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Joyous and Thankful (1 Thess. 1:1–10)
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3, ESV).
In this week’s lesson the author of the lesson, basically, exegetes the passages for this week’s lesson. He let’s us in on how the grammar works in the passage. Where each statement begins and ends; and, how most of statements are connected to the first clause of verse 2. Following we will read mostly some highlights from the lesson that further explains this.
Verse 2 and 3 say,
1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.
It is in their prayers that Paul, et al. give thanks to God for the Thessalonians. Since, Paul believed that we should pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5: 17), he could say that he remembered the Thessalonians in prayer without ceasing. And, thus thanked God for them without ceasing.
The author of our lesson is saying that the root text in this chapter is the first part of verse 2. And, everything else goes back to that clause. Therefore verse 4 gives us another reason for Paul’s thankfulness. Let us read verse 4,
1 Thessalonians 1:4
4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.
The Greek word for election means the act of picking out, or choosing of the act of God's free will by which before the foundation of the world he decreed his blessings unto man. It is the decree made from choice by which He determined to bless all men through Christ by grace alone. Some call it an Election of Grace. THIS IS an election of man to eternal life (2 Thess. 2:13; Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:2; John 13:18).
The ground of this election to salvation is the good pleasure of God (Eph. 1:5, 11; Matt. 11:25, 26; John 15:16, 19). God claims the right so to do (Rom. 9:16, 21). It is not conditioned on faith or repentance, but is of sovereign grace (
11:4-6; Eph. 1:3-6). All that pertains to salvation, the means (Eph. 2:8; 2
Thess. 2:13) as well as the end, are of God (Acts 5:31; 2 Tim. 2:25; 1 Cor.
1:30; Eph. 2:5, 10). Faith and repentance and all other graces are the
exercises of a regenerated soul; and regeneration is God's work, a "new creature." Men are elected "to salvation,"
"to the adoption of sons," "to be holy and without blame before
him in love" (2 Thess. 2:13; Gal. 4:4, 5; Eph. 1:4).
So, we have all been “elected” to have salvation. That some won’t be saved—won’t claim that salvation for themselves; this reflects their choice, not God’s. God’s choice is for all humanity to be saved. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:4, God wants “all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (NKJV). So, to be lost is an aberration from God’s desire for all of us.
We move on to verse 5,
1 Thessalonians 1:5
5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
Verse 5 begins with “for” or “because.” In this verse Paul details the grounds for his conviction that the Thessalonians were “chosen” by God (1 Thess. 1:4). He is also underlining further reasons as to why his prayers are so filled with thankfulness (1 Thess. 1:2). Paul rejoices at the real-life evidence that the Thessalonians have responded to God and that He approves of them. Paul begins the verse with rejoicing at a visible and outward sign of the Thessalonians’ position before the Lord. Their acceptance of the gospel was not merely a mental assent to teachings or doctrine.
Their daily lives exhibited the presence and power of God. In everyday church life, things were happening that could be explained only as divine intervention. Prayers were answered and lives changed. The reality of their faith was being manifested in their works.
On to verse 6 and 7,
1 Thessalonians 1:6, 7
6 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became examples to all in
and Achaia who believe.
Most translations do not show this, but in verse 6 Paul continues the same sentence that he began in verse 2 and carries it on through verse 10. The main topic of this lengthy sentence is Paul’s list of reasons for the thanksgivings that he recites in his prayers. Verses 6 and 7 add two items to that list of thanksgivings, building on the “because” (NIV) at the beginning of verse 5. Paul gives thanks (vs. 2) because (vs. 5, NIV) the Thessalonians have both imitated him and his colleagues and have themselves become an example to imitate (vss. 6, 7). However, Paul has placed a couple of safeguards here. First of all, the imitation (vs. 6) follows the receiving (vs. 5). The primary focus of the Thessalonians was on receiving the Word of God and applying it directly to their lives through the Holy Spirit. God’s Word can always be trusted. Second, Paul directs them to the Lord as the primary model (vs. 6). What Jesus did, and would do, is a much safer model than what even Paul would do.
Having said this, however, Paul affirms their desire to imitate him as a beloved teacher and mentor and also to become models worthy of imitation themselves. In this particular case, what was being modeled was joy in suffering. Suffering can make one bitter or better. In the context of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit, the Thessalonians discovered supernatural joy in the midst of suffering, just as Paul and Silas had earlier (Acts 16:22–25).
We continue to verses 8 through 10,
1 Thessalonians 1:8-10
8 For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in
and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so
that we do not need to say anything. 9 For they themselves declare
concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how 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, even Jesus who delivers us
from the wrath to come.
Paul continues the sentence that began in verse 2 by explaining how he knows the Thessalonians have become a model, or type, to the other believers in
Macedonia (where Thessalonica was located) and Achaia
was located). First, they were a model
of evangelistic effort and success. From them the word of God “rang out” (NIV)
into both of these provinces and beyond.
They were willing to be taught. They were also willing to allow God to
bring about radical changes in their lives, such as giving up idols and other
popular forms of worship. Furthermore, as
pagan idolaters they had to overcome two major barriers. First was the “crazy
message” about some man who was dead and came back to life again. Then there
was the fact that it was a crazy Jewish message. Many Gentiles probably laughed when they
heard the Christian message. The Thessalonians didn’t. Instead, they completely
allowed the Lord to rearrange their lives in light of the gospel.
Remember that Paul’s departure from the Thessalonians was sudden and not planned. Paul was concerned about them. Paul thus expressed joy to know that they remained faithful. One could argue that one reason the Thessalonians remained faithful was an answer to Paul’s prayers. It could be that Paul rejoiced that his prayers were answered.