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THE MODEL CHURCH

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at Metro Baptist Church, San Diego, California
Lord’s Day Morning, January 23, 2011

“Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 1:1).


The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the local church at Thessalonica. Many have called it the “model church.” The Apostle Paul said, “unto the church of the Thessalonians” (I Thessalonians 1:1). The Greek word translated “church” is “ekklesia.” It refers to “a definite group of people in a specific geographical location,” who have been called out of the world and formed into a local congregation (Jim Gent, The Local Church, Smyrna Publications, 1994, p. 129).

Jim Gent gives this quotation in his book on the local church:

The apostles founded churches, and they founded nothing else…In each place where they labored they formed the converts into a local assembly…No other organization than the local church appears in the New Testament… (ibid., p. 84).

The church is not some after thought with God…To the early Christians, the local church was the divinely ordained unit through which God chose to work and the only such unit! (ibid., pp. 83-84).

The word “church” is used 100 times in the New Testament. In nearly every instance, the word refers to a local assembly of Christians. Many of the epistles, such as First Thessalonians, were written to these local churches.

The Apostles led people to Christ and then formed these converts into local churches. “The apostles founded churches, and they founded nothing else” (ibid., p. 84). I Thessalonians 2:1-20 tells how the Apostle Paul founded the local church in the city of Thessalonica. This local church “followed” or “imitated” (Scofield center note m) the example of the local churches in Judea, according to I Thessalonians 2:14.

Paul loved this local church very much. Notice what he said about this congregation in chapter two, verses 19-20.

“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy”
       (I Thessalonians 2:19-20).

The Apostle Paul loved this local church, and rejoiced over it.

There were four reasons that the Apostle loved this local church so much.


1.  It was a church with a definite membership.

2.  It was a working church.

3.  It was a converted church.

4.  It was an evangelistic church.

I. First, it was a church with a definite membership.

The Apostle Paul knew these people. If you read the first chapter of I Thessalonians you will see that Paul knew all about them. They didn’t just come to a few services and then go somewhere else. They were a definite group of people who were joined together as a church. Today many people in Southern California have been influenced by the more liberal churches, which often downplay the importance of church membership. But this was unheard of in the days of the Apostles. In New Testament times Christians took it for granted that they were members of a local church. Notice I Thessalonians 1:1,

“Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians...Grace be unto you” (I Thessalonians 1:1).

This verse clearly shows that a church is not a building. The early churches had no buildings. They met in people’s homes. The Apostle speaks to “the church” and then he says, “Grace be unto you.” That makes it clear that the church in the city of Thessalonica was made up of people who had joined together and were members of that congregation for, as the Apostle says in Ephesians, “We are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25). Again the Apostle spoke of church membership in the Book of Romans. In these verses he calls the local church the “body.” He says,

“For as we have many members in one body [one local church], and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:4-5).

Then, at the end of Romans, the Apostle gives the names of many of the church members,

“Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household. Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord. Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them”
     (Romans 16:5-15).

This makes it clear that people joined the church. They were members of the church. Their names were on the church roll.

II. Second, it was a working church.

Please look at I Thessalonians, chapter one, verse three. Let us stand and read this verse aloud.

“Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father” (I Thessalonians 1:3).

You may be seated. Notice three words: “work of faith,” “labour of love,” and “patience of hope.” The people in this local church were workers. They were in church, doing the work of God, several times each week. They were serious Christians, and they did their work in, and through, this local church.

Dr. Frank E. Gaebelein says of this verse,

The substance of what Paul and his colleagues remember about the Thessalonians is summed up in three words: “work,” “labor,” and “endurance”… Indeed, wherever genuine faith is present, it works (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan, 1978, volume 11, p. 241).

Is it right to work, and labor patiently in the local church today? Indeed it is! Nearly all the great work of God in China has been done through the patient work of local churches. They are called “house churches.” They have no Christian radio programs or Christian television programs in China. They have no parachurch organizations and no mission organizations. Virtually all the work in China is done through those “house churches.” And what a marvelous work they do through those local churches! When you hear about what they are doing, it’s like reading the Book of Acts! Why? Because, like the early Christians in the Book of Acts, Christian work in China is done almost completely through local churches, through “house churches.” You can read about what God is doing through the local churches in China in David Aikman’s book, Jesus in Beijing (Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2003. It can be ordered from The Voice of the Martyrs’ website at www.persecution.com).

It has been estimated that there are now 1,000 conversions to Christianity every hour in China, 24,000 per day, 9 million per year. There are now approximately 130 million or more Christians in China. In the next twenty years, it is estimated that about 30 per cent of the people in China will be Christians. And this work has been done through local churches almost singlehandedly.

Let’s follow the example of the local church at Thessalonica, which followed the example “of the churches of God…in Judea” (I Thessalonians 2:14). Let’s follow the example of the local churches in the People’s Republic of China! Let’s work in and through the local church!

III. Third, it was a converted church.

Look at I Thessalonians 1:4-6. Let’s read these three verses aloud.

“Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost”
       (I Thessalonians 1:4-6).

The Apostle Paul called them “brethren” because they heard him preach the gospel and then they were converted. They trusted Christ and then followed the example of Paul and his companions. From the moment they were converted, they were persecuted by the unbelieving pagans in their city. And yet they had great joy, given to them by the Holy Spirit.

Now read verse nine.

“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (I Thessalonians 1:9).

The Christians in that local church had turned from idols to God. They were truly converted. The true work of God through the local church can only be done by people who have turned from sin to Christ. The “patience” (v. 3) and endurance of persecution (v. 6) that they displayed can only be the result of true conversion.

Make certain that you are converted. Make sure that you have turned completely to Jesus Christ. Notice verse one again. The people who were members of this local church were “in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.” You must come to Christ. You must be “in Christ.” That is the only way to be saved. Jesus said,

“No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

Come to Christ. He died for your sins on the Cross. He shed His Blood to wash your sins away. He rose physically from the dead. He is now in Heaven at the right hand of God the Father. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

IV. Fourth, it was an evangelistic church.

Look at I Thessalonians 1:8. Let us read this verse aloud.

“For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing” (I Thessalonians 1:8).

Their faith rang out! Everywhere they went, they “sounded out the word of the Lord.” They were enthusiastic about salvation. They told everybody they talked to about Christ! “Remember, this church was less than a year old at the time Paul wrote this letter. It was a tiny, persecuted church. Nevertheless, their faith had become known everywhere!” (The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1997, p. 828).

If they could spread the gospel with evangelistic zeal, so can we! If the Chinese house church Christians can spread the gospel, so can we! Let it be said of us also, “from you sounded out the word of the Lord.” Spread the gospel! Bring lost relatives and friends to church! Bring lost classmates and co-workers to church!

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

That is the way to obey Christ and fulfill the Great Commission!

(END OF SERMON)
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Or phone him at (818)352-0452.


THE OUTLINE OF

THE MODEL CHURCH

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 1:1).

(I Thessalonians 2:19-20)

I.   First, it was a church with a definite membership, Ephesians 4:25;
Romans 12:4-5; 16:5-15.

II.  Second, it was a working church, I Thessalonians 1:3; 2:14.

III. Third, it was a converted church, I Thessalonians 1:4-6, 9; John 14:6;
Acts 16:31.

IV. Fourth, it was an evangelistic church, I Thessalonians 1:8; Luke 14:23.