Thank God for Faithful Disciples (Pt. 4)
A. Illustration: Africaner was a Hottentot desperado of Mamaqualand. He was such a hardened character that the governor at Cape Town had offered five hundred dollars for him dead or alive. He and his men were the terror of South Africa. When Robert Moffat went as missionary to Africaner’s tribe, the people at Cape Town never expected to see him again. They told him that Africaner would use his skull for a drinking cup. Trusting in God, the brave missionary preached the Gospel to these savages. His first convert was Africaner. Later Moffat took him to Cape Town with him. When the colonial ruler saw the savage changed into a humble Christian man, he said, “What a miracle! This is the eighth wonder of the world!”
B. Today, we are going to look at the miracle of conversion in the text of 1 Thessalonians 1:9. Whether in South Africa, or Macedonia, or the US, or wherever, this is what happens when a prepared heart is penetrated by the power of the gospel.
C. Review 2-10
1. Chapter one consists of a salutation and mention of thanksgiving.
2. We have spent the last several weeks studying the content of Paul’s giving of thanks to God for the Thessalonians.
3. He has stated the manner in which they give thanks, the timing of their thanks, and the cause of their thanks.
4. Paul is very linear in his thinking. As you follow his thoughts:
a. He has told them how he knows of their election
(1) In verse 5, By the power of their preaching
(2) In v. 6, by the response the hearers had to the missionaries’ preaching
b. He then speaks of the result of their response in v. 7: that they became a pattern for other Christians.
c. Next, in verse 8 he explains how they became a pattern for others
(1) Paul does not give the details of their behavior here
(2) He tells them that their testimony, that is, how the gospel has transformed them, is being spoken of all over the Roman empire.
(3) In other words, they became an exemplary church, and the word about them spread.
d. Now, in verses 9 and 10, we are going to hear of the content of what others are saying about them, why Paul has no need to say a word about them.
(1) As others in Thessalonica, in Macedonia, in Achaia, and from around the empire had come in contact with the Thessalonians over the past 4-5 months, they heard the testimony of the Thessalonians themselves.
(2) They saw the transformation and they heard what it was that accomplished such a dramatic change in them—from ingrained religious and social customs of their people to something totally foreign to the culture.
(3) Now Paul is going to tell us what is being said, not only about the Thessalonians themselves, but of the missionaries’ part in this amazing metamorphosis in the midst of a pagan culture.
(4) No wonder that the detractors said that Paul and the others had turned the world upside-down.
e. Homiletical Proposition:
(1) In concluding this section of his letter, Paul gives us two aspects of the testimony about the Thessalonians
(a) Their report of the Apostles’ Trip
(b) Their report of the Thessalonians’ Transformation
(2) In studying this section, I want to focus on three major doctrines that were important to this early church, so that we make sure that we are keeping the main thing, the main thing in our church.
Interestingly, the testimony of others parallels Paul’s own testimony to the readers in vv. 5-6.\
Let’s look at vv. 9-10 and see what the testimony of others was
II. By the Testimony of Others (vv. 9-10)
A. Others Reported of the Apostles’ Trip (v. 9a)
1. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you,
a. They themselves is really loosely connected here, but refers to those who have heard of or seen the faith of the Thessalonians in action.
(1) Not limited to those in Macedonia or Achaia
(2) This would include non-believers, as well as believers.
(a) It is certain that Christians had come to Paul and told him what was happening.
(b) However, it is also certain that pagans were seeing the Thessalonians’ conversion and reporting on it as well.
b. Paul is not saying here that they report to us but about us
c. The content of their report is what Paul himself has already mentioned in v. 5— what kind of a reception
(1) Reception is not the best translation.
(2) This is an active word (reception is more passive).
(a) The term may be better translated visit.
(b) Notice in 2:1 the same word translated coming to you.
(3) That they were traveling ministers made them suspect.
(a) Many hucksters and charlatans were going about fleecing people, even in Paul’s day.
(b) What Paul means, therefore, is this: “The charges that are being leveled against us by base opponents are vain. Our way of operating when we came to you and worked among you has become a matter of public knowledge. You yourselves remember it, and others far and wide have heard about it” (Hendriksen, 55).
(4) The apostle is probably making reference to the power and conviction with which they preached and to the manner in which they conducted themselves while with them.
(5) This points to the nature of the entrance—how happy and successful it was (R & R, 472).
d. The present tense indicates that the reporting is ongoing while Paul is writing – they are reporting about us.
(1) He has already appealed to readers’ own recollection of their powerful preaching in v. 5.
(2) Now, he directs them to another form of testimony—that of other persons reporting of it.
(3) In other words, Paul and the others with him were not the source of this information, but the Thessalonians themselves and others who witnessed it.
(a) This may be preemptive on Paul’s part as he is preparing to defend himself against the charges made against him in chapter 2.
(b) Think how helpful this would be for Paul and the other missionaries as the report about the doctrines contained here were spreading far and wide.
(c) This would prepare the way for them to further explain them to those who had an interest.
2. Not only does he not have a need to say anything about them because of the report of others about the missionaries, but also because of their report about the readers.
B. Others Reported of The Thessalonians’ Transformation (vv. 9b-10)
1. This is the second part of others’ report: this time focusing on the Thessalonians themselves.
2. Look at the structure of this section. It is made up of a main clause followed by two subordinate actions related to it.
a. Paul’s emphasis is on their conversion.
b. Subsequent to their conversion are two parallel actions
(1) To serve God
(2) To wait for His Son
c. We could say that they were known as a converted church, a serving church, and an expectant church.
3. This is where I want to focus in this morning.
a. In this part of the report there are several Christian doctrines which Paul mentions.
b. It is certain that there were differing reports which included some or all of these doctrines that impacted the readers’ behavior.
c. The doctrines are conversion, the immanence of the Second Coming of Christ, the Resurrection, and the Judgment of God.
d. I am not going to develop the Resurrection (go to the web page)
4. and how you turned to God from idols (9b),
a. There are many aspects to a person’s salvation.
(1) Grace – unmerited favor of God bestowing on an individual what he or she does not deserve
(2) Election – God’s choosing of one for salvation (v. 4)
(3) Calling – the act by God of drawing an individual to Himself. It is the actualization in time of one’s election.
(4) Faith – the expression of complete trust and confidence in God and His word.
(a) Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.
(b) Acts 16:31 – the Philippian jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answers, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
(5) And there are many others – justification, sanctification, regeneration, etc.
b. However, in our text, the first doctrine the Apostle mentions is the fact of their conversion. The term itself means to turn or to return. In this context, it means the former, to turn.
(1) Specifically, it refers to a turning away from evil and toward the Lord
(2) This presupposes that man by nature and practice is inclined away from God toward evil.
(3) It parallels an OT term (bwv) which has the same meaning.
(a) Jer 18:8 – “if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.”
(b) Jon 3:10 – “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.”
(c) The same OT term is also used of repentance, which goes hand-in-hand with conversion (Ezek 14:6) [READ].
(d) Conversion is the outward manifestation of the inward change that takes place when one repents.
c. Repentance is also an important doctrine
(1) The prophets called people to do it
(2) John the Baptizer called people to do it (Matt 3:2) [READ]
(3) Jesus called people to do it (Matt. 4:17) [READ]
(4) The Apostles called people to do it (Acts 2:38)
d. Repentance is a change of thinking which leads to a change in behavior.
(1) Christianity is an intellectual pursuit
(a) Man does nothing but that he thinks about it first
(b) The will and the emotions follow
(c) In his sinful state, his mind is inclined against God
(d) Therefore, man needs to change his mind in the way that he naturally thinks about God
(2) While still created in God’s image, man’s ability to think like God is impaired. This is one of the deleterious effects of sin on our world.
(3) Why do we need to think like God?
(a) Because it is His world.
(b) He made us and not we ourselves (Ps 100:3)
(c) We were made to glorify Him (Rom 11:36; 4:11)
(d) That means that we best reflect His glory when we reflect His thinking
1. That’s why it is so important to know the Bible
2. It is the only revelation of God’s thoughts we have
3. It is why we preach it and teach it and strive to live it here at GCC
4. Applying God’s way of thinking to our lives is what the Bible calls wisdom.
5. Beloved, don’t you want to be wise?
6. Don’t you want to have a happy and joyful life?
7. Then read, meditate upon, and do what the word says (James 1:22)
8. Illustration: GE Appliances
(4) Paul makes it clear that, though God has given man plenty of evidence about Him, man chooses to suppress that knowledge in unrighteousness
(a) See Rom 1:18-25
(b) The mind of natural man is like a house of mirrors when it comes to interpreting the world and relating to God in a right way.
(c) But when God does His work in a man’s heart (mind), then his thinking changes.
(d) He has chosen to accomplish this through the preaching of the gospel and the work of His Spirit to draw and regenerate a person.
(5) This is what is described of the Thessalonians.
(a) Paul and Silas came preaching powerfully by the Spirit of God
(b) The Thessalonians heard the good news and changed the way they thought, no longer wanting to worship those things which they vainly imagined in their futile minds and that they then fashioned with their hands into perverse and disgusting images out of wood, stone, and metal,.
(c) Think about how foolish their former practice was:
1. Man takes a piece of material and he shapes it into an image, a representation of something that he imagined, and then gives his allegiance to it—bringing food to it, bowing down before it, even fearing it.
2. Listen to what God has to say about this practice: Isa 44:9-20; 46:5-11
3. Before you laugh at the silliness of what you believe is merely primitive, superstitious, and anti-intellectual men, don’t we worship things made out of these materials? (What are cars made out of? Houses? Jewelry?)
4. Don’t forget, these were some of the brightest people ever to have lived – read Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle sometime and tell me you can keep up with their intellect.
(d) The fact is, we were created to worship
1. Calvin described unregenerate man’s heart as “an idol factory.”
2. Pascal said that every person has a God-sized vacuum in his soul that he wants desperately to fill.
3. We were born to worship; we are going to worship.
4. The question is, “What or who will we worship?”
5. Like Adam and Eve, most of the time we worship ourselves.
6. We want to be God. The Bible calls this “pride” and God hates it.
5. Well, note well that they did not simply stop worshiping idols.
a. If that was all they did, they would simply replace one form of unacceptable worship for another.
b. However, their conversion, their repentance was 180°
c. They turned from idol worship toward God.
d. This is the appropriate response to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
e. This is the idea of true repentance – I was thinking one way and going one way, but I changed my mind and now I am going in the opposite way from which I was going previously.
A. Wabush, a town in a remote portion of Labrador, Canada, was completely isolated for some time. But recently a road was cut through the wilderness to reach it. Wabush now has one road leading into it, and thus, only on one road leading out. If someone would travel the unpaved road for six to eight hours to get into Wabush, there is only way he or she could leave—-by turning around. Each of us, by birth, arrives in a town called Sin. As in Wabush, there is only one way out—a road built by God himself. But in order to take that road, one must first turn around. That complete about face is what the Bible calls repentance, and without it, there’s no way out of town. Brian Weatherdon
B. Now if you are here today, and you have never converted, never turned from worshiping your idols, and we all have them; if you have never repented of your futile thinking about God, then I want to exhort you to do so right now, here today, where you sit.
1. We don’t have an altar call,
2. God can touch you right where you are.
3. I would encourage you to pray to Him and tell Him that you repent of your old way of thinking, that you know that you are a rebel against God and that you embrace Christ as your Savior.
4. He will save you from the punishment you deserve.
5. He will gladly grant to you eternal life and all of the privileges afforded to any and all of His children who are adopted into His family.
6. Don’t wait. Today is the day of your salvation.
7. Worship God; give Him the glory He deserves; be reconciled to your Creator.