In His Letters to the Thessalonians
1 Thess. 1:5, 2:2, 2:4, 2:8, 9, 3:1, 2; 2 Thess. 1:8, 2:14
We see that the Gospel has quite a place in these letters. We seek now to uncover the real meaning of the gospel, that is, the essential meaning of the good tidings, from the standpoint of these letters and the Thessalonian believers, and we take a look at the spiritual history, life and state of these believers in Thessalonica.
The Thessalonian Christians An Example
You will at a glance see what a special regard Paul had for them. He repeatedly uses words such as these: "We give thanks to God always for you all." Both in the first and second letters he speaks like that. "We give thanks to God for you." And then he says about them a very wonderful thing, which gives us a definite lead in this consideration. He says in the first letter, chapter one, verse seven: "Ye became an ensample to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia." That is something to say about a company of the Lord's people, and it leads us at once to ask the question - How were they an ensample? It was evidently not only to those immediately referred to, in all Amacedonia and Achaia, for these letters remain unto this day, and they therefore represented that which is an example for all the Lord's people. If that was true of them, then the gospel must have meant something very much where they were concerned. It must have had a very special form of expression in them, and so we seek to answer the question: How were they "an ensample to all that believe"?
A Pure Spirit and A Clean Heart
We find the answer in the first place here in this very chapter. It was in their realism in reception of the gospel. "Our gospel came unto you not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance." And again: "when ye received from us the word of the message, even the word of God, ye accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God" (2:13). Now that represents a very clean start; and if we are going to come to the place of these Thessalonian believers, if the gospel is to have that expression in us that it had in them, if it is going to be true in our case that we are an example to all them that believe, then it is very important that we have a clean heart.
For us, of course, if we have advanced in the Christian life without becoming such exemplary believers, that may mean retracing our steps in order to start again somewhere where we have gone wrong; clearing away a lot of rubbish and starting at a certain point all over again. But I am thinking also of young Christians who have recently made the start. You are really at the beginning, and we are most concerned about you, because you may meet many old Christians who are not by any means an example to all that believe. I am sorry to have to say that, but it is quite true, and we do not want you to be like that. We want you to be exemplary Christians; those of whom the Apostle Paul, if he were present, could say, "I thank God always for you". It would be a great thing, would it not, if that could be said of us? Thank God for him! Thank God for her! Thank God that ever we came into touch with this one, and that one! I always thank God for them - they are an example of what Christians ought to be!"
(continued with # 39)