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TO CHEW ON: "For they themselves declare concerning us, what manner of entry we had to you and how you turned 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 who delivers us from the wrath to come." 1 Thessalonians 1:9,10
In the next week or so, we're going to read all the way through 1 Thessalonians. As we begin today, here are some background facts about the book to help us understand its setting.
1. 1 Thessalonians was the first of Paul's letters that has been saved and the first book in the New Testament to be written. My Bible's introductory notes date it at A.D. 50—written before the Gospels, though they describe earlier events.
2. Paul founded the church in Thessalonica on his second missionary journey. It was on the route he took after having the vision of the Macedonian man begging, "Come over to Macedonia and help us" - Acts 16:10.
3. On that trip (about 49 A.D.) Paul went to Philippi (Acts 16:12-40) and then to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9). His stay there was brief and controversial but life-altering for that "...great multitude of devout Greeks and not a few leading women" who believed Paul's gospel message.
One of the main themes in 1 Thessalonians is the return of Christ. In fact, a reference to it appears in each chapter. And so that is the theme thread we'll be following as we read through the book.
In today's focus verses, Paul is complimenting the Christians there for their stellar reputation.
(The "...they…" ["For they themselves declare concerning us… etc. - vs. 9] who speak so glowingly of the Thessalonian believers refers back to the other believers in the region: "… all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe…" - 1 Thessalonians 1:7.)
It's interesting to note what these early and quite new Christians were known for:
- Faith in God - 1 Thessalonians 1:8.
- A dramatic lifestyle change as they turned from idol worship to worship and serve God - 1 Thessalonians 1:9.
- An attitude of expectancy. These people had a reputation of waiting for Jesus' return - 1 Thessalonians 1:10.
- A serenity about the future as they no longer feared the "wrath of God" - 1 Thessalonians 1:10.
I wonder how the expectant lifestyle of these Christians looked. Maybe they had stopped collecting stuff, like property and clothes. Maybe they were making sure all their relationships were tended to. They probably spoke of their expectation to family, friends, and neighbors so that their dear ones would believe too and not be left behind. It's clear that they had a reputation for sounding forth their beliefs (1 Thessalonians 1:8).
A good question to ask ourselves is, what sort of reputation do we have as believers? Are we known for our faith in God? Have we turned from our old pre-Christian ways? Do our lives give any evidence at all that we expect Christ to return? (Or do we really expect that?)
PRAYER: Dear God, I am challenged by the simple yet bold faith of these one-year-old New Testament Christians. Please help me to firm up my expectation inYour return so that it becomes evident in my lifestyle. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.