Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 26, 1963
NUMBER 21, PAGE 8,12c-13a

An Example To The Believers

Forrest Darrell Moyer


Two humble men, preaching a gospel of a poor Jew who had been nailed to a Roman cross, had been beaten and cast into prison at Philippi. Marvelous occurrence took place in prison that night. Upon their release the next day they made their way to Thessalonica and there continued their preaching in the face of severe opposition. For three weeks they argued from the scriptures proving that "this Jesus is the Christ." (Acts 17) Some of the Jews were converted as a result of this preaching. A great many devout Greeks were led to believe as well as some of the leading women of the town. These — a few Jews, many Greeks, and some well-to-do women — thus formed the church in Thessalonica.

The jealousy of the other Jews was aroused and with mob action they drove these two preachers from town. They went from Thessalonica to Berea and continued their work. Paul, one of these preachers, went on to Athens. Silas, another preacher, along with Timothy, was sent back to Thessalonica to see how the brethren were doing. Paul continued on to Corinth to proclaim the gospel there. Upon the arrival of Silas and Timothy from Thessalonica, Paul then wrote the first of his many epistles — to the church of the Thessalonians.

The first chapter of this book commends their action in obeying and in being faithful to the Lord. In verse 7 we learn this significant fact: "So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia." What action on their part made them "ensamples"? Will not that same action make us today examples to all that believe? I am sure that it will. So let us learn what made them "ensamples to all that believe."

I. Their Reception Of The Gospel

A. They were chosen of God: "Knowing, brethren, beloved, your election of God." (v.4) Williams translates it, "For we know, brothers so beloved by God, that He has chosen you." They were chosen in God's way of choosing people. That way is revealed in 2 Thess. 2:13-14: "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." God calls people by the gospel. When people believe the truth and obey it, they are chosen of God unto salvation. This, the Thessalonians had done.

B. The gospel was preached unto them. "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance ..." (v. 5) The manner of this preaching is described in Acts 17:2,3: "And Paul.... reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus whom I preach unto you, is Christ."

This is the message that Paul says Is "not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance." It was a message of power because it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. (1 Thess. 2:13) It produced assurance in the minds of the believers because of its truth.

C. Their reception of the gospel. Their reception is alluded to in v. 6: "And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction...." They received the word and became followers of Paul and of the Lord. Of course, it is necessary to follow right examples. "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1) In reality such an imitation must be of Christ. Peter said, "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps." (1 Peter 2:21) We are to follow others only when they follow Christ. The Thessalonians did this and they are great examples to the believers.

In their reception of the gospel, we learn that they "turned unto God from idols." (v. 9) Their former state had been one of sin and darkness. But having heard the truth, they turned — they were converted.

(See Acts 3:19) This turning is necessary to salvation. (Matt. 18:3; Acts 17:30) They gave up all that was sinful. Idolatry, immorality, worldliness, covetousness — all these were left behind. And God "delivered them from the wrath to come." (v.10) That is, He forgave their sins and hence wrath would not come on them from those past sins. They are a noble example in their turning from sin to God.

Their turning was "to serve a living and true God." (v.9) They not only gave up sin, but they replaced that sin with proper activity. There is great tragedy in an empty life. It is not enough to give up sin; we must replace it with service. Jesus said, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve." (Matt. 4:10) To serve is to render due obedience in whatever He requires. This the Thessalonians did and they are examples.

There was still another outstanding trait of these brethren. They turned to God in order to serve Him and "to wait for His Son from heaven...." (v.10) Through the preaching of Paul and the others, they implicitly believed in the Lord's return. They lived in harmony with that faith. The very fact of Jesus' resurrection is a proof of His coming again — "whom he raised from the dead." Paul expressed it to the Athenians in this manner: "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:31) God's power raised Jesus from the dead. It is that same power that will send Him again to gather His own and to punish the rebellious. "To wait for his Son" implies that their lives were in harmony with His will, and they would have nothing of which to be ashamed at His coming. Friend, are you ready now for the Lord's return? You need to be, for you know not when that day shall be!

Because of these traits the Thessalonians are great examples: 1) They "turned to God from idols." 2) "To serve a living and true God," and 3) "To wait for his son from Heaven....even Jesus" You need to imitate their example in these things. Turn from every sin of your life; serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; and be ready for the Lord's return.

II. The Measure Of Their Greatness

In verse 3, Paul describes the measure of their greatness: "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father." There are three specific things that made them great examples: (1) Work of faith, (2) Labor of love, and (3) Patience of hope.

A. Work of faith. This, of course, refers to the work that they did for God as a result of their faith. They showed their faith by their works. (Jas. 2:18-20) Their faith came from hearing God's word. (Rom. 10:17) Their work came as a result of believing. (Gal. 5:6) Unless yours is a working faith, it is not an acceptable faith. Rather, it is dead. (Jas. 2:17) If your faith is the right kind, it will lead you to do whatever God says.

B. Labor of love. The word labor here means "wearisome labor, travail, toil. Intense labor united with trouble.... the labor to which love prompts." The basis of it is love. Jesus said, "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." (John 14:23) Love prompts obedience. There can be no such thing as love for God and disobedience to Him at the same time. Do you love God? Then you will do His will.

C. Patience of hope. Patience indicates perseverance or endurance. They endured the trials through which they went because of the hope that was in them. This hope was "as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast...." (Heb. 6:19) This patience and hope comes from the scriptures. (Rom. 15:4) It is the hope of eternal life which God has promised. (Tit. 1:2) Any trial is worth overcoming for such a noble prize as eternal salvation. Peter discusses this in 1 Pet. 1:4-7: "To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." Trials may come to us, but we can endure them through the hope that we have of eternal life. This hope will keep us from so many sins of the flesh.

These things were "in the sight of God and our Father." He sees our every action for "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." (Heb. 4:13) God saw their work, labor, and patience. God will see these things in our lives if we put them there On the other hand, God will see if we live in sin and in rebellion to His will. What does God see in your life? Does He see a work of faith? Does he see a labor of love? Does he see patience of hope? If you put these things there, God will see them.

Friend, will you not turn to the Lord now as the Thessalonians did? Give up all sin and accept His salvation. Serve Him with reverence and fear. Be patient in looking for the coming of Jesus from Heaven. Your blessed reward will come some day.

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