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‘Living in the light of His soon return …’ Part 1


A series of thoughts from Paul’s
First letter to the Thessalonians

Preached at Blyth Community Church ~ Summer/Autumn 2006 ~ by Brian Allenby


First, read for background Acts Ch 17 verses 1 to 9:

Now when they had travelled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who have upset the world (turned the world upside down) have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.

 

Read 1 Thessalonians Ch 1

Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father , knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.


Chapter 1

It is a wonderful thing when the Pastor can think of his church (the people that is) and say; we always give thanks for you all. Paul clearly loved the Thessalonian church, these people were really on his heart and he was deeply concerned for there spiritual welfare, remember, when he wrote this letter this church was probably no more than 6 months old.

In this chapter, Paul tells us about the church which he left in what was an evil City. You can find the modern city of Salonika on a map and when you do, you have more or less found the ancient city of Thessalonica. Prior to this it had been called Therma, named after the hot springs that are found in the area. Acts chapter 17 verses 1 – 15, which we read earlier, records the founding of this church. When Paul, Silas and Timothy left Philippi, they visited Amphipolis and Appolonia interestingly we have no record of any ministry taking place in these places. They then moved on to Thessalonica, where we read that Paul ministered in the Synagogue for three weeks and saw a number of people converted.

We know that in the city there lived a number of devout Greeks, in other words Greeks who followed the Jewish religion; it was these people who responded so positively, together with some of the Jews, to Paul’s preaching and reasoning. Sadly, but not unexpectedly this success and blessing enraged the Orthodox Jews, and they drew together a mob to embarrass and hinder the work of the gospel. I love the wording of the charge they made against him and his compatriots – ‘these who have turned the world upside down have come hither also!’ Because of this riot, Paul and his colleagues left Thessalonica, they went to Berea, where Paul left Silas. Paul went on to Athens. Timothy joined Paul at Athens, But Paul sent him back to Thessalonica to see how things had settled down after the riot and to give the believers some encouragement, then they all met up again in Corinth.

It was when Paul received Timothy in Corinth that he wrote to the Church at Thessalonica, this being about 50/51AD. This morning we will look at what I will describe as the Elect, Exemplary, Enthusiastic and Expectant people of Thessalonica. I love alliteration if you allow me to do this more often, you may well become bored with it! The Saved – Surrendered – Suffering - Soul winning – Second coming church who were, Single minded – Standing fast – Sanctified and Submitted (9 points rather than the 4 points you are getting this morning).

Firstly, they were an Elect People. The word church in Greek is ecclesia, which in itself means a called out group. The church is not a social club. It is a living spiritual organisation, composed only of people whom God has called out darkness into His marvellous light! This calling is purely of grace.Though we are in the world physically, we are not of the world spiritually.The saints in Thessalonica lived in Thessalonica, but dwelt in Christ. Paul explains the miracle of this calling in 2 Thess, Ch2 verses 13 & 14: “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

You see it was God who sent Paul and Silas to Thessalonica with the Word, the People heard the Word, believed and were saved. After receiving Christ, they realized that they had been chosen in Him through grace. But don’t read too much into this statement, because this same God is not willing that any should perish. As far as God the Father is concerned we were predestined to be saved and conformed from the moment we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. As far as the Spirit is concerned we are saved when we respond to His call and receive Christ. As for the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour, we were saved when He died on the cross for our sins. So how did Paul know these people were truly saved or elect?

First, their Work of Faith. When people honestly trust Christ that faith will be shown by works. Works will not save, but faith that does NOT lead to works is not a saving faith. Thus saving faith results in a changed life, changed attitudes and changed priorities.

Second, their Labour of Love. Unsaved people live for themselves, but true believers are willing to toil because of love. There is a new motivation for living. He or she who loves Christ loves others.

Third, Patience of Hope. The lost are without hope. Believers have endurance in life’s trials, because they know Christ is coming again. Believers need not give up in times of trial, because they have the assurance that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming to deliver them.

It has been pointed out often that verses 9 & 10 parallel these three evidences of salavation:

The work of Faith - they turned to God from idols
The labour of Love - they served the living God
The patience of Hope - they waited for Christ to return

Faith, hope and love are the real evidences of true salvation.The really sad thing is that we so often choose a life of safe conformity rather than one of conspicuous originality!

Secondly, they were an Exemplary People. It is absolutely fabulous when those who hear become those who follow. The people heard the word, welcomed it, believed it and suffered for it, receiving it in to their lives. The Word of God imparts faith and brings a sense of joy knowing that God is in control. It doesn’t matter how hot it gets, His hand is firmly on the thermostat! Having believed, these new believers followed Paul and associated themselves with a local fellowship and became examples to all of those living about them.

They were not only followers of Paul’s but also of the local church. You see in the New Testament church, Christians are expected to be a VITAL part of the local fellowship, there should be nobody on the edge, we should be all drawn in together, not supporting other things, or organisation, but all out for our own church. The testimony of the Thessalonian church reached out into the whole community and brought others to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. To do otherwise means you are robbing your own fellowship of its position not only in your own life but in the life of the very church itself.

These people sounded forth the truth, the Word of God, from the platform of a changed life. The Greek word that underlies ‘sounded forth’ is ‘exechoti’ from which we get the word echo. When you shout across the valley ‘hello’ you don’t get back ‘goodbye’ do you, it comes back exactly as it was sent, and so it was with the Word of God as it was sounded forth from the platform of these changed lives!

Thirdly, they were an Enthusiastic People. These people had been saved for just a few months. They did not have the instruction most of us have today! Yet they were enthusiastic – all out – for their witness for Christ, the Saviour who had saved them.They witnessed by their walk (examples v.7 ‘became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.’)They witnessed by their talk (v.8 ‘For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything’ the gospel sounded out, echoed forth – trumpeting the truth).

These saints were quite happily waiting for the trumpet sound to call them home – they were trumpeting the gospel loud and clear to all of their lost friends – Ch.4 v.16 ‘For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.’ Too often we are like the Pharisees, busy blowing our own trumpets, instead of trumpeting for Christ and the Gospel.

And finally - they were an Expectant People. The second coming of Christ is actually the underlying theme of this book. In chapter one we see Christ’s coming as the blessed hope of the saved . While the lost are blindly worshipping and serving idols, the saved are serving the living God and rejoicing in the certain and living hope that Christ will one day come again.So, how are Christians supposed to wait for the return of Christ? Simply this, by being busy when He comes! Later in the letter, Paul warns the believers to be awake and alert and not to sleep or be drunk like the people of the world. The blessed hope of Christ’s return must be more than a doctrine stated within a creed. It must be a dynamic in our lives.

How do we know that Christ is coming again? God proved who Christ was by raising Him from the dead. Christ could not come again if he were dead and His body decomposing in a Jewish tomb. You see we cannot separate the living hope from the living Christ!Paul had carefully instructed these people about the return of Christ and the time of tribulation that would come on a God rejecting world. But he is very careful to point out that the church will not share in that tribulation. The verb ‘deliver’ (AV) and ‘rescue’ (NIV) in verse 10 is in the present tense. The church will not go through the tribulation.

But the first event on God’s calendar is the return of Christ in the air at which time the church will be caught up with him and we have to be ready for this event for it is this that will come like a thief in the night. It should be our motivator because His return will be a time of reward, if we have lived for Him day by day and pleased Him with our life of obedience.So, are you an ELECT people? Are you EXEMPLARY in your behaviour? Are you ENTHUSIATIC about the gospel? And are you living lives that EXPECT the imminent return of the Lord? I hope and pray that you are all of these!

(to be continued)

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