I Thessalonians is thought to be the first gospel letter that Paul wrote. When he converted the Thessalonians, he was not able to stay there long. He was forced to leave. He was very concerned about the disciples he left behind. He finally sent Timothy to check on them, and Timothy bought back the awesome news that the Thessalonians were doing very well.
We are so spoiled with many forms of communication to people far away. Paul didn’t have that. After hearing from Timothy, he wanted to relay important information to the Thessalonians, and this letter was his only shot. Nothing would be wasted. Each sentence was calculated to have import. We can learn much from the wording and content.
Here are some of the things we learn. For Paul:
God was the Father, and Jesus was Lord. “To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:1) This is a great model for us on how we should regard God and Jesus.
The disciples were his treasure, and he prayed and thanked God for them constantly. We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly.” (1:2) Can I say the same of my loved ones in the Lord?
The gospel changed character and actions. “We 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.” (1:3) According to my research, the people Paul was writing to were probably Greek Gentiles who had a cultural background that viewed labor as repulsive. Yet what Paul remembers is their work. They must have seen Paul’s example, heard the message, and started to apply themselves to tasks. Since he mentions that their labor was prompted by love, they probably started taking care of one another more. They may have started making more money so they could give to needy individuals locally, and in other churches.
Also, they developed perseverance. They didn’t give up, even though they went through struggles. Their character changed from being lazy, self focused and wishy-washy, to hard working and long suffering.
Everything he did was in tandem with the work of the Holy Spirit. “We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true.” (1:4-5)
In the same way, as we go around preaching, we watch to see how God will work. We watch to see the Spirit move hearts. We look to see whom God has chosen. We realize that deep conviction is only going to come through the Spirit.
The gospel and the Spirit produce a supernatural joy. ” . . .you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” 1:6
There was no way that the Thessalonians should have been joyful. Yet they were. This joy could only have come from a source outside of themselves. Paul knew, when he saw their happy faces and lifted spirits, that it could only be the work of the Spirit.
In the same way, if someone responds to the scriptures, let us give credit where credit is due. It is the work of the Spirit in the hearts of those we study with.
He was speaking the very words of God, even though he didn’t have the gospel in written form as we do. “You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.” 2:13
Do I treat my ministry the same way? Do I share the very word of God with others, feeling a sense of reverence and import as I do so?