Lesson 7: For Their Faithfulness Part 1 of 4 (series: lessons on 1 Thess.)
by John Lowe
Lesson 7: For Their Faithfulness (1Th 2:13-3:10)
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (NIV)
13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. 17 But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-10 (NIV)
1 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain. 6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (NIV)
13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
Now here is the other side of the giving of the Gospel. Paul has already said, “For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost”. . . (1 Thessalonians 1:5). That is the way the Gospel should be given out. But I hear a great many people criticize preachers and I want to say this: If a man is presenting the Gospel and it is going out in power, it should be received as the Word of God.
After the Word is given out and after it is received with faith, it should be obeyed; that’s important. It is not enough to appreciate the Bible, or even to appropriate the Bible. We must apply the Word in our lives and be hearers and doers of the Word (James 1:19-25).
The Word should go out as the Word of God, and it should be received as the Word of God. And, my friend, if you will receive it that way then it will be able to work in you, and there’s blessing there for you―IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE! Otherwise, you are wasting your time in church.
The Word of God has in it the power to accomplish the will of God. “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). It has well been said, “God’s commandments are God’s enablements.” Jesus commanded the crippled man to stretch out his hand—the very thing the man could not do. Yet that word of command gave him the power to obey. He trusted the word, obeyed, and was made whole (Mark 3:1-5). When we believe God’s Word and obey, He releases power—divine energy—that works in our lives to fulfill His purposes.
The Word of God within us is a great source of
power in times of testing and suffering. If we appreciate the Word (the heart), appropriate the Word (the mind), and apply the Word (the will), then the whole person will be controlled by God’s Word and He will give us the victory.
The church should be a revelation of God to the community just as a family should be. The relationships of a husband, wife, and child in the home should reveal the threefold aspect of the love of God and Christ for the world. Paul has already spoken of the mother-side of the local church. He is willing to work day and night to nurture them like a little bird is nurtured by its mother. He didn’t work an eight-hour day, but he was on the job for them all the time.
Then Paul said he was like a father to that church. A child in a home needs to experience both mother-love and father-love. It is a tragedy for children in our day when the parents are separated or divorced. The child very often fails to receive the love of the father. That father-love is expressed in discipline That’s what is missing today; in schools, homes, churches, jobs, and the like.
. Paul said he was like a father to the Thessalonian church.
The way in which the Thessalonians eagerly welcomed the Gospel was the source of continual joy for the apostles. Not only were the fruits of righteousness manifest in the Thessalonian converts lives (1:3), but also the way they received the preached Word of God warmed the apostles’ hearts. The “Word of God” here clearly refers to the message spoken by the missionaries. Someone has said that the Gospel is not the kind of message that man would invent if he could, nor is it a message that he could invent if he would. The Thessalonian Christians sensed the supernatural truthfulness of the Gospel Paul preached as the Holy Spirit brought this conviction home to their hearts. When Christians share their faith, they do not merely give their particular viewpoint on life as one among the endless variety of human theories. They announce the divinely revealed truth of God, a word from God.
The Word of God has the creative power of God behind it and in it (Genesis 1:3). The word “believe” is in the Greek present tense, indicating continuing action. The truth of God like a good medicine will continue to heal sin-sick souls so long as people receive it by faith.
Now the brother-side of the ministry within the church is represented by the child in the family.
14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews
What is it that makes men brothers? And what is it that makes women sisters? There are two things that make brothers and sisters. Regardless of race or color, it is true that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. No one escapes that category. This is the brotherhood of sinners. Since it is a brotherhood of sinners; it is not a loving brotherhood. You had better watch your brother; you can’t always trust him.
Now what is it that Paul says drew the Thessalonians together as brothers and sisters? “You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews.” The Thessalonian church was largely a Gentile church, and they were already experiencing persecution, although this was not yet the time of the great persecutions under the emperors, they were suffering in Thessalonica. Paul could say to them, “Before you began suffering, the brethren over in Jerusalem were already suffering at the hands of their racial brothers. This suffering draws you together and holds you together.” They were brothers in suffering; suffering is cement that holds believers together.
Those whose lives are being changed by God often find themselves the objects of criticism and attack by people in whom there is no divine life. Frequently when Christians suffer persecution they are tempted to think God’s blessing has departed.
I do believe that if suffering came to the church, it would draw believers together. We would cut out all this nonsense of picking at the other fellow. We would recognize that every child of God is our brother or sister. There may be some disagreement on various points, but every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is my brother or sister. We are in the family of God, and we should mirror this before the world. When the church really mirrors this before the world, then revival will come.
Not only were the Thessalonian saints “imitators” of the Lord and of Paul (1 Thessalonians 1:6), but they also became imitators of the Jewish believers in their experience of persecution. The saints in Judea suffered at the hands of the Jews, and the saints in Thessalonica suffered at the hands of the Gentiles. But keep in mind that even this Gentile persecution was encouraged by the Jewish unbelievers (Acts 17:5, 13; see note 2.1). Jesus promised that this would happen (John 15:18-27).