Lesson 5: "Ye Were Dear Unto Us" (I Thessalonians 2:8)
I Thessalonians 1:1-10
This is Lesson #5. In this lesson, we would like to get into the first book of Thessalonians, and do a verse by verse study. I've spent a good bit of time on the setting and introduction of this book. I'm convinced, that it's only when you apply this background to the book and keep the book deeply shrouded into the raw circumstances of Paul and Silas baptizing and teaching babes in Christ at Thessalonica — realizing the tension, duress, and hardship they had to endure by real sweat, nerves, and the commotions of such a trying time — that the message of this book begins to come alive. That message can be appreciated best, I believe, by those that hunger and thirst for spiritual things, those that understand suffering for the cause of Christ. The apostle Peter, who had faltered right in the presence of our Lord and could never forget the searching eyes of Jesus focused upon him, said this to us, "rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings..." (I Pet. 4:13). Then down in v. 16, that same apostle said, "If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." Thus, it is when we are veterans of the war of temptation, have endured the battles of tribulation and tasted survival or defeat, that we develop real appreciation for the sorrow-endowed cordial relations that existed between Paul and the converts at Thessalonica. Paul, with the brothers and sisters in Christ at Thessalonica, had been through the fire together. They were, in essence, a mutual fellowship in suffering. The apostle expressed his thought very simply in (2:8), "ye were dear unto us."
It was with that state of mind, that the apostle began to put the ink to the paper, so-to-speak. He was touched by the reports of Timothy and Silas, having just returned from Thessalonica. Whether Paul wrote the letter himself, or dictated it to another; of course, we cannot be sure. Paper and ink seem such a cold medium, and yet it bridged the gap between Paul and those recent converts of like precious faith. A real bond of Christianity showed through. Let me ask you, what do YOU hope to learn in this book? The Holy Spirit has preserved for us in graphic form Paul's thoughts the day he wrote this letter in Corinth. These thoughts were inspired of the Holy Spirit and thus serve as a model for our thinking. It's like an invisible cable that connect the very nerve cells and fibers of Christians in all ages. In it's purest form, the message can cause a thief to return his plunder. It can cause the drunkard and the drug addict to lay aside substance abuse forever. The message affects the very brain cells, from which the nerves originate, that control the muscles which, in turn, control the rest of our frail bodies. It allows the building blocks of evil to be redirected for good. It was prophesied in the ancient words of Isaiah that the "word of the Lord," i. e. in our dispensation, would cause some to "beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks..." — that's Isa. 2:4. So, don't underestimate the power of these words.
Get your eyes on the book! You read as I read! Check me out! Please follow the print in your Bible with your eyes. Are you ready? First Thessalonians, chapter 1, verse 1. LET'S READ! "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, 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." That's the first verse — one big long sentence. First, shift your mental setting back to Corinth the day that Silas and Timothy came to Paul. We said before, the candle must have burned late that night as these missionaries talked, possibly as they chipped away at some kind of tent-making work. Paul was full of questions, and their report melted the apostle's heart.
Undoubtedly, Silas had spent most of his time at Berea. It was Timothy who had come directly from Thessalonica. If you'll flip over to I Thess. 3:6 a moment, Paul said to the Thessalonian brethren, "now when Timothy came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you..." It must have been this good news delivered by Timothy with a few problems and a few sad notes sprinkled in between, that led the apostle to write the letter of I Thessalonians. You observe that in v. 1 of that letter, Paul included the names of his companions and co-workers, Silas and Timothy. "Silvanus" was the Romanized form of Silas' name. Some translations have the Romanized form of Timothy, i. e. Timotheus. Paul did not use this opportunity to mention his apostleship to the Thessalonians, as he did to some others, for the simple reason Paul's apostleship had never been disputed at Thessalonica. Silas was "a prophet" according to Acts 15:32, i. e. he possessed spiritual gifts by the laying on of the apostles hand. Acts 15:22 said that Silas was a "chief man among the brethren," i. e in the Jerusalem church. He had volunteered for the assignment to Antioch of Syria, trying to overcome the false teaching problem there. You might notice, also, that the Judaizing teacher problem that I pounded on in our introduction, of course, is not mentioned or even hinted at in this book , for the simple reason the Judaizing teachers were not a problem at Thessalonica. The infant congregation had not yet encountered that cult. When Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways, Silas decided to go with Paul to re-visit the churches established on Paul's first missionary tour. Timothy was from the city of Derbe, according to Acts 20:4. Timothy was likely a convert of the first missionary tour. Although Luke did not mention Timothy by name in connection with his record of the first missionary tour. Timothy was a fine young man "well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium," Acts 16:2. Paul desired Timothy to go with them — that's Acts 16:3. These two men, Silas and Timothy, must have been some of the best men Paul knew and it was a privilege for Paul to include their names at the top of this letter.
Notice that Paul addressed this letter, "unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ." It must have been less than six months from the time Paul and Silas departed Thessalonica by night until he wrote this letter in Corinth — probably a much shorter time. Even though the saints that met in that heathen city were really babes in Christ, Paul addressed them as a church, i. e. the called out for a special purpose. So, this gives you a little more insight into the way the word "church" is used in the New Testament. Also, notice that to be "in the Lord Jesus Christ" is to be "in God the Father." Jesus said in John 10:30 "I and my Father are one." Also, notice that to be part of the church is to be "in Christ," and, of course, to be in Christ is another way of saying to put on Christ; and, thus, simply means to be baptized into Christ, Gal. 3:27.
Then, notice the greeting or salutation in the last part of the first verse: "Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." Grace means unmerited favor. Peace, of course, has reference to that spiritual state of calm and comfort to the inner man that comes by knowing, obeying and serving the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wished them much peace and favor.
Now, before we dive into v. 2, let's first take a broad look at this book. What was the purpose of this book? It was a letter or epistle, as the scriptures use that term. It was a simple communique to encourage and motivate and build up those brethren in Thessalonica. The message was to prod them to stand above the world and those physical attacks that had been heaped upon them. They were urged to glory in their suffering for the cause of Christ. The writer was trying to help them attain a higher spiritual plane. Of course, the letter carries a few admonitions and cautions, also. Some new information, in the form of more teaching, is injected in the message. Now, how would YOU go about accomplishing these things? Let's take a look at how the apostles went about conveying these thoughts. The first ten verses that make up chapter one are essentially a commendation. People need to be commended when they do good and attain in spiritual ways. Then after the-commendation, I would describe chapter two as a review of Paul's ministry at Thessalonica. This review carries with it the idea you follow us! — i. e. use us as an example! Verse 11 in chapter 2, Paul said, "ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children..." And, then down in v. 20, he added, "ye are our glory and joy." Thus, Paul blended that admonishing review back into his commendation for them, as well as, set the stage for offering some correction and adding more instruction. Before Paul got to any new instruction, he, more or less, devoted what we call chapter 3 to bringing them up to date on Paul's state and the things that had happened to him since Paul's and Silas' quick and unexpected departure to Berea by night. Then in chapter 4, Paul began to exhort them in a general way about their manner of life, i. e. lifestyle, we would say. Then down about v. 13 or chapter 4, Paul began to sermonize a little. His theme had to do with, what modern day theologians would call, eschatology, i. e. the doctrine of last things, dealing with death, Christ's second coming, the resurrection and life after death. He continued that theme down through the middle of chapter 5 and then blends it back into his general exhortation to live a faithful life (beginning in about v. 12 of chapter 5).
Now, let's quickly review this outline. The first section, 1:2-10, we've called commendation; section two, 2: 1 -20, is a review of Paul's ministry at Thessalonica; section three, 3: 1 - 13, has to do with the happenings since Paul left Thessalonica; section four, 4: 1 - 12, a general exhortation on manner of life; section five, 4: 13-5: 11, is eschatology; section six is some final exhortations to a faithful life in Christ.
Alright, get your eyes on the first section, Paul's commendation of the Thessalonian brethren. Let's read the first sentence. READ WITH ME - that's v. 2 - 3 - 4. Are you ready? Let's read. Paul said, "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and the patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." Why was Paul so thankful for the Thessalonians? What was it that Paul remembered without ceasing — (1) "your work of faith," (2) your "labor of love," (3) your "patience of hope? " Paul, through the Holy Spirit, saw in the brethren at Thessalonica qualities they probably didn't even see in themselves. Their faith was not some ceremonious formality, but, an innocent trust in the pure gospel that Paul preached. Their faith expressed itself in their conduct, their doing, and their obedience: Thus, Paul thanks God for their "work of faith." The next thing Paul remembered was their "labor of love." These brethren really cared for one another. They had honest concern for the welfare of others. It was not some artificial resolve for publicity. Their faith brought about action. And, then finally, Paul remembered their "patience of hope." Their understanding of the gospel which sustained their souls. Study these qualities. These are some of the things Paul admired in these infant Christians and, thus, the things that Paul commended. These qualities made them outstanding in the sight of God. You can be assured, it's the qualities we need as well.
Let's read v. 5 - 6 - 7. Please read with me. Beginning in v. 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 you know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia." Alright, Paul in these verses commends the brethren of Thessalonica for their genuine brand of Christianity, so-to-speak. They were genuine babes in Christ. They had the right spirit. In this, their influence was felt even beyond their borders. Paul said "our gospel," v. 5 It was their gospel because they taught it, not because they were the author of it. The words of Paul and his co-workers were confirmed by miraculous manifestations. Paul alluded to no specific examples; but, simply states (1) the gospel came with power, (2) it came "in the Holy Ghost," and (3) it came "in much assurance." It's another way of saying that signs and miracles followed the apostles at Thessalonica, just as Luke records signs and miracles followed the apostles other places. In v. 6, some translations say, "Ye became imitators of us," instead of followers. Notice that these brethren had "received the word in much affliction," (v. 6), i. e. with great difficulty.
Let's read v. 8 - 9 - 10. Here we go! Beginning in v. 8, "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. For they themselves show 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; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." So, finally, Paul commended the brothers and sisters at Thessalonica, not only for their love, faith, and hope (i. e. the way they had quickly anchored their soul as disciples of King Jesus), but, also for their outreach and good influence upon others. Considering the fact that wind driven sea vessels were the work horses of commerce and travel in the days of Paul, and considering, also, the fact that Thessalonica was a well situated seaport, I sense that, as Paul visited the synagogues of Athens, Corinth and other places, he had picked up on rumors of the Thessalonican shake-up at the Jewish synagogue which led to his and Silas' expulsion from the city. Those rumors told of staunch converts to Christ Jesus. Although, those rumors, as usual may have carried some half-truths, Paul sensed it was raising the curiosity level in other places; thus, setting the stage and clearing fertile ground for Paul's message to carry the seed of the kingdom to others. The synagogue reports told of some turning from idols to serve the living and true God, as v. 9 puts it. Even that would have been good news to honest, God-fearing Jews. Verse 10 is probably Paul's restatement and corrected version of the way that message came through to him. It's about that time! So, have a good day!