"Reputation of a Church"
Paul opens this first letter to the Thessalonians by thanking God for three areas for which this church was known: work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope.
Reputation of a Church
(1 Thes. 1:1-3)
A. Paul would write to the church in Corinth, “So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13) Is faith good? Yes. Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6) Is hope good? It is in this hope that we are saved, a hope that is expectant of a God’s great outcome. (Rom. 8:24-25) Is love good? Just as love defines the essence of God, it is also what defines our Christian walk to others (John 13:35).
B. These three virtues describe our response to God’s calling. We walk, abide in, live out our faith, love and hope. They define us in a way that few others words define a Christian to an unsaved world. They become the Hallmark of our walk.
C. I have spoken at many funerals in my 30 years of preaching. There are times when I learn more about a person after they have died from talking with their family, than I knew about them while they were alive. In those times I am saddened to realize how much I did not know about people I cared about. My role that day is to talk about the life of the one who has gone on before us. To help the family remember some of the good times and to walk with them during the painful parting at the graveside.
D. But what about encouraging the living by sharing with them and others the good that they are doing. It is so easy to have negative gossip, how about consciously deciding to have a positive conversation to someone or about someone concerning their spiritual life.
E. Paul does just that in the beginning of this letter he sends to the church in Thessalonica.
I. You Are the Church.
A. READ vs 1-2. Let me just start by saying YOU are the church. Paul writes to “the church of the Thessalonians.” I want to start here, because I believe this is important to us.
B. The word “church” literally means “called out.” It is the assembly of the people. The reason I want to start there, is because I think we have lost some of this passion and understanding today.
C. We need to get back to simply being the church that belongs to Christ. We need to be Christians only and follow the truths laid forth in the Bible. We are people who have been called out the darkness of sin and into the marvelous light of God, and our response should be to proclaim the praises of God. That should be us. Do you know how such a church is seen? Paul opens this letter by talking about the reputation of the church in Thessalonica.
II. Work of Faith
A. Read vs 3. The faith that Paul is so happy to write about is not what they believe, but how they put their trust in Christ into action. It is faith in action. (Eph. 2:10)
B. This congregation has work that is produced by our faith – what we believe. Our food pantry is one of the visible works of faith and it involves many people within this congregation. The community who know us, know our food pantry and the good it provides. We are seeking to live out James 2 in our community. We seek to have a faith that is proven, seen, through the works we do.
C. This congregation is generous to many spiritual causes and the last collective work we did with the MAGI project is only one example of that work. We support ministries around the world and many right here in our own country. That mission and benevolence is a work of faith.
D. There are also many of you individually who do works of faith that are not seen by this congregation as a whole. You quietly do a ministry for God’s glory and are happy to know God’s name is held in high regard.
E. Thessalonica was a church that put their faith into action. They have a reputation of doing good. I believe people like Jason who opened his home to Paul filled that church and the city of Thessalonica knew this group of people turned the world right side up and did it with love.
III. Labor of Love
A. The second area Paul was bragging about concerning these new Christians is the phrase “labor of love.” While labor and work are very similar words, Paul uses a word that is connected to toiling and can actually be painful or at least difficult. When is love painful or difficult? It is often when we are called upon to love our enemies.
B. Paul would understand a labor of love as he physically endured beats and imprisonment for the sharing the good news of Jesus. For a church to have a reputation of laboring to love speak highly of their faith.
C. There was an established congregation that was ministered to by Paul and probably John that lost this labor of love. Listen to what Jesus says to the church in Ephesus in Rev. 2:2-5. They had faith, they had endurance, but they had left or lost their first love. Love is not easy to maintain.
D. This congregation labors to love each other. I don’t say that negatively, but some of us are more difficult to love. I know I can push some buttons but I also know I am loved. My actions may not always be appreciated, but who I am as a member of this congregation is never questioned. I have been a recipient of a love that is patient. And that brings us to the last area in which Paul brags on these Christians.
IV. Steadfastness of Hope
A. The NIV translated this phrase, “Endurance inspired by hope.” This phrase will set us up for some interesting discussion on the second coming of Christ. As we saw in James, so we see here in Thessalonians, Christians wanted Jesus to come and wanted Jesus to come soon. But how you wait for something you want shows your character.
B. These Christians were enduring their time because they knew without a doubt Jesus was coming for them. Having assurance your salvation, the confidence of grace of Jesus is powerful. Some put their trust, their hope in chariots but we trust in the name of the Lord our God! I many not have a great day every day, but I know that if I live this life in holiness, I will have a great eternity and that beats today.
A. For eight years Admiral Jim Stockdale was a prisoner of war. He had no rights as prisoner, not time set for his release, and no certainty he would survive. Being the highest ranking officer he felt the burden of leadership without breaking down under the stress. He set up rules to help his men deal with torture and an elaborate communication system so his men would not feel isolated. Upon his release he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. When asked how he persevered he said, “I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted, not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life.”
B. My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand. If we can be the arms of Christ of help you stand on that solid rock, then come as we stand and sing.