THE BOOK OF 1 THESSALONIANS
Thankful and Sober 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 SCC 4/13/13
Think about someone who has believed? Now think of someone who has overtly rejected Christ?
The Thessalonians opportunity to hear the gospel was very limited. It occurred in a few weeks. For three Sabbaths Paul came in Acts 17 to Thessalonica and reasoned out of the Scripture and then stayed on preaching perhaps for a few more weeks at best. They had very limited opportunity to hear the truth and they believed. This contrast is in the mind of Paul in our text. In fact, he is somewhat struck by it as he compares the Thessalonians who believed with very limited opportunity in a short space of time and the Jews who rejected with unlimited opportunity in a very great space of time.
REJOICE AND THANK GOD WHENEVER ANYONE BELIEVES AND FOLLOWS CHRIST
"And for this reason we also constantly thank God." For what reason?
1. For their reception of the Word. “When you received from us the Word of God’s message.”
They were God's mouthpieces to speak God's Word. The message came from God. So the message, which the apostles preached, came from God. It was God's word.
(a) "You accepted it.” They heard God's Word with their ear and they accepted it with their hearts. Here was the inward welcome.
(b) "Not as the word of men." It was not just another human message, philosopher, teacher, religious leader, speaker, orator, not more rhetoric, not human wisdom, human opinion, carnal viewpoint; you heard it, as it was, not the word of man, but the Word of God.
2. For their honor of the saints. "For you, brethren, became imitators."
They imitated Paul, Timothy and Silas, they imitated the Lord, and here he says they even imitated the saints in Judea. You really honor someone when you pattern your life after him or her. They honored the saints by patterning their lives after them. They were mimicking the believers in Judea as they had mimicked Paul, Timothy and Silas and attempted even to mimic the Lord.
3. For their perseverance in suffering. “For you also endured the same sufferings.”
The Judean churches had had it very difficult. The original church in Jerusalem was persecuted. With the stoning of Stephen these churches were scattered. They were then persecuted and the leader of the persecution against those Judean churches was Saul, the Apostle Paul. So the Judean churches had been through a lot of persecution, hostility and had set a pattern, which now the Thessalonians were following.
In Acts 17:4, "Some were persuaded and believed.” In v 5 the Jews went into the marketplace and got some hired goons, some riff-raff. They hired them. They formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. So it was Jews and hired Gentiles that went out after the church. They went to the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the people because the church was meeting there. They didn't find them, began dragging Jason and other brethren before the authorities, "These men who have upset the world have come here also and Jason has welcomed them and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar saying there's another king, Jesus." The Jews were trying to get the Roman government to see Christians as political insurrectionists and punish them. But it was the Jews there who incited the Gentiles, got some people to stir up a mob to come against the church. But this little church had endured all of that. They had endured the persecution. And Paul saw it as an evidence of their real Christianity. They had counted the cost.
IT’S SAD AND SOBERING WHEN SOMEONE REJECTS CHRIST LOST AND DAMNED
For the Jews at the time of Paul and Jesus, and even today, for the most part, are a people to be sad for because they had the greatest spiritual privilege and opportunity and they are lost without their Messiah and damned to hell. The Jews had started the fires of persecution with the killing of Jesus. They had then continued the fires of persecution everywhere Paul went, rejecting Christ, rejecting the churches, spreading the fact that Christianity was not true. How did they receive the Word?
If we take a quick comparison and contrast we can see:
1. While the Thessalonians received the Word, the Jews violently, vehemently and vociferously rejected the Word so that they murdered the preachers, including the Son of God.
2. While the Thessalonians honored the saints, the Jews hindered the saints. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved.
3. While the Thessalonians endured suffering with perseverance, the Jews were “filling up the measure of their sins and wrath has come upon them to the utmost.” They will perish in suffering eternally. A people to be glad for contrasted with a people to be sad for.
1. Their rejection of the Word. The Thessalonians received the Word and the Jews rejected the Word.
(a) "Who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out" v 15. They killed Jesus, killed the prophets, drove the Apostles out not because they didn't like their personalities, but because they rejected their message. They would not receive the Word no matter who brought it. Paul says, showing their rejection of the Word, "Who both killed the Lord Jesus..." If anyone asks who killed the Lord Jesus, it's very clear, the Jews mentioned in verse 14 killed the Lord Jesus. The Romans executed Jesus but it was a Jewish plan and a Jewish plot. "We have no king but Caesar," they said in John 19, "crucify Him." They wanted him dead. Hebrews chapter 11:35-38 says they sawed the prophets in half. Apparently Isaiah was one who was sawn in half during the reign of Manasseh. They literally cut him in half. His fellow Jews stoned Jeremiah to death. Why? Because they rejected the Word.
(b) "And drove us out" v 15. This conveys the idea of a hunting something down, like an animal, you're hunting for the kill. They hunt us down with the intention to persecute and he's not just talking about the incident at Thessalonica, though they did that there, but also everywhere. Paul and his team hunted down.
2. Their hindrance to the saints. The Thessalonians had honored the saints and they hindered the saints.
(a) "They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men”. This is precisely what they claim, we are pleasing to God contrasts with Paul who says, and they are not pleasing to God. He simply turns the words around against them. But they were more than just not pleasing they were hostile to all men.
(b) “Hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved." Their hostility toward all shows up because they tried to keep everybody in their sins by not letting the gospel be preached to them, although they didn't realize that was the implication. They're hostile to all men, not that they hated all men, but that they prevent us from giving them the gospel by interfering with its proclamation.
3. Their punishment in terms of suffering. The Thessalonians had persevered suffering but the Jews suffering cannot be persevered; it is a fatal, deadly punishment.
(a) "With the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins”. The result of their hostility, the purpose of their hostility is that they are filling up the measure of their sins. Literally it says they always heap up their sins to the limit. The kind of sin they're committing here is the kind of sin that is associated with an eternal damnation. It's reminiscent of John 3:36. Jesus says, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but he who doesn't obey the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abides on him.” It's already there waiting until the moment of release.
(b) “But wrath has come upon them to the utmost." All the prerequisites for future eternal damnation have been met. The cup is full. You have come to the limit of your sin, murdering the Messiah, murdering His preachers. There will come a temporal judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem. There will come an eternal judgment to you as individuals in the destruction, the unending destruction of hell. He will damn them to the limit, to the fullest expression of judgment. And he's saying the judgment is now irreversible, the cup is full, and the judgment cannot be avoided.
1. We need to be thankful for those who believe and receive the Word and honor the saints by imitating their lives and those who persevere in trials, showing their hope and faith that perseveres to eternal glory.
2. We need to be sad and sober for those who reject the Word, those who hinder the preaching of the gospel, those whose only ultimate suffering will be that of hell. We have to have a heart of compassion.