The Book of the Bible that we are reading out of today is called Thessalonians. As indicated by the opening verse of the book, it is actually a letter written from the Apostle Paul to the Christian church in Thessalonica, thus the name of the book.
002: The Spread of the Christian Church
Christianity began in Jerusalem where our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was crucified and raised again. After Jesus’ resurrection he appeared to many people before ascending into heaven. After he ascended into heaven his followers began to share the good news about what Jesus had done. They shared stories about his healings, miracles, and teachings. And, they shared stories about how he had died and raised to life. Our Scripture today focuses on this good news arriving to the city of Thessalonica, approximately 2400 miles northwest from Jerusalem.
003: Acts, Part 1
We turn now to the a different Biblical book just briefly; we turn to the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts tells the story of the Apostle Paul’s travels. Chapter 17 shares about the time that the Apostle Paul visited Thesslonica. Read Acts 17:1-9. What is Paul presenting as he goes into Thessalonica?
004: Acts, Part 2
After the Apostle Paul shared the good news about Jesus Christ, was he well received in Thessalonica?
The Apostle Paul had to flee Thessalonica because of persecution (Acts 17:1-9). Scriptures paint the picture of Paul eventually traveling south, down through Athens and Corinth. It is believed that Paul may have been in Corinth when he wrote the letters of Thessalonians to the people of Thessalonica. Thus, Paul had already met the people there and been familiar with them. He was now writing a letter, from Corinth, offering encouragement to the newly-found believers in Thessalonica. It was probably around the year 50-51 when Paul wrote this letter, that is approximately 20 years after the ascension of Jesus.
Thessalonica was the capital and largest city of the the Roman province of Macedonia. It had a population of about 200,000 people, so this is no small village. Thessalonica was built up as such a prominent city because it fell on the Egnatian Way, a major Roman Highway. It also sat on a thriving seaport. All of these factors contributed to making Thessalonica a wealthy and influential city.
Too often we think of New Testament cities as small towns or villages that wouldn’t have a relatable lifestyle to our own culture of Phoenix/Scottsdale. However, take note of the significance of Thessalonica. This is not a small village tribe that the Apostle Paul is interacting with and building a church with. Thessalonica was a major metropolitan city, large and wealthy. It was filled with culture and opportunities to make other things priority over church and Jesus. As we read the letter to the Thessalonian church, we can very much relate it to a message for us, living here in the great city of the the Valley of the Sun.
006: Thank God for your Faith, Work, Love, Labor, Hope, and Endurance
In verse 2 of the letter, the Apostle Paul gives a thankful opening greeting to the church in Thessalonica. He shares how he remembers their faith, love, and hope, which have driven their work, labor, and endurance.
Take note of how these gifts of God (faith, love, and hope) provide motivation for a life of work, labor, and endurance in the name of God. Faith itself is not work, but faith prompts action. Love itself is not work, but love sparks a giving heart. Hope itself is not work, but hope propels a reason to move forward in service towards others.
007: Faith, Love, and Hope
Faith, love, and hope. These three words sound familiar don’t they? They are also found in a famous Biblical passage from 1 Corinthians 13. This is Paul is also sharing with the Corinthian church; that “faith, hope, and love” are to be drivers of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 13:13).
008: And the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 says the greatest of these is love. These Biblical passages clearly communicate that love, faith, and hope are to be the foundations of our lives. Love is first. Above all else. What are we if we have not love? Nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-2). We place our faith there. We place our hope there. In love.
009: Love, Faith, and Hope prompt action.
Back to 1 Thessalonians 1:2. Love, faith, and hope prompt action. Faith spurs work. Love produces labor. Hope creates endurance. Christian faith is not one of inactivity. Christian love is not idle. Christian hope is not stagnant. The foundation of who we are encourages us to the task of being the church.
What does your faith prompt you to do? What is your hope? How do you love? How are you called to be the church?
009: God is Love.
Love is the foundation of all. What does that mean? What is love? Better stated… who is love? God is love. Love is the foundation because God is love (1 John 4:8). God is the foundation of our faith and hope, which sparks our action as the body of Christ in this world.
How can we more appropriately acknowledge that love in our lives is actually God working in our lives. How can we more appropriately recognize and celebrate that God is behind all good foundations in our lives?
009: You are Called. He has Chosen You.
This is a beautiful invitation to live by. God is love. He is our foundation. God grants faith and hope. This invites us further into a life of work for the sake of our neighbor and God’s world. …beautiful.
Who is this really for? Someone else? Church leaders?
This life is for you. God has chosen you into this. He calls it the ways of the church. And you belong here.
You belong in God’s church. God is working through you, inviting you to be a part of these ways of God. What is your faith, hope, and love, prompting you do in the life of the church? How can you serve? How can you add to this world?
010: Be The Church
“To the church…”
“work produced by faith”
“your labor prompted by love”
“and your endurance inspired by hope” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-2)
You belong here. God wants you a part of this. Everyone has a different calling: the pastors of La Casa de Cristo would enjoy the opportunity to explore with you what you are called to do as a part of God’s church. Let us know if you want to dig into this further.