The church in Thessalonica was founded through what seemed to be a failed trip there by Paul in Acts 17: 1-9. Immediately upon entering Thessalonica, Paul, as per his custom, went into the synagogue (as the Gospel is to be presented to the Jews first, then to the Greeks) and he presented the truth about the Christ. The message that this, their hoped redeemer – which they though was going to be a military and political leader who would elevate the Jewish people to the place of the Romans, and that they would subdue all nations under them – that this great leader must first come and not conquer, but suffer, and be conquered (from the World’s perspective) and even die.

To many this alone is a blasphemous statement, as for generations they have been told about their great hope that they would be the greatest nation on earth, missing their true enemy – sin and death. But Paul, when he begins his ministry in this new town, immediately received a violent result in the way that the Jews kicked them out and threatened them. So Paul turned to the Gentiles who received him gladly – as was the true focus of his ministry. The Jewish leaders rebelled against this, as this was more wicked in their eyes than stating that their hoped redeemer was not going to elevate the state of the Jewish nation over all others, since God’s chosen people, as they had also been told, was only that of the Jewish genetic lineage, and not any of those dirty gentiles. The unwashed and unloved masses whom, in their estimation, God had only created to stoke the fires of the furnace of Heaven.

That said, the Jews in that region banded together and began to attempt to cancel Paul and his message. They got a bunch of people to join their side and dragged whomever who seemed to represent The Way, and dragged them before the governmental leaders and accused them of sedition – stating that their true king was not Caesar, but Jesus the Christ. While a true statement, Jesus himself stated that his kingdom was not of this world. It does not belong to the World system, nor would the World even recognize it if they saw it. But to this angry crowd, inflammatory language was their weapon of choice, and they tried to get the men executed.

God, however, had other plans. God turned the hearts of these governmental rulers to their greediness, and had them, instead, seek financial reward instead of blood from these fledgling Christians, and sent them on their way. The companions of Paul, fearing for his life, sent him out of town, and, from Paul’s perspective, it appears to have been a failed visit. There may be some Christians in that region, but now it was up to the Holy Spirit to grow that tiny seed that he planted. Like Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch, he must simply trust that God will do with that visit what God will do, and know that God will be sure to see his intended result in all situation.

Yet now, in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we see that grow it did. In fact, this is one of the few letters that he writes that was not a letter of correction. This is a letter of encouragement – of promise. It is a letter of joy and a letter of hope to a small but thriving community – dedicated to the worship of God and the growth of the Church of Christ. This community of believers, though enduring much persecution form the Jews and unbelieving gentiles, was growing deeper in their relationship with God and, perhaps just as importantly, was growing deeper in their unity with each other. It is to that point that Paul encourages them in the text we read today.

v 9 – “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,”

  • Paul has heard multiple reports which bring joy to his heart as both a church planter and a Christian – that this church is founded deeply in the unity that Jesus called his church to in John 17, and is the underlying thread in all of his letters. He mentions, tangentially, his lack of instruction to them in his flight after his initial visit, but that it was God Himself who has taught them about this essential Christian value of unity and love for one another. As Jesus said, this is the mark of a true community of believers – that even the outsiders will know that they are those who are Christians because of the love they have for one another. Paul commends them for this, and calls them to continue to do so.

v 10 – “for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,”

  • Paul’s encouragement to them also includes how they are attending to the needs of those outside of their small community – serving those throughout the whole region of Macedonia.
  • Paul then encourages them to continue to grow this affection to their brothers and sisters, and, specifically, to direct it in a few precise categories;

v 11 – “and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,”

  • Aspire (NAS – make it your ambition) to live quietly
    • Deeply desire and pursue quietness. Instead of having to have your own thoughts heard, and sharing all things that occur to you, instead engage the Godly pursuit of only sharing that which is absolutely necessary. Whereas we pursue the desire to serve one another, we must always remember that by sharing any old thought that we have in our head, we are creating a verbal contract with the hearer, that our problems or struggles now become theirs. Not all struggles, not all striving needs to be shared. It is the better pursuit, then, to seek to remain quiet and to listen – seeking to serve others, rather than seeking to serve your own personal issues and desires. It is better to give (in service to others) than to receive if it can be helped.
  • Mind your own affairs
    • Don’t become busybodies – focused with the goings on outside of you – engaging in gossip or shoving yourselves into the affairs of others.
  • Work with your hands
    • Eschew laziness. There is always plenty of work to be done, and lazy hands will find something to do – often that which is not honoring to God. Instead we should pursue Godly pursuits and instead of continually seeking the “perfect” scenario where you can be involved – just get to work. As you find work, more will become available to you – so keep working.

v 12 – “so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

  • The purpose for this command from Paul – to serve quietly, to avoid nosy pursuits, and to continue to work before God in our sphere of influence – is to faithfully mind our walk as observed by the World. The World is always looking for an excuse to attack the body of Christ – be it blatant hypocrisy as seen when a pastor falls publicly from grace, or even when someone who, while driving in traffic with their ichthys on their car, cuts across 4 lanes of traffic, honking and flipping people off, or throwing trash onto the road. We wear our faith openly – it is the aroma of Christ which pours from us that confirms with those in the world that we are actually Christians, but when we act in a manner which violates that proclamation of faith, by giving them a reminder of their sin by seeing it in our own thoughtless reaction and actions in the world.
  • Remember that those in our circle of influence are everyone who sees us. We represent not just ourselves, our families, or our churches, but the God who saved us. When we say that we are Christians we are saying to the World that we are followers of Christ, and this is what a follower of Christ is. We fail, but we get up. We struggle, but we persevere. We battle, and occasionally, we WILL fail, but we pray to God that he will strengthen us for the next battle, and we repent of our sins against him, then we get up the next day and start again. The World looks for hypocrisy in Christians because they want validation that we are the terrible wretches they are, and that there is no difference between us and them. Outside of the influence of Christ in our lives and the Holy Spirit on our hearts, we are identical – self worshippers, prideful, hateful of anything that is outside that which we like. But it is through Christ and his work on our behalf that we can strive to be better. When we fail, and we will, we need to get up, acknowledge our own faults and struggles, then get up and start again. This is how we best represent Christ to the World: in our love for one another, in our constantly repentant life, and in our trust in Christ and his work alone in us to save us from the consequences of our sins.