1 Thessalonians 1. A model church

1 Thessalonians 1 | ‘We always thank God for you.’ A model church

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23,24) [Audio | Notes]

Michael Flynn

This quote from the end of 1 Thessalonians is a good summary of Paul’s reason for writing the letter. He wants the Thessalonian Christians to endure in their trust in God and to grow in Christ’s character in all aspects of their life. We know from Acts 17 that his time in the city (around 49AD) was cut short by violent opposition to the gospel, which is why he had sent Timothy back to learn about the health of the infant church so quickly cut off from its founder. What Timothy found was the church had become a model church not only to churches in the wider region but the changed lives amongst the Christians in Thessalonica had become a compelling witness to many outside the church (1:8-10; 3:6-8). There were, of course, problems in this model church! There was criticism of Paul (2:2-6, 17-3:5), issues with sexual morality (4:3-8), work ethic (4:9-12), grief and misunderstanding surrounding Christ’s return (4:13-18) as well as pastoral tensions within the church (5:12-19).

It is likely that Paul wrote this letter while staying in Corinth around 51-52 AD. It is humbling to realise that, with the church in Philippi, what we have in 1 Thessalonians is an intimate insight into how the church in Europe began and spread. 


Audio

1 Thessalonians 1

Our model of church?

progressive / orthodox / consumer / pastoral / missional / family / community / corporation?

We always thank God for you

– work produced by faith / labour prompted by love / endurance inspired by hope

– is the evidence of God choosing you > imitating Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit

And so you became a model

– for believers

– for everyone

You received God’s word, turned to God from idols, serve him and wait for his Son.

– What conversion looks like

Our model of church?faith / love / hope > mission


For further thought

Acts 17:1-10 gives us a brief background to the establishment of the church in Thessalonica.

Q: Comparing the reading from Acts with the first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians what do we learn about the depth of the Christian mission that Luke could only outline for us in Acts?

Q: In chapter 1, Paul gives thanks for the Thessalonian church as a model for other churches to imitate (6,7) because (3):

Their works proceed from faith

Their labour proceeds from love

Their endurance proceeds from hope

How does Christian faith, love and hope produce good works, labour done in love and endurance even in the face of suffering (6)?

Q: How does the character of this church effectively proclaim the gospel to every one who hears about them (5,7,8-10)?

Q: What do we look for in model churches, churches we’d like to imitate? How does this differ from the marks of God’s work amongst the Thessalonians?

Q: What motivates our good works? What is the focus of our loves? What is the hope we live for as God’s people in our churches now?