Tuesday, November 03, 2009

1 Thessalonians 1:7-10

V7-10 – 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.

In their perseverance through “severe suffering” (v6), other believers witnessed what Christianity is all about. Thessalonica was a major city in the Roman Empire; it stood along trade routes in every direction. Thus news got out quickly to the Roman world, and “not only in Macedonia (the northern province where Thessalonica was located) and Achaia (the southern province where Corinth was located).” The Thessalonians’ “faith in God has become known everywhere.” We never know whom our witness will touch in hard times. Vincent Cheung notes, “Other Christians readily recognize the powerful effect the Holy Spirit produced in the Thessalonian converts, so that wherever Paul travels, he has no need to tell others about them [v8]. Believers everywhere already know how the Thessalonians have ‘turned to God from idols’” (v9).

Calvin comments here: “For although all do not worship idols, all are nevertheless addicted to idolatry, and are immersed in blindness and madness. Hence, it is owing to the kindness of God, that we are exempted from the impostures of the devil, and every kind of superstition. Some, indeed, he converts earlier, others later, but as alienation is common to all, it is necessary that we be converted to God, before we can serve God [Romans 6:20]. From this, also, we gather the essence and nature of true faith, inasmuch as no one gives due credit to God but the man, who renouncing the vanity of his own understanding, embraces and receives the pure worship of God.” Cheung continues:

“True conversion results from a drastic and permanent transformation at the deepest level of one’s intellect and personality. God changes the individual’s most basic commitments, so that he denounces the abominable objects he once served, and turns to offer true worship to God. This change in a person’s first principle of thought and conduct generates a rippling effect that transforms the entire spectrum of his worldview and lifestyle. Thus conversion produces not only a negative change, in which one turns from idols, but Paul states that they have also turned ‘to serve the living and true God’ (v9). Moreover, a biblical system of thought replaces the former unbiblical philosophy. This new worldview is one in which we ‘wait for [God’s] Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath’ (v10).”
So Paul points out that genuine faith – a gift from God – involves works (Ephesians 2:8-10), both of which the Thessalonians had shown; and he thanks God for that, while at the same time encouraging them to continued perseverance in the midst of severe trials. Additionally, genuine faith directs the believer to hope in the second coming of Jesus Christ; believers acknowledge that God raised Him from the dead, and this resurrection would be pointless if He weren’t coming back to gather His own. It is also this second coming of Jesus that will rescue His people from the coming wrath of God – a major concern of the Thessalonians. It appears that they may have been moved to faith and repentance by the threat of just judgment on sin. Thus, we conclude that, as Paul’s typical preaching among Gentiles (Athens for example) included an emphasis on the just judgment of God, it is good to consider the wrath of God in order that we might revel in the mercy shown us by God and praise Him more full for rescuing us through Jesus Christ.

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