True gospel trailblazers

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So you think being a Christian is no big deal – just everyday normality? Well, the way Paul describes the Thessalonians here applies to every single believer. That’s what made them such inspiring trailblazers. Pray for courage to follow their lead.

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Bible passage: 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10

1 Thessalonians 1

 1Paul, Silas and Timothy,
      To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
      Grace and peace to you.

Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians' Faith
 2We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. 3We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 4For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Traumatic circumstances
Paul’s opening greetings and thanksgiving are warm and sincere – he clearly loved these Greek brothers and sisters. But it’s easy to overlook the circumstances behind its writing. For in Acts 17:1–10, Luke describes Paul and his friends’ visit to Thessalonica.

It was nothing if not traumatic. After only two or three weeks they were forced to leave under cover of night by riots and mob violence. All for preaching about Jesus. What a disaster!

Grateful to God
But that’s not how Paul sees it. Look at all the things he is grateful to God for:

·  Even after this difficult start, there’s a church there (vs 1–3)! Notice the three evidences of God’s work in individuals (v 3).
·  God was calling people and using preaching (v 5); its preachers modelled a consistent message, even as they suffered (v 6).
·  News then travelled fast across the region (vs 7,8), not because of the violence but because of the personal revolutions: notice the verbs in verses 9 and 10!

When Jesus rescues people from the coming wrath, they ‘turn … serve … wait …’


Paul never expects perfection in believers. But the Thessalonians had made an authentic start in the faith, and were seeking to live it out in tough circumstances. How do we ‘turn … serve … wait …’?

Mark Meynell

Introduction to 1 and 2 Thessalonians

The Thessalonian letters, written in the winter of 50–51 BC,1 are two of Paul’s early epistles. They were written from Corinth in Achaia soon after Paul’s mission to Macedonia (Acts 16–18). Paul, Timothy and Silas are named in the prescripts of both letters, no doubt due to their involvement with the Thessalonian church. There is no debate over Paul’s authorship of 1 Thessalonians. There is some dispute about the second letter, but the arguments against Pauline authorship are not strong so we can be confident that Paul wrote both letters. Most authorities accept that 1 Thessalonians was written first.

At the time of Paul, Thessalonica was important politically. It was established 365 years earlier by Cassander, Alexander’s general and brother-in-law, who named the city in honour of his wife Thessaloniki. It was the provincial capital and a free city for military support in earlier Roman wars. It was an important trade centre, with a bustling Aegean port and a prime position on the Via Egnatia, which ran from Byzantium (Istanbul) to the west coast of Greece (Dyrrachium). Evidence suggests that its citizens enjoyed the usual Roman lifestyle including voluntary associations, baths, the gymnasium, athletics and the theatre. It was polytheistic, with a Serapeum, a temple for the worship of Egyptian gods and the veneration of others including Aphrodite and Dionysius. Coins, statues and the temple of Caesar indicate that the Emperor cult was strong – Caesar was lord. Acts 17 shows that there were Jews in the city.

Paul planted the church in Thessalonica only a year before writing the letters – so it was a group of very new Christians. There were some Jews, but most of the converts were Gentiles (1 Thessalonians 1:9,10; 2:14–16). Paul had met resistance from Jews and Gentiles alike and his letters indicate that this resistance remained strong after he left. The letters are designed to encourage the young church to persevere with faith and love in the face of persecution. Other key themes include Paul’s missional approach, holiness, death, the return of Christ, final judgement and work. 


1 FF Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Word Biblical Commentary 45, Word Incorporated, 1998, xxxiv–xxxv 

Deeper Bible study

This is a passage to warm the soul. We have in it a basic introduction to Christianity. It starts with God the Father, who bestows grace and peace. He is the living and true God, the initiator in relationship, who sent his Son to save us. He has chosen us and loves us. In him we trust. He hears our prayers. So we serve him willingly. Then there is the Son. He too grants blessing and inspires hope. He is our example. He is the Word that radiates forth and saves. He is resurrected, ruling in heaven. He delivers us. The Spirit is the one who empowers the gospel and bestows joy. Our triune God is declared in this passage.

Then there is Paul and his team, who embody unity. Pastor Paul leads by example, starting with his usual prayer-wish for grace and peace, moving to gratitude and constantly remembering all the Thessalonians before God. He endorses his converts, commending them richly and assuring them of God’s love and call. He reminds them what it means to share Christ – in word, power and the Spirit – with conviction and integrity. This is Christian leadership 101.1

Then there are the Thessalonians. What a great church! They live out Paul’s summary: faith, love and hope – these inspire their work, labour and perseverance. They imitate Paul and Christ. Joyfully, they received the word of God, despite opposition. Through their missionary efforts, the word has radiated forth, even reaching Paul in Achaia. They are an example to others. They have turned away from false gods and the Emperor to worship the Son. They inspire us similarly to renounce the gods of our age – Me!, wealth accumulation, secular humanism etc. We, too, must place our hope on Jesus, who is raised and who delivers us.

Mark Keown


1 Using 101 means an introductory course on something, which the US course code 101 implies

Bible background: 1 Thessalonians overview

The church and its situation
1) The city of Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia. It was a wealthy city with a fine natural harbour situated on the Roman highway to the east. As a result it was multi-racial, very mixed in culture and open to receive all kinds of religious beliefs.

2) The founding of the church: Acts 17:1–10 tells us that Paul and Silas founded the church on Paul’s second missionary journey. Their visit to Thessalonica lasted less than a month before some Jews rented a mob which led to Paul and Silas leaving town in a hurry and their supporters being bound over to keep the peace.

3) The church to which Paul writes: in view of its unpromising start the young church showed remarkable strength. Its members were chiefly Gentiles converted from heathenism and now facing a very pagan and hostile environment.

The date and reason for the letter
Ever since Paul left Thessalonica he was anxious to know how they were progressing. Timothy had now brought him news (3:6) and he wanted to express his satisfaction and to encourage them to persist in their faith.

He wrote the letter shortly after leaving them, while he was in Corinth, around the year 50. This makes it, with Galatians, among the earliest of Paul’s letters.

Special features
The letter is a simple follow-up letter to new converts. It contains little complex doctrine but much to encourage them. In particular Paul speaks of the second coming of Jesus (1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:16–18; 5:23) as an incentive for Christian living and service.

Even when correcting them the letter is written in a gentle and loving manner.

The other reasons for the letter
In addition to writing a letter of general encouragement Paul had some other purposes in mind. He wished:

1) To defend himself against false accusations (2:1–12).

2) To stress the need for a distinctive Christian morality (4:1–12).

3) To correct misunderstandings over the second coming of Christ (4:13–18).

4) To discipline youthful immaturity in the church (5:12–22).

Taken from The Bible in Outline (SU, 1985)

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When I walk through suffering (Until the day)
Paul Baloche, Steven Curtis Chapman, Stuart Garrard, Israel Houghton, Tim Hughes, Graham Kendrick, Andy Park, Matt Redman, Martin Smith, Michael W. Chris Tomlin, Darlene Zschech
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  • Rachael Hampton | Sunday, 23 October 2016

    Praying today for churches suffering hostility and persecution. May they know God's grace to remain strong and hopeful, as these young believers did. We may still be majority 'religions' in our countries, but increasingly we are seeing that practising Christian values can bring opposition. Thanks GILVIN for reminding us to pray today for the MacArthur family. Whether or not we agree with their stance, freedom of conscience is important. Praying for all WL family today, especially for you EILEEN. May the living loving God enfold you in His peace.

  • Hilary Dale | Monday, 24 October 2016

    After the short time Paul and friends lived among the Thessalonicans, he is able to say "In imitating us, you imitated the Master. ".... O Lord, transform me, that I could live a life like You amongst my family, friends an neighbours, that they might see the Master's lifestyle and so be transformed themselves by knowing the Master. Your prayers appreciated, once more, for my 15 yr old son(half term and too much time doing "nothing") that the Lord would tip some good Christian friends and young adults into his life that he might see the Master through. Thankyou!

  • Gill Saunders | Monday, 24 October 2016

    What a good reminder to us to to encourage our brothers and sisters and families in a world that is increasingly hostile. It is so good to have the background notes for these studies. Thank you to all who put so much effort into preparing them. May you be blessed as you see the incoming harvest.

  • Angela Munday | Monday, 24 October 2016

    May the life I live reflect the Lord of my heart. I have faith, I offer love and always remain hopeful. I am always learning and enjoy being a disciple of Jesus. Christ will come again...... Thank you God for Your Word that inspires us. Amen.

  • Gill Glass | Monday, 24 October 2016

    #DeeperBiblestudy. There is so much to inspire us in this chapter. Mark's description of our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is beautiful. Yes, meditating on such wonderful truth brings joy to my soul!

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Monday, 24 October 2016

    The goal of believers should be to express the life of God so much that if we were arrested for being Christian, there would be enough evidence to convict us!

  • Roger wb Hall | Monday, 24 October 2016

    I often wonder about my relationships with people. I love people, and interacting day by day. However, I often wonder if in fact, the Lord has to walk quite closely behind me, rebuilding every mistake I've made. As He is Creator, and as King David realised, rather than Change me, He will Create in me a New Me, a right Heart. Thus, I trust, as Gilvin suggests, I'll be eligible for arrest when the law comes in.

  • Derek Forster | Monday, 24 October 2016

    Lead on, O King eternal, The day of march has come; Henceforth in fields of conquest Your tents shall be our home: Thro’ days of preparation Your grace has made us strong, And now, O King Eternal, We lift our battle song. Lead on, O King eternal, We follow not with fears; For gladness breaks like morning Where’er Your face appears; Your cross is lifted o’er us; We journey in its light: The crown awaits the conquest; Lead on, O God of might.

  • Adam Julians | Monday, 24 October 2016

    We don't know what this "severe suffering" is specifically, but we see the joy with which Pauls' message has been received. "Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction." Paul claiming to have God - given authority just as Jesus spoke with authority unlike the teachers of the Law. Arrogant? some may think so. Certainly bold. Over this last week or so I was troubled when someone described me as "stubborn and obstinate" it could have led to a loss of confidence but then when I talked it over with someone else later in the week, she said that this is the best thing about me. Courage yes, it is required but it doesn't fall out of the sky. God gives food for the birds but he doesn't put in the nest for them! Strength in Christ means wilfully being weak and vulnerable like a child in human terms then somehow experiencing God's power turning up. In my experience courage comes at least initially from experiencing fear and making choices in spite of being fearful trusting in the Spirit of love, power and sound mind. If God doesn't turn up - I'm stuffed!

  • Adam Julians | Monday, 24 October 2016

    Gilvin - wow, what you say is powerful. It reminds me being so free that your very presence causes offence! Challenging and exciting stuff.

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