60. I Thessalonians 1: “You Never Know Who’s Listening”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 3/17/2016
(edited December 2020)
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
As Paul and Silas were travelling from town to town in Ancient Macedonia they ran into an especially poor reception. It was in a place called Thessalonica which today is located in Northern Greece. Here, after Paul preached the Gospel in their Synagogue for three weeks, a faction of the Jews rose up and threatened his life.
Thessalonica was a spiritually rough place to try to witness for Jesus. A worldly Roman colony, a center of idolatry, and a place where a lot of people just weren’t ready to accept the good news about Jesus Christ - whew! The Book of Acts tells us that some of the Thessalonians actually travelled to Berea to continue to persecute Paul and Silas after driving them from their town!
Our little study tonight is the beginning of a letter that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. You see, despite everything, SOME at Thessalonica had heard Paul’s message, believed in Christ, and founded a brand-new church there! And now, from the city of Corinth, Paul is writing back to this group in Thessalonica:
Verses 1-2: “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, 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. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;”
Paul had left them behind because the persecution there had turned lethal. He had to leave, or die. But Paul wants them to know that he has NOT forgotten them.
Verses 3-4: “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; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.”
Lights shine brightest in the darkness, have you ever noticed that? And these believers really stood out at Thessalonica. They stood out because they stood up for Christ, even though it was dangerous and difficult. Because of all the trails, I think the spiritual success at Thessalonica was that much sweeter! Listen to Paul:
Verse 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.”
They HAD to rely on the Holy Spirit at Thessalonica. Their own strengths and talents would never have been enough. Now, that is true everywhere, but at Thessalonica it became obvious.
Verse 6: “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.”
They HAD to trust in God, day by day. The persecution was so bad, they could do nothing else. And the Lord blessed their faith, and before long, even people beyond Thessalonica began to notice:
Verses 7-9: “So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 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. 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;”
People always notice when God moves among Believers. To have a church at Thessalonica was a miracle. It was a direct result of true humility and faith.
Verse 10: “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
Paul was only with them for two months, but can you see how they were already mature enough to start moving beyond the basics of the faith! This letter is just beginning, and Paul is already mentioning Christ’s return to the earth and the new world to come! Wow! By the time Paul gets to chapter 4 he’s really gettin’ down to business:
I Thessalonians 4:13-17
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep (believers who had died), that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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. For 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: 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
What a vibrant church at Thessalonica! Why? Because a few people, even under horrible circumstances, decided to really listen to the God’s Word and surrender to His Holy Spirit. And, you know what, that’s all it takes today, too! Amen? Let’s pray.