This is our third week in our Thessalonian study, today we are beginning in the latter half of chapter 1 verse 5. “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you…”
Paul and Silvanus and Timothy proved to be men whose words and deeds matched, and whose words and deeds are in line with Jesus’ words and works. They meet the standards later written in Titus 1:5-2:8. They so spoke (earlier in verse 5) and so lived out the gospel, proving themselves to be His disciples (pause here, please read John 15:8; a great meditation!).
This is the abiding life!!! We are not called to please others or seek glory from others; so this ‘proving’ is not in order to make something of ourselves before our peers. Rather, our lives should “prove” or display or simply show that we are His disciples. This is not a call to self-effort, this is a reminder that true believers will make Him known in word and deed; we will be fruitful branches bringing Him glory.
There is no room in Paul’s theology for “preach the gospel, and use words when necessary.” How often Paul reminds them of what he spoke, and taught. His custom was to use words–reasoning, speaking, teaching (as Jesus’ custom was, see Luke 4:15 & Matthew 4:23). Paul was always using words to proclaim the gospel.
It is a proclamation! And as they proclaim, it was not “in word only, but also in power and the Holy Spirit and full conviction” (see last week’s notes here). And those who hear, the Spirit works through the Word to apply the gospel, “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” TItus 3:5.
For more to ponder concerning this “proved to be” see: 2 Corinthians 4:1-5; 2 Timothy 2:15, 4:17; And from another apostle, 1 John 1:3. This is not the only time Paul reminds them of his time with them, he does so in every chapter of this short epistle.
1 Cor 4:16, 11:1; Phil 3:17-21; Hebrews 6:12, 13:7;
This is part of how we grow in our faith, how we “learn Christ” (cf Ephesians 4:20f). They became imitators, having received the word. They heard, they saw, they imitated; as little children imitate parents and older siblings. Again–word and deed go together! We do not show, and expect imitation, and then add in some teaching. How do we make disciples? (word and deed, “teaching them to obey” see Matthew 28; “The grace of God appeared, instructing us to…” Titus 2:11-15).
Imitators of us and of the Lord. Who are you following? As Hebrews 13 tells us, following teachers is part of the Christian life; considering the outcome of their faith and following their example is good. And who is following you? We ought to want in our own walk be able to say “follow me as I follow Christ.” Whether it is to our children, or an unspoken desire to simply show forth God’s love to our neighbors… And when we follow someone, we ought to be in the Word enough to know if their example is godly. (see the Titus study on that word)
Became imitators having received the word. Received the word, heard the proclamation, sat under the teaching… Their faith took shape by hearing, listening, watching, considering, and then imitating.
Joy amid Tribulation
Vs 6-7; Joy of the Spirit, even while suffering an affliction of circumstances. (Remember John 14-16?) Remember their situation from Acts? Riots? Sent away… Thessalonian Jews followed to Berea and stirred up more riots?
Oh, their affliction was real, and troublesome, and all encompassing. This does not diminish our experience–but it ought to give us the ‘hope’ that we too can persevere, with joy…if they did, by the Spirit, then I can by the same Spirit dwelling in me!
The word sounded forth
They heard, believed, lives were changed, they became an example, and they spoke! (2 Cor 4, “we also believe, therefore we also speak!” This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine… Even in other towns and provinces, their example went forth.
Does my example go anywhere? In your own sphere of life, it may seem like it, or seem not to…It is a question worth pondering, but should not become the focus. We look to Christ without trying to be noticed. But others will notice a true “work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope.” Right now, I have two disciples to whom I say “follow me, your mama, as I follow Christ” as well as “I’m sorry, please forgive me, mama still struggles with sin too…”
We exemplify faith and repentance! We speak not as sinners, but as sinners reconciled to God, alive in Christ, heirs of eternal life…what else?
“Your faith toward God”
What a robust statement! Not simply “your faith” as in “that faith you conjured up and must somehow sola-boot-strappa keep up!” But, your faith toward God, it is set upon Him, not an object you hold, but your gaze directed toward God your Saviour! (Jude 1:25). Your faith–your work of faith and proclamation of faith, has gone forth–everyone knows, nobody wonders…in every place, Paul does not have to confirm it, everyone KNOWS.
Not only do they know about your faith, they know it is not something ‘new.’ This is the same faith that Paul has, one faith. Though I do not know how we could ever have unity in the church in this era–there is decidedly no ‘church’ but so many churches. Some try to reconcile and imagine that all the varied beliefs make up a beautiful mozaic. Others give in to postmodernism and say “your truth for you, my truth for me…so we can each have our own version of Christianity.” But neither of these is Biblical; in fact they are anti-Biblical.
Here, in Thessalonica, we do not have various beliefs within Christianity, we have simply “the faith.”
When they received Paul and the gospel, they turned to God from idols. Our first clue from this letter that these are mainly Gentile believers. Israel had struggled with idolatry for years, all through the OT. But their main struggle in this era was not against idols, but against unbelief and Pharisaism and simply not listening to God’s Word. These believers had turned away from idols, something that plagued all the surrounding Roman and Greek provinces.
Active while Waiting
They served. From idols, to the living and true God. The God who gives our lives purpose! We serve one another within the church, and do good to all people but especially the household of faith (Galatians 5:13, 6:10; 1 Peter 4:8-10). They served, they did not merely sit around.
And they waited. They were eager for Jesus’ return, thinking He could come back any moment. They heard report of Mark 13:28-37 and lived accordingly, keeping alert. They were as the virgins keeping their lamps trimmed (Matthew 25). They wanted to be stewards found faithful (Matthew 24). This is not to say they did it perfectly–no one will, yet we press on.
1:10 Son of God, the other highly Christological title! So to recap, we spoke last week of verse one in which Jesus is Lord, Christ. And now in verse ten He is the Son of God, risen from the dead, currently working, coming again! This is a full and vigorous Christology, fully formed, fully taught.
We believe that Jesus died and rose again and that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep. 2 Thess 1:10; 2 Cor 4:14-18. Do you hear this reflected in the Apostles Creed? Why are these important? Do these beliefs shield us from any current debates in the church at large/i.e. With Christians in other local churches, or teaching we encounter through internet/books/magazines/etc?)
See also: 2:19, 3:13, 4:14-15, 5:23 Every chapter speaks of His coming! How often does His coming make it into our thought life? Daily? Weekly? Every now and then? Only at Pentecost and Advent? How would your experience of “much tribulation” change if you mused upon this more?
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash