1 Thessalonians 1-5 You became imitators of us and of the Lord

From 1 Thessalonians 1-5

Paul apostle thumb

Some churches today are known for their bible teaching, some their music, others tongues and healing. The Thessalonians were known for their faith. What would you like your church to be recognised for?

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

Sometimes when Paul writes a letter he is the only one introduced as the author of the letter and the one speaking.

In his letter to the Thessalonians, he is accompanied by Silvanus and Timothy. Paul is most probably the only one dictating the letter, but I’m sure Silvanus and Timothy have some input as well.

‘Paul’s letters regularly mention co-senders. Galatians names an anonymous group of brothers. First Corinthians is from Paul and Sosthenes. Only Timothy is named in 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon (Col). Along with Paul and Timothy, Silvanus is included in i Thessalonians (and 2 Thess). Romans is an exception (and Eph); only Paul’s name appears. The persistence of this practice, the repeated use of Timothy’s name, the variations in person and number of co-senders, and the omission in Romans all indicate that the practice was customary and a significant Pauline convention, the particular purpose of which was known to the parties concerned but is less apparent today.’ (Stirewalt, M.L., Paul, the letter writer)

1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. (1 Thes 1:1)

Letters in the first century normally take this form.

  1. Salutation:
  2. identification of the primary sender
  3. naming of co-senders
  4. address to multiple recipients.
  1. Body:
  2. background (sometimes divided into past and present)
  3. basis or explanation for the message
  4. message: order, request, commendation
  5. promise.
  1. Subscription (ibid)

Paul is no exception. However at the end of the salutation he has a modified Christian ending. Grace and peace.

2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thes 1:2-3)

Paul begins his letter with the content of his prayers. He gives thanks to God for their faith, love and hope.

It’s the Pauline triplet. Faith-hope-love. Paul always seems to have some combination of the them together. For Paul these are not simply attitudes of the heart. They imply action.

Faith leads to works. They are working. Love leads to labor. They are serving one another and the world. Hope leads to steadfastness. They patiently endure the challenges of the world without giving in.

Do you ever give thanks to God for how your brothers and sisters are living out their faith, love and hope?

4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. (1 Thes 1:4-5)

The way they are living is real evidence for Paul that they have been chosen by God. He sees the way they have been behaving as the work of the gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit and the conviction of their belief.

Only God can do these things in people’s lives. And he uses word and Spirit.

So this is why Paul thanks God.

You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. (1 Thes 1:5)

Paul reminds them of how he and his entourage behaved among them when they first shared the gospel and they got to know one another.

Paul’s behavior was for their benefit. Because if he acted poorly it would have become an obstacle to their coming to believe and for the following reason.

6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, (1 Thes 1:6)

They began to imitate Paul’s and the Lord’s way of life. They knew how Jesus lived because that’s Paul’s gospel message. The gospel is the story of Jesus. Through the gospel they came to know how Jesus loved and they began to imitate him as well.

In what ways can you imitate Jesus?

We can also see how important for Paul it was to conduct himself in a manner that didn’t impose the Jewish works of law on the Gentiles. Paul wasn’t living as a Jew when he was sharing the gospel with Gentiles.

The Thessalonians imitated Paul and the Lord in much affliction. They were being persecuted for their faith. Yet they were joyful because of work of the Spirit, giving them love for one another and a bright hope for the future.

7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.

9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among 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, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thes 1:7–10)

Their example became well known among all the other believers around them. Clearly the early christian churches were in fellowship with one another.

They heard the story of the Thessalonians. Is your church in fellowship with many others?

They were impressed with their gospel ministry, their faith and their repentance from idolatry to the worship of the one true God. Jesus, risen from the dead will come again. He is the one who delivers them from God’s holy wrath.

For Believers

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The passage reinforces a number of core elements of the Christian way of life. Faith, love and hope. How are these elements working in your life?

Some churches today are known for their bible teaching, some their music, others tongues and healing. The Thessalonians were known for their faith. What would you like your church to be recognised for?

Paul and Jesus were being imitated by the Thessalonians. Who are the people you are imitating?

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved