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MAKE THE THESSALONIAN CHRISTIANS
YOUR EXAMPLE!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, December 27, 2015

“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).


Mr. Prudhomme read the first chapter of I Thessalonians a few moments ago. It gives us a picture of the early church that was in the city of Thessalonica. The Apostle Paul wrote this epistle about A.D. 50. It was the first epistle Paul wrote. He wrote it to a congregation that was only a few months old. Paul had been there with them for three Sabbaths according to Acts 17. He had been driven out of the city quickly by a mob of unbelieving Jews who cried against Paul and Silas – saying, “These that have turned the world upside down are come [here] also” (Acts 17:6). They said that Jason, the leader of the church, was breaking the law of Caesar by saying there is another king named Jesus. They arrested Jason and the other Christians, then let them go. In chapter 3, verse 2 Paul promised to send Timothy “to establish you, and to comfort you” (I Thessalonians 3:2).

Now we will look at the first chapter of I Thessalonians. We will see a remarkably strong little church, even though they only had Paul with them three weeks, and even though their church was only about a year old. This was a wonderful church, a model church which we should do our best to follow. There are eight points in the first chapter that our church should follow.

1. First, they were in God and in Christ.

“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).

Silvanus is another name of Silas. Even though they had been pagan idol worshippers, now they were “in God the Father,” “in the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is what Paul says about this church. That’s the way you “join” the church. It isn’t by having your name written on a church roll. It is by being “in God” and “in Christ.” That’s what makes you a real member of the church. Jesus prayed for that when He said, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21). You must be joined to Jesus and joined to God the Father, to be joined to the church! There is no other way. You are either “in” Christ or you are “out” of Christ. That’s why we tell you to come to Christ, trust Christ, rest upon Christ. When that happens you become a member of our church. There is no other way to join our church. Jesus said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). “Coming” to church is not the same as being “in the Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 1:1).

The true church is made up only of those people who are “in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Everyone else is just visiting the church, but not really part of it. It’s like the ark of Noah. Noah spent decades building the ark. Many people came to look at this huge ark. They probably walked around it, and some even went to look inside, and then left. But when the Flood came they were not “in” the ark. So they were drowned in the great Flood. Jesus said, “As the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37). When God’s judgment falls on this world you will be hopeless unless you are “in the Lord Jesus Christ” as the people in the church of Thessalonica were.

2. Second, they had faith, love and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Look at verse 3.

“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).

The Apostle Paul remembered that the Christians in the church of Thessalonica did work out of Christian love. Their work was a product of their faith in Christ. The work they did was also a “labour of love.” They also had patience, or endurance, inspired by their “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” In I Corinthians 13 Paul said, “Now abideth faith, hope, charity [Christian love]; but the greatest of these is charity” (I Corinthians 13:13).

We have found that people can come to church without faith, love, and hope in Christ. But they will not last long in the church. They are only coming to church to have friends. They enjoy the fun and fellowship with others in the church. But later, “in [a] time of [testing] fall away” (Luke 8:13). That often happens during the first part of the new year. They had a lot of fun during the church parties at Christmas and New Year’s. But then January comes. Some of the fun is gone. Now they don’t feel the same enjoyment that they did in the Christmas season. So they “fall away.” This shows they were only coming to church for fun and games. They had no connection with Christ. They were never “in the Lord Jesus Christ.” So they fall away and are never converted. They never become like the people in the church at Thessalonica! I hope that will not happen to you!

3. Third, they were chosen by God.

Look at verse four.

“Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God” (I Thessalonians 1:4).

Paul calls them “brethren” (brothers) because they were elected to salvation by God. Paul spoke of their election again in II Thessalonians 2:13, where he said, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation.” From the beginning God chooses some people to be saved. We didn’t choose Him. He chose us. In Ephesians, Paul said, “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Jesus Himself said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16).

This is a mystery, not something that our natural minds can fully understand. But it is absolutely true. Fifty-seven years ago I was called to preach. There were many young people in that church who came from good Christian homes. But even though they came from good Christian homes, they were never converted, and finally fell away from the church. With all their advantages, they were never chosen to be saved by God. Yet there I was, a poor boy from a home broken by divorce. Not only didn’t I fall away – but here I am, preaching the Gospel, fifty-seven years later. How can I explain that? I can’t explain it. I can only quote Jesus, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” And because He chose me, I was made able to go through many hard times and many sorrows, without falling away! That was also true of the Christians in the church of Thessalonica. “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.”

Let me say one more thing. If you are not one of the elect, there is nothing we can do to save you. Furthermore, there is nothing you can do to save yourself! That’s why some people can hear the Gospel preached for years without ever being saved. They do not have ears to hear, or hearts to trust Jesus. They never “get it.” Philip Chan said his mind kept going around in circles, trying to figure out how to be saved. Then one Sunday morning, God opened his heart and he trusted Jesus. But those who are not chosen never have a moment like that. Their minds keep going in circles, trying to figure it all out – until they finally die and sink down into the flames of Hell. Election is not a choice you have. Election is “of God,” as verse 4 says.

4. Fourth, they received the Gospel not only by learning words, but also in power.

Please look at verse 5.

“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” (I Thessalonians 1:5).

Paul here calls it “our gospel” because it was preached by him, and by Silas, his companion. Elsewhere he calls it “the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1) and also “the gospel of Christ” (I Thessalonians 3:2).

The Gospel came to the Thessalonians with power. In I Corinthians Paul said,

“My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (I Corinthians 2:4).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “The Apostle...did not depend upon human gifts or methods or contrivances. It was ‘in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’” (Unsearchable Riches in Christ, p. 56).

The people in Thessalonica did not come with their Bibles open, taking notes! That is not the way to preach evangelistically. It is a hindrance to evangelistic preaching. So are overhead projectors. So are modern translations. I would have them throw away their pencils, turn off their overhead projectors, and preach with anointing from the grand old King James Bible. We need to depend on the Holy Spirit, not on modern gimmicks! These people in Thessalonica were preached to in the power of the Holy Spirit and then they were soundly converted. I cannot teach you how to be converted. That is why we pray constantly for the presence of God, the reality of the Holy Spirit. Only He can open these truths to you and draw you to Christ. These people were converted by Holy Ghost preaching, not the dry-as-dust Bible teaching we hear from most of our pulpits today! There is a famine of the Word because we do not have the power of God’s Spirit in our preaching, like they had.

5. Fifth, they followed the example of Paul and Silas by going through persecution.

Please look at verse 6.

“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 1:6).

They became followers (or imitators) of Paul and Silas, and of Christ – in spite of “much affliction” (or severe suffering). And in their suffering they had joy, given by the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter said,

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (I Peter 4:12-13).

Dr. Thomas Hale said, “According to the New Testament, to endure persecution for the sake of Christ is a joyful privilege (Acts 5:41; I Peter 4:13). The church that endures persecution with joy [becomes] a strong church, and its witness is powerful” (Thomas Hale, M.D., The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1997; comment on I Thessalonians 1:6).

Our own church became strong by going through a terrible church split. That is why we have so much “joy in the Holy Ghost.” Preachers who visit us are surprised at how joyful we are! We got that way by going through the fire of affliction, like the church in Thessalonica did!

Going through trials is the only way to become a strong Christian. Bible study alone does not produce strong Christians. Suffering through trials is what makes us strong. There is no other way! The Apostle Paul told the new Christians at Antioch, “We must through much tribulation [many hardships] enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Hardships, pressures, and tribulations not only produce strong Christians – they also separate the chaff from the wheat. For when even small pressures come, those who are unconverted leave the church and go back to worldliness – as we have often seen. But those who go through the trials become great Christians, like Mrs. Salazar, Mr. Prudhomme, Mrs. Bebout, Dr. Cagan, Mr. Griffith, my own wife, Dr. Chan, and many others in our church – all of “the 39” people who saved our church in the great church split we endured. If you want to be like them, you must go through some hardships as well! God uses hardships to make strong Christians! A great old hymn says it all,

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
   (“How Firm a Foundation” by George Keith, 1638-1716;
      “K” in Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, 1787).

I know that is true in my own life. The trials and tribulations I went through to become a pastor were my real seminary. It was through trials that I learned to be a pastor! I thank God for the school of the cross, in shaping all the great Christians in our wonderful church!

6. Sixth, they became models to other Christians.

Look at verse 7,

“So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia” (I Thessalonians 1:7).

Dr. Thomas Hale said,

Because these Thessalonian Christians had endured persecution with such joy and were imitating Christ so faithfully, they had become a model [ensamples], an example, for all other [Christians] living in Macedonia, the northern province of Greece. Let these Thessalonian Christians be a model for us too! Then...we too will become a model for others (ibid.; note on I Thessalonians 1:7).

7. Seventh, they were soul-winners.

Look at verse 8,

“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).

They “sounded out” the Gospel all around them. They won souls and brought them into the church. They were mission-minded soul-winners. By the way, it didn’t take them years and years of Bible study to do this. Dr. Hale said, “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” (ibid.; note on I Thessalonians 1:8).

One of the best ways to quickly become a strong Christian is to become a soul-winner right away, right now! Those who bring names from evangelism grow strong quickly. But those who just come to church never seem to become mature Christians. Some of you need to think about that! Is that your problem? I have never known a really strong Christian who was not a soul-winner – one who helps lost people come into the church and be saved. If you are not interested in evangelism, I believe you will never become a strong Christian. That is my opinion after being in the ministry over 57 years.

8. Eighth, they could do all this because they had experienced a real conversion to Christ.

Look at verses 9 and 10,

“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; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (I Thessalonians 1:9-10).

They turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God. To be converted, you must turn from the sins in your life. But that is not all. You must turn from your sin to Christ, for Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). If you refuse to turn from a selfish and sinful life to Christ, you will never be saved, even if you attend this church for the rest of your life! You must turn and trust Jesus to be cleansed from your sin by His Holy Blood! Then your hope will be in Christ alone, and you will look forward to Christ’s Second Coming with hope and joy!

How I pray that you will take the printed copy of this sermon home with you and read it – not once, but many times! How I pray that you will become a great Christian like those people in the church of Thessalonica! Amen. Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer.

If this sermon blessed you Dr. Hymers would like to hear from you. WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: I Thessalonians 1:1-10.
Solo Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Living for Jesus” (by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866-1960).


THE OUTLINE OF

MAKE THE THESSALONIAN CHRISTIANS
YOUR EXAMPLE!

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).

(Acts 17:6; I Thessalonians 3:2)

1.  First, they were in God and in Christ, I Thessalonians 1:1;
John 17:21; 3:7; Matthew 24:37.

2.  Second, they had faith, love and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,
I Thessalonians 1:3; I Corinthians 13:13; Luke 8:13.

3.  Third, they were chosen by God, I Thessalonians 1:4;
II Thessalonians 2:13; Ephesians 1:4; John 15:16.

4.  Fourth, they received the Gospel, not only by learning words,
but also in power, I Thessalonians 1:5; Romans 1:1;
I Thessalonians 3:2; I Corinthians 2:4.

5.  Fifth, they followed the example of Paul and Silas by going through persecution, I Thessalonians 1:6; I Peter 4:12-13;
Acts 14:22.

6.  Sixth, they became models to other Christians, I Thessalonians 1:7.

7. Seventh, they were soul-winners, I Thessalonians 1:8.

8.  Eighth, they could do all this because they had experienced a real
conversion to Christ, I Thessalonians 1:9-10; John 14:6.