The theme of this book is threefold: 1) to remind this young group of believers of the foundational truths that Paul had taught them 2) to encourage them to continue to follow the principles of holiness and practical sanctification and righteousness 3) to comfort them with regard to those who have already died as believers.
As we begin a new year, I Thessalonians is a great book to study. It will remind us who we are and why we are here. First, we have been bought with a price therefore we are to glorify God in our bodies. This means that we are to take up our cross daily (not just on Sunday) and follow Jesus Christ. Taking up our cross is tantamount to executing the Christian Way of Life. And remember that Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (I Corinthians 6:19-20; Matthew 16:24; Matthew 11:28-30)
As believers in Christ we have the privilege of being part of the resolution of the Angelic Conflict. Just like the great apostles of the Early Church, we are ambassadors for Christ. The question is what kind of ambassadors are we going to be this year? Will we be bold in our witness for Christ with a blameless testimony to back up our words? When others look at our lives will they see Christ? Do we have enough faith in God to always do the right thing regardless of the cost? Or will we accept only those principles and mandates that we choose and reject those we don’t like or those that “cramp our lifestyles?” The book of I Thessalonians addresses these questions and many more.
“Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”
Paul wrote this epistle on his second missionary journey. Paul had been at Thessalonica several weeks spreading the Gospel message and some had accepted Christ as Savior. Then he began to teach them doctrine and within a few weeks he was able to teach them a tremendous amount of doctrine. And then as was his custom he moved on to another city. Later in his travels he heard of the problems at Thessalonica by way Timothy. Timothy had gone back to see how they were doing spiritually. Timothy reported that some of the believers were standing around, had sold their businesses or were neglecting them, because they thought the Rapture would take place at any moment. Other believers were in a panic because they thought that those who had died between Paul’s visit and that particular moment would not be involved in the Rapture of the Church, which Paul had taught. Some of them were upset by the pressures, the adversities and the persecutions of life. Others were confused about certain doctrines. The result was the writing of the five chapters which comprise 1 Thessalonians.
We conclude from the fact that there are no Old Testament citations or quotations in this book that this was primarily, but not exclusively, a Gentile church. This is addressed to a group of believers who lived in the city of Thessalonica, the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia, the northern part of Greece. It was famous for its wealth and its great seaport; 200,000 or so by way of population. The church was founded by Paul on his missionary journey. (Acts 17:1-11)
Paul, Silvanus and Timothy were the Pauline missionary team and as they traveled from place to place they would witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result of their witnessing a few would accept Christ as Savior and they immediately gathered these people together and began to train them to go out and reach their own people. This is the primary concept of the “indigenous missionary.” Once these people had been trained, Paul organized a local church, and in the organization of the local church there were three factors that were always there: a) the church was self-supporting. He did not send back to Jerusalem or Antioch, or some other place, for funds b) the church was self-governing. While Paul had troubleshooters on the team they only came in to handle special problems, they did not come in to run the church c) The church was self-propagating. They went out and did their own witnessing for Jesus Christ.
Prayer is a part of the follow-up of the indigenous concept, and in order to perpetuate Christianity in Thessalonica, Paul who had left Thessalonica was still remembering the group of believers in that area in his prayers and their faithfulness to the Lord. This is found in three phrases: 1) work of faith 2) labor of love and 3) steadfastness of hope.
Your work of faith is divine production. As a result of using the Faith-Rest Technique you have divine production. Faith in its verb form is “to believe” and must have a subject and an object. In salvation, the subject is whosoever and the object is Jesus Christ. (John 3:16) In the Christian life, the subject is the believer and the object is the Word of God. (II Timothy 2:15) Faith is effective in the believer’s life only if faith has the right object. Faith is thinking. The content of what you’re thinking is what determines faith’s effectiveness in your life. There is no limit to the amount of faith that a believer can have, but doctrinal content in the soul is what determines the strength of your faith. Faith is developed by the study and application of God’s Word under the control of God the Holy Spirit. Faith is developed by means of growth when a believer begins to consistently use the Problem-Solving Devices, such as Rebound, Filling of the Holy Spirit and the Faith-Rest Technique. Faith can also be developed through suffering. (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 4:1-3, 12:2; Galatians 5:22-23; I Peter 1:7-9; I John 5:1-5)
The Faith-Rest Technique is a versatile technique for overcoming any difficult situation, any problem or any disaster. By faith the believer applies doctrine logically while resting in the promises of God. By reaching a doctrinal rationale the believer is re-explaining to himself the basic concepts of doctrine that pertain to his relationship with God. This will be necessary in a crisis because emotion will normally take over and suppress proper thinking. You must take deliberate steps to reestablish the control of the Holy Spirit in your soul.
Labor of love is both categories of love: 1) personal love for God 2) impersonal love for all mankind. The labor is the result of the filling of the Spirit. When God the Holy Spirit controls the life both categories of love will be exhibited in the life of a believer. Paul had left them with the task of spreading the Gospel and developing a local church. This was to be their labor of love.
Personal love is based on the virtue of the object, the one who is loved. Personal love for God is a function of the Royal Priesthood of the believer. Before we can love one another, we must learn to love God. We learn to love God only by getting to know Him through His attributes as revealed in His Word. As we get to know Him through His Word and obedience to His Word, we develop capacity to appreciate Him and enjoy His blessings. Our personal love for God is based upon our thinking, not our emotions. No one can be forced to love God. As with everything in the Christian Way of Life, it is a matter of personal volition. However, I must tell you that you are commanded to love God. (Deuteronomy 6:5) Loving God changes our human norms and standards to divine norms and standards and gives us a foundation upon which to build our Christian lives. This, of course, not only affects our relationship with God (our spiritual life), it also affects our relationship with others (our Christian life). (I Peter 1:8; Ephesians 3:19)
Impersonal love is not what we normally think of as love. It is the virtue in your soul that causes you to have a relaxed mental attitude toward others and treat them with kindness, compassion, patience and forgiveness. In other words, impersonal love is how we treat others. Therefore, impersonal love must be based on the virtue of the subject, the one doing the loving (“the treating”). Impersonal love is a function of the Royal Ambassadorship of the believer. It is our love for God that motivates us to exhibit impersonal love toward all. Impersonal love operates from the integrity and virtue that you have developed from learning and applying Bible doctrine.
Steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is confidence in God and His promises. It means believing God when things are hopeless. It means to keep on claiming the promises of God when the situation is 100 per cent hopeless. It means believing in God when there is no human solution. So you keep right on claiming the promises, you keep standing on the Word of God, you remain in fellowship with God and you continue to operate under the filling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is our hope for now and the future. We are to stay focused on Him, not our circumstances or problems. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Knowing brethren beloved by God, His choice of you is a reference to the doctrine of election. Election is the plan of God for believers only, whereby He chooses or selects certain things to be true. The Greek word for election is “eklektos” and means picked out, selected, or chosen for privilege. The question that must be answered in order to clearly understand this doctrine is “What are these things that God chooses for the believer?” Please notice that it is not God choosing a person for salvation as some teach; rather it is God choosing certain things to be true of the believer. An unbeliever must still use his volition to choose to believe in Christ or to reject Christ. (Ephesians 1:4)
The Church Age believer also has been chosen by God for a service. This service is to be Royal Family of God, the royal family of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every person who believes in Christ during this dispensation (a period of time in history when God deals with mankind in a certain way) becomes Royal Family of God. As royalty, it the responsibility of each believer to fulfill his election by the execution of the Christian Way of Life. (II Thessalonians 2:13-14) The Christian Way of Life involves a life of discipline in order to learn God’s grace system for success. There is no shortcut when it comes to learning Bible doctrine and applying it to daily experience.
In order to fully understand spiritual information from the Word of God, the believer must rely upon the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit. Spiritual things are revealed only by the Holy Spirit to the spiritual believer (those who are in fellowship with God and controlled by the Holy Spirit). Control by the Holy Spirit is strictly a matter of a believer’s volition (free will). Sin removes fellowship and the control, while naming or acknowledging your sin to God restores that fellowship and control. This is God’s grace system and the only one that works. (I John 1:5-10)
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake is a reference to the Gospel that was presented to them by Paul and his team under the power and filling of the Holy Spirit.
After salvation, the believer is commanded to be filled with the Spirit, which is temporary and is lost when we commit any sin. “To be filled” is to be controlled by or empowered by the Holy Spirit. We choose to allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives by allowing Him to control our thinking. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ.” This means we must have the Word of God stored in our souls. It is this doctrinal information that the Holy Spirit uses to control our thinking. Divine Viewpoint Thinking produces Divine Production.
The filling of the Holy Spirit is for every believer in Christ. The purpose of this filling is to empower the believer to live the Christian Way of Life. When a believer is living the Christian Way of Life, he brings glory and honor to Christ. All believers are immediately filled with the Holy Spirit the moment they trust Christ as their Savior. The first time we sin after salvation however, we lose the filling of the Holy Spirit and we are out of fellowship with God. In order to restore both the filling of the Holy Spirit and our fellowship with God, we must simply name our known sins to God. (I John 1:9) We are then commanded to move forward with the execution of the Christian Way of Life, which the Scripture calls “walking in the light.” (I John 1:5-10) The filling of the Holy Spirit is potential, depending on the volition (free will) of the believer. It is also a command and literally means “keep on being filled with the Spirit.”
The message of the Gospel was so powerful that these believers in Thessalonica had full assurance and confidence that the words spoken to them by Paul and his team were true and accurate. One way they knew these men were giving them accurate information was their lives demonstrated the power and the production of the Holy Spirit when they declared the Gospel, and when they taught Bible doctrine.