Today’s selected reading is found in the first New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were in Thessalonica. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the entire first chapter of the epistle. With this particular chapter found within this epistle we find the first epistle which the apostle wrote to the church of the Thessalonians opening up. When this epistle opens up it does so with the traditional greeting of the apostle to the churches, however, includes in this particular greeting are the names of two other companions. If you read the first verse of the first chapter you will find the names of Silvanus who is also known as Silas, as well as Timotheus who is also known as Timothy. It is actually fitting that these two names be included in the greeting of this epistle, for if you journey back to the New Testament book of Acts you will find that when Paul traveled to the city of Thessaloniki, he was accompanied by both Silas and Timothy. What’s more, is that if you turn to the final portion of this epistle you will notice that this epistle was written from Athens by Paul. This too makes sense, for if you study the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that when the apostle Paul journeyed from Thessaloniki he was first brought to Berea where he present that Jesus must needs suffer, that Jesus must needs die and that He be risen again in the third day. It is necessary that we understand this, for the apostle’s time in Berea would be short-lived and he would find himself traveling to the city of Athens next. It was there in Athens the apostle Paul would write the words which we find in this particular epistle. With that being said, we must note that the apostle didn’t immediately set out to write the words we find in this epistle once arriving in Athens, for if you read the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts you will find that he sent for Timothy and Silas to come unto him within the city.
Once Timothy and Silas joined the apostle Paul in the city of Thessaloniki we aren’t given any indication as to how soon he wrote the epistle unto this church, but we can be certain that it wasn’t written until they arrived. As you continue reading within this particular chapter you will notice that he begins with the words “grace” and “peace,” which is actually quite interesting. I have to admit that I absolutely love that the apostle opens up and begins his epistles with the word “grace,” for everything begins and starts with grace. In fact, if you turn your attention back to the first chapter of the New Testament gospel of John you will find John declaring that whereas the law came through Moses, grace came and truth came through Jesus Christ. When the apostle Paul wrote unto each of the churches he sought to first remind them and bring them face to face with grace—and not just grace itself, but the grace of Jesus Christ. When the apostle Paul opened up and began this epistle he sought to remind the saints of the grace of God which is manifested and displayed in the person of Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. This is especially interesting to consider, for the apostle Paul was clearly seeking to set forth the grace of God which is found in Jesus Christ as the predominate and driving feature of the Christian walk. This would be especially necessary to understand—particularly and especially because Hohn wrote that the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that if you study the events which occurred while the apostle—together with Timothy and Silas—were found within the city, you will find that grace was an absolutely necessary reality to present unto the saints to which he was writing. This subject matter of grace would be something the church of the Thessalonians would be especially needing to hear and be reminded of, for if you journey back to the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find specific circumstances surrounding their hearing the gospel concerning Jesus Christ.
Before we turn our attention back to the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts it is necessary and imperative that we continue reading in this first chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Thessalonica, for even when writing unto these saints the apostle Paul reminds them of the events which occurred together with the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus who is the Christ. If you turn your attention to the sixth verse of this first chapter you will find the following words written by the apostle Paul—words which would have undoubtedly reminded them of the events which occurred while the apostle Paul, together with Timothy and Silas were in the city. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the sixth verse of this particular chapter: “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). Please don’t quickly miss or lose sight of this particular reality, for the apostle Paul sought to remind these saints of the reality that when the gospel concerning Jesus Christ came unto them and was manifested among them in their midst, it came with great affliction. It’s actually worth noting and being aware of this particular reality, for when we think of the presentation of the gospel—particularly and especially when we think of how others receive it when it is preached unto them—as something which not only comes naturally, but also that which comes easily. When we think of the receiving of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ we tend to think of it in terms of much comfort, much security, much convenience, and without any form of opposition, affliction, trials, tribulations, trouble, and yes, even suffering. The truth of the matter is that the receiving of the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ isn’t always like this, for there are times—as was evidenced among those within the city of Thessalonica—when the word concerning Christ must be mixed together with affliction, and with much suffering, opposition and persecution. We dare not think that each and every time the gospel concerning Jesus Christ is received that the environment in which the gospel is preached is ideal, or even that the soil upon which the seed of the word concerning Christ is the ideal soil.
While I am going to present you with the events which occurred within the city of the Thessalonica while the apostle Paul, together with Timothy and Silas were present, I feel it first necessary to present you with the words which Jesus our Lord spoke unto His disciples, His followers and hearers. There is a specific parable which Jesus spoke, which is recorded for us in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel concerning Matthew which I feel is absolutely necessary to use and set forth as a precursor for what we read concerning the saints which were within the city of Thessalonica. Consider if you will the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples and followers beginning with the first verse of the thirteenth chapter of the gospel according to Matthew: “The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that He went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them jump: some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:1-9). This particular parable is worth noting and understanding, for not only the parable itself, but also the revelation of the meaning of the parable help shine a great deal of light on to the reality of what exactly took place within the city of Thessalonica. Within this parable Jesus not only describes a certain sower going forth to sow seed, but He also went on to describe how this sower went on to sow seed, and did so in various types of soil—some seed fell by the wayside, some fell upon stony places, some fell among thorns, and some fell into good ground. If there is one thing we must recognize concerning this parable, it’s that the difference was not in the seed that was sown, nor in the amount of seed that was sown, but rather, the soil upon which the seed was cast.
What I absolutely love about the thirteenth chapter of the gospel of Matthew is that we aren’t simply left with just the parable alone without any revelation and truth concerning the meaning behind the parable. In fact, if you continue reading within this particular chapter you will notice that Jesus would go on to explain the parable of the sower and the seed to His disciples when they came unto Him privately to ask concerning His speaking in parables. Consider if you will the words which Matthew records concerning the disciples’ coming unto Jesus, and Jesus’ response unto them: “And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be concerted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sword. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed in stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:10-23).
Please pay close attention to the words we find and the words which we read concerning the parable of the sower and the seed, for the revelation behind the parable actually shines a great deal of light on to the reality of the events which occurred in the city of Thessalonica. What’s more, is that I would even dare state that Jesus’ words would describe the events which occurred within various other cities within the provinces of Asia. When Jesus began to unfold the meaning of the parable of the sower and the seed he did so by first describing that the underlying reality behind the parable is in fact the hearing of the word concerning the kingdom. In all reality, I would also declare that this parable could very well apply to the hearing of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, which includes the events surrounding His suffering, His death, his burial, and His resurrection. When Jesus began expounding the meaning behind the parable of the sower and the seed we find that He first begins by speaking of those who hear the word concerning the kingdom, and yet they do not understand that which they hear. As a result of them not understanding that which they have heard, the wicked one comes and catches away that which was sown in the heart of that individual. The first reality we must recognize and understand concerning those who hear the word concerning the kingdom is that there are those who understand it not, and as a direct result of their lack of understanding the wicked one seizes upon their lack of understanding and catches away that which they heard. When we consider the reality of those who heard the word concerning the kingdom, it’s first necessary that we understand that there will be those who hear the word and yet understand it not. Transitioning from those who hear the word and understand it not, Jesus then moves on to those who hear the word, and receive the word concerning the kingdom with joy. Such individuals endure for a season and for a time—not only in the word, but also in their experience as a direct result of receiving the word—however, when tribulation and/or persecution arises because of the word, they are quickly and immediately offended. This is perhaps one of the most common realities concerning the hearing of the word concerning the kingdom, for there are a number of men and women who have heard the word concerning the kingdom, and there are many who have heard the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ, and they do in fact endure for a time; however, these same individuals are quickly offended when they begin to experience persecution and tribulation for the sake of the word which they heard and received.
As you continue reading Jesus’ revelation and explanation concerning the parable of the sower and the seed, you will find that there were two more types of individuals—two more types of soil, and two more types of hearts—which were spoken of within the parable. Immediately after Jesus spoke of those individuals who heard the word concerning the kingdom, received it with joy at first, and endured for a season before persecution and tribulation for the sake of the word arose, we next find Him transitioning to those who hear the word, and yet the care(s) of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and those individuals become unfruitful. In addition to those who hear the word and yet don’t understand it, and in addition to those who hear the word, receive it with joy, endure for a season, yet become offended when persecution and tribulation arises for the sake of the word, Jesus now speaks of a different type of individual—that particular individual who hears the word just like the others, yet the word which they heard was quickly choked out by the care of this world, as well as the deceitfulness of riches. Because of the word which these individuals heard was choked out because of the care of this world, as well as the deceitfulness of riches, these individuals quickly become unfruitful and unprofitable. With that being said, there is one other type of individual which hears the word concerning the kingdom who is mentioned and alluded to in this particular parable—that individual who hears the word, understands the word, and bears forth fruit as a result of the word. This reality is absolutely necessary to recognize and understand, for it isn’t enough to hear the word concerning the kingdom, and it isn’t even enough to hear the word and understand it, for we must also bring and bear forth fruit as a direct result of hearing the word. There would be those who would believe the lie and the deception that hearing the word is enough, and even that understanding the word is enough, yet the ultimate goal of hearing the word is not understanding, but fruit. I am convinced that there are those who hear the word, and these same individuals may even understand the word, yet these same individuals bring forth no fruit as a result of their understanding. Oh dear brother, dear sister—I would dare say that if your understanding of the word does not lead to, and does not produce and bring forth fruit within your life, both your hearing and your understanding is incredibly shallow.
Before moving on to the events which occurred within the city of Thessalonica it is necessary that we also include in this writing the very next parable Jesus spoke unto His disciples immediately after explaining the parable of the sower and the seed. Consider if you will the words which Matthew wrote and recorded beginning with the twenty-fourth verse of the thirteenth chapter: “Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants aid unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest, while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:24-30). I am convinced that this parable must also be included in this writing, for if the parable of the seed and the sower describes the hearing of the word concerning Jesus the Christ in the city of Thessalonica, this parable describes the different types of individuals who were present within this very city. With both the parable of the sower and the seed, as well as the parable concerning the wheat and the tares now presented for your consideration, I now ask you to consider the events which occurred within the city of Thessalonica beginning with the first verse of the seventeenth chapter:
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apolonia, they came to the Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews; and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason,a nd sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of the honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode their still. And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and TImotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed” (Acts 17:1-15).
What we find and what we read in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts wonderfully and powerfully sets forth the events which took place and occurred within the city of Thessalonica while Paul, Silas and Timothy were there preaching the good news concerning the kingdom and concerning Jesus who is the Christ. When the apostle Paul—together with Silas and Timothy—arrived in the city of Thessalonica, he went in unto a synagogue of the Jews and as his manner was, spent three days reasoning with them out of the Scriptures. There in the synagogue the apostle Paul opened and alleged that Christ must needs have suffered, and that He be risen again from the dead. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul would go on to preach unto them that this same Jesus who not only crucified, but also rose from death to life was indeed and was in fact the Christ. This describes the hearing of the word concerning the kingdom, and the hearing of the word concerning Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. This reality right here describes the seed which was sown among the various types of soil which were present within the city of Thessalonica. What makes their time in Thessalonica so incredibly challenging is the fact that despite the fact that some believed and consorted with Paul and Silas, the Jews which believed not, moved with envy rose up against Paul, Silas and Timothy. In fact, Luke records how the Jews took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar. Not only this, but these Jews—together with the company they had assembled—assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. The Jews who rose up against the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy, declared that these individuals which turned the world upside down have come unto the city—and not only have they turned the world upside down, but they also. Proceeded to declare that there was another king named Jesus. More over, Luke goes on to write and record how these Jews—together with the company they assembled—troubled the people and the rulers of the city in an attempt to undermine the gospel concerning the kingdom. When the apostle Paul writes in this first epistle that they received the word in much affliction, what he was seeking to do was remind them of the direct opposition the Jews brought forth against the gospel concerning Jesus Christ when they preached Christ, and Him crucified, and Him resurrected.
When reading the first chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Thessalonica, I can’t help but be absolutely captivated and mesmerized by the fact that despite the fact that these saints received the word in much affliction, they still continued to persevere and endure. I am convinced that part of the reason for this wasn’t merely that the gospel concerning Jesus Christ was preached among them, but also that the gospel did not come to them in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance (see verse 5). While in the New Testament book of Acts we read of the apostle Paul proclaiming that Christ must needs suffer, and be risen from the grave, this epistle describes how that gospel was accompanied by power, by the Holy Ghost, and with much assurance. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in his first epistle which was written unto the saints which were in Corinth. Beginning with the first verse of the second chapter of this epistle we find the following words written by the apostle: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). It is both necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand these two passages of Scripture, for although the gospel concerning the kingdom and concerning Jesus the Christ was received with much affliction, the gospel was accompanied with power, with the demonstration of the Spirit, with the person and presence of the Holy Ghost, and with much assurance. I have to admit that I absolutely love this reality which is found in the epistle, for despite the fact that there was much affliction that arose as a direct result of envy surrounding the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, that affliction was met with the demonstration of the Spirit and with the person and presence of the very Spirit of Christ. WHEN AFFLICTION MEETS DEMONSTRATION! WHEN AFFLICTION MEETS MANIFESTATION! Oh, we might be able to say that the gospel is being preached, and we might even be able to say that the gospel is being met with affliction, but is there anything else that is present to meet the affliction that arises as a direct result of that affliction.
I am absolutely captivated with the reality of affliction being met with demonstration, and with the reality of affliction being met with manifestation, for although the saints which were at Thessalonica received the word with much affliction, they weren’t those who did not and could not endure. Consider if you will the fact that the apostle Paul writes concerning these saints that he made mention of them in their prayers, remembering without ceasing their work of faith, their labour of love, their patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the sight of God and our Father. What’s more, is the apostle Paul went on to write concerning these saints how they would go on to become examples and ensamples to all those which believed in Macedonia and Achaia. Moreover, the apostle Paul would go on to declare that from them sounded out the word of the Lord—not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place their faith to Godward is spread abroad. This is quite remarkable and powerful, for the apostle Paul would go on to declare that neither he nor his companions would need to speak anything concerning them, for their testimony would in fact speak for itself. Despite the fact that they received the gospel concerning Jesus Christ with much affliction, they would go on to stand as examples to the various other saints within the churches located throughout the provinces of Asia. WHEN DEMONSTRATION MEETS AFFLICTION, TESTIMONY SOUNDS FORTH TRIUMPHANTLY! I absolutely love what I read within his particular epistle, for while the book of Acts describes the gospel concerning the kingdom and concerning Jesus Christ being preached among those in Thessalonica, this epistle itself goes on to describe that this gospel was also accompanied with power, with the manifestation and demonstration of the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. Oh how I am greatly challenged by that which accompanies the preaching of the word, for if affliction rises up in direct opposition to the preaching of the word, is there anything that is able to meet that affliction and that opposition? Oh, the gospel concerning Jesus Christ might be preached in our churches, but where is the power? The gospel might be preached in this generation, but is it accompanied with the demonstration and manifestation of the Holy Spirit? Is the gospel we preached only met with affliction and opposition, and there is no accompanying measure of the person and presence of the Spirit? Have we forgotten that Jesus did in fact declare that “these signs shall follow them which believe?” Have we forgotten that Jesus did in fact declare that “greater works than these shall we do because He goes unto His Father?” Where is the demonstration of power? Where is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit?
The more I read the first chapter of the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Thessalonica the more I am not only gripped with the fact that the gospel concerning Jesus was accompanied with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance, but it was also accompanied by the powerful witness of testimony. Notice that immediately following the apostle’s declaration concerning power, concerning the Holy Spirit, and concerning assurance, he goes on to write how these saints knew what manner of men they were among them for their sake. I am convinced that this is absolutely crucial when considering the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, for I would dare say that in addition to the gospel being accompanied by the demonstration and manifestation of the Holy Spirit and of power, it must also be accompanied by the testimony of holiness and righteousness. What I mean by this, is that it isn’t enough to preach the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, for your life must also demonstrate the reality that you do in fact know This Jesus whom you preach, and that you do in fact walk with and follow Him. I am thoroughly convinced that the gospel concerning Jesus Christ which we claim we preach, and which might very well feel entitled to preach must be accompanied together with the demonstration and manifestation of the Holy Spirit and power, as well as the testimony of a life lived for and before this Jesus whom we preach. Tell me—what good is your preaching the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ if there is no proof, no testimony that you do in fact know, follow and serve the Jesus whom who preach? What good is the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ if there is no evidence that you even walk with Christ? What made the preaching of the apostle Paul—as well as the other apostles and companions of the apostles—so incredibly powerful was not only the demonstration and manifestation of the Holy Spirit and power, but also the testimony that these men and women walked with, followed closely, and did in fact know the Jesus whom they preached. I would emphatically declare to you who are reading these words that if you don’t know the Jesus whom you are preaching, and if you are not following the Jesus whom you preach, and if you aren’t walking with the Jesus whom you preach, please do us a favor and stop preaching. Much damage has been done by men and women who attempt to preach the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ, and yet they neither walk with, nor know or follow that same Jesus. Oh that we would have ears to hear that which the Spirit is speaking unto us in this generation and that we would understand the tremendous power of demonstration and manifestation, together with the tremendous power of testimony and witness. WHEN DEMONSTRATION MEETS AFFLICTION & TESTIMONY ACCOMPANIES WITNESS.