Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 3 * BOOK 42
I Thessalonians 1:1 – 2:14
Now in a moment we’re going to start in I Thessalonians 1:1. But before we do, I’d like to give a brief historical background of this letter. I’ve got a makeshift map on the board of the area that Paul is in in this study. We have our Mediterranean Sea, and up here is Asia Minor in Scripture, it’s Turkey in our geography today, Here we have Ephesus which was one of the earliest Churches on Paul’s journey from Antioch up in Asia Minor, and then he came back to Antioch. Then I believe it was on his third missionary journey, he went up through central Asia Minor, and you remember when he got here on the sea coast, he was intending on coming back to east to Asia, but instead the Spirit appeared to him in a vision and said, “Come over to us in Macedonia and help us.”
Well Paul didn’t argue with the vision, he took a ship and went across to Philippi. And of course Philippi is clear up here in northern Greece, and over here is Italy, but as he started his ministry in Philippi, that’s where he and Silas were beaten back there in the Book of Acts chapter 13. In fact it would probably be good just to go back and look at that account. I hadn’t intended to do that, but maybe we should. Here Paul and Silas leave the Church at Antioch, and then in chapter 14 then move on into central Turkey, Asia Minor, and go into the work at Iconium, and Derbe, and Lystra then all the way up to chapter 16 is the account of what happened in Philippi.
Now of course, if you know your history, all of this was part and parcel of the Roman Empire. So Philippi was a Roman colony, and you have to know a little bit of your history to know the difference. Philippi, a Roman colony, meant that there was a Roman Garrison stationed there at the city, or like today we call them occupation troops. Where as, Thessalonica which is just the next city down toward Athens from Philippi was a free city, they didn’t have Roman troops roaming up and down the street, they just had complete freedom. Probably they helped out a couple of Roman generals in a battle sometime earlier. But any way you had these different Roman rules, but in Philippi where Paul began his ministry in Europe, you know the account, how they were beaten and thrown into the dungeon. And out of the jail experience with the earthquake setting them free, we had the salvation then of the Philippian jailer. Who, if I would have had more time in the last half hour, would have used as the counter example of Acts 2:38.
In Acts 2:38 the Jews said, “what must we do to be saved?” The Philippian jailer a Gentile in Acts 16:30, says, “what must I do to be saved?” And remember Paul does not tell him to“repent and be baptized but simply believe.” Well anyway after having been beaten in Philippi he makes his way on down to the next sizeable city, which is Thessalonica, and we pick that up in chapter 17.
“Now when they (Paul and Barnabas and whoever was with him) had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews.(Now there weren’t any synagogues in Philippi, if you remember) 2. And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, (to these Jews meeting in the synagogue) and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures.”
The very most you can get out of three Sabbaths would be how long? 4 weeks, assuming that he didn’t stay for the next Sabbath. So the length of time that he ministered in this city of Thessalonica was at the max 4 weeks. Some Bible students will say three weeks because of the three Sabbaths. But you see, there could be another six days extended and still be just three Sabbaths. But it was not more, evidently, than 4 weeks in this pagan Greek city.
“Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. (Now verse 4 and this was the reaction as it was almost everywhere) 4. And some of them believed, and consorted (took up with) Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.”
Now you see the Gentiles are more and more latching onto this Gospel of Grace to the consternation, of course, of the Jew. Now look at verse 5.
But the Jews which believed not, (now there were some that did, but the majority did not) moved with envy,…”
Now you always have to stop here. What were they envious of? They didn’t want these pagan Gentiles coming in and having anything to do with their God. Because I told one of my classes during this past week, you ought to take your concordance sometime and just look up how many times up through the scriptures you have the three names, right in order, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Sometimes it’s in a matter of three or four verses. “And the God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Peter, in Acts chapter 3 will repeat it. “The God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And so you see, they felt that they were so inclusive of their God that those Gentiles couldn’t have anything to do with Him. And when they saw Gentiles responding to Paul and Silas’ preaching, they were furious with envy. They probably said, “Those Gentiles had no business worshipping and believing in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And so verse 5 again.
“But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd (unscrupulous) fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 And when they found them not, (Paul and Silas had already left and escaped and were headed on down to Athens) they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also:”
Isn’t that amazing? Here into this pagan world comes one man, with two or three of his friends, but by and large, it was the work of the apostle Paul that caused these pagans to think that they were literally turning their religious world upside down, or like most people say, “right side up”. But oh, what an impact this one man had on the pagan world. Now verse 7.
“Whom Jason hath received; and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. (That tells us that Paul was already proclaiming the coming king and His kingdom) 8. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. 10. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: (which is the next little city south of Thessalonica) who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.”
They spent some time at Berea and then Paul comes down to Athens alone. Then the others, Silas and Timothy and so forth, catch up with him and then they go on down to Corinth. Realizing that this little group of believers up here in Thessalonica had only heard him teach four weeks. Can’t you imagine how his heart must have burned wondering, “How are they fairing?” Four weeks isn’t very long. I’ve had to teach people three years before they see it. But four weeks and he had a sizable group of these pagans who had become believers of his Gospel. Almost unbelievable isn’t it? Now, that’s the backdrop, then, for these two little letters to the Thessalonians, the first that Paul writes, even while they’re at the end of his letters for the most part. Yet, as far as everything can tell, they were the earliest of his writings and they were written within a matter of weeks after having escaped Thessalonica, spent some time in Berea, a few days in Athens and evidently wrote these letters from the city of Corinth. Then Timothy, or whoever it was, took it back to the Thessalonian Church for their admonition and for their spiritual food. Now let’s take it verse by verse for a little bit.
I Thessalonians 1:1-3
“Paul and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church (assembly) of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ:… (that’s the same positioning that Paul teaches us in Colossians chapter 3, as we saw a week or two ago. Where are we as believers? We’re hid in Christ in God. That’s our position. These Thessalonians were the same way.) 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;”
Now, whenever the scripture repeats something in a rather short period of time, what’s my word? Emphasis!! Now let’s go down to verse 9 and what a tremendous verse. He writes to the ex-pagans, who he had only spent 4 weeks among.
I Thessalonians 1:9
“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, (in other words, your testimony shows how God blessed our ministry among you) and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
Now think about that a minute. What one word describes those people turning from their pagan idolatry to the truth of God? FAITH!!! It was their faith. They believed what God said through the apostle and when they believed it, what were they able to do? Turn their back on idolatry and accept the truth. Has anything changed? NO! It still takes faith in God’s word. And so the second one is after they had turned and exercised their faith to leave idolatry and “to cling to the God of truth” and what was the next one? “And to serve the living and true God.”
Now, put that over with the work in verse 3 and what was the labor in verse 3? Here’s how you learn to compare scripture with scripture. A labor of what? Love! So now what two words have you got? Faith and love. Now come on down to verse 10.
I Thessalonians 1:10a
“And to wait for his Son from heaven,…”
Come back and compare it with the third part of verse 3 and what’s the word? Hope! Now, where do I go first, I Corinthians or Titus? Let’s go to I Corinthians chapter 13. And you remember back, it was long time ago, when I was teaching I Corinthians 13 and we came to the last verse. Some of you should know it from memory. What three things are going to abide?
I Corinthians 13:13a
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity,…”(love),
And if you remember, many of you were sitting in this very same studio audience when I taught this chapter and I said, “Now if you will be aware throughout Paul’s writings, these three words just keep popping like cream on a bottle of unpasteurized milk. Some of you older ones know how that works don’t you? Remember how the cream just comes to the top? Well that’s what happens with these three words, Faith, Hope and Love. They just keep coming up and coming up. Let’s just compare verse 3 and 9 here in I Thessalonians chapter 1.
I Thessalonians 1:3a
“Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, …” Comparing with the last part of verse 9.
I Thessalonians 1:9a
“…and how ye turned to God from idols…”
But what caused them to turn? Their faith! Back to verse 3 what was the next thing?
I Thessalonians 1:3a
“…and labour of love,…”
I Thessalonians 1:9b
“…to serve the living and true God.”
Now all you have to do is close your eyes and think. What is predominant reason for serving God right now today in the year 2000? Your love, first for Him, and then for lost humanity, and now I’m going to start adding, “untaught Christians.” Oh, it’s just pitiful, and it’s getting worse by the day, how ignorant – and when I use the word ignorant, I’m not referring to a lack of brain cells. Ignorance is simply a lack of teaching. You can have somebody in Church all their life, and they’re as ignorant as ignorant can be. Why is that? They haven’t been taught anything. You ought to read our mail, and this is exactly what we hear. I don’t care whether they’re 90 years old or 50, it’s almost always the same. “I’ve been in Church all my life, and I never learned any of this before. Well now somebody is going to be held responsible. Somebody has not been fulfilling their obligations. But you see Paul had so completely instructed these ex-pagans of Thessalonica, that they did all three. They practiced their faith, by turning from idols. They immediately went into a labour of love, and then in verse 3, what were they practicing?
I Thessalonians 1:3b
“…the patience of hope…” And comparing with verse 10, this patience of hope.
I Thessalonians 1:10a
“And to wait for his Son from heaven,…”
So again he’s used all three words of Faith, Love, and Hope. Now let me show you another verse where Paul uses those same 3 words. Come over to the Book of Titus, chapter 2 for a moment. To me this is what makes studying this Book so exciting. To see how it all fits together like that jigsaw puzzle I told you about earlier. When everything fits, you know you’re on the right track. I had a letter just yesterday that asked the question, “Well how do I know who’s right? He said, “You’ve got the Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Pentecostals, the Catholics, Church of Christ, the Mormons, and all of this, How am I to know who is right and who is wrong?” Well you know what I write back? Whoever is purely and completely going by Paul’s epistles is the one you can trust, and the rest of them, you’d better pitch, because it’s going to be a blended turned up on high mixture that’s going to give you nothing but a Spiritual indigestion. Now look what Paul writes concerning Faith, Hope, and Love.
“For the Grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.”
What does Ephesians 2:9 say?
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:”
So you’re saved, how? Through Faith! So what can you label this verse? Faith. All right then the next verse.
“Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world:”
What’s that? That’s your labour of love. Do you see it? And what’s the next verse, verse 13?
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;”
So we have Faith, Love, and Hope. Isn’t it amazing? I mean you just can’t escape it, these are the three things of Paul’s teaching that are appropriate even today. Much of what he wrote about in I Corinthians has fallen through the cracks scripturally, but not those three. It is still predominant in our understanding of the Scriptures that we have to have faith, we have to have love, that’s the reason we serve, and we have to have hope.
I thought of this during the night. Iris woke up at 3 AM and I said, “You know I haven’t slept a wink yet?” She said, “What’s the matter, are you thinking about tomorrow?” I said, “That’s all I can think about.” So I don’t think I got an hour of sleep last night, because all of these things just keep coming up, coming up. And I think, how in the world can I put all of that in just four thirty minute segments? But here’s what I had to realize, that if we are exercised by our faith, and we are doing the labour of love, and we are living in that expectancy and hope that maybe today or tomorrow the Lord will come.
Do I have to go down to the book store, and I don’t say this with any malice toward book authors, but really if you have all of this going for you between these two covers, do you have to read book after book. I don’t think so. I don’t need a book on how to treat my wife, just ask her. I don’t need a book on how to treat my kids. Ask them, I’m not worried what they will tell anybody. I’ve never had to read a book on how to do this and how to do that. If you’re into this BOOK it’s going to come naturally.
And this is hard for even Christians to understand. that you don’t have to have a book that will tell you how to live victoriously, you’ve got it. Or you don’t have to have a book telling you how to pray, you’ve got it. You don’t have to have a book telling you how to study the Bible, you’ve got it. It explains itself. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. But oh we’re all shook up all the time by all these extraneous forces on the how to. And like I say, I’m not condemning them, but all I’m saying is, it’s really not necessary, if you can once get a handle on the Word of God. Now back to I Thessalonians.
Oh my goodness, I think we can come on down to verse 4. Now don’t lose sight of the kind of people he’s writing to. He’s only had 4 weeks with them, they were steeped in pagan idolatry, and as I have taught from this point for years, when you had paganism what was the moral climate? It was rotten through and through. They had almost no, what we call Biblical morality, and these people were no different. So Paul had brought them by simply proclaiming the Gospel, the good news out of that immoral pagan background,
I Thessalonians 1:4
“Knowing, (he didn’t have to wonder, he knew these Thessalonians were believers) brethren beloved, your election of God.”
Now don’t let that word election throw a curve at you. That just simply means, that you’re cemented in. You are in the Body, you have been placed in that place of adoption that he taught back in Ephesians, which was reserved for every believer. Now verse 5.
I Thessalonians 1:5a
“For our gospel…”
The one that he and Silas, and Barnabas, had now been proclaiming to the Gentile world. The Gospel Paul defines so clearly in I Corinthians 15:1-4. A lot of times Paul uses the plural pronoun we, us, and our, but you know what he’s really meaning? Himself. I just read that again the other night that this was very typical of the writers of this day and time. In order not to become egotistical they would use the plural pronoun, and not necessarily mean plural, but rather he’s speaking of himself. So you could very safely say,
I Thessalonians 1:5-6a
“For my gospel (for that’s what he says over and over. My Gospel) came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and 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 (Peter, James and John? NO that’s not what it says. But rather you became follower of) us,…”(me)
Now come all the way back to I Corinthians chapter 4.and let’s follow up on that real quick. We’ve only got a minute left, so we’ll only have time to look at a couple of them, but they say it all.
I Corinthians 4:16
“Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.”
Do you see that? Paul says, “be ye followers of me!” Now come on over to chapter 11 verse 1.
Transcribers note: As Les was looking for I Corinthians 11:1, he accidentally turned to II Corinthians 11:1, and didn’t have time to finish the verse, before time ran out. He will pick up with that thought in the next lesson
I Corinthians 11:1
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,”