Today’s selected reading is found in the first epistle written by the apostles Paul unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. More specifically today’s passage is found in the first three chapters of this New Testament book. “Paulo, and SIlvanus, and TImotheus, 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” (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
“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; 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 Godward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew 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” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-10).
“For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of of covetousness; God is witness: nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among your even as a nurse cherisheth her children: so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to be have imparted unto you, not the gospel lonely, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: as ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost” (1 Thessalonians 2:13-16).
“But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. 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” (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20).
“Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; and Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: that no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed there unto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain. But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: for now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: 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” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-13).
When you come to the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were in Thessalonians you will come to the first epistle written by his hand. In order to understand the words which are found within this epistle there is a great need to consider the words and language that are found in the New Testament book of Acts. It. Is in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we encounter the tremendous truth surrounding the time the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy spent in Thessalonica after departing from Philippi. It was in Philippi where Paul and Silas were not only seized by the masters of a certain slave girl who had previously been possessed by a spirit of divination. There in Philippi these masters would bring the apostle Paul and Silas into the market place where they would accuse them before the magistrates. The underlying reason for the apostle Paul and Silas being hauled into the marketplace by the masters of this certain slave girl is because this slave girl brought her masters no small sum of money through the practice of divination and fortune telling. This certain slave girl would follow the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy in Philippi and would declare them to be the servants of the Most High God and speaking the truth about the kingdom of God. This would go on for a certain period of time until the apostle would become so aggravated and annoyed within his spirit he would turn to the slave girl and would command the unclean spirit to come out of her in the name of Jesus. Immediately the evil spirit came out of the girl and she was completely and utterly free and delivered from the possession of this unclean spirit. Upon her masters realizing that their hope of profit and gain was gone they proceeded to seize the apostle Paul and Silas, drag them into the marketplace and accuse them before the magistrates. After hearing the accusations brought against the apostle Paul and Silas the magistrates would rend their clothes and would order Paul and Silas to not only be beaten but would also have them cast into prison. Moreover they would instruct the jailer to secure these two men of which the jailer not only put them in the inner most prison but also secured their feet in stocks.
I am absolutely convinced that we must needs recognize and understand the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts for the apostle Paul references and speaks to it in the midst of this epistle written unto the Thessalonian saints. In fact if you take the time to read the words which are found within this epistle you will find the apostle Paul not only referencing the afflictions, the suffering, the persecution and the trials they experienced in Philippi but he also referenced the affliction, the suffering and the trials which they experienced there in Thessalonica. Within this epistle we not only read of the suffering and persecution the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy experienced in Philippi but we also read how they would face similar persecution in the midst of the city of Philippi. It is in the opening verses of the second chapter of this epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonian saints we find him referencing the affliction, the suffering and the persecution they experienced in the midst of Philippi: “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict. For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit” (1 Thessalonians 2:1-3). These words not only demonstrate the events which took place there in Philippi but they also served as context, framework and the foundation for which the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy would faithfully preach the word and gospel unto those in Thessalonica. The apostle Paul wrote unto them how they were spitefully treated at Philippi but how even though they were spitefully treated they were bold in their God to speak to them the gospel of God in much conflict. Moreover the apostle Paul also wrote unto them concerning their exhortation that it did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the second chapter of this New Testament epistle and I am brought face to face with the reality that although the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy were spitefully treated at Philippi they would not grow discouraged nor would they become offended before, in the sight and in the presence of the living God. It would have been very easy for the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy to allow themselves to become bitter and offended after experiencing the affliction, the suffering and persecution they did at Philippi and to cease preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. What we find, however, is the apostle Paul writing unto the saints which were at Thessalonica that despite their being spitefully treated at Philippi they were bold in their God to speak to them the gospel of God in much conflict. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the tremendous amount of endurance the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy had—even in the face of suffering, affliction and persecution. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for although the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy could have become bitter, angry and offended after being spitefully treated at Philippi they allowed it to serve as fuel for the fire which was raging within their hearts and spirits. This is something truly astonishing and captivating when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous reality of the endurance which the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy had in the face of suffering, affliction and persecution. In fact that which the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy experienced there at Philippi is in direct alignment with the words which our Lord spoke in the Sermon on the Mount as well as when sending out the twelve and the other seventy:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” (Matthew 5:38-42).
“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors to so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
“Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bad for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city! Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in hen. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and d daughter in law against her mother in law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him to sent me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:5-42).
“If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul: Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26).
“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then he said to them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, Peace to this house. And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to to them, The kingdom of God has come near to you. But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless you know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you. But I say to you that it will more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city” (Luke 10:1-12).
There is a great need for us to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found within these passages of Scripture must needs be carefully considered when reading the words the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. The apostle Paul wrote and spoke unto them concerning their their coming to them was not in vain and then went on to declare that EVEN AFTER they had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi they were bold in their God to speak to them the gospel of God in much conflict. This is something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to for it was the Lord Jesus who instructed His disciples to bless those who cursed them, to do good to those who hated them and to pray for those who spitefully use them and persecute them. Not only this but Jesus would declare unto His disciples that they are blessed when they are reviled and persecuted and when men say all kinds of evil against them falsely for His sake. The apostle Paul would write unto the Thessalonian saints concerning their time in the midst of Philippi and how they were spitefully treated. What I so absolutely love about this is that despite the fact the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy were spitefully treated in Philippi they did not bend nor did they break. The apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy could have grown and become offended in the midst of the affliction, in the midst of the suffering and in the midst of the persecution they experienced there at Philippi, however, what we find instead is them waxing bolder and bolder when they came unto Thessalonica. Rather than grow discouraged, rather than grow angry, rather than be offended, rather than be bitter and resentful toward the living and eternal God they would instead wax bold in the face of adversity, in the face of affliction and in the face of persecution and suffering. What a strong and powerful contrast to what we find and read in the words our Lord spoke unto His disciples when He spoke unto them concerning the end of days and the coming of the Son of man:
“And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:4-14).
Pay close and careful attention to the words presented in this passage of Scripture—words which were spoken by our Lord—for when speaking unto His disciples concerning the Last Days He emphatically declared how the people of that generation would deliver them up to tribulation and kill them. Moreover the Lord Jesus would also declare that they would be hated of all nations for His name’s sake. As a direct result of the tribulation many will face, as a direct result of being hated by all nations for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus many will be offended, will betray one another and will hate one another. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight us—particularly when reading the words the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. There in Philippi the apostle Paul and Silas would not only be seized by the masters of this slave girl but they would also be dragged into the marketplace where they would be cast before the magistrates. It would be there before the magistrates the apostle Paul and Silas would be accused of preaching doctrines which were not lawful for them to hear much less obey as citizens of Rome. When the magistrates heard the accusations brought against Paul and Silas they rent their clothes and immediately had them beaten before ordering them to be cast into the prison. Instruction was given unto the jailor to secure them in the prison of which the jailor would secure them in the innermost prison and have their feet secured in stocks. What a powerful picture of affliction, suffering and persecution the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy faced there in Thessalonica—such which I am sure they each remembered when this epistle was being written unto the Thessalonian saints.
It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts concerning the time the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy spent in Philippi which was the chief city of Macedonia at that time and was a colony. What’s important to recognize and understand is that despite the fact the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy were spitefully treated there would still be fruit that would spring up within that place. Perhaps the single greatest confirmation of the fruit hat was produced in that place is not only that Lydia and her entire household believed and were baptized, not only that the jailor and his entire household believed and were baptized but also that there is an epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi. The very fact that we have an epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi demonstrates the tremendous truth that in spite of the persecution which they experienced there at Philippi they would indeed experience a tremendous amount of fruit as men and women would believe and be baptized. Not only this but a church would indeed be established there in the midst of Philippi where a congregation of saints would indeed gather together in worship of the one true and living God—those who believed on the name of the Lord Jesus and those who were baptized and called upon the name of the Lord. Oh we must needs recognize and pay close attention to this for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy experiencing persecution, suffering and affliction there in the midst of Philippi and yet how there would be tremendous fruit in the midst of that place. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the eleventh verse:
“Therefore, sailing from Troas, we rain a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purpose from the city of Thyatria, who worshipped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay. So she persuaded us. Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation. And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, These men being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans to receive or observe. Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beat when with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, Do yourself no harm, for we are all here. Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? So they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he sat food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed God with all his household” (Acts 16:11-34).
Please don’t miss the incredible importance of what is found within this passage of Scripture for within it we encounter and are brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the affliction, the trouble and the trials the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy experienced in the midst of the city of Philippi. When writing unto the Thessalonian saints the apostle Paul sought to remind them of the affliction, the trouble and the persecution they experienced there in the midst of Philippi. What we must needs recognize, however, is that the persecution experienced by the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy at Philippi would not hinder, dissuade or influence them away from preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact when you read the words which are found in this epistle you will find the apostle Paul describing how they came unto the city of Thessalonica with great boldness preaching the word, the gospel and the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the reality of suffering, persecution, afflictions, trials and troubles and how they can indeed serve a two-fold purpose as it pertains to the gospel of Christ being preached and our own personal walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. On the one hand suffering, affliction and persecution produces within us an endurance, a boldness, a confidence, a trust and a unshakeable faith in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the one hand persecution brings us to the point and place where we indeed choose to be strong and courageous rather than bitter and offended. What’s more is the second effect of persecution, suffering and persecution is that it furthers the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ allowing men and women to hear the gospel in much affliction, in much trials, in much persecution and truly understand and recognize what it means to walk with and serve the Lord Jesus.
It is with this in mind I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to that which the apostle Paul wrote unto these saints which were at Thessalonica concerning his entering into and coming unto them. Within this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonian saints we find him writing and speaking unto them concerning their coming in unto them as they preached the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in the fifth verse of the first chapter the apostle Paul writes and declared unto them how “our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). In the very next verse the apostle Paul wrote and declared unto them how they became followers of them and of the Lord having received the word in much affliction and with joy of the Holy Spirit so that they became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believed. Moving on even further within the first chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing how from them—from the Thessalonian saints and congregation—the word of the Lord has sounded forth in Macedonia, in Achaia and in every place. Not only this but their faith toward God had gone out so that they do not need to say anything for it was declared unto them what manner of entry they Jae to them and how they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven. OH how absolutely wonderful and incredible these words truly are for the apostle Paul described that although they were spitefully treated in Philippi they would not only come unto them with all boldness but they would also come with power and in the Holy Spirit with much assurance. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fourth and fifth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts concerning the apostles experiencing persecution and affliction in the midst of Jerusalem and not only their rejoicing in the midst of that affliction and persecution but also their prayer in the midst of and in spite of such persecution:
“And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: Lord, you are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of your servant David have said: Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together a against the Lord and against His Christ. For truly against your holy Servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both. Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever your hand and your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to your servants that which all boldness they may speak your word, by stretching out your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:23-31).
“And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:40-442).
When you look at and examine the coming of the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy unto Thessalonica you will find that their coming was not in word only but in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance. Not only this but the apostle Paul would also describe how they knew what kind of men they were among them for their sake. The apostle Paul would write unto the Thessalonian saints how they became followers of them and of the Lord having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit so that they became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. As a direct result of this there would such a great produce of fruit in that place that from them the word of the Lord sounded forth in Macedonia, in Achaia and in every place. What’s more is the apostle Paul would go on to write how their faith toward God had gone out so that there was no need for them to say anything. In addition to this the apostle Paul would go on to write how they were approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel and how they spoke—not as pleasing men but God who tested their hearts. The apostle Paul would go on to describe how they did not at any time use flattering words as a cloak for covetousness for God was their witness. In addition to them not using flattering words as a cloak for covetousness but they did not seek glory from men—either from them or from others—when they might have made demands as apostles of Christ. Instead the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy were gentile among them as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. As if this weren’t enough the apostle Paul goes on to describe how they so affectionately longed for them they were well pleased to impart to them the gospel of God and even their own lives because they had become dear to them. Moreover the apostle Paul went on to write how they labored and toiled night and day that they would not be a burden to any of them as they preached the gospel of God.
It is at this particular juncture I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the events which took place there in the city of Thessalonica. It was the beloved physician Luke who wrote in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts concerning the time the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy had spent there in the midst of the city of Thessalonica. Consider if you will the following words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the first verse of the seventeenth chapter:
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three sabbaths reasoned with them from the scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ. And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas. But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another King—Jesus. And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. So when they had taken security form Jason and the rest, they let them go. Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea” (Acts 17:1-10).
The words we find here in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts are incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to consider them—specifically what you find in the tenth verse. Within the tenth verse of this passage you will find the beloved physician Luke describing how the brethren which were in Thessalonica sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. This they would do after the unbelieving and envious jews who were hard of heart incited a mob against the apostle Paul there in the midst of the city. There in the midst of the Thessalonica the Jews would incite a mob against the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy accusing them of turning the world upside down and now coming in unto them. What we must needs recognize is how there were countless instances and examples of the opposition of the Jews toward the apostle Paul and the preaching of the gospel—and not only the preaching of the gospel but also the name of Jesus of Nazareth and the declaration that He was the Son of God and the Christ who was to come. There in Thessalonica the affliction, the persecution and the suffering was so incredibly pervasive and strong that the brethren had to send Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. This is referenced in the second chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Thessalonica in verses seventeen through twenty. It is here within these verses the apostle Paul describes how they were taken away from them for a short time in presence although not in heart. Undoubtedly that which the apostle Paul was referring to when writing these words was when he and Silas were sent forth during the night by the brethren unto Berea because of the opposition and affliction of the Jews.
Oh there is something we must needs recognize when reading the words which are found in this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. Not only did the apostle Paul recount the affliction and suffering they experienced at Philippi but he also spoke of the affliction and suffering they experienced among them in Thessalonica as well. The apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy would indeed suffer persecution and affliction in Philippi and it would appear that suffering, that affliction and that opposition would find them in Thessalonica. What’s more is that if you read the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that even after the apostle Paul and Silas were sent forth by night unto Berea during the night and would preach the gospel in the synagogues the unbelieving Jews who were hard of heart and slow of hearing would follow them unto that place. Moreover it would be there in the midst of Bearea the unbelieving jews would stir up those in that place as well. Whereas the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy would indeed suffer and experience affliction, suffering and persecution in the midst of the city of Thessalonica it would not be that which followed them from Philippi. The trouble and conflict the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy had in Philippi would be its own trouble and affliction while what they experienced in Thessalonica would be entirely different. It would be in Thessalonica where the unbelieving Jews who were hard of heart and slow of hearing would raise themselves up against the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy in opposition and affliction as they would blaspheme themselves and would resist the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. It would be as a direct result of this opposition, this blasphemy and this resistance of the Jews the brethren in that place would send them forth from Thessalonica unto Berea by night in an attempt to spare their lives—much like the apostle Paul was lowered out of a window in a basket from the wall in Damascus and much like the apostle Paul was sent from Jerusalem unto Tarsus after the opposition of certain in that place who sought to kill and put him to death.
We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the apostle Paul would remind the Thessalonian saints how they were indeed taken away from them for a short time in their presence although not in heart. With this being said the apostle Paul also described how they endeavored more eagerly to see their face with great desire and wanted to come again unto them. Time and time again the apostle Paul desired to come unto them once more, however Satan hindered him from doing so. Being affectionately inclined and compassionate toward this congregation the apostle Paul would write this epistle unto them seeking to convey unto them truth which he had perhaps not been able to speak while among them as well as to remind them of those words which he spoke while he was there in the midst of the city. What’s more is that when you come to the third chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul writing and speaking of their no longer being able to endure the separation and distance between themselves and the saints which were in Thessalonica. As a direct result of this the apostle Paul and Silas thought it good to be left in Athens alone and sent Timothy their brother and minister of God and fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ to establish them and encourage them concerning their faith:
“Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you ourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5).
Pay attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we find the apostle Paul expressing his earnest and eager desire to return unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. When it became apparent the apostle Paul would not return unto this city nor unto these saints he would send Timothy unto them. Timothy you will notice in the writings of the apostle Paul was one who was not only a companion of his during his apostolic and missionary journey but was also a fellow laborer in the work of the kingdom and gospel. Even in this particular passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul referring to Timothy as their brother and minister of God as well as their fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ. What’s more is the sole purpose of Timothy’s coming in unto them once more was to establish them and to encourage them concerning their faith so that no one should be shaken by the afflictions experienced by the apostle Paul. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that when the Thessalonians received and heard the gospel preached unto them they heard it in much affliction. Luke clearly states and presents the reality that there in Thessalonica the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy would experience the resistance of the Jews who opposed themselves, blasphemed and even incited a mob in that place against them. The apostle Paul and those who were with him were referred to as those who turned the world upside down and had now come in unto them. It would be as a direct result of this they would incite a great number of individuals from the city against the apostle Paul and would even assault Jason and his house for his harboring the apostle Paul and his companions. Oh we dare not miss the importance of this for there is something to be said about hearing and receiving the word and gospel in much affliction and in the midst of suffering and persecution.
If there is one thing I absolutely love about the words which are found in the opening chapters of this epistle it’s the endurance and steadfastness of the saints which were in Thessalonica. Beginning almost immediately within this epistle the apostle Paul commends them for their endurance in the face of affliction, in the midst of persecution and in the midst of suffering. In the opening verses of the chapter the apostle Paul commends them from their work of faith, their labor of love and their patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of God and Father. This they did and this they would do knowing their election by God. The apostle Paul would continue writing in this epistle how they became followers of them and of the Lord having received the word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Spirit. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible truth which is found in the parable Jesus spoke concerning the sower and the seed which he would sow as he went forth to scatter and sow. The parable which Jesus delivered unto His disciples and unto the multitude which came unto Him would demonstrate the tremendous truth that the sower would go forth with a bag full of seed—undoubtedly the same seed and undoubtedly wheat—that he might scatter the seed upon the earth to produce a harvest. Within the parable Jesus spoke of some of the seed being sown and scattered upon the wayside and the birds and fowls of the air coming down and devouring it. Jesus also spoke of certain seed falling among the stony ground, however, because it did not have depth it would eventually wither die. Further Jesus spoke about other seed being sown among the tares and when both sprang forth the tares choked that which sprang up causing it to perish. Finally Jesus spoke of seed being sown and falling upon good ground and bringing forth much fruit—some thirty, some sixty and some an hundred fold. Consider if you will the following parable as well as the interpretation given by Jesus:
“On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But 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 sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:1-9).
“Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received the seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).
Perhaps one of the greatest truths that is found within the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Thessalonica is that they not only received the word in much affliction but that word produced and brought forth fruit among them. The very fact the apostle Paul is writing this epistle is a demonstration of the fact that although they heard and received the word in much affliction they were not deterred, dismayed, dissuaded nor even offended because of the suffering and persecution surrounding the word and name of the Lord Jesus. These dear saints received the word in much affliction and with joy of the Holy Spirit and brought forth a harvest of fruit that resulted in their work of faith, their labor of love and their patience of hope. The apostle Paul made it perfectly clear that one of the greatest testaments to their receiving the word—even in much affliction—is found in their being examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. Not only this but it would be from them the word sounded forth in Macedonia and Achaia and in every place. Moreover their faith toward God had gone out so that there is no need for the apostle Paul to say anything to commend them. What an absolutely incredible reality is found in this passage of Scripture and how their fruit would ultimately result in a powerful witness throughout Macedonia and Achaia—something we must needs recognize and acknowledge when speaking of the fruit that ought to be brought forth among us in this generation. It is one thing to receive the word in much affliction, however, it is something else entirely to receive the word in much affliction with joy in the Holy Ghost and to bear the fruit of witness and testimony in the earth. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding these saints who witnessed firsthand the cost of walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is they also witnessed firsthand the cost of preaching the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and how there a were, there are and there will always be those who vehemently oppose the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When you continue reading the words which are found in this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints of Thessalonica you will find in the second chapter the apostle Paul affirming his thanks before and unto God without ceasing for these saints. Beginning with the thirteenth verse of this chapter the apostle Paul emphatically declared his thanks to God for them without ceasing because when they received the word of God which they heard from them they welcomed it not as the word of men but as it was in truth the word of God. The apostle Paul would go on to write how these brethren became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus and how they suffered the same things from their own countrymen just as they did from the Judeans. Moreover the apostle Paul also spoke of the countrymen of their brethren in Judea who not only killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets but persecuted the apostles and the early church. These individuals do not please God and are contrary to all men forbidding them to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved so as to always fill up the measure of their sins. It’s quite interesting that the apostle Paul not only wrote of their experiencing affliction, trials, troubles and persecution among them but also how they themselves experienced and suffered persecution. If there is one thing we must needs understand when reading these words is another aspect and element of fruit present among these dear saints—namely that not only did they receive the word in much affliction, not only did they not grow offended, not only did they bear fruit but they were also able to withstand and stand in the midst of their own affliction(s) and suffering(s). There is something absolutely incredible about the words presented within this passage of Scripture for within it we find the apostle Paul describing how these dear saints were such who were able to stand and endure in the midst of great suffering and affliction which came upon themselves rather than the apostles alone.
PARABLE OF THE SOILS! As it pertains to the parable Jesus spoke concerning the parable of the seed, the sower and the fruit I have long referred to this parable as being one about the seed and the sower. Within this parable there is an emphasis on the individual who went forth sowing seed as he went despite not presenting us with where he scattered the seed nor even what type of seed he was sowing. Within this parable Jesus describes one man who scattered and sowed seed as he went and how each location where seed was scattered produced a different result. In all reality I am convinced that this parable is not so much a parable about seed nor even a parable about the sower but a parable about the soil into which the seed was sown. What’s interesting and worth noting is that it was undoubtedly the same seed that was sown in each of these different locations, however, because of the difference in soil the seed sown would have a different result. This is something which must needs be recognized and understood for it brings us face to face with the incredible reality that it is not so much about the seed that is sown nor even the one who does the sowing but about the soil into which the seed was sown. It is the soil and not the seed that determines the growth and the fruit and the harvest. Pause for a moment and let me repeat that statement: IT IS THE SOIL AND NOT THE SEED THAT DETERMINES GROWTH AND FRUIT! We must understand this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful reality of how the right soil can produced an abundance of fruit and a wonderful harvest. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the parable of the soils with the words which the apostle Paul wrote concerning the Thessalonian saints. Undoubtedly the seed of the word of God was sown among the hearts of the Thessalonians and even though that seed was sown and received in much affliction and opposition it would produce an abundance of fruit and a harvest.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found within the third chapter of this epistle. If you continue reading the words which are found you will find that Timothy not only came unto Thessalonica to strengthen and encourage these saints but he also came forth from them and brought the apostle Paul good news about their faith and love and that they always had good remembrance of them greatly desiring to see them. With this being said the apostle Paul would go on to describe how in all their affliction and distress they were comfort e concerning them by their faith. The apostle Paul would pray for these dear saints that the Lord might make them increase and abound in love to one another and to all so that He might establish their hearts blameless in holiness before the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming with all the saints. The apostle Paul was deeply concerned for this church knowing that he was not able to be present with them in the flesh desiring that they might be such who stood strong and steadfast in the midst of their afflictions, in the midst of their suffering and in the midst of their trials and troubles. It is absolutely incredible to read the words found within this passage of Scripture and consider how these saints were not deterred by the afflictions they heard of from the apostle Paul in Philippi nor even by the afflictions they witnessed the apostle Paul and his companions experiencing there among them in their midst. What’s more is that these saints were able to stand after hearing of their afflictions in Philippi, after witnessing their afflictions there in Thessalonica and after experiencing their own afflictions and trials during those days. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s the incredible importance for us to be able to stand in the midst of our suffering, in the midst of our affliction, in the midst of our trials and in the midst of our troubles. It is with this in mind I leave you with the words which the apostle Peter wrote in the fourth chapter of the first epistle written unto the saints which were scattered and suffering throughout the world:
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time had come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now, If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).