A STUDY OF 1 THESSALONIANS
Becoming a Sound Example
1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 SCC 3/16/14
1:6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 1:7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
Here is a description of the discipleship process.
1. The Thessalonians became imitators of the missionaries and, or ďthat isĒ the Lord. They were imitators in the sense that they received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
2. Paul was also grateful that his readers had demonstrated the fruit of their faith by becoming followers of their teachers and their Lord. They had welcomed the gospel message even though it had meant much suffering for them because of the persecution of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles. Most of the New Testament writers took for granted that tribulation is the normal experience of Christians.
3. Then after imitating the apostles application of the word, they became examples, to all those who believed in both Greek provinces. With tribulation joy had also come to them, the joy of sins forgiven. News of their good example had circulated within their own province of Macedonia but had also reached their neighboring province to the south, Achaia.
1:8 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.
1. This should be the goal of all missions. It is not that the missionaries are no longer needed. Paul and his associates were needed to continue to minister to the Thessalonians, but they were not needed in places where the Thessalonians could go. The Thessalonians had acted as relay runners by passing the gospel they had heard on to farther places. So reproduction of ministry through disciples is the goal of missions.
2. They were so effective at this that Paul felt his ministry of pioneer evangelism was no longer necessary in that area. In other words, the work of first-time evangelism was now up to the ones who lived in the region where Paul had established disciples of Jesus Christ. There are places where the gospel can be declared for the first time but there are also regions in nearly every generation where the gospel needs to be heard again for the first time in that generation.
1:9 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,
1. Verses 9 and 10 are one sentence forming a powerful message. The point: not only did the converts of the Thessalonians accurately report about the work of Paulís group, but they also understood the one-way idea, which separates Christianity from all other religions. They didnít just add Jesus to one of their other deities; they turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God. They turned to God who was both living and true, and away from their other beliefs, which were both dead and false. The message of Christianity is not being proclaimed until it is understood as declaring all other religions beliefs to be false.
2. Other people were telling Paul how effective his readers had become at spreading the gospel since they had heard it from him. They reported how the Thessalonians had turned from idols to serve the only divine and true God. This was the evidence of their faith and love. The language of separation occurs with regularity in the Thessalonians and serves in a negative way to mark the boundary between those who belong to the Christian community and those who do not, thereby encouraging the new Christian identity. PT: Paulís description of God as living does not simply mean that He is alive; it means that He is also active. He is the true God as opposed to false, unreal gods.
1:10 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.
1. The other significant thing here is the emphasis throughout this letter, especially at the end of each chapter Ė future prophesy. Here the Thessalonians are to have a heavenly focus and expect Jesus, the Jesus of Nazareth who died on a cross near Jerusalem and was raised from the dead, to come again and deliver His saints from the wrath of the tribulation period to come just prior to His second coming. This argues strongly for a pre-tribulation rapture of the church since here the first description of the tribulation calls it the wrath of God. When he begins to describe this time of extreme trouble in Revelation 6, John says: the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand? (Revelation 6:17).
2. They were also awaiting the return of Godís Son ďout of the heavensĒ. This is the only place in 1 and 2 Thessalonians where Paul called Jesus Godís Son. Jesusí resurrection is indisputable proof of His deity and the prerequisite to His return. His resurrection makes possible His return!
(a). If this was the only reference to the wrath to come in this epistle, we might conclude that Paul was probably referring to the outpouring of Godís wrath on unbelievers generally. There is no specific reference to a particular judgment here. However, later he spent considerable space writing about the outpouring of Godís wrath in the Tribulation. Therefore it seems that this is the first reference to that outpouring of wrath in the epistle. The biblical revelation about the relationship of church saints to the wrath of God strongly implies a pre-tribulation rapture of the church.
(b). The outpouring of Godís wrath occurs at many times. One of these judgments is the Tribulation that will come upon the whole earth in the future (Rev 6-19). Another is the great white throne judgment at the end of the Millennium (Rev 20:11-15). Preservation from the wrath of God is part of the believerís hope. This chapter, like all the others in this epistle, closes with a reference to Jesus Christís return.
(c). Here believers are pictured as waiting for the return of Christ. The clear implication is that they had a hope of His imminent return. If they had been taught that the great tribulation, in whole or in part, must first run its course, it is difficult to see how they could be described as expectantly awaiting Christís return. Then they should rather have been described as bracing themselves for the great tribulation and the painful events connected with it.
In the meantime Paul revealed his reproductive attitude while we wait when he said three things:
(1) You [Thessalonians] also became imitators of us and of the Lord.
Here we see Paul complimenting them for reproducing what they learned from him about the Lord.
So the objective of our present day ministry is to see Godís Word duplicated in peopleís lives.
(2) You became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
Here we see Paul complimenting them because of the example they gave, which influenced the believers in the larger region.
So the goal of our present day ministry is the impact of Godís Word multiplied through discipleship.
(3) For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you Ö so that we have no need to say anything.
Here we see Paul complimenting them because it was the Word of God, not their own opinions, which they imitated and exemplified. So much so, that Paul didnít have to correct what they said or add anything to it.
So the outcome of our present day ministry is thoroughly taught disciples who are mature enough to accurately teach others the truth they have learned from Gods Word.
Therefore, I should minister to people in such a way that they are encouraged to:
(1) Imitate what I teach them about Christ,
(2) Be examples to those outside of their local context, and
(3) Have a complete message of the whole council of God.
Letís compare some similarities between Paulís discipleship and the discipleship of Jesus.
Both taught the Word of God to faithful men with the objective of those men discipling others.
Both focused on equipping men. They encouraged the discipleship of women by other women, but the foundation of their work was establishing an army of biblically-equipped men.
Both gave their disciples the Word of God, and their own lives, as examples and as friends.
Both gave their disciples challenging responsibilities that stretched them to grow as they taught others.
Both were constantly threatened by enemies, and their enemies became the enemies of their disciples.
Both focused their disciples on Christ.