Today, we will begin reading 1 Thessalonians. Paul wrote this letter to the church in Thessalonica in Macedonia to encourage and exhort them after hearing Timothy’s report of the church from his visit (Acts 18:5). Verse 1 reads,
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
The letter was from Paul, Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy, who at the writing of this letter had been working with Paul about a year or so. Paul addresses the church and reminds them they are the church in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are supposed to remind each other who we are. We are the church, we are not the world. We are only the church because the Lord has saved us and made us the church. Paul also told the church he prayed for them. Verses 2-3 read,
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
As the church we should be praying for one another and we should encourage each other by that. Paul told them he prayed for them and was thankful to God for them. He could see the work of God active in their lives. He could see the evidence of their faith, the work of their love and the persistence of their hope. Those evidences are tangible. Do people know about your faith, love, and hope because it is apparent in the way you live your life and affect the kingdom or do they know about it because you tell them? Saying I love you is very different from actually loving. Saying you have faith is not the same as exercising that faith. James described it this way in James 2:15-17,
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
As Paul taught this church, he gave them the positive reinforcements they needed to know they were on the right track. So we as a united church ought to do for one another. If we follow Paul’s example we can let each other know, “I’m praying for you, brother. Your hard work is not going unnoticed. I am inspired by your faith.” What does it mean for you, when you hear encouragement like that? Imagine what genuine assurance does for others as well.
We are the church, not by accident, not by chance but by the will of God. Verses 4-7 read,
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
Do you know how special it is to be among God’s chosen? Believer, we are not among the world any longer. We heard the Gospel, we believed it, and we accepted it. We are not like the world or in the world, we are in the church and so we should look and behave like Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Those who are more mature should be training the less mature. We should be supporting one another in our walk in Christ.
As we live that way together making disciples of each other, we grow and the word spreads. People outside the local church take note and we encourage more believers. The word also spreads to others. The world takes note, they see the Gospel lived out, they hear it and they have a chance to accept God’s election on their lives and believe. Verses 8-10 read,
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
Genuine love, faith, and hope lived out among us has an impact. When we palpably and substantially love each other, when we care enough to encourage and exhort one another it doesn’t stay within our little groups, it spreads exponentially.
Jesus is returning one day. I believe it is going to be soon. But regardless how little or much time there is, there are too many people who have not heard the Father’s call, known the love of Jesus or seen the work of the Holy Spirit. We can change that by intentionally and sincerely living out our faith, love, and hope.