Paul's reason for thanksgiving
Living in Light of the Second Coming
Let me ask you a lead question as we look at 1 Thessalonians. What is your deepest concern for the ones you love? Surely there can be no deeper concern than you Wife, husband, child, friend, neighbour, IS SAVED AND LOVED BY GOD and growing in the Lord. That’s Pauls heart as he writes to the Thessalonians.
Let’s look at Pauls Letter to the Thessalonians. To really appreciate it we need context we need to put ourselves in Pauls shoes and feel the concern he felt before appreciating his letter.
· The Church was founded on Pauls second missionary Journey.
· A Church planting journey that faced great opposition and persecution from the Jews and pagans. They were hounded and driven out of one city after another. Thessalonica was no different
· From the text we find that he was only there for a very short space of time some say a few weeks others a few months in total before Paul is hounded and driven out.
· Leaving behind a very, very young church, we don’t even hear of elders or deacons and so many questions so many dangers from the persecutors and the false teachers.
· Paul with his genuine shepherds’ heart is frantic with concerned about these young believers. So, when he can stand it no longer, he sends Timothy to reach out to them and find out how they were doing.
· Upon Timothy’s return ‘and report Paul is blown away with the good news of their progress and greatly comforted and so sets about to write a letter to them:
o To above all else, expresses his overwhelming joy and thanks to God for their Salvation and Spiritual zeal.
o To guide them through the discouraging opposition that sought to undermine Pauls ministry and derail them from the truth.
o To address some doctrinal questions especially issues about the second coming of Christ.
o To build them up in the faith by giving instructions about godliness and Christlike living.
· Let’s start by looking at Pauls Reason for comfort and Thanksgiving to God
PAUL’S REASON FOR THANKSGIVING - CH 1:1-10
What was in Timothy report that so blew Paul away with overwhelming comfort, joy and thankfulness causing him to raise his voice to heaven in prayer every time he thought about the Thessalonian Church. What will give any of us the greatest sense of comfort and joy concerning the people we love and care for It must be THE ASSURANCE THAT THEY ARE SAVED AND GROWING IN THEIR FAITH.
With Timothy’s report Paul NOW KNEW THAT THEY WERE SAVED AND BEING SANCTIFIED. But HOW COULD HE KNOW and what in fact did he know???
Let’s look at three POINTS that give rise to Pauls great thankfulness and gratitude to God.
· HE SAW their FAITHFUL WORKS – As EVIDENCE OF salvation.
· HE KNEW that they were LOVED AND CHOSEN BY GOD, - FOR Salvation.
· HE RECOGNISED THE IMPACT OF THE GOSPEL. – In PRODUCING Salvation and transforming lives.
HE SAW THEIR FAITHFUL WORKS – As Evidence of Salvation (1:1–3)
Let’s look at the first REASON FOR Paul’s thankfulness. He was overwhelmed by their works as evidence of their salvation.
1 Thessalonians 1:1–3 (ESV)
1. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
2 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.
What amazing good news The Thessalonian church has not just survived, it has flourished spiritually. Paul uses three words to emphasise their spiritual zeal, WORK, LABOUR and ENDURANCE. Work produced by faith, labour prompted by love and endurance inspired by Hope. HE SAW THE FRUIT OF SALVATION.
Their work produced by Faith
your work of faith … It was not just work for works sake. They worked and served because they had faith they really believed, they believed the gospel the good news and so dedicated their lives to working and serving God. He is clearly saying Where there is faith there is commitment. James put it this way.
James 2:17–18 (ESV)
17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
When we truly believe we will work and serve.
Their Labour prompted by Love
and labor of love.. The zeal of the church now rises another notch. They not only worked but laboured that’s intense work. Just as their work is qualified by faith so their labour is qualified by love, because of the new found love of God, love from God and their love for God and as a result love for God’s people and for the lost. The love that was born from the gospel became a character trait part of the new nature that prompted them to labour and strive for the cause of Christ.
Their endurance inspired by hope
steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ It’s one thing to work another to labour and much more to endure. The work and the labour didn’t give up under persecution and distress it endured and persevered and that endurance was inspired by a true living hope a hope that was securely anchored in the future. The coming of Jesus. Remember the words and promises of Jesus…
John 14:1–3 (ESV)
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
The one thing we must see in these Thessalonian letters is the emphasis on the second coming of Christ. Every Chapter ends with an emphasis on the coming of Christ. So in a sense we are taught that the whole Christian Life should be lived with hope and anticipation. Jesus is coming again. The whole Bible ends with these words in Revelation…..
Revelation 22:20 (ESV)
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
HE KNOWS THEY ARE LOVED & CHOSEN BY GOD FOR SALVATION (1:4)
Let’s move now to our second point. He knows they are loved and chosen by God for salvation.
Now Paul after reflecting on their works, because of their labour and their perseverance as evidence of their salvation, He can with certainty give thanks because NOW HE KNOWS that they are loved by God and chosen for salvation.
1 Thessalonians 1:4–5 (ESV)
4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,….
When he says emphatically in v4 “For we know”………
· It expresses his deep confidence and assurance that God had acted, God has sovereignly in grace saved the Thessalonians. He has chosen them and set them aside for Himself because of His great love. The whole process was a sovereign work of Gods grace. Their works served only as evidence and not cause.
· Now Paul in great tenderness can refer to the Thessalonians as brothers… loved… by God..chosen
HE RECOGNISED THE IMPACT OF THE GOSPEL
Now we can look at our third main point for Pauls assurance and Thankfulness. HE RECOGNISED THE IMPACT OF THE GOSPEL FOR SALVATION. Having seen the works, the fruit, of the Thessalonians as evidence of Gods saving work, Paul is also convinced of their salvation because he knows how the gospel works how it impacted their lives. Paul now moves to Gods actual saving work. He now focuses on THE MEANS THE HOW, THAT GOD USES IN HIS SOVEREIGN, CHOOSING AND SAVING PROCESS.
HE RECOGNISED THE IMPACT OF THE GOSPEL – In producing Salvation
· First because of the EFFECTIVE impact of the gospel
· Secondly because of the TRANSFORMING impact of the gospel.
A. THE EFFECTIVE IMPACT OF THE GOSPEL (1:5)
What does it mean to say that the Gospel is effective? It has life changing impact.
1 Thessalonians 1:4–5 (ESV)
4 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.
The Gospel is effective for five solid reasons:
1. The Gospel came to you in Word
because our gospel came to you not only in word
· It was in Word Yes, It was intelligent and profound in message, it was structured and organised.
· It was not like all other philosophies a mere intellectual pursuit it was more much more..
2. The Gospel came in Power
our gospel came to you ….in power
· To the Disciples: Remember in Acts 1:8 the Disciples were promised power after the Holy spirit comes upon them, it was an enabling power an effective power for the disciples.
· In the Gospel: There was also a power in the gospel itself.
o Romans 1:16 (ESV)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
o Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
o Isaiah 55:11 (ESV)
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
3. The gospel came In the Holy Spirit
and in the Holy Spirit ….The Holy Spirit made it effective. With the Bible as our guide we know the:
§ H.S inspired and uses the Word
§ H.S draws us to God
§ H.S Opens our eyes to see He enlightens us
§ H.S Regenerates us
4. The gospel came with Full Conviction
and with full conviction.
The gospel also had a powerful impact because the missionaries themselves were deeply convicted, they had full assurance and confidence. When someone with spiritual stature like Paul says I am thoroughly convinced and committed we do well to sit up and listen.
5. The Gospel was Displayed by the Missionaries
You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake
We can trust the Missionaries evaluation of the gospel not just because they were convicted or convinced. Their lives their actions clearly displayed and gave evidence of their belief and dedication.
B. THE TRANSFORMING IMPACT OF THE GOSPEL TO CHANGE LIVES (1:6-10)
The second reason for confidence in the saving impact of the gospel is:
§ Not only because of the EFFECTIVE power of the Gospel
§ Also because of the TRANSFORMING power of the gospel in the lives of the Thessalonians.
When Paul he says in verse 6…. 6 And you it Literally means in the Greek and you yourselves can see the impact of the gospel. Look and recognise the transformation in your own lives
Listen then for the transformation in verses 6-10
1 Thessalonians 1:6–10 (ESV)
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. 8 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.
· Transformed - They were imitators of Paul and the Lord Jesus v6
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,
Paul could see that they were transformed because of the completely different life purpose. They now chose the same path and purpose as Paul and more importantly the path and purpose of Christ facing the same rejection and affliction and they did not do it out of compulsion they did it with joy. Joy that only the Holy Spirit can produce.
· Transformed - They were examples v7
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
What we see here is that they did not only follow Paul and the other missionaries they were themselves influential. People were now following them. They were now disciples making disciples
· Transformed - They were evangelists v8
8 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.
They were more than just examples; more than just making disciple at home, they were proactively involved in spreading the gospel sounding forth the gospel everywhere they went. They were serious about the great commission to go into all the world.
· Transformed - They were repentant v9
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,
True evidence of a transformed life is a repentant life a life that turns away from living for and serving idols and turns to living and serving God. There must be a break with the world and idols. True Christianity is not syncretistic a blending and adding Christianity to idolatry its abandoning idolatry and turning to God, something that was evident for all to see. Can People see the change of direction in our lives?
· Transformed - They were expectant v10
10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come
Changed lives are also characterised by living in the light of the second coming of Jesus. Living knowing that Jesus would come again knowing that one would see Jesus face to face. How would you live if you were convinced that Jesus could arrive at your door tomorrow?
No wonder that Timothy’s report generated such Thankfulness and Joy.
Because now Paul knew that the Thessalonian believers were saved, solidly planted and growing.
· HE SAW their FAITHFUL WORKS – As EVIDENCE of salvation.
· HE KNEW that they were LOVED AND CHOSEN BY GOD, - For Salvation.
HE RECOGNISEDTHE IMPACT OF THE GOSPEL. – In producing Salvation and transforming lives.