Paul, Timothy, and Silas had a very brief ministry in Thessalonica.
What ended up being a compliment was first meant as an accusation when they said, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17.6).
World views were turned upside down in Thessalonica because people heard the good news of God’s love and turned to him in faith and obedience.
Because the three ministers had to leave town quickly, they were concerned that the fledgling church continues in the faith. The letters to the Thessalonians stemmed from their love for the Lord and his church.
A Good News Greeting
Gordon Fee has observed that everything Paul touches is turned into a gospel. Even a simple greeting at the beginning of a letter carries the good news message of God’s love.
1 Thessalonians 1.1 – Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
Let’s not overlook some truths in Paul’s greeting.
Silvanus is the Latin form of Silas. The letter is an expression of love and concern by all three men, who turned their world upside down through the gospel.
God is the Father because he is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. This letter will show Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in such a light that the doctrine of the Trinity was bound to come into existence.
“Grace” was a common Greek salutation and the Hebrews traditionally greeted each other with “peace.”
Paul combined the two and declared that because of God’s grace we have peace, which is the well-being God desires for his people.
We do well to imitate Paul at this point. Let’s find ways that we can turn our speech and actions into a good news message.
Prayer and Thanksgiving
Paul’s famous trilogy of “faith, hope, and love” of 1 Corinthians 13 is present in his thanksgiving prayer for the church.
1 Thessalonians 1.2-3 – We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly
Remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is a significant benefit to using the Bible to inform our praying.
(1) Biblical praying includes prayer for personal needs but extends to prayer for the church.
Here’s a question: When was the last time you prayed for the church you attend and its leaders?
(2) Prayer includes expressions of gratitude for the people in your life.
How about another question? When was the last time that you thanked God for the people in your life?
Work – Labor – Steadfastness
The qualities of faith, hope, and love are modified by an action word.
(1) Faith goes beyond a mental assent to propositions about God.
In Paul’s introduction to the letter to the Romans, he said that he had “received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the gentiles for the sake of his name” (Romans 1.5).
Paul knows of both an “obedience of faith” and a “work of faith,” both indicating what James made clear.
James 2.14 and 17 – What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Surely that faith cannot save, can it?
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
(2) Like faith, Biblical love goes beyond feeling. Love labors on behalf of the beloved.
The cross of Christ is the ultimate expression of love. We show that we have begun to understand the true meaning of love when we engage in self-giving actions for others.
(3) Hope is not “hope so,” but confidence in God’s activity on behalf of his followers.
The church in Thessalonica experienced the same kind of suffering that Paul, Timothy, and Silas endured.
Paul thanked God for their steadfastness (a willingness to remain under a load of suffering). Later in the letter, Paul will have more to say about remaining faithful in the face of persecution.
Join Paul in Prayer
What if we used these three short verses to inform our praying? What would our prayer look like?
(1) We can ask God to help us turn our actions, attitudes, and speech into a message that will turn our world upside down for Christ.
(2) The prayer will remind us to pray for our church, its leaders, and members.
(3) We can focus on the action words about faith, hope, and love. May all of our expressions of Paul’s “big three” words have actions behind them.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Please email your prayer requests to email@example.com. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.