The Epistles. 1 Thessalonians – Chapter 1
Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work prompted by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
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The epistles (or letters) are the earliest writings we have about the Christian faith, and 1 Thessalonians is the earliest of the epistles. It probably dates from about 50 AD. It was written by St Paul, when he was living in Athens, to the church in Thessalonica that he had recently established.
It’s a very encouraging letter. Paul commends the Thessalonians, saying that he thanks God for “your work prompted by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” He tells them that the churches in Macedonia and Achaia look up to them as a model.
Paul then tells them why he was confident that God had called them.
“For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.”
There are a number of places in Acts where baptism with the Holy Spirit is described, and the experience is plainly completely distinctive.
The first occasion was Pentecost:
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2: 1 – 4)
On another occasion, Philip (one of the deacons of the church, and not an apostle) had been preaching and baptising in Samaria:
“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8: 14 – 17)
When Peter visited the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, he preached about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins:
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” (Acts 10: 44 – 46)
Paul tells us about one outcome of the new life brought by the Holy Spirit “…you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”
Some of the Jews in Thessalonica believed what Paul was telling them, but most did not. They had started a riot, and had Paul’s host, Jason, arrested. Doubtless they took other actions against those who believed and accepted Jesus as Lord. They would almost certainly have barred them from the synagogue, which would have made earning a living more difficult. They could have imprisoned them, possibly had them flogged.
And yet the new converts welcomed the message with joy!
Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Help us to always be obedient to his promptings.
In Jesus name, Amen