Archive for January, 2021

1 Thessalonians 2:14-20

In 1 Thessalonians 2:14-20 Paul acknowledges that the Thessalonians had suffered because they received the Word. “For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.” When the Thessalonians responded to the Gospel, they became the targets of persecution. The Thessalonian Christians became imitators of those who had suffered before them because they were convinced that Paul brought them not the word of man, but the Word of God. The word of man isn’t worth suffering for, but a true message from God is worth it, and the Christ Followers there were willing to suffer for it.

This wasn’t something new in Thessalonica. “For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!” Paul wrote that his own countrymen (the Judeans) had killed… the Lord Jesus. But Paul knew well that the Jews of Judea were not the only ones responsible for the murder of Jesus. The Romans had their full share of guilt, so both Jew and Gentile were guilty.

Paul also comforted the Thessalonian Christians with the awareness that they were right, that they are the ones pleasing God. Paul knew that the Thessalonians appreciated the comfort he gave, but they wondered why he didn’t come and bring this comfort in person. “But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.” It wasn’t that Paul did not want to visit the Thessalonians.

Paul assured the Thessalonians that he could never forget them because they were his glory and his joy. His inability to visit should never be taken as a lack of love towards the Thessalonians. “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” Paul said that he didn’t need a crown in heaven because these precious ones were his crown of victory. Those whom we bring to Jesus and disciple are a crown of victory for us. Clarke summarizes “Every man who preaches the Gospel should carefully read this chapter and examine himself by it. Most preachers, on reading it conscientiously, will either give up their place to others, or purpose to do the work of the Lord more fervently for the future.”

1 Thessalonians 2:10-13

In 1 Thessalonians 2:10-13 Paul reminds the Christ Followers in Thessalonica that the behavior of his team has been blameless. They did their ministry with high character and integrity. “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.” He had no issue asking them to look closely at his life and work. Paul didn’t have to say, “Please don’t look at my life. Look to Jesus.” Paul wanted people to look to Jesus, but he could also tell them to look at his life, because the power of Jesus was real in his life. That is how we should also live – that people see Jesus in us.

Paul himself lived justly and blamelessly, but he also told the Thessalonians they should live the same way. He could tell them that they should walk worthy of God because his life and message were consistent. “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” Paul demonstrated in real life how to walk in a way that was worthy of God’s calling. He didn’t have to tell them to do what he said, not follow how he lived. He set the example and was a model for living.

Paul is grateful that the Christ Followers there had received the Gospel as God’s truth. “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” Paul earnestly believed and taught others that God had spoken to man and that we have recorded this word of God. Paul believed in a voice that speaks to mankind with the authority of eternity, and speaks above mere human opinion. Since we do have this word of God, we have a true voice of authority. We need to make clear that God’s Word is not ours, but comes directly from God Himself as is truth, the whole truth, and nothing less.

Guzik wrote “Paul presented it not as the word of men, and the Thessalonians received it as the Word of God. Some people like to say that there is a Word of God, but that we can’t be sure of what He says. When we appeal to the Bible, they like to reply “That’s just your interpretation.” There are certainly some places where the Word of God is hard to precisely interpret, but there are not many such places. If we can not know what God has spoken, then He may as well not have spoken at all. Not everyone receives this message as the Word of God. Yet when they do not receive it, it reflects upon them, not upon the message.” How it is received does not change the reality that it is God’s Word – the truth.

1 Thessalonians 2:6-9

In 1 Thessalonians 2:6-9 Paul continues through his humble and gentle approach to assure the Thessalonians that his mission and motives are pure. “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.” They never sought glory from man and didn’t need any major fanfare or praise. Paul and his team of ministers got their satisfaction from their relationship with Jesus, not the praise of people. Paul was among the Thessalonians to give something to them, not to take something from them. He did not come making demands as an apostle.

Poole explained Paul’s words this way: “We did not seek men’s honour, high esteem, or applause; we sought them not in the inward bent of our thoughts, or the studies of our mind, not in outward course of our ministry and conversation, to form them so as to gain glory from men. Though honour and esteem was their due from men, yet they did not seek it. Honour is to follow men, men not to follow it.” Paul and his group of fellow servants were there to lead and serve the people as they shared the Gospel. They had no ulterior or selfish motives. And they wanted no special treatment from those they were there to serve.

Paul cared about the people in Thessalonica, and describes his love for them this way. “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” He was only attempting to give to the Christ Followers there. Some among the Thessalonians had accused Paul of ministering out of self interest, but Paul simply asks the Christians in Thessalonica to remember the gentle character of his ministry among them. Paul goes on to remind them that they had supported themselves and worked hard amongst the people there to serve them with the truth of the Gospel.

He explains the way the had served: “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” Paul had a special place in his heart for this group of believers. He gave both his care and his knowledge of the Gospel freely to them. But he also reminded them that he didn’t take anything from them to support his work. He started work early and did what was necessary to take care of himself and his team without being a burden. “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” Paul had a reason for not asking for support like he did with many churches, but we don’t know the exact reason.

1 Thessalonians 2:3-5

In 1 Thessalonians 2:3-5 Paul makes it clear that the message they were delivering was God’s truth. Many ministers in competing religions were motivated by greed and gain, but that is not the case for Paul and his team. “For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” Paul was doing his work for an audience of One – God alone. He was not about trying to please man and soften the message so it felt good to those who heard.

Guzik explains “The city of Thessalonica sat on the Egnatian Way, the famous highway that went east to west through Macedonia. Thessalonica was also an important port and a melting pot city with cultures from all over the world. There were a staggering variety of religions and religious professionals in Thessalonica. Most of these religions were missionary minded, and sought to spread their faith using itinerant evangelists and preachers. Most of these missionaries were opportunists, who took everything they could from their listeners, and then moved on to find someone else to support them.”

Paul never used words that were designed to sound noble and draw people with falsehood. “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness.” Morris said this about flattering words: “We can use this English term of remarks which, though insincere, are directed to the pleasure of the person being flattered. The Greek term has rather the idea of using fair words as a means of gaining one’s own ends.” The locals were accustomed to ministers who were focused on their own gain and saying whatever was needed to gain benefit for themselves. Paul refuses anything of that sort.

Calvin further explains “Where greed and ambition hold sway, innumerable corruptions follow, and the whole man turns to vanity. These are the two sources from which stems the corruption of the whole of the ministry.” Because Thessalonica was such a well traveled city, Paul had to communicate clearly that he and his team were there for one reason and one reason only – to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There were no ulterior motives or efforts to gain anything for themselves except God’s pleasure. And that should be our focus as Christ Followers – to live for God in a way that is pleasing to God without regard for what those around us might do. We need to live for an audience of ONE!

1 Thessalonians 2:1-2

In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Paul sets out to prove he is sincere and defends his ministry and character to the Thessalonians. Paul is not insecure in what he’s been called to do, but rather has a lot of enemies that wanted his ministry to fail, and discredited him because he was not there in person and had left last time in a hurry because of the threat to his life. “For you yourselves know, brothers,” that our coming to you was not in vain.” Hiebert explains “This self-revelation is not being made because the Thessalonian believers themselves were suspicious or doubtful about the missionaries. Paul is answering the insidious attacks being made by scandalmongers outside the church because of their hatred for him.”

Barclay lists the following false charges against Paul, evident from the way Paul explained himself in this chapter:

  • “Paul has a police record and is therefore untrustworthy” (1 Thessalonians 2:2, suffered before referring to his imprisonment in Thessalonica).
  • “Paul is delusional” (1 Thessalonians 2:3, error).
  • “Paul’s ministry is based on impure motives” (1 Thessalonians 2:3, uncleanness).
  • “Paul deliberately deceives others” (1 Thessalonians 2:3, in deceit).
  • “Paul preaches to please others, not God” (1 Thessalonians 2:4, not as pleasing men).
  • “Paul is in the ministry as a mercenary, to get what he can out of it materially” (1 Thessalonians 2:5, 2:9, nor a cloak for covetousness).
  • “Paul only wants personal glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:6, nor did we seek glory from men).
  • “Paul is something of a dictator” (1 Thessalonians 2:7 we were gentle among you).

Guzik explained “The word vain here can refer either to the result of the ministry, or the character of the ministry. Because it was evident to everyone that Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica was a success, it is better to see it as a reference to the character of Paul’s ministry. His coming was not empty or hollow, as if he were a mere salesman or marketer.” Paul wants to be very clear that he and his team were ministering on purpose for a purpose and the efforts were intentional and focused on helping the Christians live as true Christ Followers to become disciples that were growing in their faith and becoming more like Jesus.

Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his sufferings in the ministry. Through this, he made the point that he would not carry on in the face of beatings and conflict if he were in it only for himself. “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.” Paul didn’t just speak the gospel when it was easy or convenient. He was bold and shared even in the middle of conflict and resistance or even attack and persecution. Paul preached Christ crucified no matter what was against him.

1 Thessalonians 1:7-10

In 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10 Paul continues his thoughts about making disciples of the Christians at Thessalonica. He had just told them to “become imitators of us” and now goes on to give the why. There is one major responsibility of a disciple – to make more disciples. That is the entire premise of discipleship. A disciple is a learner – someone who follows the teaching of another. In our case as Christ Followers – we are to learn and follow Jesus but that often happens through another believer. Paul makes clear the charge to the church there – “so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”

So a disciple maker lives out what they know and become examples to those in their patch. That’s exactly what God wants from each of us. The Christians in Macedonia and Achaia needed examples, and the Thessalonians supplied that need. This was true even though they had only been followers of Jesus a short time. As Christians, we always need others who will show us how to follow Jesus Christ, beyond the need of hearing about how to follow Him. How we live matters, not just for our own walk with Jesus, but for the impact that walk has on those around us whether we recognize it or not.

This was part of the good example that the Thessalonian Christians provided. “Sounded forth” means “a loud ringing sound, as of a trumpet blast.” The good work the Lord did among the Thessalonians became known all over the region, and everyone talked about the changes. “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.” Since Thessalonica was a city where much trade and travel occurred, they couls make their voices heard easily literally across the region.

Guzik explains “Paul pairs two ideas. The word of the Lord sounded forth, and their faith toward God has gone out. Those two aspects are essential if a church will spread the Gospel. First, they need a message to spread, and that message first needs to impact their own lives. Second, they need the faith to go out, so that their faith toward God goes out to all the world.” The world was wondering what the Christ Followers there were up to as their lives were changed and it was noticed.

The impact was real and major changes were observed. “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, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” How we live matters, not only to ourselves, but in our efforts to serve God and wait for our Savior!

1 Thessalonians 1:4-7

In 1 Thessalonians 1:4-7 Paul reminds us that God loves us and chose us. The two things go together. When we love someone, we naturally choose them. “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 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.” Barclay explained “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.”

Paul makes clear that the gospel is not a matter of mere words. In modern culture there is an overflow of information or entertainment that often only amounts to mere words. Yet the Gospel is more than words, it also has power. The message of Jesus Christ has power. It has power for miracles; power for wonderful signs from God; and best of all, it has the power to change minds, hearts, and lives. Calvin wrote “Some take the word power to mean miracles. I extend the word to apply to the spiritual power of doctrine… It is the living voice of God, inseparable from its effect, as compared with the empty and lifeless eloquence of men.”

The power of the Gospel comes through the Holy Spirit, a living Person, who works within the hearts of those who hear God’s Word and truth to convict, to comfort, and to instruct. When someone merely speaks, it is a matter of word only, but when the Holy Spirit works through the Word, spiritual impact happens and lives are changed. As the Holy Spirit worked among the Thessalonians, they responded and became Christ Followers. Paul challenges the Christians there to become disciples and to follow as imitator of Paul and his ministry partners as they together followed the Lord. He wants them to imitate their life.

What was the result of being chosen? “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, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” Paul saw definite signs that said, “These Thessalonians are God’s chosen.” In a sermon on the passage, Charles Spurgeon found four evidences of being chosen which were:

  • The Word of God coming home with power (our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power).
  • The reception of God’s Word with much assurance (and in much assurance).
  • The desire to be like Jesus (you became followers of us and of the Lord).
  • The existence of spiritual joy in spiritual service (in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit).

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

In 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 Paul begins by letting the Christians in Thessalonica that his heart was filled with gratitude. Paul started the church there in less than ideal circumstances, being run out of town after only three weekends with them (Acts 17:1-10). Yet the church was strong and full of life. Paul knew that this work was beyond him and his abilities and that it was the work of God. “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Heibert explains further “The regularly recurring nature of the thanksgiving is also implied in the use of the present tense of the verb. It is their practice to give thanks to God ‘continually, never skipping a single day.’” Gratitude is such a powerful thing, and Paul practices it daily. It is a great spiritual discipline we all should do more of it. Praying for people or churches doesn’t have to be a long and formal process. Paul often prayed simple prayers even merely mentioning people or a church in his prayer. We should not get caught up in formality or trying to make every mention a long drawn out prayer. Tell God about the blessing and needs of those in your patch.

So why was Paul so thankful for the Thessalonian Christians? They simply did things that Paul could not forget. Guzik describes Paul’s gratitude this way:

  • “Paul’s gratitude didn’t come because all the Christians in Thessalonica thought so highly of him. Later, Paul used a whole chapter defending himself and his ministry against slander and false accusations.
  • Paul’s gratitude didn’t come because the Thessalonian Christians were morally impeccable. Later in the letter, Paul strongly warned them against the failings in regard to sexual impurity.
  • Paul’s gratitude didn’t come because the Thessalonian Christians were completely accurate in all their doctrine. He had to correct some of their wrong ideas in that area also.”

Paul’s relationship with the people in Thessalonica was not with challenges, but there was obviously work of the Holy Spirit that was happening among them. Paul calls out three very important virtues of a Christ Follower – faith, love and hope. Hiebert says “Here for the first time, chronologically, in Paul’s writings we have this famous triad: faith, love, hope. But Paul’s stress is not on these virtues alone, but rather upon what they produce.” Specifically, Paul relates these three key things this way:

  • Faith produced work
  • Love produced labor
  • Hope produced steadfastness or patience

Paul saw fruit from the Holy Spirit working in and through the Christ Followers in Thessalonica. Our lives should produce faith, love and hope as well!

1 Thessalonians 1:1

In 1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul begins his letter to the church at Thessalonica. G. Campbell Morgan explains “This letter is full of interest because it is certainly among the first of those which have been preserved for us from the pen of Paul. It was the first he wrote to European Christians, and in it the fundamental things of the Christian life are very clearly set forth.” One thing we know about Paul is that he usually did not do ministry alone, but worked with a team. That is the case as he begins his letter. “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.”

Guzik gives us their pedigrees this way: “Silvanus (also known as Silas) was a long and experienced companion of Paul. He traveled with Paul on his second missionary journey and was imprisoned and set free with Paul in the Philippian jail. When Paul first came to Thessalonica, Silas came with him. Timothy was a resident of Lystra, a city in the province of Galatia. He was the son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother named Eunice. From his youth learned the Scriptures from his mother and grandmother. Timothy was a trusted companion and associate of Paul, and he accompanied Paul on many of his missionary journeys. Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians on a previous occasion.” There were trusted and close ministry partners to Paul.

Remember that Paul himself founded the church in Thessalonica on his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-9). Thessalonica was the prosperous capital of the province of Macedonia (northern Greece), located on the famous Egnatian Way. Paul was only in the city a short time (actually three successful weekend of ministry) because he was forced out by enemies of the Gospel or basically a Thessalonican mob. Yet the church of the Thessalonians continued to be alive and active. Though Paul had to suddenly leave this young church, his deep concern for them prompted this letter.

Guzik further explains “While in Corinth, it is likely that Paul was greatly concerned about the churches he had just founded, and he wondered about their state. While at Corinth, Silas and Timothy came to him from Thessalonica with great news: the church there was strong. Paul became so excited that he dashed off this letter to the Thessalonians, probably his first letter to any church. He wrote it just a few months after he had first established the church in Thessalonica. Paul thought it important, (even essential) to organize these young converts in the Thessalonian church into a community of mutual interest, care, and fellowship.”  That is the purpose of the Body of Christ. When a church does that, it can survive and thrive!

Colossians 4:7-18

In Colossians 4:7-18 Paul introduces the Colossian church to Tychicus who they apparently didn’t know, but would be the one who brought Paul’s letter to them. “Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” Tychicus was one of the men who came with Paul from the Roman province of Asia to Jerusalem, to carry the offering of those believers to the needy Christians of Jerusalem and Judea. Bruce reminds us “The reference to Tychicus is almost word for word identical with Ephesians 6:21-22. He was evidently the bearer of the letter to the Ephesians as well as this one.” So he was a trusted co-minister with Paul.

Paul sends Tychicus for one reason – to encourage them in their walk with Jesus. He also sent Onesimus who was a slave owned by a believer in Colosse, but had ran away and came into contact with Paul in Rome. There, Onesimus became a Christian and a dedicated helper to Paul. His story is continued in Paul’s letter to Philemon. “I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.” The mission was to update and encourage the church while reporting on Paul’s status.

Paul also lets them know there are others in prison with him for the sake of the gospel. “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions— if he comes to you, welcome him),and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.” They had accompanied Paul on various trips and ministry efforts and were also in chains along with him. Epaphras was a fellow minister filled with prayer for the Colossian church. “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” We need to pray like that for our churches!

Paul shares many more greetings from other co-ministers of the gospel. “For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.” And he wants the Colossians to share the words he has written with other believers in the area. “Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.”

Paul charges the church to press Archippus to minister strongly and to encourage and strengthen him. “And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” Dyke explains It was more fitting for the Colossians (or Laodiceans) to say this to Archippus than for Paul himself to say it to him. He needed to hear this from the people around him: “Fulfill your ministry.” When the Colossians spoke up, then Archippus knew his ministry was wanted. “Many an Archippus is sluggish, because the Colossians are silent.” We need to encourage our ministers to do the work of the gospel and support them in that effort. Paul wraps his letter this way: “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

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