The Expository Files


 A Believer in God

 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10

We all can probably define what a “believer” is. I imagine if we each wrote a definition and a description of what a believer actually is, we would get a lot of similarities, but I imagine we would also get a lot of variation as well. We would get words like faithfulness and trust and obedience. If we asked for an example of someone who is a believer, we would get “Paul” and “Abraham”. We might be referred to Hebrews 11 for a whole list of believers. But what if we asked for a good contemporary example of a believer? Who would you select? Would someone else think of you? Our goal ought to be to become good examples of what a life of belief is all about.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul gave us some important thoughts on the matter to consider. He tells us that the first century church at Thessalonica had its share of first rate examples of what it means to believe in God. This description well describes what each of us ought to be, and there is no good reason to settle for less. Far too many of us settle for less; there are many who profess believe but far fewer good examples of what it means to believe. To settle for less is inexcusable!

The Text

6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. 9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

Believers Receive the Word

We need the Word (vs. 6a). We do not need new, cutting edge social theories. There have been so many come only to be later discarded as unworkable. Theories about happiness, marriage, raising children and so forth originate from the same folks who once thought the earth was flat; who once used leeches to heal sickness; who say eggs are unhealthy, then say they're healthy; then unhealthy, then healthy, according to what decade you live in. We do not need another theory.

Instead, we need the eternal word of life! (John 5:24; Philippians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:2, 58) It is a serious matter to reject it!

The word “received” means to “welcome”; the way you would welcome an honored guest into your home. You are eager to make him/her comfortable and at ease. Not everyone at Thessalonica received the word this way (the latter part of the verse speaks of tribulation brought on believers by those who rejected the word). Nor are we encouraged to blindly receive the word (Acts 17:11). We should investigate it, weigh it, and make a reasonable decision. But having said that, far more blindly reject the word than blindly receive it.

Believers Accept Both Tribulation & Joy Brought By Faith

Sometimes receiving the word brings a certain amount of trouble. As one is coming to the point of faith, there is a struggle. Jesus said it would often be this way (John 16:33).

Sometimes it is in the midst of turmoil that people enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22b). Sometimes the only way to escape tribulation is to simply ignore the word of the kingdom. Amazingly, it is in the times of tribulation that the 1st century church grew so rapidly.

We do not often think of tribulation and joy as partners, but they are in verse 6 of our text. There can both be outer tribulation and inner joy (see also 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Where does joy come from in such adversity? From the hope that is within us; the confidence, peace and strength (Romans 5:1-5; Philippians 4:7,8; 4:4). These things belong to the faithful in spite of tribulation. It is a gratifying thing to suffer loss when such tests your faith and your faith rises to meet the challenge, because the loss is temporary, but victory is forever.

Believers Are Good Examples

The disciples at Thessalonica were models of faith (1 Thessalonians 1:7). The word ”example” means “pattern”. Others are encouraged to look at the Thessalonian faithful and urged to “be like them.” Would it make you feel pretty good to know that the apostle Paul would select you to be an “example” or “pattern” that others should follow? The Thessalonians had earned it! They were not good examples by accident! It is proper to imitate the faith and lives of others if they imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) It is not enough to “talk” or “think” Christianity. We must “do” it (James 1:22-25).

Believers Sound Forth Their Faith

The Thessalonians were clear voices of faith (vs. 8). It is the “word of the Lord” that should be “sounded forth”. That's our business as a church. The Lord Himself is the source of our message (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Churches that deal in politics, drama, the arts, psychology, entertainment…. are in the wrong business.

The phrase “sound forth” refers to the sound made by trumpets. It is clear, distinguishable, obvious and noticeable. We do not offer new age fads; we do not offer human creeds changed by the whim of the human mind; we do not consult the opinion polls to determine what we teach; we do not give counsel based on modern trends or on long held traditions of men, We preach the word! (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

Believers Reject the Worthless

Christians view things from a different perspective (vs. 9). The world has a knack for esteeming the worthless and rejecting the precious. Many are overdosing on selfishness and greed, exalting the wicked and wickedness. Love, honor and godliness are often mocked. The family is troubled. It is time to “turn to God from idols”!

This is why cowards do not become Christians. This kind of commitment calls for the courage to refuse to allow the world to have its way with us. It will not tell us how to dress, how to talk, how to live, and what is important.

Believers Wait for Jesus

“Waiting” is not simply biding our time! (vs. 10). It is a “wait” of busy preparation as we “make all things ready” on a personal level for His coming. The Day will come when the trumpets of God will announce the end of the final hour (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). All worldly plans and ambitions will be rendered null and void forever. Tongues that mocked will confess Jesus as they watch those whom they once mocked rise to meet the Lord in the air, bright shining as the sun. And then, judgment. And then, eternity. For the believer, an eternal victory!

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 16.1; January 2009