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Happy Lord’s Day it is good to be face to face before the Lord together in worship this morning.
The tale is quite thrilling. In Acts 17 Paul, Timothy, Silvanus – also known as Silas – and the rest of their missionary team travel to the great port city of Thessalonica. They enter the synagogue where Paul preaches and proves that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead, saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” The gospel bears good fruit. A church is born. Jews, Greeks, and prominent women in the city believe.
But evil is not so easily defeated. Thessalonica was a city full of false-gods and false worship. Jews filled with jealousy together with wicked men formed a mob, put the city in an uproar, and began persecuting the new-born church with the house of a brother named Jason. He was brought before the authorities and accused of being in league with “These men who have turned the world upside down.” The message that Jesus is king seemed a threat to Caesar. The authorities demanded bond from Jason and the rest who then – together with the other brothers and sisters of the church – immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. The team of missionaries would want to return to Thessalonica but Satan would hinder them.
These were days of no internet, no phones, no newspapers; glorious days when word traveled slowly. Paul and company were in the dark about what had become of the Thessalonian church. Unable to bear not knowing how the church had fared in their absence, it was decided to send Timothy back to the city. And Timothy brought good news of a courageous church back to Paul and the others. Persecution was unable to severe the root of the gospel in Thessalonica. The church was growing. The Thessalonian church was a church to be thankful for. And so that is where Paul starts his letter, with thanksgiving. And that brings us to our main idea for the sermon this morning…
Main idea: First Baptist Church of Waynesboro is a church to be thankful for. We can give thanks for FBC because of how the word comes to us, is received by us, and rings out from us.
Conversion results in Christian virtue (v1-3)
God’s word comes to his people with power, the Holy Spirit, and full conviction (v4-5)
God’s word transforms those who receive it (v6)
God’s word rings out from those who receive it (v7-10)
If you are able, would you stand with me in honor of reading God’s word.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 | Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
This is the word of the Lord…. May he carve it’s eternal truth on our hearts. Let’s pray.
Paul opens the letter with a greeting. These greetings can be easy to gloss over or become bored with. But this one is arresting. A greeting can tell the reader where they stand. “To whom it may concern” is much less gripping than, “To the love of my life.” The latter has our attention. And Paul gets the attention of the Thessalonians here by reminding them of where they stand. They are in Thessalonica and they are also in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. They have received grace and peace from God. Having reminded the Thessalonians that they are in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul, Silas, and Timothy begin the letter by telling the church how thankful they are for them. Look at verse 2.
1 Thessalonians 1.2-3 | 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The missionary group is thrilled with the Thessalonian church. Paul, Silas, And Timothy are so excited about what God is doing and they can’t stop giving thanks to God for the fruit growing up in Thessalonica. They give thanks for the triad of Christian virtue evident in the Thessalonians: Faith, love, and hope.
You’ll notice the usual order – faith, hope, and love – is mixed up. This seems to be deliberate in order to set the stage for the rest of the letter. Paul will give thanks to God for the Thessalonians faith, urge them to love God by living to please him, and encourage them with the hope of the resurrection.
The Thessalonians have a faith that has produced good works, love that has given rise to love for others, and a hope in the resurrection to come that has enabled them to endure persecution. They are new converts and they are real converts. The Thessalonians have recognizable and real Christian character. Faith, love, and hope are not invisible qualities. They express themselves visibly in the lives of those who possess them.
Christian, are faith, love, and hope visible in your life?
Paul, Silas, and Timothy encourage the Thessalonians by giving thanks to God for the virtues in the Thessalonians. This is a good thing for us to pick up on as it relates both to our prayers and in how we encourage one another. We want to always give thanks to God for the evidences of grace we see in others. And it is an excellent way to encourage one another. It is with great joy we can give thanks to God that faith, love, and hope are visible in this church. First Baptist church is a church to be thankful for. We ought to be encouraged by what God is doing through FBC.
TR – And it is important to recognize it is God who is behind the faith, love, and hope here. God is behind all the good at First Baptist just as he was behind all the good in the Thessalonian church… That’s where Paul takes us next, the ground for his thanksgiving. He can give thanks because these things are present because of what he knows…
1 Thessalonians 1.4 | 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you…
This is a tremendous encouragement to the Thessalonians and to every Christian. If you repent and believe in Christ, it isn’t because you are smarter than anyone else, it isn’t because you performed some great work, it’s not because you are superior to anyone in anyway, it is simply because God loved you and chose to make you his own. God brought you from death to life; He gave you eyes to see Christ; he gave you ears to hear and believe the word of Christ. Paul wants the truth of God’s sovereignty in salvation in the bones of the Thessalonians and us. He surely has in mind the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 7...
Deuteronomy 7.6-8 | you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you
The Lord loves his people because he chooses to love his people. Salvation is of the Lord. God loves and chooses his people. They are his treasured possession. Paul wants this to be a pillow of assurance for the church. He wants to put God’s will and work front and center. He does the same thing in Ephesians.
Ephesians 1.3-5 | Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will
Paul is saying to the Thessalonians and us: “You are loved and chosen by God.” Think about it, Brothers & Sisters, before there was time God thought of you, loved you, chose you, and decided he would adopt you into his family. And he did so not because there was anything worthy of love in you but only because of his own goodness. This is truly unconditional love. Only electing love is unconditional love. God chooses to love his people because he loves them.
Take that in, Church. God loves you because he loves you. It’s incredible. You and I love God as 1 John says because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). God loves you and choose you and you cannot lose his love. You didn’t earn it and you can’t lose it. He loves you. You’re his. He has adopted you into his family and he will never cast you out.
Non-Christian, Paul knows they are God’s elect because he sees fruit in them, v9-10. You can know the redeeming love of God if you turn from your sin and trust Christ. The saving love of God is for all who turn from idols to the living God. Believe and live. Believe and be delivered from the wrath your sins have earned, be delivered from the wrath to come. Jesus took the wrath of God on the cross so that all who take refuge in him can live and share in a resurrection like his.
TR – Paul gives thanks for the Thessalonians faith, love, and hope because he knows they are loved and chosen by God. And he knows they are loved and chosen by God because of the how the gospel came to the Thessalonians, how the word was received by the Thessalonians, and how the word rang out from the Thessalonians. He knows they are chosen because he sees the fruit of repentence. Look at how the word came to the Thessalonians…
1 Thessalonians 1.5 | 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.
Paul is now going to spend the rest of chapter 1 giving us evidence for his confidence in the election of the Thessalonians. Verse 5 is Exhibit A: The word came to them with power, in The Holy Spirit, and with full conviction or assurance.
Notice quickly, the trinitarian shape of the gospel and of these verses. You’ve got God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Holy trinity is at work in salvation. God the Father loves and chooses his people. He sends God the Son to take on flesh and die as a substitute for all who will repent of sin and trust in him. And the Holy Spirit applies redemption to us and indwells us. The good news of the gospel is that God who in himself is eternally the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, has become for us the adoptive Father, the incarnate Son, and the outpoured Holy Spirit. The good news of the gospel came by the lips of Paul, Silas, and Timothy and with power and the Holy Spirit and full conviction. The word was preached faithfully.
Notice the gospel must come in words. One of the proverbs that has done the most damage to modern evangelism is: “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” It is one of those statements that sounds profound at first but upon further review is nonsensical. It’s like saying, “we draw circles not lines” or, “Breath at all times, if necessary use oxygen.” If the message of the gospel is to come in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction, it must be proclaimed with words.
No one has ever been converted to Christianity without hearing the gospel. Imagine a scenario with me. Bob is a Christian he works a regular office job, 9-5 and he resolves to preach the gospel with his life, but never with words. He really is a good person living a good life. You know what never happens? Bob’s co-worker Jim will never come up to him and say, “Bob I noticed that you always show up on time, that you don’t waste time at the water cooler, and that generally you’re a good person. So I want to repent of my sinful rebellion against God and submit my life to The Lord Jesus Christ. Can you help me find a church for me to join and be baptized by?” That doesn’t happen. Words are necessary to communicate the gospel message. Brothers and sisters, we are called to live godly lives and if we wish to see the gospel bring dead people to life we must share it with words. Romans 10:17 – faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Like Paul, Silas, and Timothy we want to be a people who preach the word of Christ because we know it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. We want to be a church where the gospel is preached faithfully. You want to pray for your pastor? So many of you have already told me that you are and I deeply appreciate it and deeply need it. There are few things better you can say to a minister than “Pastor, I am praying for you.” Pray that the preaching from this pulpit would come with great power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction.
TR – Paul knows the Thessalonians are chosen and loved by God because of how the word came to them and because of how they received the word. Look at the second half of verse 5…
1 Thessalonians 1:5b-6 | You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
Verse 6 is Exhibit B: The Thessalonians received the word joyfully in affliction. Paul knows the Thessalonians are loved and chosen by God because their faith has been costly. Remember persecution is what caused Paul, Silas, and Timothy to leave so quickly. The church that they left behind is enduring that. They believe even though it is costing them. They receive the word happily even though it brings them trouble.
It reminds me of a story another pastor shared with me of a man in Africa who had heard the gospel a number of times before finally deciding to respond. He tracked down the pastor who had most recently proclaimed Christ to him and quietly shared that he wanted to become a Christian. The pastor excitedly shared with the man about baptism and the cost of following Christ. All the while, the man faced the ground and drew circles with his feet in dirt. Finally, the pastor said, “Brother, it’s apparent to me that you have heard the gospel before and wanted to respond before, why then has it taken you so long to believe?” The man responded, “My father has told me that he will beat me if I become a Christian…Tonight I shall bleed.”
The Thessalonians were persecuted for their faith. They were likely persecuted physically and definitely persecuted socially. Too often we conceive of persecution only as physical, but it is often social. Jesus tells us to expect and rejoice over in the sermon on the mount.
Matthew 5:11-12 | Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The Thessalonians have received the word in affliction with joy that is from the Holy Spirit. There joy in affliction testifies to the saving power of the gospel. Joy in affliction magnifies Christ. Are you unshakably joyful when slandered for your Christianity?
You younger folks – I typically like to think of myself in this category, but right now I’m thinking of you high schoolers, college students, and young professionals. You, young-folks, how do you respond when you are slandered by your peers as a bigot for holding fast to a Biblical sexual ethic? How do you respond when others call you a prude because of your commitment to modest dress and virginity until marriage? Is it with joy?
Because Christianity has fallen out of favor in our culture, you must resolve now to stand happy and firm against the world. You must resolve now to rejoice and be glad when others utter evil against you because of your commitment to Jesus. Hold fast to the word, receive it, and keep receiving it with joy in the midst of affliction. Church, we all prove ourselves loved and chosen by God when the fruit of our faith does not rot beneath the frigid cold of persecution.
TR – Paul, Silas, and Timothy know the Thessalonians are loved and chosen because they receive the word of God in much affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit – actions modeled after themselves and Jesus. Do you see that at the beginning of verse 6?
1 Thessalonians 5b-6a | You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
The Thessalonians imitate the lives of their leaders and of their Lord. This theme of imitation is found throughout the Bible. The Thessalonians knew how to be joyful in affliction because they could follow the example of Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Christ himself. Verse 6 helps us to remember the importance of good examples and good leaders.
As a Pastor my hope is that I can, in good conscience, say with Paul, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).” Pastors are called to set the pace for the church, to set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity (1 Timothy 4:12). Hebrews 13 commands the church 7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Brother-pastors are you living lives worth imitating?
The importance of setting an example isn’t just for pastors. It’s for every Christian. Deacons, are you setting an example in service to the church, care for others, and in your support of the elders? Are you living lives worthy of imitation? Godliness grows when there are good examples in the church and in the home.
Fathers, you are the shepherds of your family. How are you leading them? Are you praying with your family? Leading family devotions? Fathers, the health of our church depends so much on you faithfully discipling your families. Many of you are doing this and I want to encourage you. Others of you need some help. Ask other brothers what they do. Talk to Lucas. Send me an e-mail and I’ll be happy to give you some resources. Family worship doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start small. Take one night a week and 10 minutes. Sing a song together – it can be the doxology – read a passage out of the book of Matthew and talk about it. Pray. It will change your family and it will change our church all for the good. Fathers, you are the head of your household, set an example worth imitating.
Mothers, are you teaching your children the gospel? Are you discipling your children? Read the Bible with them. Pray with them. Prioritize spiritual disciplines. I know this can be hard. You all work so hard in the care of your children and home. There are never ending tasks before you all the time. Many of you run point on household tasks – laundry, meals, and all the rest. Don’t let all the tasks and all these important things squeeze Jesus of of the place of priority. Make time to read your bible, pray, and speak of Christ with your family.
Children, are you setting an example for your siblings and friends? When you obey your parents all the way, right away, and with a happy heart you honor the Lord Jesus, you honor your mother and father, and you set an example for others. Look for ways to serve your family in obedience to Christ.
Church, all of us must set an example and all of us need examples to follow and imitate. When we need help knowing how to better follow Christ we can look to one another and Christ for help. It’s a good thing to be both an example and an imitator.
TR – That’s what the Thessalonian church is. They received the word, imitated Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Jesus, and became examples themselves. Look at verse 7…
1 Thessalonians 1:7-10 | 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
Verses 7-10 is Exhibit C in Paul’s argument for how he knows the Thessalonians are loved and chosen by God. Exhibit C: The word of God Rings out/sounds forth from the Church. The transformation of the Thessalonians in conversion is notorious. Paul, Silas, and Timothy need not spread the word about the Thessalonian church because their story has gone before them and the gospel has gone out from them. The word of the Lord sounded forth, rang out, from this Church everywhere.
The word translated “sounds forth” or “Rang out” is fun. The idea is of a loud reverberating echo. In other literature of the era it could be used to describe a clap of thunder or a rumor that runs everywhere. The church has proclaimed the gospel that has saved them to others. The genuineness of their conversion has become well known. The Thessalonians are known for their commitment to Christ in faith, for turning from idols because of their love for Christ, and for waiting for Christ to return.
What is First Baptist Church known for? Churches are known for a lot of things type of music, age of congregation, facilities, size of congregation, their kids programs, their coffee bar.
What is First Baptist Church known for? What do we want FBC to be known for? I hope it is that we are Christ-exalting word centered Church. I hope we are the kind of Church that sounds forth with the word of God such that when someone asks, What does a Christian look like? Someone else could answer: “If you want to know what a Christian looks like go to FBC. The word rings out from them. They are a people who have turned from sin and idols to the living God. They are a people who hope not in this world, but in the return of Christ.
Does the word ring out from us? I always say people are natural evangelists for what they love. You love music you talk about music. You love football you talk about football. I know ya’ll love pineland bakery and wagon barn cause ya’ll talk about them. Friends, we should be a people who speak much of Christ, who ring out with the word of Christ. And I am thankful we are.
We came to 1 Thessalonians as the first book of the Bible to walk through together not because it’s the most arresting book of the Bible, but because it reminds us we can be thankful for our church and it reminds us about what is most important – faith, love, and hope in Christ. It teaches us what we must be committed to together. I am thankful and pray that we will continue to Preach Christ, receive Christ, share Christ so that in everything Christ might be preeminent. These are the main things we must do: Preach Christ, Receive Christ, Ring out with Christ, so that in everything Christ might be Supreme.
And I am thankful that these main things are happening here. First Baptist Church of Waynesboro is a church to be thankful for. We can give thanks for FBC because of how the word comes to us, is received by us, and rings out from us.