1 Thess. 1:1-4
It is not easy to be Christian. Not so much because we are persecuted for our faith.
Everything tells us to give up our faith and give in to our desires…the lust of the flesh…the lust of the eyes…and the pride of life.
And it is not only our desires that tempt us…but also the philosophies of the world.
Everything tells us to give up our faith in Christ…so it is hard to be a Christian.
And that is why we need to study this letter written to the Christians in Thessalonica.
You see, Paul wrote this letter to a group of New Christians who were being persecuted.
But some of the unconverted Jews of Thessalonica got upset and stirred up a mob…and this mob went looking for Paul and Silas.
And when they got to Berea they began preaching again…but some of the Jews in Thessalonica came to Berea and stirred up the people again…and Paul, once again, had to leave the city…and he went to Athens.
Now, let me ask you something.
In fact, in verse 6 here in chapter 1, and verse 2 of chapter 2, and verse 4 of chapter 3 Paul mentions the persecution and suffering those New Christians were experiencing.
Well, in the midst of the persecution, Paul finds out that these New Christians are “hanging on” to their faith.
And even though written to them, to encourage them, it is also written to us to encourage us.
Now, this morning we are going to look at just the first four verses.
Look at verse 1. Paul writes: Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
I want you to notice how Paul refers to these Christians. He says: “to the church of the Thessalonians.”
Many people do not understand this but when he said to THE CHURCH that meant something.
Well, what are they called out of?
But there is much more to it than that. Look at what Peter says in 1 Peter 2: 9-10:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
When Paul referred to these Christians at Thessalonica as “the church” he was reassuring them of who they are.
And notice who “called them.” “Him…God.
And when they answered “the call” look whose they became….”the people of God.”
And notice what Paul says to these Christians in 2 Thessalonians 2:14. Notice how they were “called.”
And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Listen, when Paul refers to them as “the church of the Thessalonians” he is saying, “You are God’s people.”
Now, that is encouraging because look what happens to those who are “God’s people.” Look at verse 10.
When Paul referred to these people as “the church” he was referring to them as the “called out”…and that was an encouraging thought to them.
These people were being tempted to forsake their faith and go back to the world…and Paul tells them…and he tells us…”You are the church…the called out…the people of God…the blood purchased of God…the saved…you hang in there.”
Look what else he says in verse 1. He says: …to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
And this is an idea that is found all through the NT. In fact, Paul speaks of believers being IN Christ 164 times in his letters.
They had a physical address as well as an eternal address.
But no matter what the Jews did to them…they could never rob them of their eternal address.
Let me show you something. Paul says these brethren are “IN” God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Gal 3:26-27 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
This is how you get INTO Christ.
And look at this: Rom 8:1-2
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Eph 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
Listen…if you, by faith, have been baptized INTO Christ…there is no condemnation…and every spiritual blessing is yours…
Now, look at verse 2-4. We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;
Paul tells these brethren that they are “the chosen of God.”
You know what it is to be “chosen” don’t you.
But if you weren’t chosen…well, it was disappointing.
When Paul tells these brethren that they are the “chosen of God” he is telling them that in spite of the persecution…in spite of the suffering…if they will hang on…they will not be disappointed.
Paul wrote this to encourage us to HANG ON TO CHRIST AND REMAIN STEADFAST IN OUR FAITH AND SERVICE TO HIM.
And not only that, I hope you will do what Paul is doing here…I hope you will encourage each other to remain faithful.
These brethren were members of the Church…they were In God and Christ…and they were the Chosen of God.
What about you? Are you IN Christ…a member of His church…are you one of His chosen ones? Will you be delivered from the wrath to come?