1 Thessalonians: Chapter 1
(Vs.1) “Paul and Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy, To the assembly of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus the Messiah: Grace to you and peace.
In the work of salvation grace always precedes peace with God and peace from God. Grace is the Gentiles form of greeting and it means the unmerited, unearned favour of God shown towards one who can never earn it by good works, personal merit of by any other human means. This grace of God is bestowed upon all who repent and believe on the Lord Jesus for salvation whether Jewish or Gentile ethnically (Ephesians 2:8-10). This faith in the Lord Jesus is the means by which anyone can be put into right standing with God. If we have this peace with God and have been put into a right relationship to Him and with Him through saving faith in the Lord Jesus, then by that same faith, we need to reckon on this great Biblical truth that God has set forth in His Word the Bible (Romans 5:1)
God reckons us righteous, justified, acquitted of all offences against Him and His laws and commandments in heaven’s law court. He can do this because our sins and their penalty was nailed to the Lord Jesus on the cross who died in place of us to deliver us from the power and penalty of sin and from out of the grasp of Satan and his fallen principalities in the unseen spiritual realm (Colossians 2:15). We are declared to be righteous by God even though He knows and we know that we are far from that perfect righteousness without which no one shall see God. However, God clothes us with the garment of salvation and wraps us around with the robe of Jesus’ righteousness which is acceptable to God (Isaiah 61:10). This righteousness that comes from God is received by faith and not anything we can do of ourselves (Romans 3:21-32) (Philippians 3:7-11).
Paul then mention “peace” or the Hebrew word “Shalom.” This is a sense of being filled up or completeness or a sense of knowing that one is at peace with God having had all of their sins forgiven and cleaned by the atoning blood of Jesus by whose blood redemption was purchased resulting in forgiveness of all of their sins (Ephesians 1:7). This grace of God revealed in the Lord Jesus and extended by Him towards us to spiritually transform our lives. As we also read; “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, the Messiah Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14). When one has been truly put into right standing with God by faith whether a Jew or Gentile, and through that same faith after having repented making Jesus both Saviour and Lord of their life, will have deep down on the inside of them the peace of God that transcends all human comprehension. One who has this peace can put their head on the pillow at night to sleep and that if they do not wake up in the morning they will be absent from the body but present with the Lord Jesus knowing that their sins have been forgiven and cleansed in the blood of Jesus the Messiah (Philippians 4:7) (2 Corinthians 5:8).
This peace is a supernatural peace deep down in the inner spirit man, a fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit that is an abiding presence even when the emotions and mind and even the will of the soul are tossed to and fro by adverse circumstances, or by a sense of heaviness through manifold temptations, or by a situation that seem to be out of one’s control. Paul extends his greeting to the assembly that they may continue to know and experience the grace and peace of God in as ever increasing measure which is implied in Paul’s greeting.
(Vs.2-4) “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus the Messiah in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;”
The assembly at Thessalonica had really encouraged Paul, Silas and Timothy to continuously thank God for the assembly. Undoubtedly, with all of the opposition that frequently assailed Paul and his fellow workers in the ministry, the assembly at Thessalonica was a great encouragement to Paul and his companions in the ministry of the gospel. This compelled Paul and his fellow workers to keep praying for all of them at Thessalonica. Notice Paul mentions four things he and the others were constantly bearing in mind.
“Your work of faith;” The believers at Thessalonica were no ‘chocolate soldiers’ that melted in ‘the heat’ of persecution of affliction for the sake of the Lord Jesus. They had a faith that worked for them. They were not only believing in the truth of God’s Word, but acting on what they believed. It was a work in progress as there was so much opposition they were encountering. Faith is also a work. We do not do works to be saved but if we are saved by faith then we will have works along the time of that faith we profess to have. Paul saw this spiritual reality in the assembly.
“Your labour of love;” True Biblical faith is a faith that works by love (Galatians 5:6). It is a labour of love, not primarily an emotion. There was plenty of opposition at Thessalonica and to love those who persecuted them was not an easy task. They had been experiencing severe suffering (1:6). There worship and service and ministry for the Lord Jesus was most certainly not an emotional rollercoaster ride of emotions but a situation that called for persistent endurance in walking by faith in the supernatural love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Loving God and loving others is the labour that all of us who have been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit must seek to cultivate every day. It is a labour of love and so often feelings and emotions will be absent but will follow faith working by love.
“…and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus the Messiah in the presence of our God and Father;” Hope in the Bible is not “I hope so” but a deep seated and settled peace that is given by the Holy Spirit and is the result of knowing and standing on the Word of God by faith. It is a hope of steadfastness or resilience of spirit that does not give in to despair even though despair may be present as well and lurking in our subconscious mind. The despair does not nullify the hope we have deep down on the inside which has been put there by the blessed Holy Spirit, but drives us to that blessed hope that is in the resurrected Son of the Living God our Lord Jesus, our faithful High Priest who sits at the Father’s right hand in heaven continuously interceding for us, and the one who saves to the uttermost all who come to Him by faith (Hebrews 7:24-25).
The blessed hope is the Second Coming of the Messiah to earth where we will meet Him in the air at His coming! (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). As we read in Titus; “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, The Messiah Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14). Hope then is the anchor for the soul in times of strong turbulence on the sea of life that enables us to go into the very presence of God by which we are greatly strengthened and encouraged (Hebrews 6:19).
“…knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” Added to this, Paul also affirms the God chose these Thessalonian believers to become part of His eternal family. We also need to keep in mind that when the Bible refers to the “elect” it is a corporate statement. The elect saints or the corporate Body of Messiah are His chosen ones. Within that corporate body each member is still responsible for how they respond to the LORD. God does not choose some for hell and others for heaven. This is a horrible doctrine that these who hold to it and attribute to God does Him a great injustice and disservice concerning His character as revealed in His Word. The Body of Messiah at Thessalonica was a chosen group that were part of the global Body of Messiah, and as a body of believers, they were known by God and beloved by Him. He knew them also individually. While God foreknows who ultimately will be saved and who will be lost He still gives men and women the choice. This is clear in the Word of God. God’s choice is based on His foreknowledge. This of course is a subject in itself to be studied.
(Vs.5-6) …for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction;”
When the Holy Spirit empowers the Word of God men sit up and take notice! This was the case with the Lord Jesus. We read how the common people reacted to His preaching. “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28). We also know that the marks of real apostolic authority were genuine signs, wonders and miracles, not counterfeit ones like the super apostles of his day. These deeds of spiritual power by the Holy Spirit were done with great perseverance (2 Corinthians 12:11-12). There were no instant spiritual ‘fixes.’ Wherever the power of the Holy Spirit operated through the Lord Jesus and through His apostles there was always spiritual opposition which manifested itself in demonic power, sickness and disease. Also there was opposition from not only secular authorities but also from the Jewish religious leaders who did not have spiritual power.
Today we have an abundance of ‘super apostles’ within the Body of Messiah but they are not persecuted for the sake of the Messiah. In a war the snipers go for the officers. Satan targets those who have genuine apostolic authority and power in the wider Body of Messiah. It needs to be said that the original 12 apostles were unique in that they had been directly ordained and commissioned by the Lord Jesus. They had to be ones that had been with the Lord Jesus from the beginning of His ministry and who were originally associated with John the Baptist and a witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:21-23). Judas Iscariot had hanged himself and after the ascension of the Lord Jesus the apostles had to draw lots for the 12th man and after seeking God’s guidance the lot fell to Matthias.
Today those with apostolic authority would be missionaries engaging the enemy on the front lines and even like those military commandoes being dropped behind enemy lines in very dangerous circumstances to cause confusion among the enemy. Before the Normandy invasion force hit the beach in France on June 6th 1944 the allies dropped commandos behind enemy lines to disrupt enemy communications and to prepare the way for the main invasion. The commandos were especially trained for their task. One with an apostolic calling will also have apostolic power and authority to deal with demonic forces and to pray for the sick to be healed. They will also have supernatural empowerment in their preaching and take the gospel to those unreached by the gospel.
The gospel of the kingdom came with the preaching of the Word but also we read “it came in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction;” This is true of all gospel preaching in the New Testament. The supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to drive out demons and to heal the sick always followed the preaching of the Word of God. The miracles, the signs and the wonders were not substitutes for the preaching of the Word of God. They always follow the preaching of the Word! (Mark 16:15-20).
When the Holy Spirit is really at work seeking to save the lost He convicts them of the sin of unbelief in Jesus, of their need of righteousness before God and of the judgment to come because at the cross Satan has been judged (John 16:8-11). Satan will always oppose the preaching of the cross especially the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and will always seek to counterfeit genuine miracles, signs and wonders produced by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit convicts of sin it is a full conviction with no holds barred and with no stone of sin left unturned!
Undoubtedly Satan was really upset with what happened at Thessalonica and through the unsaved religious Jewish leaders instigating men of bad character caused a riot! Even among the unsaved pagans they shouted “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here” What a testimony to the faithfulness and diligence of the apostles in preaching the unadulterated, unembellished gospel of the kingdom (Acts 17:5-8).
In the first century the supernatural attestation of the Holy Spirit’s power accompanying the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom was the norm. At no time in history down to the present day did the gifts of the Spirit disappear or cease to operate within the Body of Messiah. The gifts of the Spirit are part of the spiritual weapons and armour the Body of Messiah needs to fight the good fight of that faith once delivered to the saints!
The apostles were trained for three years by the best Bible teacher ever and enrolled in the best Bible School and had received hands on training by the Lord Jesus personally. They had been commissioned by the Lord Jesus to go into the entire world to preach the gospel of the kingdom. They had been called and enlisted into the army of the LORD and trained for battle. However, only after the Holy Spirit at Pentecost had furnished them with the spiritual weapons they needed to fight the battle were they able to carry the fight to the enemy! (Luke 24:48-49) (Acts 1:8) And then we read…
(Vs.6-7) “…just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”
Paul, Silas and Timothy lived out what they preached and their ministry and conduct was noted and an example to the Thessalonian believers of how to live as a believer in a time of tribulation and suffering which Paul and his fellow workers also experienced and were accustomed to and passed onto the assemblies they ministered in that all who love the Lord Jesus and seek to live a godly life in Him will be persecuted (Acts 14:22) (2 Timothy 3:12). This echoes the words of our Lord Jesus who also affirmed this truth (John 15:18-21). Paul and Silas were encouraged that the assembly sought to imitate their life and dedication to the Lord Jesus and their steadfastness in walking in His will. They assembly also acknowledged that the life Paul and his co-workers were living was that of the Lord Jesus living on the inside of them and empowering them for ministry and service. This is true for all who minister the Word of God. Like Paul and his fellow workers had experienced in their life and ministry, the assembly at Thessalonica had received the Word of God in much tribulation accompanied with the joy of the Holy Spirit. This is true of for all who are persecuted in the Messiah Jesus. The Word of God becomes their joy and delight and their spiritual food and drink to sustain them in persecution.
When the Holy Spirit drives home the Word of God in such a way that impacts a person’s heart and lifestyle there will always be joy. Joyless believers are spiritually powerless believers. We are told in God’s Word that “the joy of the LORD is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). This joy is a supernatural joy independent from outward circumstances or fleeting human emotions which fluctuate according to outward circumstances. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and is cultivated by leaning upon the Word of God and by faith confessing God’s promises with a thankful heart. God is always pleased when with due diligence we continuously trust Him and His Word whatever the circumstances we may be facing and rewards that trust (Hebrews 11:6). The effect of Paul’s apostolic authority, preaching and lifestyle imitating the Lord Jesus so transformed the assembly that it became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia and even further afield in other Roman provinces where there were assemblies.
(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.”
When a man is walking in God’s will and in the field of ministry to which God has called Him and operating in the gifts given to Him according to the grace of God, he does not have any need to prove himself knowing that any gift or results from his ministry is from God and that the credit must go to Him alone for the results. All who are called to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers within the wider Body of the Messiah are called and gifted to prepare the Body of Messiah for works of service to the LORD and to build them up as a fellowship corporately to enable them to reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and to become mature, attaining to the full measure of the fullness of the Messiah our Lord Jesus (Ephesians 4:11-13).
The Thessalonian Body of the Messiah had a vibrant testimony even in the midst of severe persecution and opposition that was an example and encouragement to other assemblies. Their faith was an example to other fellowships especially those being persecuted for their loyalty to the Lord Jesus. As it is written; “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). This was true of the Thessalonian assembly. When we suffer persecution or adversity as a believer yet keep out trust in God and continue to confess His faithfulness and His promises, our confidence will be an encouragement to others who are afflicted. God Himself actually experiences our afflictions (Isaiah 63:9).
The testimony and victorious lifestyle of the Thessalonian assembly did not need the commendation of Paul and his fellow workers. It was obvious to others that God had done a great spiritual work in their hearts and lives that radically spread to other assemblies within the boundaries of the Roman Empire. What was it that the New Covenant Body of Messiah at Thessalonica accomplished that evoked a response from their fellow assemblies?
(Vs.9-10) “For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, 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.”
When the gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit idolatry is dealt a death blow. Occult practices associated with idolatry are abandoned and images destroyed and that usually by fire. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul the sick were healed and the demon possessed delivered. The name and the fear of the LORD fell upon many at Ephesus and that city full of the occult saw many actually destroying their idols. As we red; “Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the LORD was growing mightily and prevailing” (Acts 19:18-20).
In all of the cities in the Roman provinces the occult was rife as all idolatry is the worship of demons (Deuteronomy 32:16-17) (Psalm 106:36-37) (1 Corinthians 10:20). When a renunciation of idols happens by the unsaved after they get saved and turn from the idols in their lives whatever those idols may be Satan’s kingdom is ransacked and this is why he opposes the preaching of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Word of God always grows and prevails when people get saved and destroys the idols in their lives.
The testimony and spiritual transformation of the Thessalonian assembly resulted from their turning from serving idols to serving the true and living God and with an ardent desire and longing for the return of the resurrected Lord Jesus who would rescue them from the coming wrath. It is clear and will become even clearer as we move on in this first letter and into the second letter that Eschatology was a high priority in Paul’s preaching and teaching!