In I Thessalonians Chapter 1 at verse 4 we learn that these believers in Jesus were chosen. They were part of the elect. They were marked out or cut out to be different. We could say they were ‘holy’ and set apart for God. Their calling was genuine, and that gives a deep assurance to Christians.
We are called by Jesus and carried at times by Jesus, on towards our eternal destiny. This verse raises an issue which can perplex people – the mystery of divine election.
There are two rails running through Scripture. One is the sovereignty of God and the other is the freedom of the human will. They run on parallel lines and if you try and run on one and ignore the other you will become derailed.
God will not force or coerce anyone to become His child, and will pursue a man with love and compassion and above all a respect for their individual freedom of choice.
God foresaw that we would respond to His offer of salvation in Christ and on the basis of that knowledge chose us and fitted us into Christ “before the foundation of the world”. God’s purposes began before the world was created and will continue after this word ends. Ephesians Chapter 1 verse 4.
Verse 5 - This was more than a good sermon when Paul preached.
This was not a tickling the ears, but touching the heart.
There were unmistakable manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
When Paul preached there was an energy and power of the Holy Spirit. When he spoke it was much more than a lecture. The mechanics of preaching and teaching is important but much more is the dynamics of preaching.
Acts 17 verse 3 – explaining or ‘opening’ means unfolding or unravelling – to open up thoroughly. You could almost use the word – diagnosis!
‘Proving’ or alleging – putting things side by side – conviction means – much assurance. There was no theological confusion when Paul preached and taught.
There had been slanderous insinuations against Paul and his ministry and his preaching – but you knew what kind of men we were.
Verse 5 - You became followers of us and the Lord. There was suffering and joy.
Only in Christ and with Christ can these two go together.
They had been suffering for their faith in Christ from the beginning – misunderstood – ridiculed – persecuted.
We never know what can come out of the crucible of suffering. Gospel prosperity – being spiritually strong and prosperous because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – can give rise to intense hostility – and why – because the Word of God disrupts the kingdom of darkness. The kingdom of darkness can fight back – and we see that so clearly in the Gospel of John.
v.7 – We read of what they became through the hearing and receiving of the Word. It was the Word that made them what they were.
They became a model or pattern or example for others. The word ‘model# here is the Greek word for ‘mimic’ These disciples were able to turn opposition into opportunities.
It is not what happens to us that matters all that much. It is what we do with it.
v.8 – The news of what happened went around. The news broke out. The news of how they reacted spread, and travelled far and wide. This became a heroic church.
News had gone out about those believers in Jesus Christ – and no doubt news of the furore would have been noised abroad too. You cannot keep that quiet.
v.9 – We read of reference to idols. In that respect they were supposed to help people to worship but they became the centre of worship – and that too can happen today.
These people turned from idols to serve that living and true God.
It is all so positive. The Word changed and transformed these people.
We can use that phrase again – ‘saved to serve’.
This was a most successful fellowship and that is what a successful fellowship is – men and women who are ‘saved to serve’. And they were going to go on serving until Jesus Christ returned from heaven.
We are a worshipping and waiting people who go on serving until Jesus Christ returns, or until He calls us home.
They were waiting for something to happen just as we are waiting for something to happen and they did not get exhausted or worn out.
They served and waited – what a balance. They knew they had been saved or rescued from the wrath to come.
They endured, and that endurance was inspired by hope in the living God.
Paul, through his preaching and teaching, released something wonderful upon that people – and it grew and developed. They certainly did not have it easy – and neither did he.
God had done a work in these lives – they had come to know God.
“Lord God – help us to become the men and women You want us to be. As we read the Scriptures guide us and lead us and feed us. You have given us so much through Jesus Christ – help us to serve faithfully and responsibly. Amen.
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