Text: 1 Thess 5:1-11
It’s weird for me to be back up here after sitting in the pew last week. I was just starting to get used to simply listening and being blessed by the Word. Again, I thank Brother Matthew for preaching last week, and I can assure you, as God is my witness, we will be hearing plenty more from Brother Matthew in 2014. Amen?
1 Thess 5:8 [READ]
I think this verse sums up the overall intent of this letter. Here’s my thesis for this entire letter based on verse 8: Proper faith in Christ and proper hope in Christ’s return will result in proper love for others. When I read this verse, certain words jump out at me. This verse sounds like other verses you may have read elsewhere in Scripture.
Faith, hope, love – sound familiar? It’s right out of 1 Cor 13. When the perfect comes, many things will cease. For now, faith, hope and love are all necessary. But when we are with the Perfect One, Jesus Christ, in the new heaven and new earth, faith will become sight. So faith will be no more. And hope will be reality. No hope is needed because the object of our hope is standing right in front of us. But why is love the greatest? Because when Jesus returns, faith and hope disappear because they are no longer needed, but love will remain. Love is needed now here on earth and love will be needed in the future in the new heaven and new earth, forever.
What are some other words that jump out? The phrase “armor of faith and love” and the phrase “helmet of the hope of salvation” are reminiscent of Eph 6 and the spiritual battle.
Why does Paul mix these 2 metaphors? On the one hand, faith, hope and love in light of the coming perfection, and on the other hand, this reference to spiritual armor? It’s because every church that has ever existed is a spiritual battleground. Satan will attack one of these areas: faith, hope or love. In many cases, Satan will attack our faith. We see this at Corinth or Galatia or Colossae, in each of these churches, Satan sent false teachers to attack the faith of the believers. These false teachers successfully distorted true faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ by adding something to the gospel or taking something away from the gospel. Not the case at Thessalonica.
Their faith was rock solid. Because that door was closed off, Satan looked for another opening. Next, Satan went after their hope. There was a slight opening there and in terms of their hope, things got a little shaky. Lastly, Satan went after their love. This is where he did the most damage. At this church, it wasn’t a faith matter or a theological issue, it was an issue primarily of methodology when it comes to loving others. Not theology, but methodology.
This is going to be a two or three part series. We are going to focus on the theme of faith today, then we’ll cover the theme of hope next week and then we’ll end with the theme of love. Or, hope and love might be combined. We’ll see. Let’s start with faith. Satan didn’t have much success in shaking up their faith. How do we know this?
1 Thess 1:2-10 [READ]
Paul is just oozing with thanksgiving to God for this church. v3 – Paul recalls their work of faith, their labor of love, their endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. There’s that trio again–faith, love, hope. v5 – this is not a church who received the gospel in word only. Like, eh, the gospel is cool, it’s good news I guess, I think I’ll give it a shot. Intellectually, I think it’s good that I have an eternity that’s guaranteed and Someone who says He loves me unconditionally, that’s kind of cool, yeah, this Christianity thing is worth trying for now. They didn’t treat the gospel like it’s a hobby or a lifestyle choice. The gospel did not come to them in word only. It came in power. The Holy Spirit came down and took dead, cold hearts and infused them with life and passion. v6 – in spite of severe persecution, did they shrink back? Did they hide in caves? No, they welcomed the message with joy and then turned around, v8, and they preached boldly, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place that their faith in God has gone out.
These guys were solid in faith. They heard the gospel. Not only that, they received the gospel, not merely in word, but in power and in the Holy Spirit. And this gospel transformed them so completely that in the midst of severe persecution, they not only endured, but they welcomed the very message, the gospel, that was the cause of their persecution and they preached this message boldly wherever their faith took them. This was a church remarkable in their faith because it was a tested faith. Even with persecution, they passed the test, their faith proved to be genuine, they were unshaken.
To appreciate just how remarkable this church was, when you have time later, go back and read Acts 16-17.
We read through Acts 16 when we were covering the book of Philippians. Paul had been in Asia Minor planting churches when he received the Macedonian vision, through which God re-routed Paul’s missionary expansion from Asia to Europe. The first city in Macedonia or Europe that Paul arrived in was Philippi and chapter 16 is about Lydia, the Asian businesswoman and how she was converted, the slave girl and how she was converted and the Roman jailer and how he and his household were converted.
Chapter 17 outlines Paul as he traveled west from Philippi to Thessalonica, where he planted the church we are studying this morning and then he Paul traveled south to Berea and then further south to Athens, and onto Corinth. And he only stayed in each city for a short while. Why? Because he was being persecuted.