1 Thessalonians 1:6-7

 

6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. (NIV)
 
We get our word mimic from the Greek word mimetes (μιμητής), “be imitators.” The idea behind the Greek work mimic has nothing to do with exaggeration or poking fun, as we might think in our culture. It’s also not just a matter of coming close to a thing. It’s being exactly like something else. So a true mimic of, say, a work of art, would be an exact copy. In fact, the philosopher Plato strongly criticized the poet Homer for making Zeus sound so unlike the way that a god should sound. So when Paul talks about the Thessalonians about being “imitators” of himself—and more than that, of the Lord himself—he is giving them high praise.
 
How many of us would be comfortable saying, “Just do what I do” to someone when it comes to living our faith? Imagine a person who had been raised in a different faith altogether—worshiping an idol or their ancestors, for example. Would you want that person to look at you, at your faith, at your life, and say: Mimic me in everything you do?
 
We may not want to do that. But we do. Our children will mimic our living faith as they get older, without trying. The things we say in the heat of anger, the pattern we set for going to church, joining a Bible study, participating in the choir, volunteering happily to usher; the patterns we set for holidays, birthdays, weekends—all these things are stamped on our children. And the same is more or less true for our friends and the people we work with. They will imitate us. In many cases, our children will even mimic our mistakes, and certainly the way we handle our mistakes.
 
Paul’s example was one of tireless labor for the Lord. Sometimes that labor was making tents. Sometimes it was preaching. Sometimes it was traveling. Sometimes it was writing. Sometimes it was sharing his faith in other ways. We probably don’t know a tenth of the kinds of things Paul did. But he could confidently tell the Thessalonians to imitate him. This is something he told the other Greek congregations, too: “I urge you to imitate me” (1 Cor. 4:16); “Join with others in following my example” (Philippians 3:17).
 
Keep in mind the story of this little church. Paul had spent only a short time with them—three weeks (Acts 17:2)—and the Greeks who had been learning about the coming Messiah as they prepared to become Jews had learned that he had already arrived (just a few years before!), that many of his disciples were still living, and that Paul could even tell them his name! “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said (Acts 17:3). They had barely begun to learn about him when Paul was driven from the city, but he could encourage them: What you know about Jesus is enough. You are saved by your faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It was exactly what the Thessalonians need to know, and it’s exactly what we need to know, too.
 
In Christ, 
Pastor Timothy Smith
 

1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

 

4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. (NIV)
 
Let’s talk about “brothers and sisters” in the new edition of the NIV. A number of times in the New Testament, especially in Paul’s letters, the word adelphoi occurs in a context where it does not necessarily apply only to males. Adelphos “brother” is often used by Paul when he is speaking to a group that may (or certainly does) include women—the churches to which he writes his letters and in his sermons in Acts. To quote from the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: “In a more general sense adelphos in the N(ew) T(estament) denotes ‘fellow Christians’” (Vol. I p. 145). 
 
Although some of the choices the editors of the NIV have made regarding adelphos might be questionable for doctrinal reasons (especially Acts 6:3), it is not necessarily wise for a denomination to judge a translation of the Bible because they don’t like the implications of an accurate translation on their theology—Martin Luther, after all, drew a storm of criticism for his translation of Romans 3:28, and he had many critics within the Roman Catholic Church because his German translation brought the Bible into the hands and ears of the people. 
 
God’s word works. God told Isaiah, “My word…will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). When God’s law is preached, it terrorizes us. Who can live up to that standard? Who can say "I have kept the law"? I can’t. Moses can’t. Paul can’t. And most important of all: You can’t either.
 
That means we’re condemned. There isn’t any way for us to get around the cold facts of the law of God that says we have sinned. But that’s where the good news, the gospel, comes in. Jesus did what we can’t. Jesus did what we can never do. Jesus kept the law in our place, and faith in him connects us to him and what he did. That faith shows up in many ways. Paul had seen it in the Thessalonians and he’ll describe it in verses 6-10. It’s that faith in Jesus that permits Paul to call the Thessalonians “brothers and sister” twenty-eight times in his two letters to them.
 
Being “chosen” by God is the doctrine of election. It’s easy to confuse the ‘how’ of being saved with the fact of being saved. Imagine a my wife making supper for her family, working at it all afternoon, while her children play in the yard and her husband snoozes in front of a TV set. She carefully times each dish so that it will be finished at the same moment that the roast or the ham is done. At the last moment, the rolls are popped into the oven for a few minutes as the milk is poured and the table is set. Her husband and every single child—even a few guests, perhaps—all are accounted for at the table. Every napkin, every chair is in place. She isn’t just expecting six, she is expecting her six, and then she calls them in for dinner. Can they say that they played a part in this meal because they took the trouble to come when they were called? Is it a great thing for the youngest to remember to wash up before he dines—which he won’t do unless she reminds him to do it? She has prepared the meal, calls them, and they come. She has done it all.
 
Being chosen by God isn’t up to us. It’s up to God, who picked me and picked you to be his own. The ‘how’ is through Jesus, who died for us. God loved us, prepared the meal for us, set the places for us, and called us. The only participating we might do is to reject the call—just as a naughty or rebellious child might reject the call to supper. But God has done everything for us. That’s the message Paul preached.
 
That’s the same message that works in us. We are forgiven! The sins that gnaw at us and pull us away from looking to God for guidance in our lives—those very sins are wiped clean by God himself, Jesus Christ. Paul loved this message. It’s what led him to say: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15). That’s the best news that there is.
 
In Christ, 
Pastor Timothy Smith

1 Thessalonians 1:1-3


1 THESSALONIANS
 
Thessalonica was the largest city in Macedonia (the northern part of Greece). It was a seaport and a crossroads, with all the variety, conflict and challenges that such places bring. Life there wasn’t dull. In Acts 17, we learn that Paul and two companions, Silas and young Timothy, had all been there but had problems with local Jewish believers who rounded up some “bad characters” (Acts 17:5) and got them to say that the message of the Gospel is a crime against the government, since the Messiah would be a king.
 
Paul and his companions left Thessalonica and went to Berea, then Athens, and finally Corinth in about 50-51 AD. Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica while still in Athens, and when Timothy reported back to Paul, the apostle wrote this letter from Corinth, sometime in 51 AD.
 
There were three main issues Paul needed to address:
 
1. Paul’s integrity was being attacked.
2. There were lapses in the sanctified Christian living of the Thessalonians.
3. There was confusion regarding the final coming of Jesus Christ and the resurrection (every chapter of 1 Thessalonians ends with a reference to Christ’s second coming).
 
A simple outline of this letter might be:
 
1:1-10    Thanking God for the faith, love and hope of the Thessalonians
2:1-20    Paul defends his ministry in their city
3:1-13    Timothy’s encouraging report
4:1-12    Instructions in sanctified Christian living
4:13—5:11   Problems with understanding Christ’s secondcoming
5:12-28    General exhortations
 
1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, 
   To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 
   Grace and peace to you. 
 
Paul hadn’t spent much time in Thessalonica, but while he was there he had come up against a lot of opposition and resistance to his message. Paul even says that although he and his companions wanted to visit again, “Satan stopped us” (2:18), probably by stirring things up where Paul was (in Corinth) so that he couldn’t go. But God out-did the devil. By permitting Paul to get bogged down in Corinth, he provided his church for all time with two letters, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, that give instruction about godly living, urge us not to neglect our daily work, encourage new converts to the faith, give assurance about the last days, remind us about what happens to believers who die before Jesus returns, and warn us about the Antichrist and his work. 
 
Paul writes to “the church of the Thessalonians in God.” These words remind us that the true Church is in God. Without God, outside his word, the Church does not and cannot exist. The true God is the center of our worship, the object of our praise, the one we pray to, and the one who answers our prayers. He is at the center of everything we do, from bringing people to faith in him to faithfully managing the blessings he gives us. But God isn’t just the center, he is also the inside and the outside, the middle, and the perimeter. We are in him, and he is in us. That is not to say that we are God—God forbid! But his forgiveness through Jesus has brought us into his presence, and his Holy Spirit dwells in us and fills us and motivates us.
 
That’s what it means to be a believer. That’s what it means to be part of his Church. The letters to the Thessalonians are all about the basics, and the basics begin and end with Jesus Christ.
 
Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians’ Faith
2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)
 
The difference between “work” (Greek ergon) and “labor” (Greek kopon) is that work is any activity or achievement we make in the service of God. It is what we do out of faith. Labor is something more difficult. It is something that causes exhaustion, and the emphasis of the word is on the weariness, the worn-out feeling, that follows the action. This kind of labor is something that requires a special love, a selfless love, that doesn’t look for gain or profit, but which comes from love itself, like the exhausting work of caring for an infant or an invalid. When our work drains us that much, we need to look for the “endurance” that comes from hope (NIV “inspired by hope”) in what Jesus has promised and accomplished. This kind of endurance bears hard and exhausting times because we know that something much better is coming. We know that our Lord Jesus Christ will come again on the Last Day to raise the dead, raise all of us into the perfection of sinlessness, and raise all of us who trust in him to eternal life forever in heaven.
 
Paul will come back again and again in this letter to the promise of the resurrection and eternal life—it was something that the Thessalonians needed to have explained, but it’s something we need to hear again and again, to inspire the endurance we need to get through every work and labor of love in our lives.
 
In Christ, 
Pastor Timothy Smith

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