1 Thessalonians: Themes by chapter.
length: 65:28 - taught on Mar, 15 2023
Wednesday March 15, 2023
- Themes by chapter: Who they are (brethren beloved of God), what they have (faith, love, hope, good works), and where they came from (paganism, idols).
Paul begins as he does most of his letters with a salutation of grace and peace, then thanksgiving for them, and that he prays for them. You will see this opening in almost every one of Paul’s letters.
He then describes them in the good light that they actually are.
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.
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, 4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 5 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. 6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
Identity - all believers must be convinced of who they are in Christ.
From identity flows proper course of action.
This may be one of the biggest problems in modern Christianity. The Thessalonians are told that they are beloved of God. But they are also told what they possess - faith, hope, and love from God. To know yourself to be in Christ and what possessions come with that is life changing in terms of behavior and manner. The holiness of Christianity is lost when believers do not understand their calling. Identity is key.
"This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."
"You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased."
[same in Mark, “You.”]
The minister of the gospel will suffer from some and be received by others.
Our ministry must rely on God alone.
Each one of us has a ministry in serving the body of Christ in many ways, and in specific ways in our spiritual gift. Each of us has a ministry in witnessing of Christ to the world. If we do this, we will also be persecuted to some extent and we will also get used to it.
God will judge those who oppose the gospel. We must steer clear of that.
For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi [jail time], as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. 3 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.
In our ministries, we must rely on God alone. People will support us, but they are not the source of our power and knowledge.
For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; 11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.
Suffering is a given as is the “tempter.”
Faith is standing firm in the Lord.
In this chapter Paul shows his tremendous concern for them. Paul loved the church. He loved the people who made up the church, in many cases having not ever met them. He loved them because of who they were. If Christians had his attitude, church divisions would disappear.
Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, 3 so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this.
Paul also reminds them that suffering is a given - always. Paul calls him the “tempter,” and notice what the tempter is really after.
For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.
The tempter is after your faith. The faith he is after is your belief in who and what you are and what life that necessarily means. Satan wants us settling for earthly things rather than reaching for our upward call of heavenly things. The devil will use persecution, temptations of lust (various addictions), and false doctrines.
Paul wanted to find out about their faith. And when Timothy reported back that their faith was in good shape, Paul relaxed and rejoiced.
But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, 7 for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; 8 for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. 9 For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, 10 as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?
The success of others’ faith gives us joy. Their blessing, rather than causing jealousy (what the tempter would prefer), causes joy in us. We must love the body of Christ with the same divine passion that Paul did so that we rejoice with any who rejoice and weep with any who weep.
The good news from Timothy causes Paul not only to rejoice, but to also pray. he gives them a look at what he prays for.
Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; 12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; 13 so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
Paul’s prayer is that they live as who they are in Christ. Love and increasing love for the body of Christ and all mankind. Holiness and blamelessness before God is the ethical and moral conduct of the believer, knowing that the Lord will soon return.
God calls us to sanctification.
To reject this is to reject the Holy Spirit.
Death does not annul judgment.
Sanctification is to live godly in every aspect of your life and area of your soul. Literally the word means to “set apart” unto God. Holy vessels were always for God’s use and could not be used for anything else.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
There is an important subtheme here that refers to sanctification. The sanctified work hard at whatever they do and they stay out of other people’s private business.
But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more [always increase in all spiritual things], 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
Perhaps the chapter should have ended at verse 12. Paul seems to shift gears from instructing on God’s will for sanctification to the fact that the dead in Christ do not miss the coming of Christ.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
The day of the Lord - God will end history in judgment.
Christian conduct - what we should be.
Since our Lord is coming, and He is of the light, what sort of people should we be? It is tremendous motivation that the One whom you and I are to imitate is coming back to the earth to wrap all things up in judgment and reward. Since that is true, and, getting back to Paul’s arguments in chapters 1, 3, and 4, we belong to the Lord and are called by Him to live in sanctification, what sort of people should we be?
Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.
When we discover this, we will want it more than anything. But at times we will be very tempted to forget it for a few moments as we are tempted in the flesh. Remember, the “tempter” is always after your faith.
Who they are begins the letter, and what their lives should look like ends it. The bookends are salvation and sanctification.
The one who doesn’t live in sanctification rejects the Holy Spirit in 4:8 and in 5:19 he quenches the Holy Spirit.
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
The gift that Paul brought to them was the greatest they ever knew, by far. The gospel completely changed them from pagans to children of God in union with God the Son, princes and princesses of heaven. But it is obvious that that change does not automatically cause a transformation of life in terms of conduct and thought - sanctification.
Paul’s letters to them are filled with encouragement and warning. The tempter lurks, temptation lurks within from the flesh, false doctrine circulates all over the earth.
We also need to be encouraged.
God identifies us - Behold My son.
God affirms us - In whom I am well pleased.
How do we please Him?