1 Thess chapters 1-4
Paul is writing to a church that he established in 3 weeks amid much tribulation and conflict. In Acts 17 we find the story of Paul’s missionary work among the Thessalonians, this on the heels of the problems at Philippi. We must remember that Paul wanted to go to some different areas on his 2nd missionary journey, but was prevented by the Holy Spirit. The Macedonian Call compelled him to go to the cities of Philippi, Berea, Athens and Thessalonica. Even though there was great struggle with the Jewish religious leaders, Paul and the new church were able to get strides to propagating the Gospel to nearby communities. As a side note, I wondered how I would be if I was confronted with so much opposition every time I tried to do the Lord’s work? Would I stay the course or would I say I have had enough of this – I’m tired of the garbage and walk away – I hope I would have the where with all to stay the course.
Even though this young church had hardship at the beginning, their faith and testimony has spread to other regions. Their testimony was well established. There isn’t any greater testimony for a pastor or minister than to know the labor among the people/church wasn’t in vain. The proof of the ministry is the obedient lives of those we have nurtured.
Paul makes his case before the church in how he came to them, not with flattery words and malice for gain but with a sincere heart and love for the lost. Paul continually praises the church for their faithfulness and holy witness. He also tells them to go one to more, even as they have walked, he ask them to walk “straighter” before the lost in conduct [2:12]. Paul wanted them to have holy lives, so that their testimony wouldn’t be stained, nor the Gospel be brought reproach. Now this church was already doing/living a great testimony – Paul challenged them to accomplish more. No because Paul wanted to get the glory, but because the great need for holiness among the Gentiles. The Thessalonians were experiencing trials, persecution from their own countrymen, yet they were found faithful – this is a lesson we in America need to learn. Even though the American society seems to be breaking down in to a great immoral society – we that are believers must still shine and salt the world with our presence.
From the language of this letter it is easy to sense the heartfelt love Paul has for this church. He longs to be with them, so to fellowship and lift them up. Sometimes the things we desire have to wait until the timing it right. In 1 Tess. 2:19, a great verse reflects a scene in Heaven one day; how that all the lives we have had an influence on will stand in the crowd of believers, and can take great joy in seeing them there before the Father!
In chapter 3 Paul continues his explanation of why He hasn’t been there, the Satanic tactics and the resistance to the Gospel. But even though Paul and his team may be missing, they were there in spirit and prayer. In this letter we capture a premise that seems to be lost in today’s Christian Living – the expectation that people are going to live righteously and godly. Accountability for the way we live the Believers’ life is so important for our witness and testimony to be valid. In chapter 4, Paul repeats himself in asking the church “to excel more” in what they are doing. In verse 2-7, Paul uses the word sanctification – this denotes a separation, but also a maturation of the believer. Elsewhere Paul says we are to no longer to walk like children tossed to and fro, but to be built up in the faith.
The last part of chapter 4:13-18, is a passage that finds itself quoted during funerals as a means of hope. The Blessed Hope of Christ return is a hope we all need, especially when faced with deathly opposition. This world isn’t all there is; but this world determines all that there is hereafter. We are to be comforted that our labor and suffering are not in vain, keeping a pure uncorrupted testimony of faith for ourselves, and those who have suffered in bringing us to God.