Monday, May 12, 2014

1Thessalonians 1:1-4 comments: Paul's introduction

Thessalonica  is a city in Greece today which is also called Thessaloniki or Salonica. It is the second largest city in Greece. It was founded in 315BC by King Cassander of Macedon, who named it after his wife. Eventually it became an important city in both the Roman Empire and after the western half of the Roman Empire fell, remained an important city for the Eastern Roman Empire. Thessalonica was important, being a powerful trading city, in the development of early Christianity.

It has been said that the two epistles or letters to the Thessalonians are the most important Pauline letters for a new convert to read. Ruckman pointed out that the Gospel of John is important to convert sinners to Christ, Romans and Galatians are wonderful in teaching salvation by grace through faith but contain a number of Old Testament references that would be unknown to a new convert, but that the two letters to the Thessalonians would contain little that the new convert couldn’t understand and offer them much relief in knowing that not only was the new convert saved from Hell but that the One who saved him was coming back for him.

1st Thessalonians                 


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.

We know Paul as the apostle that Jesus chose to go spread the gospel to the Gentile world for two thousand years through his writings.

Romans 15:16  That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

Silvanus helped Paul establish the Gentile church at Corinth.

2Corinthians 1:19  For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.

And helped Peter with Jewish believers in Asia.

1Peter 5:12  By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.

Silvanus was probably also known as Silas in Acts as he and Timothy are mentioned together a few times and was an important fellow-laborer with Paul.

Timotheus we know as the young preacher, Timothy, for whom two of Paul’s letters were written. There is a great deal said about Timothy in the New Testament but that is not part of our study of the Thessalonian letters.

The church of the Thessalonians, like other churches of Paul’s day, would have included small groups of Christians who met in individual houses for worship and fellowship as there were no buildings dedicated to church worship until late in the second century. These house churches are mentioned in Romans 16:5; 1Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4;15; & Philemon 1:2. A house church is referenced as in 1Corinthians 16:19 while the house churches in a city are called collectively, the church, as in 1Corinthians 1:2 & 2Corinthians 1:1.

I am assuming there may have been more than one meeting of the church in Thessalonica even though there are no churches meeting in someone’s house mentioned in that city. It is an assumption based on the literal facts of Romans, 1Corinthians, Colossians, and Philemon.

Paul wishes them grace and peace from God. Jesus Christ and God here are united in a figure of speech called a Hendiadys where two things are united in one meaning by the conjunction, “and.”

For instance, Jesus Christ is God in these passages.

2Timothy 4:1  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2Thessalonians 2:16  Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,

Philemon 1:3  Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Along with other references that united Jesus Christ and God in one identity.

John 14:9  Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

John 10:30  I and my Father are one.

1John 5:20  And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

Not only the Son of God, or God in the flesh, but also the Messiah for which the Jews themselves were waiting to deliver them.

John 4:25  The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26  Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

Belief that Jesus Christ is God, the only begotten Son of God as in never before or since has God walked in human flesh (thank Him that He created Eve so that our Deliverer could be born of a woman), the Messiah or Christ, and that He rose from the dead literally and physically are essential beliefs if you regard yourself as a Christian.

If you believe that being a Christian involves simply being some idea of a gentleman (although I’ve never met someone who claimed that who was really a gentleman) or a philosophy (as in the famous politician who recently called Jesus his favorite philosopher) of living then you are sadly deceived by your own willful stupidity no matter what position and influence you have or how much money is in your bank account. There are even so-called Christians who believe that you can call Christ a liar and still have eternal life. They will say that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe in something even though He Himself said that only He was the way, the truth, and the life and no one could approach God the Father but by Him (John 14:6).

There will be many people in Hell who regarded themselves as Christians when they walked in the flesh.

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.

After Paul tells the Thessalonians that he includes them in his prayers he refers to three things that stand out regarding their walk in Christ. There is their work of faith which is mentioned again in 2Thessalonians1:11. What is a work of faith that is said to glorify the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in them?

Jesus told the Jews what this work of faith was.

John 6:28 ¶  Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

29  Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Carnal, fleshy religion doesn’t like that idea. We, in our flesh, want there to be a lot more, more that we can see because we are never so happy as when we feel we can dictate the terms of someone else’s relationship with God.

Again, in Revelation, when Jesus refers to them that overcome in speaking to the churches;

Revelation 2:7  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

…11  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death…..17  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it…..26  And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

Revelation 3:5  He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels…12  Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name…..21  To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

And then at the end of the book…

Revelation 21:7  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

He has already defined what it means to overcome in John’s letters.

1John 5:4  For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5  Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

The work of faith is continuing in that belief and trust in Christ until the very end.

The labour of love is mentioned in Hebrews by showing love toward His name in ministering to your brothers and sisters in Christ as those who live out the thought behind 1Corinthians 13, the chapter on charity. You should read that entire chapter.

Hebrews 6:10  For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

This would involve everyone from a humble pastor to the person who serves food or takes out the trash after a meeting of the church. God holds ministering to the saints in high regard, helping those who are sick, hungry, elderly, and in need. We can expand our ministering to the unsaved world by starting at the household of God.

2Corinthians 9:13  Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;

Galatians 6:10  As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is a concept we can all understand.

Titus 2:11 ¶  For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

More will be said about Christ’s return in these letters. The church was to know its election of God.

Election is based on foreknowledge.

1Peter 1:2  Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

You are elect because God sees ahead in your future that you will believe. The things God does to you and for you are done by virtue of your belief and His response to your belief. There is no need to make it more complicated than that. This election, based on your being in Christ, was known by Him from before the foundation of the world.

Ephesians 1:4  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6  To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

We were chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame before Him in love based on the sacrifice He would make on our behalf and the resurrection of Christ and the promises that flowed from that singular event. The adoption is the redemption of our bodies.

Romans 8:23  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

This letter will tell us more about our hope as we wait for the redemption of our bodies.

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