"Faith, Hope and Love"
We pick up Paul on his Second Missionary Journey. We saw how the Holy Spirit commanded him and his party to go to Macedonia and do the lord's work there. We saw and heard from Pastor Don about the founding of the first European churches.
Leaves Thessalonica for Athens and discusses/debates with the Athenians. Leaves Athens for Corinth. This is where we were last week, and are today.
1 Thessalonians was probably written from Corinth during the 18 months Paul spent there. (clues from Acts 18:1,5 and the T letter.)
Written probably between 51-52 AD.
I really love this letter. Paul usually writes to correct some issue in the church. If you read his letter to the Galatian church, you see that they have gotten it all wrong, and Paul is firm with them, in order to put them on the right track. Later Paul will write a letter to the church in Corinth where he is now. That too will be a letter correcting some problems in the church.
This letter to the Thessalonian church, and especially the reading today, is full of love and caring. Although he has to educate them about some matters, the tone of the letter is much more joyous.
I believe that this is why...
When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah," he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.
But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd... As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea.
Acts 17:1-5, 10a
Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures
Paul and Silas were in Thessalonica for three weeks!
Naturally Paul was worried what kind of faith, what level of knowledge could be transmitted in three weeks!
Alaska - 3 weeks...
Alpha - 10 weeks...
We learn from this that their faith and firmness is testament to God's solid work in conversion. God's got this and no one can thwart Him. When He's got you, He's got you.
Jesus says, *I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28
These are words we can hang on to!
Paul's letter today opens by noting God's love for the Thessalonians*
For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God,
He points out God's choice, God's call on their lives*
that he has chosen you,
Paul describes signs of the working out of God's plan of salvation among them. *
The Gospel caine to them*
Not simply with words*
With the Holy Spirit*
These are signs that they were chosen by God. (Explain)
They came with words, but also with God's power to convert, and to convict. Convict of sin (individual sins) and our sinfulness. Done with the Holy Spirit, who is the agent of change in our lives, and who often comes with visible signs.
Paul notes responses to the Gospel by the Thessalonian believers. These are signs of the working out of the Gospel among them.
Paul remembers their: *
Work produced by faith*
Labor prompted by love*
Endurance inspired by hope in Christ. *
As a result, they imitated Paul and his companions. *
They imitated the Lord! *
They welcomed the message Paul had for them*
In spite of severe suffering. *
They did so with joy. *
Given by the Holy Spirit. *
They became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
As Jesus traveled, He did good works, miraculous works, which served as signs that He was and is God. Only God does the things that Jesus does.
As we see the Holy Spirit's work in people's lives, we see evidence of God's action in the believer's life. People change. It's evident.
We've talked a lot about bringing the Good News to others as we've followed Paul's footsteps.
Pastor Don initiated this two weeks ago as he discussed the truth of Jesus' death and resurrection. He answered the question "How Do You Know?" by pointing to the truth, the overwhelming evidence of Gospel truth. Of lives changed then and now.
Last week we learned to not be afraid, to "Speak Out", because God is involved in our efforts to spread the Good News.
I remember a pastor I had in Texas used to speak of "divine appointments", that is where God has a meeting for you and someone else in order to do God's work. Pastor Al used to encourage us to pray for these divine appointments and for the readiness to carry out God's work.
Over the past couple weeks, Pastor Don encouraged us to believe and tell the Good News. It's God's work and He will equip us to do that work. As we tell, God's work becomes evident.
In the church at Thessalonica, Paul saw evidence of God's action in the believers. He saw faith in their works. Although we don't know specifically what those works were, they shown clearly to Paul.
He saw the love they had, which was evident in their labor. This could only be the work that they did for one another and for the people around them. God's love shows no more powerfully as when self-centered materialistic people (like we were) become loving, giving, caring people. I'm sure that's what Paul saw.
Paul saw God's action in the hope that the believers had, that hope which is marked by endurance. Patience and perseverance are also similar words to describe how we are when God works in us.
Dr. Thomas Croskery notes in his analysis of this scripture:
(1) The three graces are fundamental... by a sort of moral analysis, it can be shown that faith, hope, and love lie at the foundation, or enter into the composition, of all other Christian graces whatever. (By three graces, he is talking about Faith, Love and Hope...)
(2) They are three inseparable graces. Faith always works by love, and love is inseparable from hope, for* "hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost" (Romans 5:5). Faith is the
necessary root, as hope and love are its unfailing fruits. As faith works by love, it is also the substance of things hoped for.
(3) They are at once the defense and the adornment of Christian life. * "Let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
(4) They are the abiding principles of Christian life: * "Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three" (1 Corinthians 13:13). They do not die with death; for in eternity the Church will 'be made perfect in love, as it will ever continue to trust in the Lord, and hope for new developments of truth and new disclosures of blessedness. (The Pulpit Commentary - Homiletics - 1 Thessalonians, General Editors: H. D. M. Spence, Joseph S. Exell, Funk & Wagnalls, 1909 - 1919)
The good doctor points to the practicality of these "graces" in everyday life.
Bottom line: God is designing and building a character in each of us. He constructs faith, love and hope and their offspring: good works and labor done for others, a focus on other people and their needs, patience, perseverance and endurance in our own lives as hallmarks of that character.
In a short three weeks, marked by turmoil and God's power, Paul planted the seeds of Godly character in the Thessalonian church.
What can God do here?