Welcome to 1 Thessalonians! The year is A.D. 51. Writing from Corinth, Paul sits down with both Silas and Timothy to write a note of encouragement and explanation to the people of Thessalonica. The encouragement part was to spur on the church and the Thessalonian Christians to keep being the Godly example their reputation suggested. The explanation portion of the letter is to address the many questions brought up by the young believers in the church.
So you have some context, it was in Thessalonica that Paul and Silas found refuge after their experience in Philippi… you know, the place where they were beaten and thrown in prison? Again, to help with context, the first eleven verses of Acts 17 take place while they were in Thessalonica.
Because Paul didn’t spend a ton of time with the Thessalonians he was fearful they didn’t understand how to teach the next generation. Paul was partially correct, but also pleasantly surprised when Timothy came back reporting all the church had accomplished since his departure.
Faith, Hope, and Love
You can learn a lot about a church from the opening of Paul’s letters. He typically brings greeting, thanking God for the believers, and a word of encouragement. In 1 Thessalonians 1 we find out what Paul thinks about the church while he prays for them:
1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV) 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.
If we were to stop here, we would learn the church in Thessalonica…
- work out of their faith
- labor by love
- and endure because of hope
If these things sound vaguely familiar they should because they’re the three foundational characteristics of Christian character found in 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT) 13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
Ringing Out From You
1 Thessalonians 1:7-10 (NLT) 7 As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia.
8 And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, 9 for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. 10 And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.
This is where I want to land for today. I don’t know about you, but this is type of reputation I want as a church!
Look at what Paul attributes to the church in Thessalonica:
- You have become an example to all the believers in Greece (this was a new church!)
- The word is “ringing out” from you, to people everywhere!
- People everywhere we go talk about your faith in God
- Your hospitality is noteworthy
- People notice you’ve turned away from the idols of this world
- It’s noticed that you’re passionate about the return of Jesus
The church had become an example not to some believers, or most believers, but all believers in Greece! Here’s the amazing thing about this commendation; no other church received this particular praise from Paul.
Even the term “ringing out” is the Greek word ἐξηχέω (exēcheō) and is only used once in the entire Bible! It means: to sound forth, emit, sound, resound. To better put it, to “echo forth” the Gospel. The church in Thessalonica didn’t just live it, show it, and believe it, they shared it! It was too much for them to keep for themselves, they had to share it with the world around them.
Folks! I pray that we too will be found faithful and have the same reputation to the world around us.