Saturday, October 01, 2005

This past week I've been reading in First Thessalonians, here are some thoughts I had while going through the first chapter. It struck me that the Thessalonian Christians were excellent examples of how Christians should act if they desire to be effective for Christ.
Verse 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;
Paul was impressed with these Christians: here he speaks of the cause and effect relationships that should take place in the lives of Christians, and was demonstrated by the Thessalonian believers: work proceeding out of faith, labor (diligent, patient endurance) out of love (for God and for the brethren), and patience out of hope (which is the "mystery", "Christ in us, the hope of glory"). These Christian's lives were bearing direct testament to the change that had taken place within them when they had believed the Gospel. Were it not true that they were in Christ, baptized into His Body, they simply could not have wrought what they did. God saw this, and was pleased.
Verse 4: Knowing brethren beloved, your election of God.
Paul is expanding the thought of the prior verse, referring to the predestination of all Christians to be conformed to the image of God"s Son, a thought that is developed in Romans 8:29.
Verse 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.
This verse tells of the evidence to Paul of the Thessalonian believer's full acceptance of his doctrine. Further testimony to the power and inspiration of the message he was carrying was the fact that Paul's claim that he was not merely presenting facts to the pagans, he was bringing the Gospel of the Lord Jesus on Divine mandate under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. There were results that defy the imagination. When we act in response only to the moving of the Spirit, we may expect to see God do great things (Paul realized this, as he said in Colossians 1:29: "striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily"). This didn't require Paul to be a great persuasive and flattering orator, it required him to trust and obey.
Verse 6: And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
Receiving the word in much affliction is something we westerners truly don't comprehend; when a man believes the Gospel in the United States, there is no real backlash to speak of, perhaps emotionally, but no one is in danger of losing their life because of believeing on Christ. Not so elsewhere in the World. But despite their unpopularity among the pagans, the Thessalonian believers received the Word with joy, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 7 and 8: So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 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.
The best witness for Christ, without exception, is Christians simply living like Christians. This was true to the extent that news of the Thessalonians conversion caused Paul's evangelistic efforts to be enhanced, if not overshadowed and made unnecessary. It's simply not natural for individuals to suddenly abandon culture when it stands in the way of living biblically, and when Christians whole heartedly live their faith without fear of retaliation, the world takes notice.
Verse 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;
The Thessalonians biggest show of faith was seen in their totally abandoning their old system of beliefs and ways of living, their entire culture essentially. They were true evidence of the fact that "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things have passed away, behold: all things are become new."
Verse 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.
As Paul said in Romans 5, one of the "ends" of faith is a patient endurance till we see our Saviour face to face. Christ has redeemed us, how can we give Him anything less than our all? The Thessalonian believers embodied this, may we all strive to such an end.
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