The Church We Strive To Be

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Tonight we’re going to look at 1 Thessalonians Chapter 1, but we first need to look at Acts 17. So please turn with me in your Bibles to Acts 17, where Paul, Silas, and Timothy enter Thessalonica.


Thessalonica was the second largest city in Greece. A free city with an independent government, Thessalonica was named after Alexander the Great’s sister Thessaloniki. The Roman Imperial Cult operated out of Thessalonica, teaching that the Caesars were actually “gods” over Rome. In addition, there were numerous idolatrous Temples dedicated to the service of other “gods”. When Paul, Silas, and Timothy came into Thessalonica to found the Church (see Acts 17:1-9), the Church was just considered one more cult worshiping one more god in a city packed with Temples, gods, and goddesses. On the way to Thessalonica, Paul met Timotheus (Acts 16:1) and helped establish Churches at Lystra and Iconium (Acts 16:2), Phrygia and the region of Galatia (Acts 16:6), Mysia (Acts 16:7) and Troas (Acts 16:8). God gave Paul a vision of Macedonia, and leaving Timothy behind he carries Silas with him to Philippi of Macedonia (Acts 16:12).

It was at Philippi that Paul and Silas were cast into prison for preaching the Gospel of Christ (see Acts 16:22-40). Though an angel opened the prison at Philippi, neither Paul nor Silas tried to leave, but not only led the prison, but the prison guard and his family to salvation in Jesus. You cannot lead people to Christ and stay in your comfort zone. You have to be willing to follow Jesus – even to the Cross – if you want others to be saved.

After establishing the Church in Philippi (and being imprisoned for it), Paul, Silas and Timothy go together to Thessalonica.

Acts 17:1-11 Now when they {Paul, Silas, and Timothy} had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, 3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. 4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. 5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; 7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. 8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. 10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Timothy – being a Greek – did not speak in the Synagogue, but Paul and Silas did. Paul preached Jesus as the Christ reasoning with them out of the scriptures. Some believed, but we are told the Jews – that is, the Pharisees, did not believe in Jesus. Paul, Silas and Timothy were all staying at the house of Jason. Though Jason himself was brought before the magistrate, Paul, Silas, and Timothy left Thessalonica, and headed toward Berea and Athens, Greece.

While Paul and Silas stayed in Athens, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to help establish the Church there (see 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2).

When Timothy returned to Paul, he brought back good news. Though the Church was in a terrible place, it was thriving, not dissolving. Attacked by idol following crowds, the Church was not just alive, but healthy. Now let’s look at 1 Thessalonians Chapter 1:

1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The three names Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus are the Roman forms of the names for Saul of Tarsus (see Acts 13:9), Silas (see Acts 15:22,27,32; 1 Pet. 5:12), and Timothy (see Acts 16:1-3). The Church at Thessaloniki is located in an area that is predominantly Gentile in its culture. When Saul took on the name of “Paul”, he abandoned his Jewish privileges in order to reach out to the Gentiles in the name of Jesus. The name “Paul” in the Greek actually means “a little one”. The Apostle Paul did great things for Jesus because he minimized himself, but maximized serving the Lord. Paul was “little”, not “big” headed. Paul wrote of himself in humility, saying …

1 Corinthians 15:9 … I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Paul the Apostle not only minimized his office as Apostle, but also wrote:

Ephesians 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

Though Paul considered himself a saint” (the Greek ἅγιος hagios, which means “a person set apart for God’s use”), he considered himself to be less than the least of all the Saints. On the other hand, when Paul considered his brokenness as a sinner, he wrote:

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

Paul did not see himself as someone “special”, but as a terribly broken person. His acceptance of his brokenness made it possible for God to use him in a mighty way. When we humble ourselves, Jesus can do great things for us. As the Apostle addresses the Church at Thessaloniki he says:

1 Thessalonians 1:1 … unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ

The Church Is Called And Chosen

The word church is the Greek ekklēsia which means “those who are called out”.

The Church is called out of darkness:

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;

The Church is also called out of the world:

1 John 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

The Church is called to walk with God, not with unbelievers:

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

God is IN the Church at Thessaloniki. Jesus Christ is IN the Church at Thessaloniki. The Spirit of God is IN the Church at Thessaloniki. Why? Because as Paul was humble and submitted to God, the Church at Thessaloniki was humble and submitted to God. Those who were saved in the Church at Thessaloniki were under a great deal of stress because of the worldliness that was all around them. The Church at Thessaloniki was not a Bible compromising Church like many are today. They put their faith in action.

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

The Church was not located in an area where the Bible had much validity. When Paul and Silas passed through Thessaloniki they discovered that the high number of false religions and pagan temples had hardened the Jewish Synagogue against the Holy Bible. When the Apostles moved from the Synagogue at Thessaloniki and into Berea, we read:

Acts 17:10-12 … when {Paul and Silas} arrived {at Berea} they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed…

When the heart of the local Church is hardened against the Bible, the Word of God, then there will be few conversions to Christ. Though the Church at Thessaloniki started out of the Synagogue in that same place, it was not nearly as successful as the Church plants in Berea. People were saved in Thessaloniki, gloriously saved, for they showed the marks of the genuine believer in Christ:

1 Thessalonians 1:3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith,

Where salvation is present, God will cause the believers to work in faith. Jesus told the Church at Thyatira:

Revelation 2:19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

A saved people are expected – even driven – to do good for the glory of God. We are to work for the glory of the Lord Who saved us. What matters to God is NOT whether we are ritualistic in our faith, but that we are relational – like Jesus in how we live out our faith. We are told in:

Galatians 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

1 Thessalonians 1:3 … and labor of love

The Church at Thessaloniki was not working for God because they HAD to, but because they WANTED to. They loved the Lord. Jesus said:

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

And again, in John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

We love God because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). We do what God bids us do because we love Him for all His faithfulness. God is faithful! Even when we are unfaithful, God is faithful.

1 Thessalonians 1:3 … and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

The Lordship Of Christ And The Fatherhood Of God
The Two Wings On The Upward Moving Church

As believers in Christ, the Thessalonians never gave up hope, though they were sorely tried by the pagan world around them. They had a deep appreciation of two things:

The LORDSHIP Of Jesus, and

Jesus Christ Is Lord!

One of the key truths that kept the Church at Thessaloniki going was the certain knowledge that “Jesus is Lord”. There is no salvation to a person unless you acknowledge Jesus as LORD. The Apostle wrote:

Romans 10:9-13 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

The knowledge of the Lordship of Christ Jesus comes only by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. We are told:

1 Corinthians 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

It is in the decree of God that Jesus is Lord:

Philippians 2:9-11 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted {Jesus}, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

If Jesus is “Lord”, then He is certainly “Lord” of whatever comes my way. As my Savior and Master Jesus uses the events of each day to shape me, and mold me, to be more like Him. When Jesus is recognized as “Lord”, we are making Him equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. In the Ten Commandments, God told Israel:

Exodus 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Jesus was repeatedly referred to as Lord in the early Church. The Apostle Peter preached:

Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

And the early missionaries who planted Churches said:

2 Corinthians 4:5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Jesus is Lord, and watches over His people.

God is our Father

The Father watches over us who are His. We are to imitate our Heavenly Father in how we live our lives:

Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Matthew 6:31-33 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

You belong to God. The Thessalonians understood this, so they clung to the Lord no matter what trials came their way. The Thessalonians were the purchased possession of God.

1 Thessalonians 1:4-6 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. 6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.

You are as Christians “elect of God”, that is, chosen and called by God to salvation. The word “election” is the Greek ἐκλογή eklogḗ, {pronounced ek-log-ay’}, which means “the act of picking out or choosing”. God chose to offer salvation by faith to the Christian – and that Christian responded. When we were lost and undone God the Holy Spirit came to us, and opening our eyes, eyes bound by sin, we were made able to see the glorious message of the Gospel. The proof of our salvation is that …

1 Thessalonians 1:6 ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.

The Christian and the Church that lives under the Lordship of Christ and the Fatherhood of God will live so as to please Him Who saved us. Though afflicted in Thessaloniki, the Church flourished. Why? Because the Church was focused on Jesus, focused on God.

1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye 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, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

The Church at Thessaloniki broadcast the Gospel by how they lived for God their Savior. They rejected idols, and pursued the living and true God. This Church also lived as if Jesus could return at any moment. Oh, that God would bring this type of faith into our churches today. May God make us useful and blessed like the Church at Thessaloniki.

For the glory of Christ we ask this. Amen and Amen.

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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