I Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
It is a blessing to have saved people as friends. Paul knew that the saints in Thessalonica had not arrived. They had some things to learn yet. However, they were saints. They had a common bond in the Lord Jesus Christ. There was something there to work with and there was something there to be encouraged by.
The true Christian leader prays for those that God gives him to teach. He thanks God for each one as he prays for them. It is a blessing to have others to fellowship with and to teach. It is a blessing to be able to pray for one another.
In verse 3 Paul noted that these saints had a testimony of salvation. They were living by faith. This work of faith was not the means of their salvation. It was the fruit of their salvation. They also demonstrated the love of God in their hearts. They expressed that love in tangible ways to Paul and Sylvanus and Timotheus. True saints are not hard to identify. They have a genuine nature to them.
These saints also were patiently hoping in the Lord Jesus Christ. As we noted yesterday and will see further, they needed to grow in their patience of hope. However the seed was there. A seed can grow. We are again reminded who is holding the true child of God. These saints were operating in the sight of God and our Father. God holds each one of His children in His hand. All saints have the same Father. He knows what each of His children is doing at all times. They were being reminded of this here. This was not a threat to them. It was a blessing for them to know that God the Father was watching over them. Yes, they were accountable to Him, but that is not a problem for the true child of God.
In verse 4 we come across that word “election.” This word carries much more weight here than with what we call our political elections. Those are not very secure and not very worthy. However, the election that Paul speaks of is sure and it is very worthy. The election is not the Calvinist heresy which suggests that some are chosen to be saved and they must be saved and others are not chosen to be saved and they cannot be saved. The Bible is abundantly clear that God’s gift of salvation is for all people. Every true child of God is elected to serve God. We have talked often about this. There is a basic standard that every true child of God will meet. Every true child of God has a specific calling beyond salvation; however, in salvation there is a standard that is set by God. The true saint is called out of a life of sin. He or she is changed from the root. His nature is changed. He is given the hope of eternal life. As John wrote in John 1:12:
John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
The true child of God is given the power to become a son of God. No true Christian has to work up the effort to be a Christian. They are given the power to behave like a child of God, by God. Every true child of God can say no to sin and yes to God, in all things. Paul stated:
I Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
No born again Christian can ever legitimately make excuses for their sin. When a true child of God sins, it is because they chose not to humbly submit to God’s way. The blessing is that the true child of God can and needs to confess their sin to God and be forgiven. The true child of God cannot behave as Adam did after he sinned. God did not accept Adam’s excuses. He held him accountable. He provided the means for Adam to be forgiven, but there were consequences to his sin.
The true child of God has been set free from the power of sin. As Paul stated in I Corinthians 15:
I Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In verse 5 Paul reminded the saints that the Gospel came to them in power, as it always does. The Holy Ghost was enabling Paul to preach the Gospel, and the Holy Ghost was working in the hearts of the hearers to respond to the Gospel properly. Paul had full confidence in the Gospel. He also presented it in such a way that the hearers could know that It was effective to the saving of the soul.
The saints in Thessalonica had the opportunity to observe how Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus lived among them. They were not “fly by night” evangelists. They did not drop in for a quick meeting and then take off with the windfall. They came to meet the needs of the people in that area and they stayed long enough to lay a right foundation. They allowed the people to spend time with them so that they could see how Paul and the others functioned in different situations and with different pressures. It is important for the hearers to get to know the preacher. It is important for the preacher to take the time to make himself available to the people he is called to help.
Paul reminded the saints that they became followers of them. It is good to follow those who are following Christ. In reality, those who are truly saved are all followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is important to follow Him. Paul stated:
I Corinthians 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Paul never expected the saints to follow him blindly. He always pointed them to Christ. They were grounded in the truth. No one can be saved unless they are saved through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. His shed blood is necessary. His death is necessary. His burial, and resurrection are necessary. His ascension is also necessary.
Paul pointed this out in verse 6. The saints were followers of them and of the Lord. They suffered in receiving the Word. The Judaizers were never far behind Paul. They hated the Gospel. They did not want anyone to get saved. They loved the praise of men and they loved the money of men. They wanted to keep people bound in sin. Those who turned to God in repentance and were saved were immediately attacked by the devil’s crowd. However, because they were saved, they could not lose their salvation. Thus the true saints had joy of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost indwells the true child of God at the moment of salvation. He never leaves the true child of God. The true child of God can grieve the Holy Ghost, but He will never leave them. He works in the heart of the saved to bring them into a closer walk with God.
In verse 7 we see that the saints in Thessalonica were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. Their testimony spread beyond their city. Good news gets around. They did not have the internet or phones. God news spread by word of mouth. It was news that was too good to keep hidden.
There is a report of a newspaper company in Kansas that was raided by the police last week. Apparently there was no just cause for the raid. There was some corruption in the police force that has not been fully exposed yet. In the raid, the police took computers and files and other equipment needed in a newspaper shop. The owner of the company needed to publish the next paper but he lacked the up to date equipment. He got out some old computers and put them to work and put out the next paper on time. He exposed the corruption in the paper as well. He believed he was doing a work that needed to continue. He was not going to let the police stop him from doing legitimate work.
The proclamation of the Gospel is of much greater importance than the publishing of a secular newspaper. We have faced threats over the past three years. However, those threats are not enough to silence us. The truth is of much greater need than our corrupt governments know and understand. The message of salvation must go forth. The encouragement of the saints must continue. By God’s grace it will continue. We need to humble ourselves and get to work doing what God has called us to do.
The saints in Thessalonica were ensamples to others. The Greek word translated as ensamples means “to stamp or to scar.” It is to make an indelible impression upon others. True saints will have such an impact on others that they cannot erase it. We know that Jesus Christ made such an impression on mankind. We know that God’s Word will do that as well as we faithfully preach it and teach it and live it. Keep in mind that the first century saints were accused of turning their world upside down. They left their mark. It could not be erased. The devil has been trying to erase it, but God is greater than the devil.
Those who are saved today need to live in such a way as to be ensamples to those around us. They need to see the steadfastness and the love of God in our hearts and lives. We may not see them saved in our time, but we need to make sure we are leaving the right mark behind.