1 Thessalonians 2:13–20
Welcome to this study of 1 Thessalonians 2:13–20. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with these verses.
“Did you know that First Thessalonians is possibly the oldest piece of literature in the New Testament, written about twenty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus? The Gospels, describing the life of Jesus, were written a decade or more later, to preserve the stories the disciples had told” (How to Get Into The Bible by Stephen M. Miller).
Probably all of us know that Jesus died on a cruel cross to make spiritual salvation possible. Salvation from sin, a gift given to sinners, is surely the greatest present we can imagine. Paul confirms this and many other eternal truths as he wrote to the Thessalonians and by extension, to all of us today.
Consider the following:
1) Paul was constantly thankful to God for each of these brethren – who had heard the Gospel from him and “accepted it, not as the word of men, but …the word of God” (2:13). This is the inherent claim of all scripture, which Paul will explain in another place is “given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). It is full, final and complete…nothing more is needed.
2) Paul informs the church at Thessalonica that their endurance in the face of persecution had been preceded by the saints in Judea (2:14a). They were imitating the Judean churches. Those who imitate godly behaviour are applauded in scripture (I Thess 1:6–10) Christian living can be imitated, and when it is, it is pleasing to God. Even though Jesus paid the full price for our sins, we may be called upon to share in his suffering through persecution.
The guidance that we receive from God’s word is often all that keeps us from condemnation in this life and certainly in the life to come. As John Bradford concluded (in the mid 16th century), while observing a group of prisoners being led to execution… that “there but for the grace of God go I”
When we hear or meet a person who is lost in sin, it behooves all of us to reach out to help. That is what Jesus did and wishes to do again through us.
3) The decision to follow Jesus as had the church in Judea had caused the brothers and sisters from Thessalonica to suffer in a similar fashion Jesus (2:14b). We are reminded that this present world often punishes good and rewards evil. And while this is far from ideal, it is the cost of following the Galilean carpenter – a cost that all believers are encouraged to count in advance.
The decision to follow Jesus is a decision to accept persecution. Knowing this in advance strengthens us for ‘hard times’ when they come.
4) It was persecution that cut Paul’s first visit to Thessalonica short. He was forced to minister to them through his mission team and the written word. While he was with them , he set an example of personal industry and sacrificial living. He reminded them of this when he wrote: “For you recall brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God” (I Thessalonians 2:9).
Paul was willing to pay any price necessary in order to share the gospel (2:9). As he would later remind the Ephesian elders, he did not fail to proclaim the ‘full counsel of God’. (Acts 20:19-20). He did not neglect to share anything that they needed to know about God’s plan of salvation, acceptable worship and daily Christian living. Elements of these may be gleaned from I Cor 15:1-6
On a personal note, I was recently asked to talk to a young lady regarding the topic of water baptism. While she thought I would discuss water and immersion, etc., it seemed wise to me to delay a discussion of those steps, explaining first of all what Jesus did for us; what He requires of us; what baptism includes and how these all fit together. This person followed these spiritual guidelines of the Bible and the rest is history.
Paul called upon the church at Thessalonica to remember both his way of life and the message of salvation. They served as witnesses along with God Himself, of his blameless conduct and faithful ministry. (2:10) This allowed Paul to exhort and implore like a father, to follow his good example. (2:11). In so doing, they would know how to walk in manner worthy of God (2:12).
For This Reason
“We”, meaning Paul or Paul and his companions, always thanked God for the opportunity to preach the word to them. This gospel message was and is not difficult to learn and repeat. We need to commit it to memory and to live by it. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, FOR OUR SINS.” is the heart of the gospel. It is that simple! Read 1 Corinthians 15:1–6.
Truly “Jesus paid a debt He did not owe, and we all owed a debt we could not pay, so we needed someone to wash our sins away.” They received the Word, “Not as the word of men but for what it really is, the word of God!”
What Jesus did, he did for the benefit of the whole world. When God’s word is allowed to do it’s work, it brings men and women to salvation. It is up to us, to trust and obey, for there is no other way. Jesus Himself is “the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me!” (John 14:6).