In the last two messages, we’ve explored the founding of the church in the ancient Greek city of Thessalonica.
And now finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for! We’re actually starting into the book of 1 Thessalonians itself.
And I anticipate picking up the pace in the remaining messages. But for this message we’re going to be exploring 1 Thessalonians 1:1-4. So, let’s read that together before we get into the details.
1 Thessalonians 1:1–4 AV 1873
1 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.
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 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; 4 knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
Now, I feel the need to warn you that the beginning of this message is a lot of details and maps and background information – as you might expect from the first message studying through a book.
But when we get past the beginning of verse 1, I think that all of our hearts will be warmed with the message that God has for us there.
So – endure the first verse with me as we fill our minds with information about this book!
1 Thessalonians 1 Summary Verse 1
Because it’s in verse 1 that we see the common greeting that Paul gives in every one of his letters.
1 Thessalonians 1:1 AV 1873
1 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.
This is how ancient letters were formatted.
Our modern letters begin with the recipient and end with the author, typically. But in ancient Roman correspondence, the letter would begin first with the author and then the recipient and then some sort of greeting, that Paul customizes in order to include important theological realities.
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus – Three Authors, One Writer
So, first, we’re given the authors of this letter – Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus.
Note that there are three authors given rather than one – even though Paul was probably the only one who physically wrote this letter.
And so, as we read through this letter, we need to keep in mind that although Paul is the one writing it, these two other brethren also share the sentiments that he’s communicating to this church.
And ultimately, because of the New Testament teaching that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16), it’s actually God himself who’s speaking through the pen of the apostle Paul. And not just to this one local church in ancient Thessalonica – but to all of his people throughout the ages.
Paul / Saul
So, the first author mentioned is Paul.
[S] For several chapters of Acts, Paul is known by his given name of Saul. But it was apparently during his first missionary journey with Barnabas that he began being called Paul (Acts 13:9).
And so, the two main names that we see throughout Acts chapters 13 and 14 and 15 are Paul and Barnabas. That is, until the end of Acts 15 where Paul and Barnabas part ways over a difference in one aspect of their philosophy of ministry (Acts 15:38).
Silas / Silvanus
And that’s where we see this man named Silas enter the picture (Acts 15:40). He’s referred to here in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 as Silvanus.
Apparently he’s like Paul who also went by “Saul” or Simon who also went by “Peter” or John/Mark – in that he has two names that he goes by. It could be that his Roman name is Silvanus and his Greek name is Silas or something like that, as well.
Now, just a little bit of background on Silas. Because the Thessalonian believers would have known the following about him as well.
We first see him mentioned in relation to the so-called Jerusalem Council that was convened over whether Gentile converts to Christ needed to be circumcised or not.
The church in Jerusalem ended up sending Silas with Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with their decision. Silas is described as one of the “chief men among the brethren” in Jerusalem (Acts 15:22). He was also a prophet (Act 15:32) and a preacher (2 Corinthians 1:19).
As Silas was ministering in Antioch, Paul decided to take him on Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:40). And on that journey, Silas was with Paul in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4).
And that’s at least what these believers would have known about this man named Silas.
And then the last co-author of 1 Thessalonians is Timothy or Timotheus.
He’s listed as co-author with Paul of six of the New Testament epistles (2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; Philemon 1:1). And then of course we have an additional two letters in the New Testament where Timothy is not the co-author of the Apostle Paul – but rather he is the recipient of those letters (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2).
Timothy was picked up by the Apostle Paul and Silas almost immediately as they started Paul’s second missionary journey.
Now, Timothy was not mentioned in the record of the founding of this church is Thessalonica back in Acts 17. And yet, somehow these Thessalonian believers came to know him. And so, his name being mentioned wasn’t inappropriate. It’s not as if anyone in the church who received this letter would have said, “Who’s Timothy?!”
[S] So, why was Timothy not mentioned in Acts 17?
I think what happened is that Timothy stayed behind in Philippi after Paul and Silas left there to visit Thessalonica. Then, once Paul and Silas had to leave Thessalonica, Timothy came behind them and ministered for a short while to those new believers in that city in Paul’s absence. And after that, all three of them ended up in Berea (Acts 17:14).
And so, we have Paul and Silas and Timothy co-authoring this letter.
Where Was 1 Thessalonians Written?
Now, let’s talk about where this letter was likely written.
And to do this, we need to consider a brief timeline of the start of Paul’s second missionary journey.
[S] These three men – Paul, Silas, and Timothy – start where they find Timothy in Derbe/Lystra/Iconium (Acts 16:1).
Then we’re told that they move on through various towns.
[S] They go through Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow them to go to Asia (Acts 16:6).
By the way, the Asia referenced in the New Testament is not what we think of as Asia. Today, when you talk about Asia you’re referring to the continent that contains China and Mongolia and Russia and Iran, etc. In Paul’s day, Asia was a relatively small area of southwestern modern-day Turkey that you can see from the map that Paul and Silas and Timothy skirt to the north.
And so this group goes through Mysia (Acts 16:7).
Then they arrive at Troas (Acts 16:8). And it’s there where Paul gets the Macedonian call (Acts 16:9).
[S] So, these three men all go to the island of Samothrace, then to Neapolis (Acts 16:11), and then finally to Philippi (which is not on that map, but is just 10 miles west of Neapolis) (Acts 16:12).
It’s in Philippi where Paul casts out the demon from the servant girl. And then her masters apprehend only Paul and Silas – not Timothy (Acts 16:19). Only Paul and Silas end up in jail (Acts 16:25). And they apparently leave that city – just the two of them – Timothy stays behind.
Because next we see just Paul and Silas in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4).
[S] Then they’re run out of that city and they go to Berea (Acts 17:10). When the Thessalonian Jews discovered that Paul and Silas were in Berea, they came there too and ran them out again.
After Timothy came to Berea, the Christians there send only Paul away to Athens, leaving Silas and Timothy in Berea (Acts 17:14). Paul sent a message for Silas and Timothy to meet him in Athens (Acts 17:15).
[S] And it seems that Silas and Timothy eventually came to Paul in Athens, but then they sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to see how the believers there were doing (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
1 Thessalonians 3:1–2 AV 1873
1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; 2 and sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
[S] So, after Paul preaches in Athens he and probably Silas go to Corinth (Acts 18:1). And finally Timothy catches up with Paul and Silas in Corinth (Acts 18:5). And so, they were all there together in Corinth for a year and a half.
And the point of all this is that that’s the first time that all three men have plenty of time to write a letter to the church in Thessalonica.
And so, this is likely where Paul and Silas and Timothy wrote this letter to the church in that city where they were so unceremoniously kicked out.
This letter was written from Corinth in all likelihood.
When Was 1 Thessalonians Written?
Alright, so now let’s talk about when 1 Thessalonians was written. And thankfully this answer takes a lot less explanation.
[S] According to Acts 18:12 while Paul and Silas and Timothy were in Corinth for over a year, this man named Gallio was the deputy or the proconsul of Achaia.
Acts 18:12 AV 1873
12 And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat,
Archaeology tells us that Gallio was proconsul of Achaia from A.D. 51–52. This date is one of the firmly established dates in Acts. It’s established from what’s called the “Delphi Inscription” which was discovered in the late 1800s and is now housed in the French School of Archaeology in Athens, Greece. (W. Dittenberger, e.d., Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum 2.3 no. 8).
And so, it’s really likely that the letter of 1 Thessalonians is to be dated A.D. 51–52. This would make this book one of the earliest – if not the earliest – letter that Paul wrote that we have in the Bible.
So, to summarize what we’ve seen so far…
• We have the authors of this letter – Paul, Silas, and Timothy.
• We have the likely place this letter was written – Corinth.
• We have a probable date range during which it was written – AD 51-52.
unto the church of the Thessalonians
And we’ve already pretty-much established this, but next we see the recipients of this letter.
It’s the church of the Thessalonians. And we saw how this church was started in Acts 17:1-9 already.
And it might be a few months or so after Paul and Silas left Thessalonica that they wrote this letter along with Timothy.
And amazingly the church still stands. Despite the persecution. Despite being deprived of their spiritual father and mentors – Paul and Silas. Jesus Christ has promised to build his church (Matthew 16:18) and that’s exactly what he did in Thessalonica. And he continued to build it – even in the absence of their human leadership and in the midst of persecution.
So, what does it take for a church to stand in this midst of such stress and turmoil? What has it taken for you to stand through all of the trials in your life?
Well, in the rest of verse 1, Paul gives us two two factors that are directly responsible for you and me and every genuine believer and every genuine church persevering to the end – despite hardships and trouble.
in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ
The first factor that causes us to stand is that we are in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Believers are in God.
Later on in this letter we’ll hear Paul recall his difficult time in Philippi (1 Thessalonians 2:2). But despite the beatings and the persecution and the threat to his very life – he says that he was bold to speak the truth to these Thessalonians. And he says that his boldness was in God.
God was the source of Paul’s boldness. God is the source of any strength we might have in the midst of difficulties and struggles.
Further, regarding believers being in God… The Apostle John says in 1 John 4:15-16 that the one who confesses Jesus as the Son of God has God dwelling in him. God indwells you if you’re a believer. That’s why your life has changed since trusting Christ.
But even more amazing – and much harder to understand – is what he goes on to say there. Not only does the believer have God living in him – but if you’re a believer, you are actually living in God.
The church of the Thessalonians might reside in that ancient city of Thessalonica. But Paul doesn’t say, “to the church in Thessalonica.” That’s not their ultimate dwelling place. It’s not their final abode. Their final abode and yours is God. You spiritually dwell in him.
And he’s not only God to us. He’s also our Father.
And part of God’s fatherhood toward us that keeps us standing in the mist of trials and difficulties is the truth that’s revealed in Jude 1:1 where Jude there says that we are sanctified or progressively made holy by or in God the Father.
And because of that, trials actually are the means by which God does this sanctifying work. He doesn’t intend to destroy us by sending hard things into our lives. Our Father actually intends to make us more holy – more like his Son.
and in the Lord Jesus Christ
And so, it’s that Son to which Paul now turns our attention.
Believers are in God the Father. And we’re also in the Lord Jesus Christ.
[S] The New Testament relates to us that in the Lord:
• We are no longer living dark lives (Ephesians 5:8).
• Children are able to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20).
• We find strength to withstand the devil (Ephesians 6:10-11).
• We are empowered to truly serve others (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7).
• We find true joy (Philippians 3:1).
• We can be harmonious with our fellow believers (Philippians 4:2).
• Wives find the ability to submit to their imperfect husband (Colossians 3:18).
• And as Paul says later on in this letter, in the Lord alone are we able to stand fast (1 Thessalonians 3:8; Philippians 4:1).
[S] Furthermore, in Jesus:
• We are redeemed from sin (Romans 3:24).
• We are alive unto God (Romans 6:11).
• We have the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).
• We are no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1).
• We are loved by God (Romans 8:39).
• And we are able to love one another (1 Corinthians 16:24) because we are all one (Galatians 3:28).
• You wouldn’t know it, but right now we are actually seated in heavenly places in Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).
• And when the troubles of life start to overwhelm, God is able to keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7) through whom he supplies all of our needs (Philippians 4:19).
So, we are – as the Thessalonian believers were – helped to stand in the midst of all of our struggles and trials because we are in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace be unto you, and peace
And since we are in God and in Jesus, we have this grace and peace to help us to withstand the difficulties in life.
[S] Paul is both praying that God would give the Thessalonians grace as well as stating that they already have this grace.
• It’s this grace that enables us to serve the Lord in the ways that he has called us to serve (Acts 14:26).
• It’s this grace that saves and justifies us (Acts 15:11; Romans 3:24).
• By grace we are able to stand (Romans 5:2).
• This grace abounds in our lives even when we fall and sin (Romans 6:1).
• And it’s actually this grace that guarantees that sin doesn’t ultimately have dominion over us (Romans 6:14).
• It’s also this grace by which we have received whatever gifts we have to serve one another (Romans 12:6).
So, you can see how having this grace initially helps us to stand for the Lord when life is hard – like it was for the Thessalonians – and how believers need more and more of this grace from God.
[S] Very similarly, we both already have – and yet need still more of – this peace from God.
• Jesus himself gives us his peace which then enables our hearts to not be troubled even in trials and hardships (John 14:27).
• It’s in Christ that we have this peace – though in the world we have tribulation (John 16:33).
• Three times after Jesus rose from the dead and met with his disciples this was his message to them – “peace to you all” (John 20:19,21,26).
• We enjoy this peace because we were justified by faith in Jesus (Romans 5:1).
• As we believe the God of hope, he fills us with this peace (Romans 15:13).
• And as we refuse to be anxious – but instead trust the Lord with gratitude – his peace keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
• Paul then ends this letter of 1 Thessalonians with a prayer for these believers that the God of peace would sanctify us in every way (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
God gives grace and God gives peace because we are in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ. These realities are what cause a church – and its individual believers – to stand in the midst of affliction and deprivation.
1 Thessalonians 1 Summary Verse 2
Now, this reality that God protects and strengthens his people in the ways that we have just rehearsed leads Paul to give thanks for these believers, starting in 1 Thessalonians 1:2.
And so, we’re now going to see in verses 2-4 three actions to prompt you to give thanks for fellow believers.
1 Thessalonians 1:2 AV 1873
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
We give thanks to God
And we begin with the simple observation that it is right to give thanks for your fellow believers.
If you were honest with yourself, how much of your mindset concerning your fellow-believers could be characterized by thankfulness? In the past week, have you entertained thoughts of gratitude and thankfulness – simply for other genuine Christians?
On numerous occasions the Apostle Paul expressed a thankful heart for fellow believers (Acts 28:15; Romans 1:8; 16:4; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2:13; Philemon 4) He thanked God even for the troubled Corinthian church! Because although they were very troubled, they were still genuine believers!
And if Paul says later in this letter, “in every thing give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) then you know that it’s God’s will that you be thankful for your fellow-believers.
And of course, the thanksgiving needs to be directed to God.
Because he’s the one who has done all of the “heavy lifting.” He has saved both your fellow-believers and you. He is the one worthy of our offerings of praise and thanks for the genuine work that he has done – both in your heart and in the hearts of other Christians.
And he wants this from you. He wants to receive thanks. This is his will concerning you.
always for you all
And then, this thanksgiving is to be marked by universals. Maybe you could describe it as “profuse” or “lavish.”
Paul gave thanks always for these believers.
Now, of course, he’s not claiming that there wasn’t a second in his life wherein he wasn’t verbally thanking God for these folks. But he is saying that constantly he was engaged in this behavior of thanking God for them. It was his heart’s attitude. It was his default mode.
He gave thanks always for them.
And then Paul gave thanks – he says – “for all of you.”
His thanksgiving is not exclusive. He doesn’t pick and choose whom he is going to be thankful for based on some contrived motivation. If someone was a genuine believer, Paul was going to thank God for that one.
So, does this characterize your attitude toward other believers?
Maybe you recognize that it doesn’t – that you really do not thank the Lord very much at all for your fellow-Christians.
If that’s the case, then Paul is going to lay out his own approach to doing this in order to be a model for you. He is going to give you three actions that prompted him to give thanks to God for genuine fellow-believers in Christ.
making mention of you in our prayers
The first of these actions is simply to pray for them – to make mention of them in your prayers.
The word mention refers to memory. So, the first step in being thankful to God for your fellow-believers is to simply remember them.
Later in this letter we’ll see Paul say that Timothy had visited the Thessalonians and then returned to Paul. And when Timothy returned, he was able to relate to Paul and Silas that the Thessalonians, “had good remembrance of [them] always, desiring greatly to see [them]” (1 Thessalonians 3:6). The Thessalonians had fond memories of Paul and Silas.
When we’re apart from one another throughout the week, you can make it a practice to remember your fellow-believers. That’s simple enough.
And you do this remembering as you actually pray to God. Because Paul and Silas and Timothy are remembering these Thessalonian believers in “in [their] prayers.”
So, making mention of your fellow believers as you pray to the Lord is one actions that will prompt you to give thanks to God for them.
1 Thessalonians 1 Summary Verse 3
We see the second action to prompt thankfulness for your fellow believers in verse 3.
1 Thessalonians 1:3 AV 1873
3 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;
Again, we see the mental aspect involved in this process of thanking God for genuine Christians. Paul and Silas and Timothy were prompted to thank God for the Thessalonians as they were remembering – which is related to our word “mention” in the last verse.
And they are constantly engaged in this remembering. They’re doing it without ceasing.
And they are doing this remembering in the sight of God and our Father at the end of the verse. Again, they’re doing this in the realm of prayer.
So, what exactly are Paul and Silas and Timothy remembering about the Thessalonians? Three activities.
your work of faith
First, Paul remembered the Thessalonians’ work of faith.
[S] Now, often in the New Testament, faith and work are used as contrasting ways in which people seek to be saved.
• Paul concludes in Romans 3:27-28 that you and I are justified – we’re declared righteous – by God on the basis of faith alone apart from the works of the law.
• Paul recalled in Galatians 2:16 that there was a time he had to remind even the Apostle Peter that we are justified by faith apart from works of the law.
• When we received the Spirit, it was by faith and not by the works of the law (Galatians 3:2).
• When God has chosen to work miracles among his people, he does it through their faith rather than through the works of the law (Galatians 3:5).
• When a person is saved, the foundation of that salvation is twofold – that person repents from dead works and has faith in God (Hebrews 6:1).
So, that’s all true. A person is not saved by works, but by faith in Christ.
[S] And yet, there is a work that is of faith.
• In Revelation 2:19, Jesus commends the church in Thyatira for their works which are accompanied by their faith. These two concepts don’t have to be at odds with one another.
• James says that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-24). If you say that you have faith but it’s not showing in your life that’s a serious problem.
• Jesus wants our light to shine to other people so that they would see our good works and glorify God (Matthew 5:16).
[S] And that’s how the New Testament describes this kind of work – not the kind that’s an attempt to justify yourself with God. But that’s a response to your being justified. That kind of work is called “good.” It’s a good work – motivated by your faith.
• Jesus Christ gave himself for us so that we would be engaged in these good works (Titus 2:14).
• The Lord wants us constantly engaged in these good works which benefit others (Titus 3:8).
• Engaging in this kind of work leads to fruitfulness in your life (Titus 3:14).
• One purpose for us gathering together as we do as a church is to provoke one another unto these kinds of works (Hebrews 10:24).
And so, this is what Paul was remembering about these Thessalonian believers. They were engaged in deeds and actions that were motivated by their new faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Thessalonians were not trying to justify themselves through these works. Rather, they were engaged in these works because they had already been justified.
…Can you take a moment and think of one other believer in this assembly or elsewhere who is engaged in this kind of work? That’s what you ought to remember about that person. And that will motivate you to give thanks to God for that brother or sister.
and labour of love
Another action of the Thessalonians that fueled Paul’s thankfulness for them was that he remembered their labour of love.
• Paul later in this letter reminds the Thessalonians of his own labor – by which he is referring to the fact that he literally physically worked when he was in Thessalonica so that he wouldn’t have to ask them to support him (1 Thessalonians 2:9).
• Paul actually thought that this aspect of his ministry among them was so important that he reminded them again of his laboring with his hands in his second letter to this church (2 Thessalonians 3:8).
• But he also uses this word in a metaphorical sense to speak of his spiritual labor among them (1 Thessalonians 3:5).
And so, I think that Paul is referring to both of these aspects in relation to the Thessalonian believers. They labored – both physically and spiritually.
And this labor was not motivated out of sheer duty. It wasn’t done grudgingly. It wasn’t executed with a desire for self-glorification.
The Thessalonians’ labor was motivated by their love.
• This is how it works in families that are functioning according to God’s design. They labor for one another in love.
• Some of you know what it’s like to have someone do something for you. And that action in itself might be very helpful to you. And yet, it was done in a way that indicates that the person is not doing it out of love.
• As many of you know, I work in the Business Office at Maranatha. And we often have students come in with questions. And if we’re not thinking right, we can approach these questions as purely transactional. We take your money. We give you a receipt. We bid you farewell.
• But that’s not the kind of approach we ought to take in ministry. And since life is ministry, it’s not the kind of approach we ought to take ever with anyone.
• From the time we rise out of bed to the time we lay our head on our pillows, our labor needs to be motivated by genuine love.
This is the kind of labor that Paul remembered the Thessalonians being engaged in. And it caused his heart to well up with gratitude to God for these believers.
Again, I ask, can you think of anyone in this church or anywhere else who models this kind of labor that’s fueled by their love for others? Will you thank God for this person or these people?
and patience of hope
Then the third and last activity of these Thessalonian believers that prompted Paul to give thanks to God for them was their patience of hope.
Now, when you think of the English word patience you might get the idea of some hungry fellow waiting at the table a few minutes before lunch. But he’s not fussing. He’s not angry. He’s just calmly waiting patiently for his dear wife to bring him the delicious food that she made for him. He’s so patient.
You might get that idea! But that concept is actually described by another Greek word – not the one translated as patience in this passage.
[S] In this passage, this word refers to endurance or remaining under some pressure.
It’s what’s required of the athlete who has played his hardest for 90 minutes of a game and it’s just gone into overtime.
This endurance is something that you can’t purchase. It doesn’t come in a pill. Rather, the Bible describes how to obtain this character quality. And it’s not for the faint of heart.
• We develop endurance as a result of tribulations or trials – difficult things (Romans 5:3).
• We develop this endurance by waiting (Romans 8:25).
• Endurance comes through affliction and suffering (2 Corinthians 1:6).
• Paul says to this Thessalonian church in his second letter to them that this endurance comes through persecutions and tribulations (2 Thessalonians 1:4).
• When your faith is tried – that’s when this attribute of endurance is worked in you (James 1:3).
• When you think of this character quality, think of Job whose struggles are recorded for us in the Old Testament (James 5:11). Think of what he suffered. Think of how he suffered – not perfectly, not sinlessly, but he didn’t quit. He endured these hardships.
So, the difficult things you experience are all – no doubt – intended by God to work this quality in you.
But as you consider the list of realities that God puts into your life in order to work endurance in you, you might kind of despair.
• Your faith being tested?
• Job-like pain and anguish?
How can anyone actually endure these things?
[S] We can endure these things only because we have hope. We have confident expectation of good things to come for us. The Thessalonians’ patience or endurance was accompanied by hope.
In fact, endurance is the very path to hope. It works like this:
• We glory in our trials – because we know that trials work endurance, and endurance works experience, and experience works hope in us (Romans 5:3-4).
• God has given us the Old Testament with all of its examples and illustrations for us – at least in part – so that we would be comforted by what’s written in it and be encouraged to endure. And the ultimate goal of all of that is that we would have hope (Romans 15:4).
So, the Thessalonian believers had this endurance within them – an endurance brought about by their confident expectation – their hope – even and especially in the midst of their sufferings. And this caused Paul to give thanks to God for them.
…Can you identify anyone in this church who has been through sufferings? …If you can’t, you need to get to know us better.
In this assembly:
• We have had people battle cancer and win for now.
• We have dear folks with wayward children.
• We have had surgeries.
• We’ve suffered miscarriages.
• There are unexplained illnesses.
• We have some with strained relationships with family due to our trusting Christ.
• We have experienced – mostly moderate forms of – persecution.
• Some are honestly struggling with depression.
• Some of us have lost spouses.
How do you see these people responding to these painful trials and afflictions? If they’re responding by enduring these hardships, then you and I owe God some thanks. Don’t we?
And how is it that these dear brethren are responding with endurance to the trials presented to them? We’ve mentioned that they have hope or confident expectation. But what is that hope founded upon?
in our Lord Jesus Christ
Our brethren – like the Thessalonian believers – have their confidence in Christ.
• All believers have what Paul calls “the hope of glory” which is “Christ in [us]” (Colossians 1:27).
• Paul identifies our hope to be none other than Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:1). He alone is our confidence.
• His glorious future appearing is what Paul calls the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).
• It is Jesus who is our living hope (1 Peter 1:3) which is in us and makes such a difference in us that some might wonder what the source of that inner hope of yours is (1 Peter 3:15).
When you have cancer, When your job is hard, When you lose a loved one, When the Lord has not yet given you a spouse, When you are undergoing serious medical issues, When home life is not peaceful, When finances are impossibly tight…
We confidently await Christ. We await his helping us in this life. And we await his future coming for us.
So, this is yet another prompt to give thanks to God for genuine believers. As we pray for these folks and remember these activities of theirs, we are prompted to give thanks to God for his help with all of these things.
1 Thessalonians 1 Summary Verse 4
And the last reality that Paul mentions that causes him to give thanks for the Thessalonian believers is the evident fact that God had chosen them.
1 Thessalonians 1:4 AV 1873
4 knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
Well, how exactly did Paul know that God had chosen the Thessalonian believers? …We’re going to have to discover that next time.
But for now, I would encourage us all to engage in these three actions through the rest of the week and let them prompt you to thank God for other genuine believers.
1. Pray for them.
2. As you do that, remember their work and labor and endurance.
3. And look at their life to find evidences of their having been chosen by God.
And may all of that praying and remembering and knowing concerning your brethren lead you to give thanks to God for them.