The two letters to the Thessalonians teach us much about the second coming of Christ. Yet they also teach us much about the Word of God. Of course, without the Bible we would not know anything about the second coming!
If these two letters were written early in the life of young church as the academics suggest (around 20 years after Pentecost), then it is no surprise to see the emphasis on the Word. The Word, the Name and the Spirit are consistent themes in the narrative of the books of Acts.
Paul first gives his summary of the teaching the Thessalonians received. “Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (I Thessalonians 1:5). There is an “undeniable authenticity and authority of those preaching the gospel,” one commentator wrote. When God’s Word is preached, the preacher has to be aware of “[its own inherent] power and in the Holy Spirit and with great conviction and absolute certainty [on our part]” (AMP).
There is plenty of preaching that is dry and formal. I cringe when I think of my early sermons! The story is told of a preacher’s son who went with him on one occasion when he was a guest preacher. In the car on the way home the father asked him what he thought about the sermon. He replied, “It was a re-bore!” “For though they keep up a form of religion, they will have nothing to do with it as a force” (II Timothy 3:5 Moffatt). Compare this with Jesus teaching at Capernaum in Luke 4, “And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority… What a word is this!” (Luke 4:32,36 NKJV).
Once I became a minister, in the churches and denominations in which I have been involved the Word has always been central, the most important part of the service. Nowadays, as one speaker put it, they have 45 minutes of music, 15 minutes of announcements, and 15 minutes for a sermonette, plus a mid-week home “Bible study” twice a month! It’s time to get “Back to the Bible!”
Timothy was commanded to “preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching…” (II Timothy 4:2-3 ESV). That time has come!
“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1:6). “Imitators” or “followers” (KJV) is the key word here, both of the lives of the preachers and of the Lord. Charles Colton wrote in 1820, “Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery.” That may apply in our culture, but to Christians it is most helpful to have men and women of great faith to look up to and to be our silent mentors, knowing they got to that place by believing in the integrity of God’s Word just like we can and have to do.
“So that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1:6). First an imitator and then an example to other believers. “Example” is from the Greek word for “type,” an impression made by a blow, something than can be reproduced exactly the same every time, just like the letters on this page. This is very similar to what Paul wrote in Philippians 3:17, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (ESV). And notice that these Thessalonian believers, in a church probably only about six months old, were examples to a vast area covering two provinces!
“For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything [more]” (1:8). “Sounded forth” or “resounded” is from the Greek root word “to echo,” which the English language has borrowed. Imitators, examples, and echoes! What Paul had taught them, they talked about and saw the same results in others. People who heard the Word from them saw their “undeniable authenticity and authority” and their application of the faith of God. This is the true, reproducible Christian life.
Jesus taught his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). “You are the light of the world” (5:14). “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (5:16). — Peter Wade.
Pass it on, the invitation, Pass along the Word of God,
Until every tribe and nation Shall have heard of Christ the Lord.
— M. Fraser (Alexander’s Hymns).