Friday, April 15, 2011

1 Thessalonians1:4

4 "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,..."

Paul addresses the Thessalonian believers as brothers. Does this mean that he was only speaking to male recipients of his letter? Not at all. The Greek word used for brother (adelphoi) is used to refer to the brothers and sisters in a family. Since it is plural, there's no reason to doubt that Paul is addressing ALL of the believers in the Thessalonian church. But why call these people brothers or sisters? Were any of them actually related to Paul, Silas, or Timothy. I don't think we can know, but it is reasonable to assume that ALL of them were not their physical brothers and sisters. So what gives? Even though Paul is not teaching directly about God's family in this verse, it DOES tell us a little something about it. All who have trusted in Christ as the Lord of their lives are adelphoi  in the family of God. If God has saved YOU, then you are a brother or sister of EVERYONE He has saved! John 1:9-13ESV tells us,
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in this name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
All "who believed in his name" are now the children of God. My immediate family is relatively small. My extended family is huge (dad is one of 11 and mom is one of 9). Either way, I rejoice because the family I have as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is as many as the sand on the seashore! (cf.Gen22:17) Even though I hail from sunny Southern California, and I have no physical siblings in the cities I've lived in outside of California, I have brothers and sisters in Christ from Louisville and Cincy who love me the same! We have the same Father! The same Savior and God! What a blessing God has given His children!

And Paul goes on to tell these brothers that they are "loved by God." I will most likely post on God's love in the future, but for now, it almost goes without saying that God loves people. Most Christians call Love His chief attribute. Just about everyone knows John 3:16, "For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His one and only Son...." So Paul is reminding the Thessalonian believers that they are the beloved children of God.

[sound of "can of worms" opening]

Again, verse 4 of 1 Thess. says, "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,...."

In case I didn't mention it before, I have been quoting from the ESV. NASB says, "...his choice of you." HCSB says, "...knowing your election...." NKJV says, "Knowing, beloved brethren, your election...." NIV reads, "...he has chosen you...."   The Greek word is eklogen, and means choice, selection, election. So, why would this be opening a can of worms? What does it mean that God has chosen someone? Does God chose anyone? When the Bible speaks of election, it is speakning of God choosing people for salvation. The reason this becomes a "can of worms" is that God doesn't choose everyone for salvation.
 This may be very difficult for some to accept, but it IS taught in the Holy Bible. Look at Eph1, Rom 8 and 9, John 6, and many, many other passages. What I will do is finish some thoughts on 1 Thess 1:4 and then take a detour for the purpose of giving more explanation of God's election.

So Paul tells his readers that he and his co-authors know  that God has chosen them. The following verses tell us why this is so. For now, remember that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and have repented of your sin, YOU are a BROTHER or SISTER to everyone who has done the same! Know, also, that you are loved by God! And as we shall see in an upcoming post, God has chosen you for this great salvation!
Remember, God is all Sovereign and stuff...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

1 Thessalonians1:1-3

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

As we have already seen, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy are listed first as the authors of this letter which is addressed to the Thessalonians. The church of the Thessalonians is said to be "in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." What does this mean? Are churches today "in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ?" There are countless churches and denominations that exist today. But only a body of believers who embrace the fullness of the Gospel and all that the Bible teaches can be said to truly be "in God" or "in Christ." As we continue reading in this letter, we will see some of the evidence that Paul bases this statement on. To believe the Gospel unites believers in a special way with God the Father and with the Lord Jesus Christ- and Paul tells us in v. 5 that the Holy Spirit is all part of this too. So believers have a special union with the Triune God. We are In God the Father, in the Lord Jesus Christ, all by the power of the Holy Spirit!
Then Paul gives one of his customary greetings: "Grace to you and peace." Both grace and peace are spiritual blessings from God. Paul is expressing his desire that God's unmerited favor (grace) and God's peace (not being at war with God) be with the recipients of his letter. If you have believed in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you have received God's grace! AND you are no longer at war with God (yes, apart from Christ, humans are at war with God- they are His enemies)- so as a believer you are at peace with God (Rom 8:1). This is all part of the Good News that we call the Gospel!

2 "We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

Now Paul starts his encouragement of the Thessalonian believers. He and Silas (Silvanus) and Timothy give thanks to God for them. They tell them that they have kept them in their prayers and that they remember their work of faith, labor of love, and their steadfastness of hope in the Lord. Do you remember hearing these three attributes listed together anywhere else? It's in another of the New Testament letters written by Paul. Yes, 1 Corinthians 13! Paul spoke to the Corinthian believers of the great way of love in this chapter and he ends by saying, "So now faith, hope and love abide (remain), these three; but the greatest of these is love" (v.13). Basically, Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians that he has seen in them the greatest gifts/attributes that Christians can have. Now I will ask myself this as I ask you: can others say this of you (me)? That is, do you (do I) excel at loving God and others? Do you (do I) have faith in God by believing all that He has revealed to us in the Scriptures and do you and I have faith in Him that he lovingly controls every aspect of our lives? Do you (do I) have a certainty that God will bring all things to their appointed end in order to bring glory to Himself and His Son, Jesus Christ? That last question is a question about hope; is your (my) hope in God?
Please don't gloss over these questions lightly. I must not gloss over them either. These are godly attributes that Paul and his companions saw working powerfully in the lives of the Thessalonians. These are godly attributes that Paul had challenged the Corinthians to excel in. And by extension, these are godly attributes that WE must excel in. These qualities are cultivated in us as God sanctifies us (as He makes us more and more like His Son, Jesus). When Jesus prayed for believers (and all who would become believers -you and me) in John17, He asked the Father, "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth" (v.17).

So how can we begin to even scratch the surface of becoming godly in the way that Paul describes here? We must immerse ourselves in the Word of God! His word is truth. In it, we have all that we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). Paul tells us in Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly...."

As we begin our study of 1 Thessalonians, let us be encouraged to live lives of holiness to God. As Paul instructs his readers, let us be instructed as well. In this, we will be spending time in the Truth that God uses to sanctify us.