I Thessalonians 1:5-10
(Other lessons in this series can be found HERE)
Overview of passage
Last week, we began our study of I Thessalonians with the greeting of Paul, (with Silas and Timothy) to the church at Thessalonica. Paul then began an extended passage describing his thankfulness to God for this church. We studied the 3 current outward manifestations of the life of the church that Paul described as their work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope.
This week, in I Thessalonians 1:5-10, Paul continues in the same vein, with past events that demonstrate the salvation of the Thessalonians. In class, we studied the seven things from this passage that John MacArthur lists as these manifestations of God’s choosing of the believers at Thessalonica. I am going to look at each of these briefly.
But, first, as I read this passage, I could see that Paul considered this young church to be his spiritual child. Although Paul was there for the very beginning of this church, persecution forced him to leave them very quickly. So, he wasn’t able to stay to see that they were firmly established. As an earthly example, I pictured this to be somewhat like when my children went to college. I had done what I could to prepare them for all that they would face in this new situation, but then I had to leave them there. Had I done enough? Would they be OK? In my heart, I wanted to be there and walk them through each new situation and trial. But, that was not in God’s plan. I had to wait from afar and hope and pray for the best for them.
Spiritually, this is what Paul had done with this church. Imagine the great joy that he has to be able to write the words that he can write in this epistle. He has received such a good report about his spiritual child, that he is simply bursting with thankfulness.
7 Supernatural Signs of the Thessalonians Faith
I wanted to run through the list of things that Paul was thankful for in this young church– his spiritual child. Because, the things that he is thankful for are not just things that are ordinary, everyday things. It is not just that they are staying out of trouble, having some great fellowship dinners, worshiping in a current and lively fashion, or building a great a church building (things we might look at to evaluate the health of a church). The things he is thankful for all have supernatural elements.
1. vs 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.
The words of the gospel that tell the story of God’s amazing love and forgiveness and that call unbelievers to repent can be spoken to a crowd of people with differing results. Some will fail to hear. Some will listen and consider with purely intellectual interest. It is a supernatural act of God’s power through the Holy Spirit that brings full conviction with repentance and re-birth.
2. vs 6 — You also became imitators of us and of the Lord
The new believers transformation was shown by their new way of living. Rather than living according to the pagan, sinful culture that surrounded them, they imitated the apostle Paul and ultimately the Lord. To imitate the Lord, they had to have the Holy Spirit supernaturally dwelling within them. Their new life, as children of their new father was evident in how they lived.
3. vs 6 –having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
Joy in tribulation, suffering, and persecution is not a natural response. A human’s normal response to such situations is complaining, crying, perhaps even blaming God. Even the words of this verse tell that this joy during difficult times was of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it provides supernatural evidence to Paul and the world that these believers were God’s chosen.
4. vs 7 – So that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
Not only was this church found to be imitating Paul and the Lord, but they, quickly it seems, rose to a position in which others in the area knew about them and followed their example. The “so that” refers back to the joy of the Holy Spirit in the preceding verse… Again this is a supernatural work of the Lord in their lives.
5. vs 8 – For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.
F.F.Bruce says that the Greek word for “sounded forth” has the meaning of a loud ringing sound like a trumpet blast! Despite persecution, despite their youth as a church, despite their pagan culture, this church immediately became a missionary church. The gospel and their testimony spread, supernaturally, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia.
6. vs 9 – Turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.
The transformation of these believers was also supernatural in that they completely turned, 180 degrees, to serve the living God. The living God is himself supernatural as is the power to serve Him.
7. vs 10 – and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.
Waiting on Jesus to come again shows a belief in the supernatural. The natural life says that someone cannot rise from the dead. Especially, someone can not come back to earth once they have left. To believe with assurance that Jesus is coming again is a supernatural act.
I have many Christian friends, that I have known for many years, that I consider to be sweet, godly, loving, kind, helpful sisters in Christ. But when they tell me of their BC (before Christ) past, I can hardly believe it. It seems, when they talk about their former lifestyle of sin, anger, rebellion, that they are talking about a different person. I don’ t recognize the old things in them because they have been transformed, by the power of God through the Holy Spirit, into a new creation that looks more and more like Jesus every day.
This same 180 degree transformation was true also of the Thessalonian church as a whole. Pagan people, who worshiped idols, lived according to the world standards: immoral, complaining, negative, with no hope, were changed by God’s power into a gospel proclaiming, God serving, bold, joyful, Christlike, hopeful body of believers. This describes not only the Thessalonians, but also a true, living, functioning church in any age and any place. Let’s pray that our church grows more and more like this each day!
1. God uses persecution throughout the New Testament to spread the gospel throughout the world. We see that when persecution chased Paul out of one town, he would go to preach somewhere else. Also, when Christians faced persecution with joy, that is a testimony that also spreads the gospel. God still uses various things from simple job transfers, to unrest in a country, and even to persecution to spread his people throughout the world. We need to trust God’s workings and movements, even in situations that might seem bad to us, to fulfill his mission of sending His word to all the nations.
2. Paul is thankful for the supernatural signs that the Thessalonians are true believers. God’s chosen. It is important for us to remember that our faith is a supernatural faith. We receive power from God to be believers. It is not something that we can do on our own. We live in a day and time with very materialistic views. People in our culture do not need to turn from idols of stone or gold, because they don’t believe in any gods. They deny the supernatural. Sometimes that thinking, unknowingly, transfers to Christians. We need to remember that the God that we serve IS supernatural. He works with mighty power in unseen ways through the Holy Spirit to accomplish his will.
3. We need to be people who suffer with joy. We need to pray that God would help us to exhibit his character and spirit in such a way that we are not complainers. When trials come, let us ask the Holy Spirit for joy to shine through.
4. This church shined with the gospel and it made a huge impact on the world around them. We need to be just like them… sharing the gospel with a loud blast into our worlds, no matter the cost… living our lives so full of the testimony of our transformation that others see and want the same thing. Sometimes in our world today, I think people become Christians, and then want to blend back in with the world. Because of this, Christians are not seen as people who are set apart, joyous, changed.
We need to pray and strive to be more like the Thessalonians.