The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Church in Thessalonica, along with his friends Silvanus and his student Timothy. “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.” 1 Thessalonians 1:1. Notice here that Paul does not use the title apostle, which shows his care for the people by not denoting a position they probably would not understand. He then continues by thanking God for them. “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 labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3. When Paul thought of the Christians there, he was filled with gratitude. Paul started the church there under non-ideal circumstances, being run out of town after only three weekends with them. We read in Acts, “And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the marketplace, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, these men who have upset the world have come here also.” Acts 17:4-6.
Yet the church was strong and full of life. Paul knew that this work was beyond him and his abilities and it was the work of God. “knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5. Going back to verse three, we read again “constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,” Paul constantly thought of the good work they were doing and commended them for it. And then he adds, ”knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you.” Paul is not saying God chose them for salvation, but for the work He was calling them to. The phrase beloved by God was a phrase which the Jews applied only to supremely great men like Moses and Solomon, and to the nation of Israel itself. Now the greatest privilege of the greatest men of God’s chosen people has been extended to the humblest of the Gentiles. God chose them because He loved them and they gave themselves to Him. This phrase ‘chosen people’ once only referred to the people of Israel, but now it refers to those who gave themselves to Christ. And through Paul, and now also the Church in Thessalonica, they professed the gospel not just in written or spoken words by conviction and in power via the Holy Spirit working through them.
And finally in verse six, “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.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7. Essentially, Paul was saying that as I suffered and endured trials in my work of spreading the truth of the gospel, you were doing the same. They were living Godly lives in the midst of tribulation in joy through the of the Holy Spirit in them.
And as time moves forward, we will find life becoming much more difficult as our belief in the true God who sent Christ to die for us, become less desired and at some totally rejected and banned. We see our culture moving in this direction quickly. We must remember that God will not leave us, but will always be with us, guiding us in reaching out to the lost. We all will no-doubt suffer in some way for the cause of Christ. We must be, as Paul said referring to the Church of Thessalonica, constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.” It may not always be easy, but it will always be worth it.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.
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