Lesson 1 Part 2 of 2 (series: Lessons on 1 Thess.)
by John Lowe
First—the local qualifications, “the church of the Thessalonians.” In writing to the Corinthians, Paul addresses his letters, “unto the church of God which is at Corinth.” To the Ephesians, he writes, “To the saints which are at Ephesus.” Please remember that the church in Thessalonica is one of the very first, and therefore this epistle is one of the oldest books of the New Testament. The change from “church of the Thessalonians” to the term “church in Corinth” is noteworthy; it indicates an enlargement of the conception of the Church. This clearly shows that the Church in Paul’s day was no longer just a local group in a given city; but whether in Corinth, Ephesus, Colossae, Rome or Jerusalem, it was one and the same Church. In 1 Thessalonians 2:14 Paul refers to “churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus.” Regardless of how many local churches may be on earth today, all true believers belong to the one invisible Church of which Jesus Christ is the head and the foundation (Ephesians 5:25-33;, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
Second—I would like to point out in this description is the assembly (church) “. . . in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word CHURCH in the New Testament comes from the Greek word ecclesia, and means “assembly.” It also has a meaning referring to any legal meeting of citizens, any group “called out” by the leaders or rulers of the day. Therefore, Paul is very careful as the Holy Ghost directs, to make the distinction that this group, “called out” to assemble in Thessalonica, is not just a called out assembly as such, but is an assembly “IN GOD THE FATHER AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.” Thus the assembly in Thessalonica is distinguished from pagan or legal assemblies which could also be called the ecclesia. The assembly of Christians in Thessalonica confessed one God—the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This introduction in verse one distinguished the church at Thessalonica from Jewish and pagan assemblies. The confession of the church (“one Father, one Lord”) sets it apart from all other assemblies (1 Corinthians 8:5, 6).
The labors of the apostle and his co-helpers in the enterprising and populous city of Thessalonica were crowned with success, in spite of the angriest opposition. The people of the city eagerly embraced the Gospel, and the light of the Gospel brought out the cleanness and beauty of the character of the Thessalonian citizens, which up till then was shrouded in the dark shadows of superstition.
The church is divinely founded.—The preposition “in” denotes the most intimate union with God, and is of similar significance as in the comprehensive prayer of Jesus: “As Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us.”
The church rests on the divine love, fostered by the divine Spirit, shielded by omnipotence, and illuminated and adorned by the divine glory. It exists for purely spiritual purposes; it is the depository of the revealed word, the channel of divine communication to man, and the sanctuary of salvation.
The church is divinely sustained.—Founded in God, it is sustained every moment by Him. Thus the Church survives the mightiest opposition, and the agitation and wear of perpetual change. But it is not wedded to any locality under heaven. Places once famous for the simplicity and power of their Church-life have become notoriously vile or have sunk into utter obscurity. Bethel, once bearing the hallowed name House of God, under the idolatrous rule of Jeroboam became corrupted into Bethhaven, house of iniquity. Jerusalem, the praise of the whole earth, was once the chosen habitation of Jehovah; now it is a heap of ruins (in A.D. 70 it was sacked by the Romans), its temple and worship destroyed, and its people scattered, without a king, a prophet, or leader. The light that shown so full and clear from the seven celebrated Asiatic Churches grew dim and went out, and that region is now wrapped in the darkness of idolatry. But the true Church lives, goes on, grows, and triumphs.
No doubt you have heard some preacher say, "If you ever find the perfect church, please don't join it. If you do, it won't be perfect anymore!" Since local churches are made up of human beings, saved by God's grace, no church is perfect. But some churches are closer to the New Testament ideal than others. The church at Thessalonica was in that category. At least three times in this letter, Paul gave thanks for the church and the way it responded to his ministry (1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2:13; 3:9). Not every pastor can be that thankful.
The source of all the blessings desired.—“From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Jew in his most generous greeting could only say, “God be gracious unto you, and remember His covenant”; but the Christian “honors the Son even as He honors the Father.” The Father’s love and the Son’s work are the sole sources and cause of every Christian blessing.
grace and peace to you
Paul, though the only apostle of the three, did not in this instance assume the title or display any superiority either of office or power. Silas and Timothy had been owned by God equally with himself, and in planting the Thessalonian Church, were held in high esteem among the converts. Each man had his distinctive individuality, varied talents, and special mode of working; but there was an emphatic unity of purpose in bringing about results. They rejoiced together in witnessing the inception, confirmation, and prosperity of the Church and when absent united in sending a fervent, harmonious greeting. In this greeting, the apostle also indicated that his association with Silas and Timothy showed they were in perfect accord with him in the divine character of the doctrines he declared.
Grace.—The source of all temporal good—life, health, sustenance, prosperity, enjoyment; and of all spiritual benefits—pardon for the guilty, rest for the troubled spirit, guidance for the doubting and perplexed, strength for the feeble, deliverance for the tempted, purity for the polluted, victory and great happiness for the faithful. The generosity of God knows no limits.
The grace of God that brings salvation also produces peace and brings joy unspeakable and full of Glory, therefore, Paul addressed the Thessalonians with “grace and peace to you.” The grace of God is the sum total of all the blessings so freely and willingly bestowed upon believers by Almighty God through His beloved Son. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” Peace cannot be purchased, merited nor attained except by God’s grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor to the undeserving, hell-deserving sinner, and cannot be merited, earned or obtained except through faith in God. Grace also becomes an inward possession of the believer the moment he exercises faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus, manifesting itself as the spirit and habit of His life.
Paul’s conversion and his call were, above all else, a revelation of divine grace (I Corinthians 15:9, 10). He said, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.”
Peace.—A blessing which includes all the happiness resulting from participation in the divine favor.
• Peace with God, with whom sin has placed us in enmity, and to whom we are reconciled in Christ Jesus, who hath “abolished in His flesh the enmity, so making peace.”
• Peace of conscience, a personal blessing conferred on him who believes in Jesus.
• Peace one with another—peace in the church. In the concluding counsels of this epistle, the writer impressively insists, “Be at peace among yourselves.” The value of this blessing to any Christian community cannot be exaggerated.
[A1.1} Silas—Luke used the name “Silas,” while Paul and Peter used “Silvanus.”
[A1.2} The word “church” is used over 100 times in the New Testament, and nearly always has the same technical meaning as here: a local group of baptized believers in Christ. In the New Testament, the word “church” never refers to a building. The people of Thessalonica believe in God and have committed themselves to Christ as the promised Old Testament Messiah (Acts 17:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:1).
[A1.3} church in Thessalonica―Though as yet they do not seem to have had the final Church organization under permanent “Bishops” and deacons, which appears in the later Epistles (Philippians 1:1). Yet he designates them by the honorable term “church,” describing their status as not merely isolated believers, but a corporate body with spiritual rulers (5:12; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:2).
[A1.4} Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy that flourished throughout the Roman and Greek world until the 3rd century AD. Stoicism is predominantly a philosophy of personal ethics. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to happiness for humans is found in accepting this moment as it presents itself, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain, by using our minds to understand the world around us and to do our part in nature's plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.