?
I am not talking about the thousands of needy, I am referring to the one's and two's God brings across your path. Do you live out your faith before them, or are you just talk? If you were taken to court for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?
Thirdly they had A Single Conviction. Christ was coming again. This gave them courage to persevere and live holy lives. Are you eagerly awaiting Christ's return? Are we keeping ourselves pure? Are we travellers in this world or residents? What occupies your thoughts each day things of a temporal nature or things of an eternal nature? Tomorrow if Christ came back would you be ready to meet Him? Have you been working for the master while He has been gone, have you been faithful with the talents He has given you? Would Christ find you somewhere that you would be ashamed of?
There is only one way to be ready and that is to always be working for the Lord. I trust that we will follow the example of the Thessalonians. That we will display the works of faith and labor of love that they displayed. I trust we will be motivated by the hope of Christ's return.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.