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1 Thessalonians

Building Blocks

1st Thessalonians 2

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. This we know, this we sing, this we believe. But have you ever considered some of the building blocks Christ uses in his church?

Men of Integrity

For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed--God is witness-- nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

(1Th 2:1-12 NASB)

What kind of men does God use to build his church?

Boldness

It is the chief characteristic of those who plant new churches: boldness. It takes a fair amount of courage to go door to door, inviting others to hear the Word. The reason most of us don’t have this boldness is fairly simple: we know we’re going to be met with opposition. What, then, is the Christian to do about this opposition?

  • Expect it. We are clearly taught that anyone who loves Christ wholeheartedly will face opposition and even persecution. This should not be a surprise to us.
  • Prepare for it. Since you know you’re going to be opposed, you should be prepared. Prayer and meditation for the soul, worship and praise for the spirit, studying the Scriptures for the mind – all these prepare all of you.
  • Don’t give in to it. You know who has won the battle. Sometimes you will be stubbornly refused. When (not if) that happens, shake dust and move on.
The message is pure

Paul, by example, gives us the characteristics of anyone who wants to spread the Good News. The key to the evangelical personality is purity. If you keep yourself pure, you make yourself the willing instrument of God.

  • There must be no error in what you say. Linus to the contrary notwithstanding, it does matter what you believe. If you don’t know what you believe, how can you teach others? If your beliefs are inconsistent, how will you convince others? Therefore, study the Scriptures diligently and often.
  • There must be no deceit in your words. There are plenty of swindlers out there, leading others astray for profit. The world expects such; make it clear you are not one.
  • You must have no desire for self-glorification. The example is set before us: Paul, though an Apostle of God, specially called to teach the Gentiles, does not use this authority for his own personal pomp. Rather, he humbled himself (as his Lord did) – and so became an example to them.
Sharing their very lives

In the world of the computer geek there is an acronym: WYSIWYG. It’s pronounced “whizzy wig”; it stands for “what you see is what you get.” It is important that we live that way; the Christian term for it is “integrity.” If you are living behind the mask, it’s time you discarded it. God’s work is done by the honest, for God’s word is truth.

But this is not sufficient; you must reach out with your whole heart. You may be an honest miser, for example – but that’s not going to help those in need. Your Lord commands both honesty and charity. Money collected in the plate will do some good. Sharing your life with someone is a much greater charity – and a much greater joy.

Paul tells us as much here. He had such an affection for these Christians that he not only shared the Gospel with them, but his whole life. He “walked the talk,” as we might say.

Hard work

In the last half of the nineteenth century many churches had no paid minister on staff. It was considered by many to be an admission that not one of the people in that church was capable of handling the truth. The view is somewhat extreme today, but it carries a germ of truth in it. Let’s look at an example:

Minister A and Minister B come to town to establish a church. Minister A immediately rounds up several believers, forms a committee and draws a salary so that he might continue the work of evangelism.

Minister B starts by finding a place to work, to support himself. His church starts slowly, for he has less time to reach others. But those whom he does reach are impressed by the example he sets.

I think you can see that Minister A may look good, but his concern for his paycheck handicaps him; people can see his first priority. Minister B’s congregation can see his priorities too. Of course, the resolution of this problem is simple (and Paul used it): the evangelist is sent (and paid) from another church elsewhere.

Like a father pities his children

The man of God should not be a blind guide. Paul gives us three ways in which the man of God should guide his flock:

  • Encouragement. Every one has troubles; the man of God should be there to provide the comfort of one who speaks on God’s behalf.
  • Exhortation. Interestingly, this word in the Greek carries the idea of one who is beseeching – not commanding. The man of God should not hesitate to bring the truth of Christ.
  • Imploring. The word in the original means “to bear witness.” The man of God should use his experience – good or bad – as evidence to convince the sinner.

The Word of God

For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.

(1Th 2:13-16 NASB)

Its Divine character

There is no getting past it: the word of God is a two-edged sword. We see in our own time various denominations splitting over the use of Scripture. We cannot in this lesson take the time to go through all the details of this, but we should note these two details:

  • First, that the Scripture is inspired by God. Opinion varies on what “inspired” means – but it certainly implies that this book is like no other. In it can be found the words of life eternal.
  • Second, we are clearly warned that it is complete – not to be tampered with or added to.
The imitation of Christ

The word of God is powerful in human lives:

  • It provokes us to repentance – and so saves us from the wrath to come.
  • It guides us by showing examples.
  • It provides for us the right words in time of trouble (see Psalm 23).
Always opposed

One of the surest tests of the authenticity of the Scriptures is this: the world opposes the word.

  • The world will oppose anyone who tells the Good News. Restrictions on the preaching of the word are commonplace now. Around the world there are countries that make it a capital offense. But even here we feel the social pressure to shut up – and the onslaught of lawsuits designed to prevent the spread of the Good News.
  • Indeed, the church is rejected by the powers of this world – and with good reason. The Lord of the church, Jesus the Christ, intends that we should have no other gods before him. The governments are sure that they have a better way, and it would be so convenient if Christians would just go away.
  • But the word is only opposed here; it is opposed everywhere. Even the missionary who would go to where the Gospel needs to be heard is now condemned as someone “who is robbing science of the opportunity to study this ancient culture.” The world’s view is that all religions are equally true (i.e., equally false). Therefore, you shouldn’t evangelize people – it will upset their culture.

Finally, the word of God, the Bible, stands as the measure God will use at Christ’s return. Those who oppose the word will be judged by the Word.

The Hope of the Soon Return

But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while--in person, not in spirit--were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. For we wanted to come to you--I, Paul, more than once--and yet Satan hindered us. For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.

(1Th 2:17-20 NASB)

The third building block we shall see is this: hope. Since the days of the Apostles the church has hoped for, believed in and looked forward to the “soon return” of the Lord, Jesus the Christ. We can understand this on two levels:

  • If you’ve been to the funeral of a Christian, you know that the hope of the resurrection is a central part of the faith. We are commanded to comfort each other with the thought that at the return, this one we loved so much will be raised from the dead, just as Christ was.
  • More than just those we love, we see in this event the coming of the Lord we love. It will be a day of wrath for many; old injustices will finally be judged. It is the day when righteousness and mercy will meet and kiss.

In this life, however, the hope of Christ is attacked. Paul puts his finger on the villain: Satan.

  • Satan attacks that hope when we are in physical pain. When you are suffering right now, it’s hard to look ahead to glory.
  • Satan attacks in times of emotional turmoil. When you are reacting instead of thinking, it’s difficult to see the joy to come.
  • Satan attacks in your seasons of doubt. When things don’t go as you planned, and you begin to ask God, “Why me?”, the resurrection looks to be far away and long in coming.

The answer to all these attacks is the same: press on. You have a goal set before you, a crown of life. On that day your hope will become sight. All your labors for Christ will be rewarded. It will be a day of joy as we greet each other again; it will be a day of glory for our Lord.

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