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1st Thessalonians 1:1-10


“Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.  We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work in faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.  For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.  And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:  so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.  For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.  For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye 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, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”


Theme of Paul’s Epistles to the Thessalonians:  The 2nd Coming of Christ


“We are in 1st Thessalonians this evening.  Paul arrives in Thessalonica, a major city, Salonica today, the doorway to Macedonia [see].  Thessanonia, Alexander the Great’s half sister, the city named after her by her husband, Cassander.  200,000 people, that was a big city for Paul’s day.  He arrives there coming from Philippi.  And at Philippi he was taken with Silas, on their second missionary journey, had split up from Barnabas over Mark, and at Philippi they took Paul, stripped him of his clothes, him and Silas, and they beat them with rods, beat them until they were bloody.  They threw them into the dungeon.  And they would sit them down and spread out their legs as far as they could go, and they would sit in an extremely painful position.  And Paul, being who he was, sitting in the pitch black next to Silas, where I’d have been singing a Blues song by then, Paul says to Silas, ‘Let’s sing, hymns.’  And they start to sing, out of that dark room.   I can’t imagine what the other prisoners must have thought, all of a sudden there’s these guys singing.  And of course those praises going up to heaven, God listening, saying, ‘I love it when my people praise me under difficult circumstances,’ and begins to tap his foot, on his throne.  And there’s an earthquake when he does that.  It’s not a normal earthquake, because the chains fall off the prisoners hands, and the doors swing open.  And Philippi was a Roman city, granted Just Italicum by Caesar.  And what that meant was, it was considered Italian soil.  And that Roman guard, then, would be put to death, because those prisoners had escaped.  Paul, stopping the guard from killing himself, calming down the prisoners, saying, ‘No, you guys can’t leave.’  What are they gonna say?  Chains fell off their hands, doors swung open, they heard Paul and Silas singing.  It says the prison guard brings Paul out and gives him something to eat, and he washes their wounds, washes down his back and Silas’ back.  And then, he [the guard] accepts Christ, and he’s baptized, along with his family.  And when the magistrates in the town find out that Paul’s a Roman citizen, they say to the jailor ‘Go tell him to go, hit the road.’  Because they could be put to death for beating and jailing a Roman citizen.  And the jailor comes to Paul and says, ‘The magistrates say you should just slip out of town nice and quiet.’  But Paul is not the man to slip out of town nice and quiet, and Paul said, ‘Are you kidding, they beat me, I’m a Roman citizen, they threw me in jail,’ and Paul causes enough aggida there in Philippi, so that they probably saw a season of grace extended to the church there, making sure that any of those other Christians that were Roman citizens knew they had a right to worship and to stand there.  He makes his journey to Apollonia, through those provinces, and he comes to Thessalonica, over a hundred mile journey.  No doubt when he arrives there, he is sore, and bruised, and healing.  And he comes to Thessalonica in Acts 17, and he goes into the synagogue, and there’s a large Jewish community there in Thessalonica, and there always had been, even many years afterwards.  And he begins to reason with them, that Jesus was prophecied of, and that Jesus of Nazareth in fact was the Messiah that the Old Testament prophets spoke of, and that he had died and that he had risen again.  [The Scriptures Paul would have gone through in that synagogue, proving Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah can be viewed at]  And it says, ‘A number of the Jews came to faith in Christ, and a good number of the Greeks’ and it doesn’t tell us whether they were just the Hellenists, the Grecian Jews that had converted to Judaism [ie the God-fearers], it seems it would indicate a good number of the population of the Greeks that were not Hellenists, because it says here ‘they turned from idols, to worship the true and living God.’  And it says, ‘Some of the notable women,’ and when you get some of the notable women on your side, you got something cookin’.  [To see how Paul evangelized in Asia Minor, see]  Now, certain of the Jews out of envy, begin to stir up the whole town.  And it says that they said of Paul ‘these men have turned the world upside down.’  Now that wasn’t true.  They had turned the world right-side up.  But they had turned it over, and I wish that we had that reputation, I hope that some day they can say, ‘Those folks, those Christians turned Philadelphia right-side up.’  They won’t say that, but turned it up over anyway.  And from there Paul goes to Berea, and you know there with the Bereans it says they were more noble, they received the Word with a ready mind, and they tested those things that Paul had said to see whether they were true, Acts 17:11, to see whether they were true or not.  And noble, same thing with you, when you come here, you shouldn’t just sit there and believe what I say and then put your Bible in the Lost & Found and come back again and get it next Wednesday night.  What if I start teaching some cookie way out stuff?  What if I start to loose my mind---more?  [laughter]  It’s your responsibility, you have the Holy Spirit, you have the Scripture, to test, to prove the things that I say, to see whether they’re true or not, to believe what you believe because you know the Scripture, because you know the Word of God.  That is incumbent upon you.  And if God has called me to teach his Word, I should only be confirming in your lives what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you during the week.  After three Sabbaths in Thessalonica, Paul is driven out [see, Paul was keeping the Sabbath J].  He was there for three weeks.  Now the remarkable thing is to see what he writes, and these are, most scholars feel, his earliest writings, written 51, 52AD, 20 years since Christ’s death and resurrection, early in Church history.  And when he writes to these young believers, that he had only been there three weeks with, founded the church, and he says, there was such a move of the Spirit while he was there that the Word of God was spreading over the whole area from this small group that was born in Thessalonica.  And you look at what Paul writes to them about, you know, it’s interesting, there are seven churches in the Book of Revelation that Jesus speaks to, but then there are seven churches we have Epistles to, the church in Rome, the church of God in Corinth, the church at Galatia, the church in Ephesus, the church at Philippi, the church at Colossi, the church at Thessalonica.  There were seven churches also written to by Paul, and each of them have themes, and certainly the theme in this epistle, and in the second epistle to the Thessalonians, is the 2nd coming of Christ.  Look at the last verse in chapter 1, it says in verse 10, “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”  Look at the last two verses in chapter 2, verse 19 and 20, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?  For ye are our glory and joy.”  Again at the end of chapter 3, verse 13, “to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”  The end of chapter 4, you are familiar with the last two verses there, verses 17-18, “then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air:  and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”  Boy I like that.  And at the end of chapter 5, in verse 23 there, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  So Paul ends every chapter in this first epistle to the Thessalonians making reference to the return of Christ.  And as you read the two epistles you think, ‘Now this is remarkable, these young believers were only three weeks old in the Lord,’ some of them less, some of them were saved right before he left.  And he spoke to them about election, he spoke to them about a calling, he spoke to them about the return of Christ, he spoke to them about the antichrist, he spoke to them about the great deception that’s coming on the world, he spoke to them about the catching away of the Church, and the fact that the Church wasn’t appointed to wrath.  So many of these things, you know people in the church say ‘Oh that’s not important, that’s not practical, how does it work in somebody’s life, new Christians need to get grounded, they don’t need to hear this prophecy stuff!’  Wait a minute, Paul, led in the Spirit of God, and it’s one of the reasons he said he’s so sure of the work there, because of the power of the Spirit that was there as he taught, spoke to them clearly about the 2nd coming of Christ, about the blessed hope of the Church, about the fact that the days in which we live today, if this Thessalonian church 2,000 years ago could lift their heads and look for the coming of the Lord, how much should we here this evening be lifting our heads, saying ‘Lord, Come!’  I watched this sniper [the DC sniper], I’m getting mad, this guy is lucky that I’m not God!  So are you.  [laughter]  So are my wife and kids.  So is the whole universe.  But you know, I would smoke this guy.  You know, we’re all on the verge of war.  What’s happening with the nations of the world?  Will this be another confrontation in the Middle East if it happens, or will this precipitate into a nuclear confrontation?  We don’t know.  Where are we in regards to time and eternity?  How close are we to the return of Christ for the Church?  How wonderful are the promises that we find in these Thessalonian epistles, relative to the days that we live in, and how important for young believers [new-believers] to understand the coming of Christ and the promises that God has for us. 


Grace Is The Most Demanding Gospel, Because The Door Of Our Opportunity To Change Never Shuts


He begins by saying, “Paul, and Silvanus,” he probably said ‘Just call me Silas, will ya?’ “and Timotheus,” you know he got changed to Timothy as time went on, if you know somebody named Tim call them Timotheus, see if they like it, “unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ:  grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (verse 1)  ‘To the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father,’ man, what a great place for the church to be, to be able to lift their heads and say ‘Father.’  “and in the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Maybe if you’re visiting tonight or you’re new, or you’re wondering where in the world your friend brought you on a Wednesday night, or ‘Everything I heard about this place is true, Rock band and a guy in a Hawaiian shirt, get me outa here,’ listen, ah, “the Lord Jesus Christ”, not his name.  I thought that was his name when I was a kid, like Smokey the Bear, Lord Jesus Christ, is not his name.  “Lord” is his Divine title, he’s our Lord.  When we get saved, he’s not just our Saviour, he’s our Lord.  Not just fire insurance ‘Lord, keep me out, Jesus, be my Saviour, keep me out of hell,’ but Lord, he’s our Lord, it’s a Divine title.  His name, Jesus, Joshua [Hebrew Yeshua, a contraction of Yahweh-shua, Yahweh-saves], Jehoshua, that’s his name, Jesus [Yeshua] of Nazareth.  Jehoshua, God has become our salvation, that’s his name.  His mission, Christ, and we think his name is Christ.  No, that is the word that means Anointed in the Greek, but it’s from the Hebrew Meshiach, Messiah.  He is the Lord, Jehoshua [Yeshua] the Messiah [Hebrew: Yeshua haMeshiach], the One who has come to save us from our sins and to deliver us, that’s his mission.  Lord Jesus Christ tells us everything about his Divinity and his purpose, and who that he was.  And this church is in all of that, and so should we be.  “grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Always the same order, “grace” first, then “peace,” you can’t have peace without grace.  And what a wonderful thing grace is.  People say ‘Don’t talk about this cheap grace!  All they talk about is grace, grace, grace,’ there’s no such thing as ‘cheap grace.’  And to me, grace is the most demanding gospel that there is.  Because if our performance is based on legalism or law, we can fail and throw in the towel.  If our calling and our relationship with the Lord is based on grace, that means the door never closes, that is the most demanding gospel there is.  Because that means if I make a mistake today, and if I confess my sins, he’s faithful and just to forgive me, to cleanse me from all unrighteousness, that he’s saying to me, ‘Come on, get up, let’s go.  Yeah you did, you messed up, come on, let’s go.  You need to grow, you need to change.  Come on, let’s go, I know, we agree, finally you’re seeing the light here, you need to get rid of that in your life.  Come on, let’s grow, conforming you into the image of my Son,’ the Holy Spirit’s saying, ‘Come on, come on,’ grace is the most demanding gospel there is, because the door never closes.  And because of it, God never ends that work in our lives, conforming us into the image of his Son.  And when I first got saved, and I thought I had to try to be a Christian, and to me that was ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t do this, don’t do that and don’t do this,’ I strangled, I fell (cf. Romans 7).  That’s because I’m an idiot, you don’t have to take that course.  For me it was a mandatory course, because it was the only way I would see his grace, that I may have surprised myself, but he knew my track record and my failings, before he saved me, and he saved me anyway.  And then I started to serve out of gratitude, and out of love, rather than under the law, that’s grace.  And it’s interesting, Paul, using the word over a hundred and twenty times, certainly in one sense, [it’s] his word.  John, it’s interesting, when you track your way through his writings, John only uses the word “grace” seven times in five letters.  The Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John and the Book of Revelation, you read all of those, you’ll only find the word “grace” seven times.  You’ll find the word “Jesus” over 240 times in his Gospel, you’ll only find the word “grace” several times there.  But what he says is, ‘Grace and truth have come, revealed in Jesus,’ and then he says ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,’ and if you ask John, he says, ‘If you want to see grace, you have to see Jesus.’  Peter only uses the word several times.  His defining term is ‘the manifold grace of God.’  And it’s interesting, that word [manifold] means “very colored.”  And Peter learned God’s grace that way, because of his emotions, because of his makeup, chopping people’s ears off, saying, ‘Lord, you can count on me, the rest of those guys, they might flake out on you, but I’ll be there.’  Peter, having been rebuked by Paul at Antioch, he’s an apostle and he’s ready to turn in a wrong direction.  And when he describes God’s grace he says, talks about manifold temptations, but he also talks about ‘the manifold, very colored grace of God, God’s grace is there for me in deep grey and purple hues, when my emotions are down, and I’m failing and I’m struggling, God’s grace is there in yellow and red and brilliant colors, it’s there for me brilliant sometimes.’  But Paul is the one, a hundred, over a hundred and twenty times, talks about God’s grace.  And his defining picture of grace is no doubt in Titus, where it says, ‘The grace of God hath appeared, bringing us to salvation, teaching us to deny ungodly lusts in this present world, and to look forward to the coming of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.’  Paul says, ‘Grace brought us into the Kingdom, grace keeps us, and grace is the only way we can look forward to the end of the world and the coming of God Almighty, it is grace from beginning to end.’  That’s why we’re here.  That’s why we’re sitting here, saying, ‘I hate that, they’re talking about cheap grace!’ it’s grace that you’re sitting here complaining about that.  And to me, and it has been for years, it is the most demanding Gospel, the Gospel of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. 


Imagine Group Prayer With Paul


Paul says this, “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;” (verse 2)  So it’s “we”, it’s him, and Timothy, and Silas, at least at this point, and there are other times Luke was with them at other journeys and so forth.  But “we”, and I can just imagine what those prayer-meetings were like, they must have really been something, to get somewhere alone on your knees with Paul and these men, and begin to pray for the Church, what a wonderful thing that must have been, and how important.  [Comment:  And it was group prayer too, highly effective, very powerful.  See, and] 


Works Don’t Get Us Saved, But They Are An Evidence Of Our Salvation


“We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 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;” (verses 2-3)  ‘Remembering faith, hope and love.’  This is the earliest use, before he writes 1st Corinthians 13, where he says ‘These three abide, faith, hope and love,’ here he talks about their work of faith, their labour of love, and their patience, being patient in hope.  Verse 4 and 5, saying, “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.  For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”  Paul is saying ‘We had such a sense of the presence of God there, we had such a sense of God’s power in our teaching, and in the miraculous ministry that took place in Thessalonica.’  We don’t have all of those details in Acts 17, but Paul said, ‘That presence of God with us there was our assurance of the great work that God was beginning in Thessalonica,’ and he says, ‘Now part of that great work was faith, hope and love had been planted into the lives of these people.’  First, “your work of faith.”  Now faith is a work, not works.  You know, James says, ‘You have faith, fine, let me see your works.’  Because works don’t get us saved, but works are an evidenced of our salvation.  Our lives should change.  What you do before you’re saved should be different than what you do after you’re saved, there should be evidence.  Jesus says you judge a tree by it’s fruit.  So, there are changes in behavior, works that should be attached to it [our faith], if we’re really believers.  We could go on getting stoned, and living in sexual sin and beating people up, and say ‘Yea, I got the love of Jesus, it’s home in the closet, I never bring it out.’  Work of faith, first of all that’s our work.  First of all that’s our work.  Remember the disciples, they said to Jesus, ‘How do we do the works of God?’ and Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent.”  And I don’t know about you, that will keep me busy for the rest of my life.  I get up in the morning, and look in a mirror, and what I see, and say ‘You love that?  You died for that?  You let that say ‘Father’?’  And I am still after all of these years growing in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.  I am still discovering his love, and growing in the truths of those things.  And there is a work of faith, and it’s there for all of us.  And it’s the foundation of everything else that happens in our lives, growing in grace and the knowledge of who he is.  [C.S. Lewis said, “Relying on God [ie faith] has to start all over everyday, as if nothing has yet been done.”]  There is a labour of love.  Now that, by the way, is labour to the point of exhaustion, and it’s the labour of agape.  [What’s “agape”?  See,]  You discover that after you’re in the body of Christ for awhile.  You come in, you get saved, you’re excited, ‘This is great!’  Because when you first get saved you’re more aware of what you just got saved from than what you got saved into.  ‘Wow, this is great!  Man, the Lord set me free!’  And then you’re in the Church for awhile, and you see, you kind of look around, ‘Ah that guy, I don’t like to sit next to that guy.  See that guy, don’t say to him ‘How you doing’ because we’ll be here for three hours if you say ‘How you doing?’ to that guy.’  And God raises those people up, for you.  [laughter], so you can grow and be more like Jesus.  And you start to realize that there is a labour, to the point of exhaustion attached to agape.  Driving down the street, you see somebody from church broke down, ‘Don’t make eye contact!  Look this way, honey!  Don’t make eye contact!’  And you know the Holy Spirit is saying, ‘Pull over and help that guy.’  ‘Lord, I helped him last year, and he had a barbeque and didn’t even invite me, he invites all the people that don’t help him.’  No, no, no, there’s a labour.  We discover that the Body of Christ is made up of human beings, and they talk about us sometimes, and they hurt your feelings, and they can let you down---but they’re blood-bought.  And it is the best dysfunctional family going on this ball of dirt.  And if God is love, and if we’re his children, and if he says the greatest commandment is we would love him with all of our hearts, mind and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves, then that can be a prayer, that if we pray it every day, we can expect him to begin answering it in our lives.  It says if we pray anything according to his will, then we know that we have the petitions we ask.  Well he says the greatest commandments are to love him with all of our hearts, mind and strength, and love our neighbours as ourselves.  And there is a labour in that.  It’s not without cost.  This is agape, this is not always emotional love, it’s not always a feeling, it is a decision, it is a commitment, to lay down our lives for one another, to love one another as Christ loved us, to look past the package into the heart, to love the way the Lord does, without strings attached.  Paul says they were there, there was that work of faith, there was that labour of love, “and then patience because of hope.” [see,]    


What Is Your Hope? 


“and patience because of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;” (verse 3b)  Faith, hope, love, these three abide.  What is our hope?  He says here this patience is not, ‘Oh, we’re waiting for the Lord,’ it’s the word that means “an ability to bear up under something.”  You know, it’s one thing if you’re waiting at the bus stop for your bus and it’s late, you’re looking at your watch.  It’s another thing when you’re waiting at the bus stop and it’s hailing, and some guy drives by and splatters all the slush up on you, ‘Aghh!’.  That’s the word here, “waiting under pressure,” dealing with the pressure of this present world, what’s your hope?  Look what’s happening in the world, Jesus could come at any minute.  What’s your hope?  ‘Gotta get a boyfriend, gotta get a car, I want to go out and get stoned this weekend, and I only punch somebody if they deserved to get punched.’  Look, what’s your hope?  Is it really that Christ might come at any moment?  And what should that look like if our kids are examining our lives, if we say that’s what we believe?   What should our sons and daughters see in us, if we tell them, ‘You know what, the reason I put up with this, is I know Christ is coming.  Yeah, this sniper is driving me crazy [the DC sniper], Blue Cross and Blue Shield is driving me out of my mind.  But their ain’t none of that in heaven [or the kingdom of heaven].  Jesus is coming.  Yeah, I get tired of paying insurance, yeah I get tired of doing this, yeah it is hard sometimes.’  But to say to your kids ‘Yeah, it’s hard for me to believe God loves me too, if I’m growing in that.  Yeah, love is a labour, and you have to love that person, you have to love that kid in your classroom.  That teacher doesn’t always understand you, you need to pray for them. But we do all this, because we know the last chapter, we know who wins in the end, we know the end of the story, we know that Christ is coming.’  I mean, imagine watching the news today, and living in the world we live in, if you didn’t know Christ. What would you be doing?  I think, what would I be doing if I was still in the world?  I’d probably be dead.  I would have stayed stoned for so many years, I just would have died, and I wouldn’t know whether I was dead or alive.  Imagine looking at the world we’re living in without the hope of Christ and his return?  Just imagine your children, those of you that are grandparents, you look at your grandchildren, and you think ‘What a world they’re growing up in.  What future do they have, what hope do they have?’  And we know what future they have, and we know what hope they have, and we know we’re going to spend eternity with them.  But we’re going to stand around that throne, and we’re going to see so many people that we love that have gone on ahead of us.  I’m going to see my grandmother and grandfather.  My dad’s 84, but I know I’ve got eternity with him, and my mom, saved.  My kids, all four of them are saved.  That’s as good as it gets in this world.  That’s as good as it gets.  What a hope.  ‘So any man that has this hope purifies himself, even as he is pure.’  It should have a profound effect on the way that we live.  I hope that if you’re getting stoned, I hope you’re miserable.  I hope you sit somewhere and say ‘I hope he doesn’t come now, Lord, don’t come till it’s over, don’t come till my wife’s black eye goes away, don’t come till…don’t come till I get rid of this Internet relationship.’  You know what?  I’m praying against you.  ‘Lord, don’t listen to that guy, come now!’  That’s my prayer, ‘Don’t wait for him to get it together Lord, Come now Lord Jesus.’  And what a wonderful way to live then, ‘Come tonight, Lord, come in the middle of this study.’  Are you hiding anything, you got stuff hanging on your life thinking, ‘Lord Jesus, you can’t come till I get this straightened out,’ get rid of that stuff!  Because we want to live with our heads lifted up.  And that’s the only way we can be contagious in the world that we live in, a world that’s hopeless.  Paul says faith, hope and love were prominent in the lives of this young church, and he is excited about that.  And he gives thanks constantly as he hears about it. 


We’re God’s Chosen, His Elect


But they have these things “in the sight of God our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” (verse 4)  They know their election.  I like that, I don’t have any problem with “election.”  So I’m elected.  I’m not sure of everything that means, but I know I’m elected.  I know they’ve been arguing about it for 2,000 years.  But I don’t have any problem with it, the fact that he chose me.  I don’t know why he did.  And when I first got saved I checked in with him once in a while, ‘Are you sure you got the right Joe Focht?  There might be another Joe, there’s not many Focht’s in the Yellow Pages, but there might be another Joe Focht and you got the wrong one here.’  He chose me.  We’re created in his image and likeness.  We appreciate choice, don’t we?  What about gals, if you’re getting married, and there was just a whole room full of guys, some of them funny looking, some of them handsome.  And somebody said, ‘Well, you know what?  We’re going to play musical chairs until there’s one left, and the guy that’s left is going to be your husband.’  Somebody’s saying ‘That happened to me, that’s why I’m in the mess I’m in.’  [he’s laughing]  You appreciate choice, you appreciate choice, making decisions.  God has given that capacity to us, and God chooses.  And it tells us that his choice is connected to his foreknowledge, ‘by the predetermined counsel and foreknowledge of God,’ it’s Granville-Sharp there in the Greek, it says those things are the same thing.  God can’t foreknow in a benign way, because of his nature.  For God to foreknow demands that God will act in keeping with that foreknowledge.  [And the Bible says that God chose us before the worlds were, meaning he looked down the DNA timeline to see us, with that foreknowledge, and chose us back then, that he would call us now, in our lifetimes, when he did.  An amazing thing.]  And God has chosen us, and I love that.  And he looked down, he chose me, and he chose you.  What a remarkable thing.  Maybe you’re sitting here tonight and you’re not saved, thinking, ‘That’s not fair, only the people he chooses get saved, some people don’t?’  Well, tonight before we end we’ll give you a chance to get saved.  Come forward and get saved, you’ll be one of the elect.  ‘Well I don’t like that, not fair.’  Well, maybe you’re not one of the elect then.  You know, I don’t understand it at all, but I can tell you this, if you don’t get saved, you ain’t.  If you do get saved, you is.  [laughter]  If you are bothered by it, get saved tonight, we’re going to give you a chance to ask Jesus to be your Lord and Saviour, and if you do that, tomorrow you’re going to wake up and say ‘He chose me,’ it’ll blow your mind, “I’m one of the elect!’  ‘I don’t like that!  Not fair!’  well, maybe you’re not.  It says this, Paul, from his perspective “knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” 


Not By Men’s Wisdom, But By The Power Of God Through His Spirit


Because, and here’s how he says, he knew, God moving, choosing, saving in Thessalonica, “knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For [Because] our gospel came not unto you in word only,  but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.” (verses 4-5)  Paul says, ‘I remember the work of God there, I saw what happened, it wasn’t a religious experience, it was spiritual, you were converted, your lives were changed.  We saw the power of God when we were there, we walked away saying ‘Wow!  God really, he chose this church, he elected these people, what a demonstration there was of God’s power.’  Paul had gone to Athens, and I think there at Athens, he had reasoned [with the people there], and I’m not sure how much of that he did in his own wisdom, but I now after that, when he comes to Corinth, he said ‘It wasn’t with cunning words, or man’s wisdom that we communicated with you, but it was in the demonstration of the Spirit and power, that your faith might not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.’  And it’s so important for us this evening.  You know, how many people go through program after program after program?  How many people, you know, half-way house after half-way house after half-way house?  How many people, counseling after counseling after counseling?  And I’m not opposed to those things if God’s going to use those things in your life.  But I know this, without the power of God, not a single life will ever change.  And it’s so important for everyone in this room this evening, no matter where we are, no matter what we’re struggling with, to know in our hearts that he loves us, and that he has the power through his Word and through his Holy Spirit to transform any life.  And that as he transforms us, Paul says, ‘He chose me, I was murdering the Church, I hated Christians, I made Christians blaspheme the name of Jesus at the point of a sword, and the reason he saved me and used me is so that he might hold me up as an example to those who should believe afterward---that if this guy can get in, anybody can get in!’  If God’s love is so great he could love someone who was hating him and killing Christians and making people blaspheme his name, and God appeared to him in his love and his mercy, and chose him and used him as a “chosen vessel.”  And it’s important for us, not just to be able to say ‘He made me sign up for this program, well you need to go through this system,’ no, it’s important for us to be able to say, ‘Jesus is risen, and he’s alive, and he’s powerful, and he meets with me alone, and he speaks to my heart, and he changes my life, and he’s given me hope, and love, and faith, and a future.  And he has done in me what no human wisdom could ever have accomplished.’ 


‘You Saw What Kind Of People We Were’


Paul said, ‘We saw it in Thessalonica, we knew your election, it was obvious to us.’  And you know of us,’ Paul says, ‘what manner of men we were, I mean, we got to Thessalonica, you saw us, you called me lumpy when I got there, battered and bruised and beaten,’ Mark said,  ‘you know we had no ulterior motives, we weren’t there to take triple-tithe Sunday or something.  We weren’t there to get your wallet, you know what kind of people we were, for the cause of Christ.  We didn’t go to those hairdressers and get those permanents, we didn’t have those knocking-people-down sports jackets.  You know how we were when we got there.  You saw us battered and bruised, beaten, you know our hearts, you know how we loved you.’  Paul worked manual labour in some of these places so they wouldn’t have to touch a dime from the church, making tents. 


‘Your Example Went Out To All Of Macedonia and Achaia…In Much Suffering With Joy’


Paul said, ‘You know what manner of men we were when we were there.’  “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:  so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.” (verses 6-7)    “Much affliction, with joy”, now that’s a tough combo, I don’t know about you.  “Much affliction with joy” I have a hard time getting those two together, like “much affliction” is way out on one side of my personality, and “much joy” is way out on the other side of my personality.  And I’ve gone to a lot of trouble making those come close together, ‘Oh great!  Hit me again!  Cuss about me one more time.  I love singing in the dark.  Put me in prison one more time…’  Well look, “much affliction,” the tribulum in Latin, the tribulation, tribulum was part of the threshing sled they drug over the grain to separate the chaff from the wheat.  And how often afflictions, something that God allows, working in our lives doing that.  But they had a hope, and they were enduring under the pressure of life, because of hope.  And that was with much joy.  And Paul is commending them for that.  They’re not throwing in the towel, they’re not leaving town, they’re not running away from the church.  “having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:  so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.” (verses 6b-7)  How important is it to be examples, not just to be professing something, but to be demonstrating it.  ‘You were examples,’ “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad, so that we need not to speak any thing.” (verse 8)  Paul said, ‘The whole area, we didn’t have to do anything, because the Word of God was spread abroad from you guys into the whole area.’ 


What Caused The Church Growth?


Wait, what program did Paul use?  Was it the Four Spiritual Laws?  ‘Must have been a seeker-friendly church to spread to the whole area like that, you know.’   They must have had “holy laughter”, they must have had a five-year plan and a ten-year plan and far-reaching goals and short-reaching goals.  They must have had church-planting seminars.  They must have studied evangelism, and studied C-1, C-2, C-3 and demographics.  I did that stuff, what a waste of time.  I took a course in church-planting before I moved to Philadelphia.  Nothing in it was relative to anything that happened here [and he won’t admit it, but the Philadelphia Calvary Chapel was reputed to have grown to over 30,000 members, and I think since then Pastor Joe has broken them up into quite a few congregations, finding good pastors for each one of them throughout Philadelphia, while he retains the parent church at Philmont Avenue].  [He laughs] What’s the secret? The Word of God.  It’s fun, it’s great, and we have some great fellowship with some of the other denominations and pastors in the area, and they come, and we have a common heart for the city, evangelism.  But it’s also fun to see somebody come, and I know they call me Reverend Focht, and I’m ready to watch what’s going to happen, and they will ask, ‘How many have you here?  You wear a Hawaiian shirt?’ or you hear somebody say, they come and are looking around, and somebody says, ‘THAT’S THE PASTOR!?’  before they can catch themselves with a dumbfounded look on their face.  What’s even funnier is to hear them say, ‘That’s the assistant Pastor?’  ‘Do you do this?’  ‘An-eh,’  ‘Do you do that?’ ‘Nope.’  ‘Do you do this?’  ‘Nope.’  ‘How about this program?’  ‘Nope.’  ‘Well, do you have a church register?’  ‘Nope.’  ‘Offering envelopes?’  ‘Nope.’  ‘What in the world do you do???’  [loud applause]  Manna, manna in the morning, and manna in the evening [manna being the Word of God], manna at suppertime, manna-cote, fried manna, broiled manna, manna.  Isn’t it amazing? ‘What’s the secret?’  The Word of God, free food, it draws a crowd every time.  What’s the big secret?  You know, the Word of God, ‘We never thought of that, I’m going to go back and talk to our synod, we never, the Word of God, teach it in church?  We’ll have to go back and talk to somebody, I don’t know how this is gonna go.’  Sorry, sorry, sorry, Lord, reel me in. 


Turning, Serving And Waiting Should Describe The Christian Experience


“For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad, so that we need not to speak any thing.”---what a great program.  “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;” (verse9)  ‘We hear from other people about what’s going on there, they’re showing what kind of an entering we had unto you, and how you have 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, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (verse 10)  That should be a description of every Christian’s life, turning, serving and waiting.  Turning, serving and waiting should describe the Christian experience.  When you turn, you turn from something to something.  What they turn to is the Living God, from idols.  ‘Oh wait a minute, we don’t worship idols today.’  Oh yes you do, they’re just under different names.  ‘Oh we don’t bow down in front of little statues,’ no, I understand that, most of you anyway.  But you know there are people that still do that.  The goddess Astarte was about sex [and guess what, her name is pronounced Easter, and her holiday had Astarte eggs and bunnies associated with it 2,000 years before the birth of Jesus.  Hmmm.  See for historic proof.]  It was about sexual pleasure.  That’s how she was worshipped, orgies.  Oh man, people who worshipped Astarte, Ishtar would have loved the Internet.  And how many people here, I wonder, that’s idolatry, putting something before God.  Bacchus, the god of wine, drunkenness, getting stoned.  Paul uses the word “sorcery,” the Greek word is pharmekia, pharmakos, where we get pharmacy, buying, using, selling drugs.  I’m not talking about prescription drugs, you got an antibiotic, you’re sick, that’s wonderful, you know, a doctor’s prescribed that for you, I’m not talking about that.  Oxycotin, heroine, LSD, inhalants, marijuana, sorcery.  Paul could have used a different word.  Witchcraft was broader than that in his day.  But you see, the average sap, and I was one, doesn’t get involved in the ‘dark side’ of sorcery by putting a pentagram on his kitchen floor and sacrificing a chicken.  The average sap, Satan gets to open up to the ‘dark side’ of things through LSD, or crack cocaine, idolatry.  Mammon, that’s a big one, mammon, money.  Our whole nation’s being destroyed in the name of mammon.  What injustices are practiced in the name of mammon.  We do worship idols, we just don’t have them in figure form.  But when some other thing is the driving force in our life other than the Lord Jesus Christ, that is idolatry.  What should happen in our lives?  Turning.  The first thing is that they turned from idols to the true and Living God.  And they turned to him not just to be saved, but to serve.  How can you say “Lord” and not serve?  If you say the word “Lord” it means you’re a servant and you have a Lord.  And what greater Lord to have?  Again, human beings spend their whole lives trying to find the right master.  They get mastered by drugs, by money, by sex, by pleasure, by alcohol, by everything.  None of those masters give life for you, they all take life, and in the end strip everything worthy of humanity that God intended.  Finding the right master, turning to God from idols, serving the true and living God is the key.  You can’t say “Lord” and not serve him, that’s a contradiction. 


Turning, Serving, and Waiting For His Son


Turning, Serving, Waiting, for his Son, from heaven, “whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”  Wrath is a big subject.  We’re going to have to start to pick up with wrath, if God tarries.  And if he doesn’t you’ll know all about it anyway.  But if he does, I do not believe that we’ve been appointed to wrath.  I am non-negotiable on the subject.  I believe that all of the wrath came upon Christ, the propitiation for our sins, the place where wrath is satisfied.  And that God is not going to punish us with a Christ-rejecting world.  When you read the book of Revelation, you have to understand in chapter 6, in one hour one fourth of the world’s population is destroyed, in an hour.  That’s the first half.  People say, ‘Oh, the wrath, that’s the second half of the Tribulation …’ wait a minute, that’s the first half, in one hour, a fourth of the world’s population.  That’s all of South America, all of Central America, all of Mexico, all of the United States, all of Canada, and all of Europe gone in an hour [not that it will be those nations, per se]. That’s the first half of the Tribulation.  We have no idea what a post-Rapture world is going to be like.  It says of the two prophets who are killed and then raised halfway through [actually, they are raised right near the end of The Day of the Lord, about 4 months from the actual 2nd coming of Christ], Revelation chapter 11, it says for the first three and a half years they tormented the whole earth [those two witnesses actually tormented the whole earth for about the last three and a half years.]  That’s the first part of it.  And God hasn’t appointed us to that, but he’s delivered us, it says, “from the wrath to come.”  What a great hope, you know, watching the news, watching what’s happening in the world today.  We may go through some hard things, America doesn’t deserve to be spared.  But people say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, Jesus said ‘In this world you have tribulation.’  That’s not with a definite article, “the” Tribulation is something different.  And people say ‘Well every generation of the Church has experienced tribulation, well why should the last generation escape?’  No, no, Satan loves to invert things, you’ve got it backwards.  Every generation of the Church has escaped “the wrath of the Lamb.”  Why should the last generation of the Church come under the wrath of the Lamb?  It’s an impossibility, it’s an impossibility.  Christ could come for us at any moment.  It says when he comes it will be like the thief in the night.  I get an idea that means a lot of people are going to be surprised.  It’s not going to be like everything’s going to be so crazy, ‘oh, come on, not even a thief would have been here by now,’ no, I get an idea it’s going to have a sense of preemption about it.  You remember, when he comes, even the five virgins with oil in their lamps (cf. Matthew 25) had to be awakened.  There were five that were foolish, had no oil.  There were five that had oil, this is when the Bridegroom came, he had to wake them because they were asleep.  Christ is coming, we’ve been talking about it a long time, I got saved in ’72, I’ve been talking about it for 30 years.  I don’t ever want to take it for granted…[transcript of a connective expository sermon on 1st Thessalonians 1:1-10, given by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19116]


related links:    


Paul, Timothy and Silas Had Group-Prayer Meetings.  What is that?


What is God’s Agape-love?  See,


They turned from idols, have we?  Who was the goddess Astarte?  Let’s do some ancient history research.  See, and

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