Read verses 1-5
Q: What does the Greek word here translated “church” literally mean?
A: “Ecclesia” means “a called-out group”.
Q: From what was the Thessalonian church called out from, and to what was it called into?
A: It was called out from the world to be exclusively devoted to “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Peter would express this as being “called out of darkness into His marvelous light”.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
— 1 Peter 2:9
[Note: To fully understand how each thought in this paragraph fully relates to and supports each other, we will purposely start from the end and work our way backwards. We will then see how everything properly relates when read in the normal order.]
Q: How did salvation come to the Thessalonians?
A: It originated with hearing God’s Word – the Gospel (v.5) – and being confirmed:
- “…in power…”
- “…and in the Holy Spirit…”
- “…and with full conviction…”
Point: This is a picture of the “good soil” from the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-15) in which the Word is fully implanted and becomes fruitful and not of someone who is simply a “hearer” of the Word, but a “doer”.
Q: What is indicated in v.4 that they discovered AFTER they fully received the Word?
A: They learned that even before they had made the choice to come to Christ, He had already chosen them.
Point: It’s been stated that the mystery of God’s election and man’s decision will never be fully understood this side of heaven because although the Bible teaches both, the twin truths of election and decision are not contradictory, but complimentary to each other. As far as God is concerned, we were saved when He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world; as far as the Spirit is concerned, we were saved when we responded to His call to receive Christ; as far as the Son is concerned, we were saved when He died for us on the cross.
Q: How did Paul know that the Thessalonians were saved?
A: By the evidence in their lives listed in v.3.
Q: What are the three main characteristics of this church identified by Paul in v.3 which also correspond to Paul’s teachings in his other epistles?
A: Faith, love, and hope.
Q: What does “work of faith” actually mean?
A: “Faith” is used here interchangeably with “faithfulness” or the quality of one’s Christianity. When people are truly walking with Christ, their faith will be evidenced by their works. Works will not save, but faith not leading to works is not a saving faith. [See James 2:14-26.] True Christianity is proven by a changed life.
Q: What does “labor of love” actually mean?
A: The true Christian has a new motive for living, to love Christ and to love others. Whereas the unsaved live only for themselves, the saved are willing to toil and work because of this love.
and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
— Hebrews 10:24-25
Q: What does “steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” actually mean?
A: The saved can endure life’s trials because they know that Christ is coming for them, either in this life or the one to come. They don’t need to give up in times of trial because they know the Savior will deliver them.
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
— 1 Peter 1:6-9
Q: How are these three qualities found to parallel the three evidences of salvation expounded in v.9-10?
- “Work of faith” – “You turned to God from idols”
- “Labor of love” – “You…serve a living and true God”
- “Steadfastness of hope” – “You…wait for His Son from heaven”
Point: The Thessalonians were an elect people. Those called out of this world and designated for Christ alone are visibly proven by the quality of their faith providing works from a changed life, their labor of love actively toiling not just for Christ but for love of others, and a steadfastness of hope that transcends all current conditions because greater is their trust in Christ than in the world. Such a group is a true “church” – “a group called out” – for Christ.