The Church committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The circumstances in which we live are in most respects very difference from those of the very young Thessalonian Church. Christianity was a new religion that few people knew anything about. The prevailing culture and political climate was opposed to Christianity and persecuted the Church as a result. Paul and Silas were themselves hounded out of Thessalonica. However the reports that Paul hears about this young Church are encouraging and he writes to commend them and instruct them.
We may not be persecuted for our faith – although there are thousands of Christians in many countries who are – nevertheless we do face indifferent resistance. When we say we believe the bible we are labelled as narrow-minded and intolerant. When we acknowledge being believers in Jesus Christ and all he said and did we are thought to believe in fantasies and fairy stories to quote someone who Alan and Marion met on the door.
The temptation for the Thessalonians was to either turn away from the gospel they received or downplay it and compromise so as to make it palatable to the hostile community.
The temptation we face is similar in that we are under constant pressure to downplay the absolute truth of the gospel. Not only so as not to offend others but also to pander to our own wants and desire which society says are our rights – “We own it to ourselves to be happy” There is an uncritical acceptance that we have an inalienable right to happiness!
God’s primary aim is to make us holy – not happy! We will be happy if we seek God first. BUT often we pursue happiness and end up being neither happy nor holy!
This is true not only of individuals but also congregations.
Areas we considered last time….
THE CHURCH IS A COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE
The Church committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The church is a community of people committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If it is not, then it is either not a Church in the true sense or it is a disobedient church. This is the foundation upon which the church is based Jesus Christ – He is the Saviour by his death and resurrection – 1 Thessalonians 1:10 10 … his [God’s] Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
He is our focus and hope – 1 Thessalonians 1:3 ….. and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
He is the model which the church is to follow – 1 Thessalonians 1:6 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; ……
This was the message that Paul preached to the Thessalonians – Acts 17.
Paul reminds his reader in v.5 not only that the gospel came to them but also the manner in which it came.
This is helpful as it gives us principles as to how the message of the gospel is communicated.
The Gospel did not simply fall from the sky over Thessalonica but it was brought by Paul and Silas.
1 Thessalonians 1:5 5 … our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. …..
These 4 phrases help understand how the gospel message came.
a) with words.
It is quite true that the message of the gospel does not come ONLY with words but it is communicated by words. There is a move in some churches to minimise the preaching and teaching of the word of God and the verbal witness of individual Christians.
Some have sidelined preaching in place of drama or media images – now images can be very powerful – these things may enhance the verbal but should not replace it. The visual should never replace the verbal.
ILLUS.: I have heard Christians over the years say “Well I do not tell people about the gospel I just live a good life!”
How will they ever know why you live a good life – What motivates you to live a good life – unless you tell them.
It is trey that images are very powerful BUT it is also true that images need to be interpreted.
More than anyone, Jesus’ actions were power demonstrations of the gospel but even he had to explain verbally – if he hadn’t we would not have know that he was the Son of God.
So whether in public preaching / teaching or in private witness we need to choose our words careful – we need to learn to articulate what we believe. The more we do it the better we will become at doing it.
b) with power
ILLUS. When we lived in Lisbon – Portugal – about 10 years ago driving was quite and experience. Parking in central Lisbon was a haphazard with an almost total disregard for the needs of pedestrians. I asked a Portugese friend once if there were parking regulations. He just laughed “yes, but no one enforces them”
The words of the regulations were written down somewhere but there was no power behind them.
Mere words can be disregarded or misunderstood and therefore need to backed up. This is especially true in communicating the gospel as blind eye and heard hearts do not naturally accept the message.
Without God’s power – specifically the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit – our talking about the gospel remains just powerless words.
The Word of God and the Spirit of God always work together.
Paul in Corinth – the Spirit is the power- 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
The Word is the weapon – Ephesians 6:17 17 ….. the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Stott – “The Spirit without the Word is weaponless; the Word without the Spirit is powerless”
c) with deep conviction
From his own conversion experience and from what he had observed in others, Paul was convicted of the truth and power of the gospel message. It was this conviction of its truth which gave him boldness in proclaiming the gospel.
Without this deep conviction our telling about Jesus is bound to be lacklustre.
d) with the Holy Spirit
The last ‘ingredient’ of communicating the gospel covers the previous three. It is the Holy Spirit who makes the first three possible.
¨ It is the Spirit who gives the speaker an understanding of the truth.
¨ It is the Spirit who gives us the deep conviction that it is true.
¨ It is the Spirit who with power convinces the hearer to respond.
Paul then adds these words in 1:5 …… You know how we lived among you for your sake.
Not only did Paul and Silas tell the gospel, they lived it.
1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
Paul now moves the focus from the speakers to the hearers
a) in the face of difficulties
For us in 20th C. Britain to be Christians is no great sacrifice. Sometimes we are guilty of presenting the gospel as an easy-believism. That is not true for many in other parts and it was not true of the Thessalonians. The difficulties they face were real physical persecutions.
However, even in our very comfortable setting the gospel still arouses hostility because it challenges our human pride and self-indulgence.
b) with Spirit-given joy
In spite of the difficulties they faced there was still joy in believing. The same Spirit who empowers the speaker gives joy to those who respond. The Spirit works from both ends – the speaker’s and the hearer’s.
This should give us great courage in our witness – we are never alone when we speak for Jesus as the Spirit is always at work in us and in the hearer.
Even when there is no respond or open hostility there can be joy in the believer’s heart – the history of Christian experience attests to this fact.
c) with the intent of becoming modellers
1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; ….. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. (NIV)
The Thessalonian Christians had learned from Paul and Silas and had copied their Christian lifestyle. Paul does not want a following of his own but rather that imitate him inasmuch as he follows Christ.
When Jesus calls us to follow him it is with the intention that we will become like him –, as we become more and more like him that will show in our attitude and actions.
Not only were they to model themselves on Paul and Silas and therefore ultimately Christ BUT they are to be models to others. Paul commends them for the Christian character with is an example to all.
The word ‘model’ is a singular – probably signifying a collective model community.
Is your and my Christian life such the we could say without embarrassment or qualification “Follow me as I follow Christ”
1 Thessalonians 1:8 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia — your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, (NIV)
What a wonderful tribute to this young Thessalonian Church.
They broadcast the message of their new-found faith in two ways.
What the NIV has as ‘rang out’ is used of loud noises like thunder or a trumpet sound. So it is clear that they actively and directly proclaimed the gospel.
Also their faith ‘became known’ – far and wide as they went about they communicated the gospel – in their actions, attitude and conversation.
We live in a world of mass-media, much more so than Paul’s day. Printed image, TV, Radio, WWW, etc… and we should use every means to trumpet / thunder the gospel -–i.e. to communicate it loud and clear.
However, there is another way that is in fact still more effective. It is very simple; we don’t need computers or expensive sound equipment. In fact it cost nothing in financial terms. It is simply the excited gossiping of the gospel from person to person in 1000’s of personal encounters from day to day.
What did they talk about? “Do you know what has happened to me? Do you know what such and such a person said? Can you see how so-and-so has changed? You know there are some amazing things happening in Thessalonica.”
What was the content of their conversations?
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 9 …. 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 rescues us from the coming wrath. (NIV)
In these two verses we have one of the most compact descriptions of Christian conversion in the NT.
a) turning from idols
Thessalonica, like most towns of the time, had its fair share of idols. On a clear day they would have been able to see Mt. Olympus which was supposedly the home of the Greek gods.
Today in many culture there are those who worship material images of some kind. The thought of breaking away from these fills their worshippers with dread as they fear revenge from the spirits.
Of course we know full well that idols can be more subtle than wood / stone images.
In our modern cities was are far more sophisticated with our God substitutes than animistic tribes people of Africa or Asia – yet our idols can be just as powerful.
Many are in almost crazed pursuit of money, power or fame. Our obsession with work, sport, TV can be idolatry. Our infatuation with a person can be equally idolatrous. For many we need look no further than the self to find an idol. By nature humans will try to substitute all kinds of things in place of worship of the one true God.
b) turning to the living and true God
No one can claim to have turned away from idols unless there is a turning to God at the same time.
God is alive but the idols are dead – the psalmist describes them as follows:-
Psalm 115:5-7 5 They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but they cannot see; 6 they have ears, but cannot hear,
noses, but they cannot smell; 7 they have hands, but cannot feel,
feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
He follows this ridicule with the sad observation that those who follow idolatry are just as dead as the idols they worship.
God is the Living King of the Universe and any idol whether a religion image or something less obvious is a cheap and lifeless substitute for the living God.
Not only is God living, he is also the TRUE God – implying that all others are false.
ILLUS.: I was talking with some one yesterday and they commented that “It is good for child to learn about religion” – presumably meaning that they will learn moral values etc..
This is not what Paul is on about. The Thessalonians had religion BUT what they needed was a personal encounter with the true and living God. They were in bondage to the idols and they needed to be freed to service the Living and True God.
c) Waiting for the Son of God.
Turning to God is not a dead end – there is expectant hope of a glorious future in God’s presence. It is waiting longingly for our Saviour who came the first time to die for us to rescue us from our sin to return to take us into heaven to be with him forever. This makes any suffering or difficulties we encounter while we wait pale into insignificance compared to what is coming.
What is a key lesson we can learn from this passage?
Paul says of the Thessalonians that the “Gospel came to you – you welcomed it – it rang out from you”
This is what every church should be like.
ILLUS.: There are 100’s of satellites in space – and telecommunication satellite dishes scattered everywhere. These first receive the messages and then transmit them.
So in a similar way every church and every Christian has to receive / welcome the message and then faithfully transmit it without distortion or corruption.
But not only is the church to be a transmitter it is also to embody the message. It is not just a passive pipe through which the message passes.
God did not only speak from heaven – he became the “WORD” – he embodied the message.
So too we are to be those who both visualise the gospel by the way we live and verbalise by explaining what we believe, why we believe and in whom we believe.
May is be true of us the gospel rings out from us and that our faith is known everywhere.
THE CHURCH COMMITTED TO THE GOSPEL
1 Thessalonians 1:5-10
1.The gospel message came. [v5]
¨ with words.
¨ with power
¨ with deep conviction
¨ with the Holy Spirit
It is the Spirit who…
– gives the speaker an understanding of the truth
– gives us the deep conviction that it is true
– with power convinces the hearer to respond
2.The Gospel message was received. [v6-7]
¨ in the face of difficulties
¨ with Spirit-given joy
¨ with the intention of becoming modellers
3.The gospel message was broadcast. [v8]
4.The gospel message is. [v9-10]
¨ turning from idols
¨ turning to the living and true God
¨ waiting for the Son of God.
The gospel came to you – you welcomed it – it rang out from you