1: 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.
- The very first thing we see is that Paul is not alone in his writing to the church at Thessalonica. Silvanus (also known as Silas) and Timothy were in Corinth with Paul, from where this letter was written. It is to the church of the Thessalonians. Paul, as usual, is addressing his letter to the believers in a specific locale. Paul, you must understand, likely had no concept that his letter to this Thessalonian gathering would be being read nearly 2000 years later in a then-unknown part of the world. I’m not sure (from what Paul says in chapter 4) that Paul thought there would even be a church 2000 years after the date he was writing.
- Paul also by his use of phrase, says that the church at Thessalonica was in God the Father AND the Lord Jesus Christ. The two are mentioned with the same reverence and same standing. Missing – the Holy Spirit, the third part of the trinity – probably because He was helping Paul dictate the letter!
- Paul’s typical greeting is grace [charis, kindness] and peace [eirene, peace, with that quality of being undisturbed]. Paul is literally wishing the kindness and undisturbed peace of God to his readers.
2: We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;
- Paul et al. always did this – they gave thanks for “all of you.” The “all of you” that they were referring to was in fact all the real Christians, the believers in Thessalonica. In fact, Paul went so far as to pray for them all, probably by name, like we do today.
3: 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,
- The word “constantly” [adialeiptos, incessantly, continually, without ceasing] does not appear in the actual Greek text. I don’t think it really changes the meaning of the verse or the text, but one has to be awake and a careful reader of Scripture. It is actually verse 2 that gives the constantly aspect of this – Paul says they ALWAYS pray and also do the things in verse 3. The NASB translators put it in for clarity. Usually they would italicize it, but I think maybe that is an error on their part, not on the part of the text.
- Bearing in mind [μνημονεύοντες mnemoneuontes, to remember; verb is active and present tense, and is nominative, masculine, and plural]. All of this, in English, simply says bearing in mind in a continual way.
- What are they bearing in mind? The work [ergon, from the verb “to do,” the doings] of faith [pistis, firm opinion or persuasion held] and labour [kopos, labourious toil] of love [agape, divine, self-giving, self-sacrificing love] and steadfastness [margin, perseverance] of hope [elpis, expectation]
- OF [literal, from margin] our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of saying our faith, love, and hope are IN Jesus (not wrong), it is a more literal thing to say that our faith, love, and hope are the faith, love, and hope OF our Lord Jesus Christ. The concept Paul is referring to here is one he has referred to in our studies so far in Colossians, Philippians, Ephesians, and Galatians. The concept is best stated in Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live – yet not I, but Christ lives in me – and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Hudson Taylor, the father of modern missions, called it the “exchanged life,” in his biography, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. It is the exchange we make when we put off our old nature of the flesh and put on the new nature in Christ. We are literally letting Christ live in and through us, as opposed to doing it on our own in the strength of our own resources.
- In the presence of our God and Father. Think of how incredible and awesome it is to be able to say that he is OUR God and OUR Father in heaven. What privilege!
4: knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;
- Knowing [oida, to have seen or perceived, hence to know; to know experientially], brethren [adelphos, same womb, can and does include females; it is a compound word, made up of a copulative pronoun (meaning same, instead of negative) a and the word delphos meaning womb] beloved [agapeo, loved but implying direction or posession] of God, His [God’s] choice [ekloge, divine selection; the same word is translated as election in some translations] of you.
- Paul is saying here that because you are Paul’s siblings in Christ (if I can use that and not sound irreverent), he knows experientially, he has perceived or seen this, that you are chosen by God, or “elected” if you prefer a more Calvinist term. I do need to say something about the choosing – God did that. Not us. We can’t, and we shouldn’t try.
5: 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.
- That divine selection, the Gospel that Paul brought wherever he went, weren’t just fancy words and marketing concepts to get people to buy into an ideal. No, they came in power [dunamis, explosive, miraculous power of God; we get our present-day word “dynamite from this Greek word]
- …and in the Holy Spirit… that is to say, this miraculous power came via the agency and person of the Holy Spirit. That’s actually the job of the Holy Spirit – He speaks about Jesus and draws people to Him. NOT HIMSELF! All of these people that are telling you that you must, for example, be “baptized in the Holy Spirit” don’t understand the Scripture as well as they need to. We are baptized “into” the Holy Spirit when we repent and believe the Gospel, that is, when we are justified. He comes into us and makes our spirit to live (it was dead before), and fills us with Himself. Praying to the Holy Spirit is just as nonsensical, by the way. It’s a good thing He’s still God and translates it to the rest of the Godhead for us [chuckle].
- …with full conviction [plerophoria, entire confidence, full assurance]. That is to say, because of the miraculous power and the agency of the Holy Spirit Himself, we can be absolutely convinced of the Gospel. It is this inner conviction of the truth of the Gospel to ourselves that is in itself proof of our salvation to us, by the way. 1 John 5:13 says that we may KNOW that we have eternal life, not just hope, guess, pray, or wonder. And if you’re just hoping, guessing, praying, or wondering, maybe you need to repent and believe the Gospel. For real this time.
- Paul also hold himself and his companions Timothy and Sylvanus (aka Silas) up as examples of this very thing.
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,
- Paul has talked about this before in other letters he has written. He calls for imitators of himself insofar as he is an imitator of Christ. It also happened here, and he is writing about it after the fact.
- Having received the word in much tribulation…well, there’s another thing we have seen before. Trouble always seems to accompany the Gospel. Don’t think so? Try preaching it sometime.
- …with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Well, that’s the counter for the enemy’s attempts at crushing your soul as you try to share Christ with a dying world. Sure, bad stuff happens, but the Holy Spirit is living inside of us, reminding us that Christ has redeemed us for all time, and filling us with his joy at the prospect.
7: so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
- This is the way it works. You believe, you follow godly examples. And then you become that godly example for others. You know, the Lord designed the church to be self-replicating. This is self-replication at its best.
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.
- Here’s an interesting question for you. If being a Christian was a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Or would you need character witnesses? Paul and friends didn’t have any need to do that for the Thessalonians. They were sharing Christ, and not just in Macedonia and Achaia, but everywhere they went. Paul and company never had to say anything in that area, because the Thessalonians were faithfully communicating it.
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,
- Paul and friends didn’t have to say anything about the kind of entrance [margin] they had to the Thessalonians [margin] and how they turned from “the” idols to serve “THE” living and true God. Can this be said about you?
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.
- Not only did they turn from idols and turn toward the true and living God, but they awaited His Son [huios, mature offspring] from the heavens, whom it says here, He raised from the dead – Jesus, in case you needed more of a hint there – who rescues [present tense!] or delivers us from the wrath to come.
- Here is a bit of that purpose that Paul has – to talk about the coming wrath of God. That wrath, Scripture tells us, is what all unbelievers are under if they do not turn to Christ by repentance and faith in Him. The really cool bit in this passage to me is that he rescues us from that wrath. We are being rescued right now, and we are rescued for all time when we repent and believe.
And that’s the chapter! I know it’s short, but it’s full of really great stuff. Next time, chapter two – same time, same station.