Thessalonians - Glorification by Faith in Christ

By E. S. (Emanuel Sprankel) Young



I. The Model Church and Its Blessed Condition, 1:1-10

When Paul was at Troas, a voice came to him at night. A man of Macedonia was praying, saying, “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” Paul was obedient unto that vision and realized it was a call from the Lord to preach the Gospel in the country to which he is now invited. He went to Philippi, started a revival, and founded the first church in Europe. Because of persecution they were driven out of this place and came to Thessalonica, where Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures.

This was a city of commercial and political importance in the Apostolic age. It was a city of about 70,000 inhabitants and no doubt worse in many respects than any of our modern cities. The Gentiles were sunken into the very depths of sin and degradation and were making unto themselves man-made idols. The Jews, themselves, hated the very name of Christ, the Christ whom they had nailed to the cross. Is it any wonder that these disciples were driven out of the city when introducing a person whom the Jews had nailed to the cross, and holding Him up as their Savior? However, the Apostle comes into the city, after being beaten with many stripes and delivered from prison.

A missionary coming as Paul did would not be written up in the newspapers as a great revivalist and one coming in the interest of sanitation and community betterment. He went into Thessalonica with but one mission, and we learn that for three days he reasoned with these people out of the Word of God. The Apostle had no bands of music or church choir. He could not make any sensational announcements such as many use in this day to draw crowds. None of the modern tricks or contrivances were used. How was it possible for him to present this truth and organize a Church when remaining but three Sabbath days in the city?

The Prophet Isaiah says, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth. It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please and it shall prosper unto the day whereto I send it.” The Word of God is living and powerful. It has as much life and power as it ever had. The need of this age is men and women who have not lost faith in this living and powerful Word of God and will do as Paul did, “reason out of the Scriptures.”

It is well for us to ascertain the secret which produced this Model Church by a prayerful and careful study of the letters sent to it which will help us to establish Churches full of faith. We do not believe that the Apostle reasoned away any part of the Scriptures. He did not need to argue about inspiration because he himself believed in it. He believed in the authority of the Word of God and, therefore, that was settled in his mind. He believed in the crucified Christ, in the resurrected Christ, in the ascended Christ, in the interceding Christ, in the coming Christ, and in making this Christ King of Kings and Lord of Lords.


Ver. 1. Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace.

Paul and his associates mentioned here were the instruments God used in bringing the Gospel to this city. The author did not speak of himself as an Apostle of God as he did in nine of his other Epistles. In Romans and Titus he calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ and of God. He used his Apostolic title in the strongest way possible when he addressed the Church of Galatia and of Corinth because they were troubled with false teachers who tried to set aside the Apostle as a teacher of authority. This difficulty did not exist in Thessalonica and therefore, he did not need to call their remembrance to his apostolic office. In the other Epistles he did not defend this title to call attention to himself, but because he was assailed by false teachers.

The Apostle had religious companions who could be trusted, Timothy was instructed in the Scriptures from his youth. The _ faith he enjoyed was transmitted from his grandmother and mother, and so the faith enjoyed by Timothy came from those who were obedient unto the Word of God. The Apostle had chosen Silas, one of the Jewish Christians who, like Stephen, had, from the beginning, an unbiased mind concerning Jewish and Gentile converts, This large-heartedness and love was very hard to find in that early transition period from Judaism and legalism to that of freedom in Christ through faith. It was during the second missionary journey that the Apostle is at Thessalonica with his associates. Both of these are in work and suffering with Paul, before magistrates, in stripes, in prison, in prayer, in miraculous deliverance, in flight (Acts. 16:19-25, 29; Acts, 17:4, 10, 14; Acts, 18:5). Therefore these two disciples appear in the introduction of the second Epistle to the Thessalonians. Although three very prominent men as leaders, they are united in the advancement of the work of Christ, and so these Epistles are introduced “by the mouth of two or three witnesses,” which was necessary to establish the Word of God.

The Apostle directed this letter to the Church and he includes himself and these other associates with this Church, not mentioning himself as one called an Apostle. He writes to the Church officials but also to the Church and (5:27) he, in a more solemn manner, requires that all the brethren should read this Epistle, teaching that some authority had gone forth to deny the reading of the Scriptures to the laity, and this is certainly contrary to the instruction given by the Apostle Paul as the author of this letter. The Church is looked upon as the family of God and the child of God.

Can we appreciate the transformation that had taken place in these Thessalonians? They believed the Gospel of God. They were born again and now were enjoying the blessed relationship of God as Father. The Apostle nowhere has given us any other method of getting into the family of God than by the way these brethren had been admitted. We become sons of God by being perfectly related to Jesus Christ, and when we are sons then there is earnest expectation of the creation waiting for such manifestation of the sons of God (Romans 8:19). The Apostle John in writing of this holy family of God says, “I write unto you little children, because you have known the Father” (1 John 2:13). When Paul was writing this letter there was a Model Church. A Church is a miracle of God for which the Apostle gives glory and thanks.

Ver. 2. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.

The Apostle introduces this verse with the pronoun “we,” including Silvanus and Timothy with him in this thanksgiving. All of Paul's Epistles, with one exception, commence with an expression of thanksgiving.

Ver. 3. Remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father.

Paul with his companions is at Corinth and he means to say to these people, “When we pray for you at Thessalonica.” The Apostle's form of prayer for these young converts takes the form of thanksgiving. Paul had something on which to rest his faith and, therefore, it is expressed in thanksgiving to God. Paul knows that these Thessalonians who have come out of sin and death, took their stand in the face of tremendous opposition with Christ; that they are among the chosen elected ones. He remembers very vividly the work that was accomplished through faith. Paul is mindful of three fundamental elements of life—faith, love, hope (5:8; 1 Cor. 13:13; Col. 1:4-5). The work which is the product of faith is the turning from Judaism to Christ. The labor of love was in change of service, and in serving the living and true God (Ver. 9). The patience of hope was in waiting for God's Son from Heaven (Ver. 10).

Here, at the very opening of this letter, the Apostle calls specific attention to works of faith, labor of love, patience in endurance, that the blessed hope of the Christian might be fully realized. Faith lays hold of the fact begun in our redemption and is the foundation of Christian life. The element of Divine love in the heart of man is the power opposing selfishness. The hope knows that the future belongs to the Lord, and His Church. It is the expectation and the soul's prospect that all will finally be complete in God.

Paul rejoices here, first of all, in the vigor of their life and faith, in that they have not yet become vain, and then in the fact that during this difficult period, the Thessalonian Church members were exposed to manifold vexations, but were held together in mutual love and continued with laborious efforts and sacrifice to help one another. Hope is a great incentive to action. One can more easily bear the present sufferings with prospects of glory ahead. In the early Christian Church the blessed hope was so developed that the Apostle Paul says, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed unto us” (Rom. 8:18). This blessed hope increases a person's Spiritual capital. The Christian has his wealth laid up “where moth and rust doth not corrupt and thieves cannot break through and steal.” This holds him steady under all circumstances to endure any kind of suffering because it develops this patience and confirms his hope. All this takes place in the presence of God our Father. God's eye that never sleeps, sees His Own Church that is being built by His Son. This shows God's interest in all the redeemed ones. Be of good cheer to suffer in the presence of God.

Ver. 4. Knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election.

Paul had called our attention to the fact that God is watching over us and sees us in our struggles and battles for the right. He here says, “Knowing, brethren beloved.” He knew of their work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope and now he says, “Know that thou are elected (chosen).” They are permitted to regard themselves as objects of special favor of God's power. They themselves knew that their Christianity was no dream or vapor, but the evidence of the everlasting purpose of God's Own Love. These are members of the Body of Christ. Christ was called before the foundation of the world and these were elected in Him when he was called to be the Head of the Church. These converts, whether Jews or Gentiles, in the Thessalonian Church were chosen or elected by God from among their heathen countrymen to become members of the Body of Christ.


  • Where was Paul when he wrote this letter?

  • Who was with Paul in the writing?

  • Explain meaning of grace and peace.

  • Give the reason for Paul giving thanks.

  • What persecution had to be endured by the Thessalonians at the time of the writing of this Epistle?


The Apostle with his associates had given thanks unto God for this Church, encouraging these members by telling them that God, to whom they belong, is looking down upon them. They are among the chosen and elect of God. He now makes. mention of the Gospel of God and what it had wrought among them.

Ver. 5. How that our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance (fulness); even as ye know what manner of men we showed ourselves toward you for your sake.

These three brethren had preached in Thessalonica, the good news of the Gospel, that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ would deliver them from sin and clothe them with a righteousness not their own. This Gospel not only came to them through the utterance of words, but it came in demonstrations and power. It had its effect upon the soul and quickened them so that through God's own power they passed out of sin into life. It was not done as it is now, by simply teaching and reasoning, unaccompanied by the leading of the Spirit. These preachers believed in regeneration, and insisted on a change of heart and life and brought the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation. We have a difference in Thessalonica between those who are members of the Church and those who are still in the world, as marked as the difference between the present state of these Christians and their former sinful life. This marvelous manifestation could not be denied, as they had the experience in their hearts and the Thessalonians were ready to testify that this Gospel was the power of God unto their salvation.

The Gospel was not only preached and accompanied -with power of the Holy Spirit but it was accompanied with much assurance. This gives us to understand that the man that is renewed through the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ knows it and has no doubt in his heart. When conversion comes through the power of the Word and quickening of the Holy Spirit, we have the full assurance, not only that the Gospel is true, but that we have received redemption of our sins and have become changed from death to life.

The Apostle here calls attention to what God has wrought through them as ministers of the Gospel. They were living witnesses of this power of the Word and Holy Spirit. Their holy walk, their self denial, their suffering, helped them to realize that they were servants of the true and living God. They did not go down from Phillippi unto Thessalonica because the field appealed to them from the material or financial standpoint. They left Philippi with bleeding and sore backs, just because they were true to the incarnate Lord. They traveled about one hundred miles and came to this large and wicked city of Thessalonica where God wrought such wondrous things through their faithfulness to the Gospel. It is no doubt that the experiences at Philippi were still vivid in their memories because of the sufferings from the lashes that were laid upon them.

The Apostle has, in different places, emphasized this, saying, “Ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.” “For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you was not in vain.” When a missionary enters a city as Paul and his associates did, God has an opportunity to manifest His power, when His Word is preached by those who have conviction and show it through suffering as these did.

Ver. 6. And ye became imitators (followers) of us and of the Lord, having received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.

These were messengers who followed closely the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Thessalonians became imitators of them, and thus imitators of the Lord. These Thessalonians believed the same truth, walked in the same way and minded the same things because they became followers of the preachers of the Gospel and the Lord. They believed and experienced that the doctrine was of the Lord. This is the second reason sounded by the Apostle for his confidence in their election. They became imitators of those who founded the Church. They became imitators of Christ. It was this imitation of their joyful endurance of suffering that caused the Apostle to give thanks. They not only received the Word, but they received it with much affliction. We learn much about these in the study of the Acts of the Apostles. There was a large settlement of unbelieving Jews who stirred up the Gentiles and brought persecution against Paul and his associates (Acts 17:7-10). It became necessary for them to depart from Thessalonica. Even after Paul had left, the persecution was continued and perhaps increased. Gentiles united with the unbelieving Jews against the Christians, and caused the converts to suffer from Gentile influence as well as from the Jews.

In such a city, with such opposition against uniting with the Lord Jesus Christ, conversion was an act of personal courage calling for self-denial because through it a man might lose comfort, honor, and power among his countrymen, and even life itself. However, there is comfort in this gain. There is joy in the Holy Ghost. It is the joy that comes by being true to our guide who leads us into these great things of God for the heart to rest upon, that makes it possible to endure any kind of suffering. Spiritual joy does not exclude, but even includes sorrow.

Ver. 7. So that ye became an ensample to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia.

These Thessalonian brethren were a pattern to all others. It would be well to still hold them up as a pattern even in this age of civilization and opportunities. The true followers became themselves in turn, patterns for others. This was a model Church and these are model Christians. The follower of Christ is an example unto others and others may become disciples through him. If you do not feel strong enough to be a pattern unto others, it might be well to go back to the A-B-C book, the Book of Romans, and learn the lessons there presented by the Holy Spirit; or study Paul's conversion, his vision of the Lord on the way to Damascus, his intense interest in preaching the Gospel of the Lord. These may help you to become a pattern such as the Holy Spirit could use to bring people unto Christ. Paul was willing to go even to his death in order to be true to the teaching of the Word of God. He could sing at the midnight hour, or go with his ~ back sore with stripes to open up a further work for the Lord. Such a missionary these Thessalonians had as a pattern, and so they became a pattern unto others until their faith was spread about through all Macedonia and Achaia.

The Gospel was thus carried through Northern and Southern Greece like the sound of a trumpet. These two divisions of Greece included all the Roman empire, and they received the Gospel as a joyful sound proclaimed with no uncertainty of liberty to the captives. This work of grace quickly reached to other places and churches already in existence were stirred and stimulated by the visible work of grace at Thessalonica. The Church needs to study and come in possession of these great truths in this church letter in order to be set on fire for greater missionary activities in this modern age.


  • What was a token of the righteous judgment of God?

  • What makes us worthy?

  • What was a righteous thing with God?


There was no need of saying anything to others about these Thessalonian Christians. We do not hear him call attention to the genuineness of their conversion. These Thessalonian believers gave such a strong and full testimony that it was wholly unnecessary for the writer to say anything about them.

Ver. 8. For from you hath sounded forth the Word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth; so that we need not to speak anything.

Thessalonica was very conveniently situated for traffic. Many persons traveled out from this point through Macedonia into different parts of Greece. The Gospel had made its influence felt far and wide through a number of persons of Thessalonica just because of the genuineness and absence of doubt concerning the power of God and His Word. The Word of God had its own way in the hearts of these people and was so powerful there that it produced a movement so lively and loud that the sound thereof was like that of a trumpet. The people have heard it everywhere, for the sound went out until all the earth heard their words unto the end of the world. This was not only true in Macedonia and Achaia. The faith of these Thessalonians was spread abroad into every place. Their joyful acceptance of the Gospel has excited universal attention.

We are emphasizing in this Epistle that this was a missionary Church, because the Church members had the Gospel of God in the heart. Moses said, unto the children of Israel, “Let this Word be in thine heart.” The only persons whom the inspired writer recognizes as competent teachers of the “Word are the ones who have the Word in the heart. Only those can teach it diligently who have made this Word their own. That is what makes a missionary. Missionaries are not made by any other method than by knowing the Word of God as these missionaries knew it. The Apostle Paul says, “So that we need not speak of anything. Your faith is already so well known and applauded that there is no further need of testimony.” Their testimony is presented in the next verse.

Ver. 9. For they themselves report concerning us what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned unto God from idols to serve a living and true God.

“Entering.” He evidently refers not to the outward entrance and preaching of the Gospel unto the Thessalonians, but the eternal entrance of the Gospel from the Lord into their hearts. It also means the confidence and degree of reception. The Apostle frequently refers to this entrance which seems to be the reason for reception of the Gospel. If missionaries would enter as Paul and his associates did, people would believe that they were in possession of something that is needed because of conviction. Think of preaching the Gospel and making people turn unto a living God in a city, influenced with making and worshipping idols; coming out in the open to be criticized, persecuted and even put to death.

The Thessalonian Church was chiefly composed of Gentile converts who were no longer serving idols but the true and living God. In this they are manifesting their genuineness of conversion and other characteristics of the Christian believer. They had a living God instead of dead idols. They had turned from these man-made idols unto the living and true God.

Ver. 10. And to wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come.

This is the patience of hope mentioned in Ver. 3. The Apostle defines the life of these converts in the second chapter. They are the servants of God waiting for the return of His Son from Heaven. These Thessalonians were waiting for the Son, now seated at the right hand of God. God, by His miraculous power, brought Christ from the grave, and because Christ came from the grave as a living Saviour, we who have believed in the cross, in this risen glorified Christ, are also now delivered from the God of wrath.

Christ, the Son of God, has ascended unto the right hand of the Father. He is now building His Church. He is making intercession for us who are members of His Body. In this model Church the believers had no doubt as to their deliverance as taught in the Book of Romans. They were imitators of Paul and his associates and of the Lord. They believed in the mystery, the forming of the Body of Christ in this age. This Church believed in the return of the Lord Jesus, and they believed in the imminent coming of Christ at any time. This~ book of glorification is full of teaching on the Lord's return. This great blessed hope was kept continually upon their minds. It was that which steadied the Early Church in the days of suffering and martyrdom. They were instructed to watch and pray, that the Lord Jesus might return from Heaven at any time. This same hope, held by this model Church, was needed in every period of this age of grace, that suffering and persecution might be endured and through it, preparation made for the Lord's coming.

The Christian expects a future state of glory. The follower of Christ is promised a glorified body. Christ was raised from the dead and in the public inauguration of His Divine Sonship, because God raised Him from the dead, we all believe in the resurrection of the body of those who are His. We have been delivered from sin and death through Christ and we are made complete through the redemption of our bodies.


  • Who is to be present and enjoy the revelation of Jesus?

  • Who will be with Him in His coming judgment?

  • Who will He take vengeance upon when He comes?

  • What is the duration of punishment and what is the duration of joy?

  • What punishment is described for the wicked?

  • In whom will Christ be glorified?