Flourish in Preaching |1 Thessalonians 2:13-16
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Thessalonians 2:13–16
Christopher Rich – September 25, 2016
FLOURISH | Hope and Holiness amid Hostility
Wk4: Flourish in Preaching |1 Thessalonians 2:13-16
Introduction | Flourishing and Foolish Words
Good Morning! We are continuing our series on the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians. The series is titled Flourish: Hope and Holiness amid Hostility. Where do you find hope? How do you handle hostility? What does the word “holiness” mean and do we pursue it? How are hope and holiness related? Can you more than simply survive or endure hostility, but can you actually flourish in the midst of it? This letter is from Paul a pastor/church planter, to one of the churches he was involved in planting. This church is an example of a flourishing Gospel Community with people whose faith is evident and their relationships with one another and leadership is familial. How is a culture like this established and how is it continued? Cultures have identities described with language and words. This is part of why words are important. What words define you? What have you been called that has sunk into your soul and being and influenced how you see yourself and the world? What words to you go to seek comfort in? What words are living giving? What are joy stealing? There is great power in words so Paul writes about Flourishing in Preaching.
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 | 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!
Part I | Flourish in the Word | v13
This is a second section of Paul showing his thankfulness for this church. As he is praying as he is communing with God thinking about them there are all sorts of things that could come to mind positively, negatively and yet he is specific. “and for this reason” he is continually thankful they received the word of God.
It was a word that was heard. So he didn’t thank them for their individualized spiritual experiences or their philosophical and spiritual musing. When Paul came to town he came in as a preacher. He knew the best clearest way he could and should serve the people was to preach. He taught about Jesus from the Old Testament, spoke of his life, his death, his resurrection and how Jesus is God’s plan for the flourishing of his people. This is the Gospel, the Good News, New needs to be broadcast, proclaimed, news is preached.
Romans 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
Preachers are the human agents God uses to point people to Jesus. Sometimes it’s on their own with a bible sometimes it’s in the woods and the Spirit speaks (God can and God does speak that way). But God is clearly prescriptive that he calls his believers to salvation through the proclamation of His word and then exhorts them to be on a mission of Gospel Proclamation. This is why we take the preaching of God’s word very seriously. It is why I devote significant time to study, prayer, writing each week and our services are arranged around the preaching of the word. This church, and I believe our church, is receptive to the proclamation of God’s word, this is a cause of thankfulness because we know it leads to life and health.
Word of God does not return void. The grass withers the flower fades the word of our lord endures forever. Words of God are both trustworthy and authoritative. There clear affirmation what the church received was the Word of God. Paul doesn’t tell them Whoa Whoa, you took this way too seriously. I was just talking about some legends, myths, moral stories, and some embellished personal experiences. Not at all. He doubles down on. You heard me clearly and received what I said clearly. The source of the word is eternal. The source is powerful. The source is loving. Reliable to bring change and life. Words of men are not any of those things. While there absolutely is common grace, so you can find wisdom and some shadow of the truth in many places you will not find what is eternally satisfying in worldly wisdom. They are fickle. They are overwhelmingly tied to the spirit of the age (ie, what is happening in culture right now) Compared to the word of God, words of men are not trust worthy and are not obligatory.
Who do you listen to? When you listen you are giving words the opportunity to influence. We are all disciplined disciples of that which we have our primary affection too. What words are you consuming? We need to have our eyes and ears open to the fact that every movie, show, radio station, magazine, blog, and meme is a sermon. The world is constantly preaching in creatively destructive ways convincing us to settle for less than the life God intends. When I was tied to the words of men I have a life that was “less than” flourishing. Paul knows this church will continue to flourish as long as they are continuing feast on God’s word. This is their counsel, their life rhythms, etc and it begins with seeing The Bible is sufficient
Psalm 19:7-9 | 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
The word works!! We saw that back in Chapter 1 where faith led to work, Love led to labor, and Hope to endurance. John describes Jesus as the WORD. So to receive the Word of God is to respond to what is says about who Jesus is and how we are called to respond. It is nothing less than an intellectual assent but is also more and deeper. Paul says its not just that you heard and said “that sounds right” and they went about your daily lives with no conceivable or perceivable change. The word impacted them in such a way their allegiances changed but so did their very actions. Meditation, memorization, study, listening, singing, God’s word all lead to a renewal of the mind. When we drift from disciple in this area it leads specifically to unhealt just us drifts from discipline in anything does, finances, diet. God is constantly pursuing His People with His word. When you keep your bible closed, when you avoid bible preaching/teaching you are essentially placing your finger on God’s mouth and saying “shhhhh” I know better, or I believe someone else does. To rely on the Word of God is to declare our dependence. Because we are dependent people we will crave and thirst. When we do we will begin to search diligently for things that will quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger. At those times we will drink and consume dang near anything and worry about its profitability and heath later. We are very intentional about what we crave. But we are not slaves to our cravings, they can be developed and encouraged. The word produces in us and prepares us for a world opposed.
PART II | Flourishing in Persecution | v14
The word that saves is the word that unifies you with other believers. We repeat often, you are saved as an individual sinner into a new family. There is unity in the family of God people who are no longer defined by words like sinner, estranged, rebel, but Sons Daughters, citizens, co-heirs. Recogizing there is a world opposed to God means to receive the word of God is an invitation to identify with the suffering of those in the world. This is part why Jesus in come to earth, walk with people, wept with people, and suffered for His people. The word of God became flesh and lived among us to identify with the suffering of God’s people. The word of God binds us to a great number of churches. You want to be tied a great movement, to something victorious, some that addresses injustice, something that stirs adventure, that sustains healthy rhythms. This is what God’s word does.
Paul’s gone but they have God’s word, which is better than a good preacher. In this case you have a newer struggling church who can take great encouragement and solace that they opposition they are facing is not uncommon but even the most laudable churches have faces similar struggles. The Thessalonian church in receiving the word is imitating the “churches of God, In Christ Jesus.” in Judea, the region around Jerusalem. We have churches we look up to, none of them are perfect but the Jedean churches had a unique place in church history. They were first. You have something in common with the very first churches. They would have been famous for what? How they were persecuted. They were known for their love of Jesus, trust in Him, their love for one another, and for how they suffered at the hands of those they were close with. You’re talking about people who grew up with you, knew you, did life with you, and know they want nothing to do with you because of your reception of Jesus. There is different contexts but great unity in their experience. Themes and experiences are actually quite consistent. In Thessalonica, the former pagans are being rejected by others pagans.
There is no question they endured suffering in believing and living out the gospel. Flourishing is not suffering-less. There is a testing and refining that comes from it. Adversity reveals what you truly believe and value verse what ideals you claim to hold.
PART III | Flourishing in Clarity | v15-16
This is a difficult text because a casual reading devoid of context and a holistic understanding of Paul’s new testament teaching makes this look more than merely “Politically Incorrect” it sounds to our modern ears to be anti-Semitic. LET ME BE CLEAR Paul isn’t anti-Semitic. Jesus was Jewish. Paul is Jewish. God’s promises to the world are made through a family and a nation. Through you all the nations of the world will be blessed. Paul, Christianity, is not anti Jewish. You likely have a text note that says this verse can (and I believe does) refer to the Jewish religious leaders and those actively opposed Christianity during that era. While there are both harsh and clear words regarding this group of people, read through Romans 9-11 and you’ll see far from condemnation, Paul had great hope for his people. What is being talked about is birthed out of theological convictions not out of racial prejudice. He levels specific charges against this group of leaders which has general applications to all those who oppose the Gospel.
Obviously we know Jesus was killed on a Roman cross, his execution was ordered by Pontius Pilate (this is historical fact) However, we also know it was the trial of the Jewish leaders specifically that accused Jesus of blasphemy (He claimed to be God, ‘cause he is!) and they turned Him over to Rome with the charge of treason. The leaders whipped up the call of “crucify him” in the crowd and boldly declared. “His blood be on us and on our children.” Matt 27:25)The leaders of the day would have said “we own it!” Because of our sin, we all were responsible for the death of Jesus. Jews ordered, Gentiles executed.
There was a long line of opposition to God’s word especially as it’s corrective as much as it calls out sin. It has never been popular. From the beginning sin came in when God’s word was rejected. Throughout the Old Testament you see prophets speak against sin and for God and the response is not repentance but further rebellion. While man is powerless to wage effective victorious war against God they settle for “moral” temporary victories in silencing those who proclaim God’s word by their blood. But God will not be deterred and He uses the blood of his prophets as martyrs seeding for a future harvest.
Drove Us out
Paul has been on these missionary journeys for years now and every time. Paul was part of the big persecution to begin with. He knows how they work, think, and are motivated by. As early as Acts 7 and 8 the church has been under target and intense persecution. Every time it looks like the church is beginning to flourish hostile opposition rises up. There is pain, but purpose as God uses it over and over again to spread the Gospel further and further. When it appears enemies are chasing God is marching.
There opposition to Jesus. Opposition to Jesus is equated with opposition to God. Pleasing God is a continual moral imperative laid out in the OT and enforced in the NT empowered by the Holy Spirit. To sin, to rebel against God’s law is to rebel against God, God doesn’t give suggestions. So when faced with the laws and commands of God have the choices of obedience or rebellion. This is my Son with whom I am well pleased, (Jesus) We are grateful, In Christ, when God looks at us he see Him in our place.
Oppose all of mankind (Hostile to other races): by Hindering us from what? Preaching!! Our opposition to God will manifest itself in hatred of God’s created people. When we are part of a dominate culture we will have a pride of power believing we have influence and favor over others because of our inherent “betterness”. Or when we are a minority we will fail to care about those who are in the majority and we will have a pride of inferiority and believe we are more righteous because we are more scarce. One will keep us from empathizing with those experiencing blinding oppression they believe makes them unworthy of God, the other will keep us from sympathizing with those who are so privileged they don’t believe they need God.
Both will keep us from loving our neighbor and pointing them to the hope and love of Jesus. One believes others don’t deserve it, the other believes they won’t receive it. The Gospel removes worldly lines. Gal 3:28 | There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The Gospel doesn’t create new dividing lines. It reveals a clear line that has been veiled, hidden, ignored, or denied. The line between a holy perfect just loving God and a sinful, rebellious people, who are enemies of God. In revealing the line it provides clarity about the true spiritual state of humanity and you individually. Ultimately those who are opposed to the Gospel are still in their sins and without repentance will be objects of God’s wrath. We don’t determine who that is. We are to be reminding God is JUST! And final Justice comes when Jesus does! Gospel Preaching recognizes how high the stakes are!! Paul’s love his people and knows thier eternal salvation from God’s just wrath is at stake. Being clear about God’s judgement and wrath doesn’t help if it’s not paired with the hope and life that come from Jesus. Paul knows as well as anyone that God’s answer for those who oppose Jesus, is Jesus. Gospel preaching is clear on greatness of God who pursues people in Christ, and makes provision for the division to end and communion with God to resume. It pursues and is hopeful for God’s enemies.
Romans 1:16-17 | 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Paul had great anguish for his people who have rejected Jesus. His answer was to keep preaching! The words of God matter to people because People matter to God. Who do you have great anguish for? Do you seek their condemnation, or pray for their conviction of sin, and preach the comfort of the Gospel?
2 Corinthians 2:15-16| 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. Trust Jesus.