Faithful Messengers Of The Father
Topic: English Passage: 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5
The gospels of Jesus tell us about a Jewish official named Jairus who found Jesus one day, fell at His feet, and begged him to lay hands on and heal his 12-year-old daughter who was at the point of death. Jesus agreed, but on the way to Jairus’ house, a servant from the home met them and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” Jesus turned and said to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.”
When Jesus got to the house, there was a group of people already gathered there, weeping and wailing loudly. And Jesus said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.”
The people laughed at Jesus, but He continued into the girl’s room with Peter, James, and John and the parents. There, Jesus took their daughter’s hand and said, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” At that very moment, the girl got up and began to walk around, and we’re told that the people there were immediately overcome with amazement.
Jesus raised a little girl from the dead. We can marvel at that miracle from a biological perspective. We can also think about it from a relational perspective. A couple had lost their little girl but then she had been restored to them. Those of you who are parents, think about the emotions of all that.
This miracle was a clear display of the power and the compassion of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ ability to raise people from the dead physically was a foretaste of what will happen when He returns, and death is eradicated. In addition to that, raising people from the dead also served as a picture of what He would do spiritually for those who belong to Him. Jesus came to give life.
In John 5:24, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.”
That joy which Jairus and his wife would have had at the resurrection of their daughter is a good picture of the joy of the Apostle Paul at the conversion of the Thessalonians. It’s a joy we see throughout his letter to them, and it is accompanied by a profound gratitude.
Paul is grateful, not simply for the friendship they enjoyed, but for the certainty he had that this group of former idol worshipers had been transformed. Rather than continue as enemies of God, they had become sons and daughters. They were now part of God’s eternal family. That’s what Paul reminds the church about in the opening verse of the letter. He says they are “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As parents, isn’t that what we want for our children? We want them to be in the Lord. Isn’t that what we want for our neighbors and for the ones we love? We want to see them be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
Just a few months after seeing the church’s conversion, Paul was confident that their salvation was real. Paul was confident that they had gone from spiritual death into eternal life.
In verse 2 of the opening chapter, Paul gives thanks to God for them. And in verse 4, we see that his gratitude is connected to his certainty. Verse 4 says—For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.
There’s no joy here for the Paul in the possibility of their salvation. His joy is in the certainty of their salvation. And we see Paul’s certainty here in three different ways.
First, he says they have been adopted by God. Therefore, they are his brothers. They have become part of God’s family and part of Paul’s family. Paul was a Jew, and in his former life, he would have wanted absolutely nothing to do with Gentiles. But now, he says that the members of this church, predominantly made up of Gentiles, are his brothers.
That’s what Jesus does. He reconciles sinners to God, and He brings them into God’s eternal family. For those of you who surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, trusting in His death and Resurrection alone for salvation, you are brothers and sisters with everyone else. You have a new identity that surpasses any other earthly relationship.
So, since these people came to faith in Christ, they have become brothers with one another and with Paul and Silas and Timothy.
A second way Paul refers to their salvation is by saying they are loved by God. Obviously, they are love by Paul—that's evident throughout this letter. But here, Paul is talking about being loved by God.
The Bible tells us that God has a love for the world. That’s what John 3:16 says. God loved the world by sending His Son.
But there is a special kind of love that God has for those who belong to Him. Beyond offering salvation, there is a kind of love that grants salvation. There’s a general love for the world, but there’s a special love for His adopted children.
Speaking to His disciples in the upper room, in John 14, Jesus says, “he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
In John 15, He says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.”
In John 17, Jesus prays for His disciples and He tells that them He and the Father loved one another before creation, and that those who believe in Him enter into that love. God loves those who believe just like He loves the Son. There’s a distinct kind of love God has for those who belong to Him.
God’s generic love for the world is primarily manifested in patience. He delays His wrath. One day, that patience will end. His love will turn to judgment. It’s a temporary love. But God’s love for His own is eternal.
That’s why Paul, in Romans 8, thinking of the difficulties we face in this life, asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”
With all the persecution that the Thessalonian church was facing, this would have been an important reminder. Does all this trouble mean God doesn’t love us? Paul answers that question—No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For those of you who have trusted in Christ, remember, you have been made part of an eternal family, and God has placed His eternal love on you in Jesus Christ.
The final way Paul describes the Thessalonians’ salvation is by saying they have been chosen by God. He is certain of their adoption. He is certain of their love. And he is certain of their election.
Like adoption and love, the language of choosing is not uncommon in the Bible. Those who belong to Jesus Christ evidence that they have been chosen by God. They are known as “the elect” or “the chosen ones.”
What does that mean theologically? Well, referring to believers as the elect is a reminder about the sovereignty of God. He needs to act in order for someone to be saved. He chooses whom He will save. Just like God chose Abraham or the nation of Israel, or just like Jesus chose the Twelve Apostles or the Apostle Paul, God chooses whom He will bring to Himself.
In fact, Ephesians 1:4 tells us that He chose us in him before the foundation of the world.
Romans 9 even uses the analogy of Jacob and Esau. God chose the older to serve the younger even before they were born. That was God’s preordained plan.
We have to allow for the mystery here, but we cannot minimize what the Bible teaches. God chooses those who belong to Him.
Now, what’s important to remember in all this is that none of us know who that is. We don’t have any ability to know ahead of time who it is that will come to the Lord. But we know that God has his chosen people who will come to salvation.
For example, in Acts 18, when Paul faces persecution in the city of Corinth, he was ready to pack up and move on to the next city. That was what he normally did when opposition grew too fierce. But Jesus came to Paul with a vision in the night, and He said to him, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
God has, for His own reasons chosen, chosen to spare sinners from eternal judgment and reconcile them to Himself. He has chosen to adopt them and to set His eternal love on them.
Does God’s election mean that people don’t have a choice about coming to God? No, it doesn’t mean that. We’re all held accountable for our choices. But election means is that whenever someone comes to faith, whenever someone chooses to follow Jesus, behind that human choice there is a divine choice.
We choose Christ, because God has first chosen us. Or, to put it in the words of the Apostle John, “We love because he first loved us.”
The only certainty we can have about the elect of God is toward those who have already come to Him. If we are confident about someone’s salvation, then we are confident that they are elect. But for those who are yet to come to Christ, we can’t know, so we keep preaching. We keep calling them to repentance and praying for God to work in their hearts.
Paul, like I’ve been saying, lived with a confidence in the salvation of the Thessalonian church. How could he be so confident? His confidence came from the fruit he saw in their lives. We saw some of that fruit back in verse 3. Paul said he was grateful for their work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
In verse 6, Paul continues talking about the evidence of their salvation. But sandwiched in between those descriptions, we have verse 5. And this is pretty special, I think. Paul says he is confident in their salvation, number 1, because he sees the fruit in their life, but number 2, because he knows that he was faithful in proclaiming the message. That’s so important to understand. You cannot get saved if you have the wrong message. You cannot lead someone to salvation if you give them the wrong message.
Just a few weeks ago, my wife and I bought some furniture. And nowadays, if you buy new furniture, more than likely, you’ll be the one to put it together.
And for me, that means separating all the bags with all the hardware and laying out all pieces which get labelled with a number or a letter. And about halfway through building something new, I sometimes think, “This doesn’t look right.” So, I go back to the beginning and double check.
And if I can say to myself, “I’ve done it right,” then I have to keep going. I have to trust that it’s going to come out according to plan. If I follow the instructions exactly, then the only problem I can run into is something is wrong with the instructions or the pieces.
Well, when we’re dealing with the message of Jesus Christ, the instructions and the pieces are never going to be wrong. What we need to worry about is whether or not we’re preaching it right. And Paul could look back on his ministry to the Thessalonians and say, “I did it right. I was a faithful messenger of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s why I know you guys are true believers.”
So, what does the genuine message look like? What needs to be there? Look at verse 5. Paul tells us why he’s so confident in their salvation—because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
What does it mean to be a faithful messenger of Jesus Christ? What needs to happen in order for people to come to saving faith? Verse 5 gives us 4 key components. And this is so important for your own ministries as parents and friends and neighbors and ministers in Jesus’ name.
Number 1, as you proclaim the gospel of Christ, you need words. Paul says, our gospel came to you in word. You need to use words.
That might sound obvious to some of you, but it’s amazing how frequently we fail to put that into practice. People don’t come to faith just because they know you go to church. People don’t come to faith just because you said, “God bless you,” or “I’ll pray for you.” Those aren’t bad things to say, but we need to remember that they’re not enough.
Genuine faith has to come from a genuine presentation of the gospel. That is a clear fact given to us in the Bible. People don’t discover the truth all by themselves; they have to be told it in some way. That’s why John the Baptist and Jesus and the Apostles had a preaching and a teaching ministry. They weren’t simply aiming at fixing the social problems of the day.
The gospel must come with words. There has to be some articulated message. Romans 10 tells us that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ. How can someone believe in Christ if they’ve never heard of Him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them.
People need to speak the message. That’s why in Colossians 4, Paul asks for prayer that he may make the message clear.
It is the gospel message that gives spiritual life to the people of God. First Peter 1:23 says—you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.
God’s word must be proclaimed in order for people to come to faith in Jesus Christ. That’s why on the day of Pentecost, God wasn’t giving His people some ecstatic, personal, emotional or spiritual experience. He was giving them a supernatural ability to proclaim the message. Gospel proclamation is necessary for God to gather His elect.
So, what does this mean for your own life? It means you need to ask yourself if you know the message and if you’re willing to proclaim it. Can you clearly articulate the gospel? And are you willing to say it when God gives you the open door?
I’m not completely certain yet, but our next two-month class on Sunday mornings might be on the issue of the gospel. We need to remind ourselves what the heart of the gospel message.
One helpful summary has reduced it to four words: God, Man, Christ, Response. God, Man, Christ, Response. God is the Holy Creator, and He is going to judge us. Mankind is sinful, and we all deserve eternal hell. But Christ came as God in human flesh to live a perfect life, die on the cross, and be raised from the dead. Then, and you can’t forget this, we need to call people to the response of repentance and faith. That’s the heart of the gospel message.
Tonight, when we welcome new members to our church, we’ll get another copy of the membership covenant, and that’s what you’ll see is what we’re all saying we believe.
Talking to people about the gospel doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers. But you should know how the message of Jesus Christ is different from what the rest of the world says about life and death and all reality. And then you need the courage to proclaim it.
Words matter. Words are what God gave us to communicate His message. In order for God to gather His people, however, the gospel cannot simply come with words alone. There has to be more. Let’s continue our list.
Paul tells the Thessalonians, “our gospel,” in other words, “the message we have been given, the message we believe and preach, this gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit.
So, in order to see people come to faith, we need words, and we need power. Specifically, Paul mentions the power of the Holy Spirit. We need words, and we need power.
When Paul talks about power here, he doesn’t mean that he spoke with powerful rhetoric. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul says to them, “I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.”
Paul is talking about a power outside Himself. He is saying that his preaching alone, though necessary, was not enough. He needed power with it. Why? Because unbelievers are incapable of coming to God on their own. They will not do it, and they cannot do it.
When we preach the gospel, we’re not trying to convince people with some intellectual argument. We need to recognize that, in ourselves, we are powerless to change them.
Ephesians 2 says before coming to Christ we were dead in [our] trespasses and sins. Dead people don’t respond. They don’t answer when you talk to them.
Second Corinthians 4 says the gospel is veiled to those who are perishing because the god of this world has blinded [their] minds … to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.
From a spiritual perspective, we are talking to someone who is trapped in a dark room, with a blindfold on, who is himself blind and dead. You’re talking to a dead, blind man in total darkness. What possibility is there that they are going to see the glory of Christ? How is that going to happen? It can’t be by our own power. As Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
And that’s why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:6 that the same God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
You don’t need to rely on yourself to convert someone. You just need to be faithful to get the message right. And in doing that, pray to God that His power will be manifest in that person’s life. Pray for a miracle in that person’s heart. Beg the Lord to open their eyes, and to give them new life.
And the way God answers that prayer is through His Holy Spirit. That’s where the power comes from. He gives new life. He gives the gift of regeneration. That’s what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3—That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit… The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
The Spirit of God brings conviction of sin, and He opens someone’s eyes to the glory of Christ’s salvation.
So, again, don’t depend on your own power to convert someone. Just be faithful to proclaim the message, and pray for the Spirit of God to powerfully work in that persons’ life. There should be a humility as we preach.
At the same time, however, there should also be a boldness. The humility comes when we recognize that we can’t change anyone. But the boldness comes because we know this message is the truth.
And this brings us to our third component of faithful and effective gospel ministry. You need words. You need power. And you need conviction. Conviction. That’s what Paul lists next. He says, “Our gospel came you… with full conviction.”
That’s a word that speaks of confidence and assurance. Read the story of Acts and see how the Apostles preached. You’re not going to find them saying, “Well, this is my truth. This is what worked for me; maybe it’ll work for you.” You’re not going to find that. You’re going to find men preaching with full conviction. Jesus is Lord and Jesus is Judge. Repent and believe in Him.
That’s not the kind of persuasion our world like today, is it? Our culture wants sentimental messages. People want advice and only positive messages. But the moment anyone comes saying they have absolute and eternal truth which is binding on them, that’s going to be rejected.
But even if the world rejects it, that’s how we need to talk about Jesus Christ. We don’t need to be rude. Peter says we should speak with respect and gentleness, but we should speak the truth of Jesus Christ with confidence and conviction, no matter what it may cost us.
Personally, I have seen my own assurance grow as I have grown in my faith. When I was in high school, I had questions and I had doubts. “What if I only believe this stuff because it’s what my parents taught me? What if all of this is a mistake? What if all the religions are wrong?”
But the more I studied the Bible for myself, and the more I exposed myself to doctrine rooted in the grace of God, the more God has confirmed His truth in my life. I can see the foolishness of this world. I’m still pulled by my own sin, but I know in my heart that Jesus is the truth. Life without him is meaningless. It’s vanity.
There is no other explanation for the world and for the human condition apart from what He has told us in His word. I see the news, I see what’s happening in the world and in our own country, and it only confirms my faith. That’s a gift of God, and He grants that assurance to us, the closer we draw to Him in prayer and in His word.
Parents, you need to take this to heart for your own family. In some families, Dad is more sure about who is the best baseball or football team than he is about Jesus Christ. What do you think that’s going to do for your kids?
I’m not saying you have to have all the answers, but you need to know what you know. There needs to be a confidence in the message of Jesus. And maybe that means going to Jesus, like another father once did, and saying to Him, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
If you want to see people come to faith, you need words, you need power, and you need conviction. You need to have a certainty and an assurance in the truth of God for yourself. That’s how Paul preached. And that’s how we need to proclaim the message as well.
Lastly, and we won’t spend long here, you need holiness. In other words, you need integrity. This is the practical outflow of conviction. There’s should to be a conviction in your mind, but also in your life. Here’s how Paul ends verse 5. He says—You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
Paul lived among the Thessalonians for maybe 5 or 6 weeks. We don’t know exactly, but it wasn’t that long. But in that time, they didn’t just see Paul on the Sabbath or on Sundays. Paul gave his life for them.
In chapter 2, he says—we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves.
The Thessalonians could see into Paul’s life, and they could see that he practiced what he preached. This is such a convicting reminder for us, but how vital it is. If we are not living the life we are calling others too, we are cutting off the power of our message. We are destroying our testimony.
Hebrews 12:14 calls us to pursue holiness because without it no one will see the Lord. That’s true in our own lives, but it’s also true with respect to our testimony. There is no such thing as an effective testimony for a hypocrite.
Our study in First Peter kept coming back to this principle over and over again. It was the principle behind all those instructions about righteous living. Peter said, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
THat was from 1 Peter 2:11 and 12. In chapter 3, Peter even says that a husband who is not honoring his wife will have his prayers hindered. And in that context, he may be speaking about a man praying for his wife to come to salvation. That man’s sin hinders God’s blessing on His life. And how sad it would be for our sin to do the same.
If you want to be a faithful and an effective witness for Christ, you need to live with holiness. You need integrity. You need to strive to be above reproach. That doesn’t mean you never sin, but it means you are battling sin. And when you mess up, you confess it, and you ask for forgiveness.
Parents, and especially us dads, if all Christianity means to us is showing up to church once a week, our kids are going to catch on real soon. They are going to see through the façade and the Sunday mask. Your kids will know what you really believe by how you live.
Let them see you fight against your sin. Let them see a brokenness in you but a holiness in your own life. If we do that, then we will be faithful messengers of Christ.
And if we are faithful messengers, if we preach the gospel rightly, God will work. There will always be those who reject the message of God, but there will also be those whom God has called in eternity past. And Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life.”
What a joy it will be to see God work and bring life and light to those who walked in darkness and death.