STANDING FIRM AS A CHRIST FOLLOWER
Week 3, 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – 3:8 – December 7, 2014
- SUFFERING AS A CHRIST FOLLOWERS (2:13-14)
– Suffer (3) – Suffered Persecution, Jesus Suffered, Suffering dear brothers and sisters
– Trouble (4) – Shaken by the troubles, destined for such troubles, troubles would soon come, in the midst of our troubles
13 Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe. 14 And then, dear brothers and sisters, you suffered persecution from your own countrymen. In this way, you imitated the believers in God’s churches in Judea who, because of their belief in Christ Jesus, suffered from their own people, the Jews.
– Paul, Silas and Timothy were very thankful for the Thessalonians. They were living like Chrst Followers.
– Recalling what we learned last week in verses 13, Paul says how thankful he is to God for the Thessalonians church and he says there is a three-fold reason.
I. First of all, Their Reception of the Word, notice verse 13.
Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.
The first cause for his thanksgiving was their reception of the Word. They received it as God’s Word. They received it as divine truth and they were transformed by it.
2. Second, the Apostle Paul is glad for them because of their Perseverance in Suffering. At the beginning of verse 14 he says,
And then, dear brothers and sisters, you suffered persecution from your own countrymen.
1. Beaten by their own ‘Countrymen’
2. Motivated by the Jews
3. Third, he is grateful to God for their Imitation of the Christ Followers.
Then at the end of verse 14,
“In this way, you imitated the believers in God’s churches in Judea who, because of their belief in Christ Jesus, suffered from their own people, the Jews.”
1. They had given the highest form of honor, that is Imitation.
2. They had imitated the other church, they had imitated the apostles, they had imitated the Lord in their lives.
Back in chapter 1 verse 6 he says,
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord.”
They had shown the genuineness of their faith by their reception of the Word, their perseverance in suffering, and their imitation of the Christ Followers. They received and obeyed the Word. They endured the trials and the tests and the suffering pursuing that eternal glory AND They honored and imitated the example of spiritual leaders.
B. THE WAR AGAINST CHRIST FOLLOWERS (2:15-16)
15 For some of the Jews killed the prophets, and some even killed the Lord Jesus. Now they have persecuted us, too. They fail to please God and work against all humanity 16 as they try to keep us from preaching the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles. By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins. But the anger of God has caught up with them at last.
Note: There are only two types of people in the world. That’s it, two categories. Christ Followers and those who are yet to meet Him.
NOTE: Paul and the Jewish People
The Apostle Paul had had a running conflict with the Jews. It was non-stop, it was endless, it was persistent, and it eventually led to his death.
Let me take time to run through this relationship between Paul and the Jewish people of his day.
If you go back, for example, to the time of his conversion, you have to go back to Acts 9. Acts chapter 9 starts out with him persecuting Christians, ends up with him preaching Christ. He starts out as one who is taking the life of those whom he believes are heretics attacking the true Jewish faith. He’s converted to Christ and by the time you come to verse 20 of chapter 9, he has embarked already upon his ministry. He preaches now that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. And then he gets into a debate with the Jews and it says the Jews were confounded. What it means is they were defeated in the debate and it was public.
Embarrassed, they became enraged so that they finally sought to murder him. It says they tried to kill him, but he escaped. In the very same chapter in which his conversion is recorded, the first murder attempt is also recorded on his life. It doesn’t change.
When you come in to chapter 13, the Apostle Paul is dispatched to preach from the church at Antioch, go into the world and carry the gospel. And when the Jews who see him effectively moving to accomplish his goal, see the whole population of pagans ready to listen, they react negatively. It isn’t an intellectual rejection. It is more a prejudicial rejection. They are filled with envy and jealousy and rage because they will not be a part, nor will they tolerate any Jew being a part of something that involves unclean Gentiles. And so in Acts 13 from verse 40 clear through the end, verse 50, you see that kind of reaction.
You come in to chapter 14, the Jews are disobedient to God’s Word therefore they incite the mob to assault and stone Paul as a blasphemer. They agitate the crowds against him to put him to death, to kill him. Look at verse 19,
19 Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. 20 But as the believers[c] gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
You come in to chapter 17, nothing changes…envy, jealousy, hostility again is the issue. The Jews get to the point where they go into the marketplace and they hire some local thugs to start a riot against those who preach the gospel.
You come in to chapter 19 verses 8 to 10 and the Jews there refuse to hear. They refuse to believe. They curse Christianity openly, publicly before the crowd.
In chapter 20 when Paul comes into Greece, he sits in Gaius’ house in Corinth with Tertius, his secretary, dictating Romans in the midst of Jewish persecution. And even as he wrote this epistle, he is feeling Jewish hatred. Thessalonica was a place of hostility. When he was there ministering to these people to bring them the gospel, the Jews set against him.
Chapter 21, you find the Apostle moving back toward Jerusalem. Some Jews from Asia Minor, no doubt, present in Jerusalem for Pentecost accused Paul of being anti-law, anti-temple, anti-Semitic, anti-worship. So the mob drags Paul out and starts to beat him to death. They kick him. They punch him. His life is rescued. And it goes that way to the end of the book of Acts. It was a non-stop conflict between the Apostle and the Jews.
So, when Paul came to Thessalonica, it was no different there. They had conflict with Jewish opponents there. The opposition was constant. He says in 2 Corinthians 11:24, “Five times the Jews have given me 39 lashes.” Five times they whipped him 39 blows. He was in a severe and life-threatening conflict with them all the time, including stoning him to death.
Yet Paul still loved the Jews and sought to present to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ…but they rejected it time and time again…
The Jews are so privileged…God dwelt in their midst, led them, lived in their tabernacle and their temple. To them belonged the covenants, the special pledges God made to them. They were recipients of redemptive revelation, the covenants, including the New Covenant which was first given to them. They were those who received the giving of the law, the Mosaic morality, the source of blessing and prosperity. They were given the service, that is the order and instruction of worship in the temple, how to approach God. They were given the promises, best seen and fulfilled in Messianic hopes, glorious destiny, eternal inheritance.
Jesus summed it up by saying, “Salvation is of the Jews.” Immense incalculable privilege and opportunity through the centuries. And yet they rebelled. And so, here in this text of 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 Paul fixes his attention on that rebellion and endeavors to show the contrast between Christ Followers and those who are Yet to Meet Him, the contrast between a people who believed with limited opportunity and the people who rejected with unlimited opportunity.
SIGNS OF THE WAR
1. Number one, They Deny the Power of the Bible.
a. They reject the Word. The Thessalonians received the Word, the Jews rejected the Word. Notice verse 15, “15 For some of the Jews killed the prophets, and some even killed the Lord Jesus…
Jesus puts this into a parable in Matthew 21. Turn there for a moment, look at verse 33. Jesus speaking to the religious leaders in the temple gives them a parable, it goes like this, Matthew 21:33, “There was a land owner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and rented it out to vine growers and went on a journey.” Very simple picture. A man puts together a vineyard. And then he rents it out, leases it out to some people to manage it for him. “When the harvest time approached he sent his slaves to the vine growers to receive his produce and the vine growers took his slaves, beat one, killed another, stoned a third. He sent another group of slaves larger than the first and they did the same thing to them. Afterwards he sent his son to them saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ When the vine growers saw the son they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir to come, let’s kill him, seize his inheritance.’ They took him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine growers?”
What an unthinkable story. Here’s a man who puts a vineyard together, leases it out to some tenant farmers. When he sends his servant to collect the produce, they murder them. He sends another group and they murder them. Says I’ll send my son, they’ll be good to him. They kill his son. What do you think he’s going to do to those people? Look how the Jewish leaders acted, look how they’re responding. Verse 41, “They said to him, ‘He’ll bring those wretches to a wretched end and will rent out the vineyard to other vine growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper season.'” And then Jesus applies it. “You’ve got it right, He’ll punish those wretches and He’ll give His vineyard to somebody else.”
The actual murders of the prophets are not recorded specifically in the Old Testament. Hebrews chapter 11 says they sawed them in half. Apparently Isaiah was one who was sawn in half during the reign of Manasseh. They literally cut him in half. Jeremiah was stoned to death by his fellow Jews. Why? Because they rejected the Word. And now he says, thirdly, verse 15, “And drove us out.” And the verb conveys the idea of a hunting something down, like an animal, you’re hunting for the kill. They hunt us down with the intention to persecute. and he’s not just talking about the incident at Thessalonica, though they did that there, but everywhere.
2. Then there was is a second reason, THEY PUNISH AND PERSECUTE CHRIST FOLLOWERS (15)
15 …Now they have persecuted us, too.
- The Thessalonians had had perseverance in suffering and came through triumphant.
- Their’s is not something in which you can persevere, it is a fatal, deadly punishment.
3. Third point, not only their rejection of the Word and persecuting the Christ Followers but their THEY TRY TO STOP OUR PREACHING (15-16). (Circle the word TRY) Those opposed to the Gospel have tried since the time of Christ…but they have never been able to stop it. Thessalonians had honored the leaders, the Jews hindered the leaders.
“They fail to please God and work against all humanity as they try to keep us from preaching the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles. By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins. But the anger of God has caught up with them at last.”
That’s a frightening text.
You know these same things are happening In our present day…
- Tried to stop the Bible, Didn’t Believe in it. This has never stopped. People and groups and countries have tried to stop the spread of the Bible for 2,000 years. Many schools don’t allow students to bring bibles on school campus. When we lived in Colorado it was against the law to wear a Christian shirt to school. People are still trying to stop the Bible all over the world.
- Persecuted Christ Followers. (Figures vary but 12,000 to 15,000 Christ Followers are killed a year because of Persecution) We get persecuted too, people don’t talk to you at work or put down because of your faith, people can talk about anything and everything whenever, accept Jesus.
- Hindered The Spread of the Gospel. All over the world people are trying to stop the spread of Christianity. It happens here too when our Junior High students get taught Buddism, Hinduism and other religions for weeks and get one day on Christianity. It happens every time some one lies about the word, distorts the word, makes false movies about the word.
So the Thessalonians received the Word, persevered in Suffering and Imitated other believers.
The Jews tried to stop the Bible, Persecuted Christ Followers and Tried to stop the spread of Jesus.
…so what do we do? How do we stand for Christ in this culture? How do we live in light of this war?
C. HOW DO WE WIN THE WAR (2:17-3:8) The Apostle Paul Silas and Timothy give us a model for winning the War. I think we should imitate them the same way the Thessalonians did.
- LOVE OTHERS – They loved the Thessalonians (17-18a) We need to love the Brentwoodians or the Oakleyians or the Discovery Bayians maybe the Antiochians…look at these words from Paul.
17 Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. 18 We wanted very much to come to you…
2. IDENTIFY THE ENEMY – Know whom your fighting (18b-19)
18b …and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us
3. LIVE IN HOPE OF JESUS’ RETURN – Trust the Promise (19-20)
19 After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! 20 Yes, you are our pride and joy.
4. CARRY OUT YOUR MINISTRY (3:1-8) Do what God has called you to do! Remember from last week we learned that every Christian is in ministry.
1 Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, 2 and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, 3 and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles.
Be like Timothy….
a. Sent Timothy
- …to strengthen you,
- …to encourage you in your faith, 3 and
- …to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through.
4 Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. 5 That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.
b. Timothy’s Return
6 But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. 7 So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. 8 It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.
- Great Encouragement
- Remained Strong in Faith
- Gives us New Life