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I. An Authentic Message for an Authentic Community (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10)

1:1 Paul addresses his letter to the church of the Thessalonians, which is an impor-tant greeting. The word translated “church,” ekklesia, means a “called-out group.” In the first century, any time people gathered for a common purpose, especially to address legal matters (as in a town hall meeting; see Acts 19:39-41) it was called an ekklesia. Paul takes this everyday word and gives it new meaning: we as believers are the “called out ones”—called out from the agenda of hell to a kingdom agenda that executes the rule of heaven on earth. And the caller is none other than God the Father.

Nevertheless, even in tribulation, an authentic Christian community has joy from the Holy Spirit. In spite of rejection, in spite of difficulties, in spite of hard times, you have internal stability that external troubles can’t touch because you have the Spirit.

1:7-8 You became an example to all the believers (1:7). The Thessalonians were an example—the Greek word tupos means “type” or “pattern”—allowing other people to see Jesus by looking at them.

If you want to show off a new clothing line, you put samples on a beautiful model. The model’s role is to make the clothes look good. Similarly, the Thessalonians wore kingdom clothes—godly attitudes and actions—well. When they reacted to tragedy, they made Jesus look good. The language they used made Jesus look good. The way they conducted themselves at home made Jesus look good. Do you wear kingdom clothes well?

1:9 Paul mentions that the Thessalonians turned to God from idols. We might think this statement doesn’t apply to us, but there are still idols today. An idol is any unauthorized person, place, thing, or thought that you look to as your source. An idol is anyone or anything, other than God, that holds your confidence, trust, and allegiance. While many American households lack idols of stone, many of us drive idols of steel. And though we don’t have idols of wood, we stash idols of paper in our bank accounts. Further, even though we don’t have idols of gold, we put all our hope into particular people in our lives. Everybody has a god. Everybody has a master. The only question is this: what (or who) is yours?

The alternative to serving idols is to serve the living and true God. Don’t miss that word serve. Our footsteps, just as much as our mouths, show the world whether we believe in the God of the Bible.

1:10 We will see this theme come up again, but it is significant to note that already in this first chapter Paul brings up the second coming of Christ. We wait for [God’s] Son from heaven. An authentic Christian community becomes an expectant community. And if we are truly waiting for him, we’ll be about his kingdom work.

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