A Strong Church
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4
1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure.
In His letters to the Churches in the book of Revelation, Jesus addressed the condition of 7 churches in Asia Minor. He pointed out some of the good characteristics that these churches possessed, but He also addressed several issues in these churches that needed attention.
He told the Church at Ephesus that they had “left their first love”. He revealed that the Church at Sardis “had a reputation that they were alive, but they were dead”. Jesus did not just diagnose their sickness; He gave them a prescription that would cure their illness. He told Ephesus to “Remember from where they had fallen, and repent, and do the first works”. And He told Sardis to “Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain” and to He called on them to "repent.”
We have a great example of a strong church in our selected text. The Church at Thessalonica was not a perfect church, but it was a strong church. This was a church that brought Paul much joy. In fact, in his first letter to them he said that they were a great “example” to the other churches. I would like to look to the example that they set and examine the “A Strong Church”.
Background of the epistle:
Paul had received a report that false teachers had been misleading the Thessalonian believers. They had gone as far as to forge letters to make them look as if they had been sent by Paul himself. These false teachers declared that the Day of the Lord had already come. Obviously, this caused great fear among this assembly of young Christians. In this Epistle, Paul seeks to comfort them and further explain "The Day Of The Lord".
2 Thessalonians is a book that is both prophetic and practical. In the first few verses we see certain characteristics that this church possessed that indicate that they were a strong church.
There is much that we can learn about being a strong church when we study this letter. Notice if you will:
I. THE RELATIONSHIPS IN A STRONG CHURCH
Churches are made up of people. Some are in involved in leadership, some carry different ministries, but all are important to the church. There are a couple of things I would like to see about the relationships in a strong church. Notice that:
A. THE PEOPLE IN A STRONG CHURCH WILL BE CLOSE TO ONE ANOTHER
v1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians.
Silvanus is better known as "Silas" and Timotheus is "Timothy". Acts 17 tells us that these men were associates of Paul and they helped him establish and care for the church at Thessalonica. Silas and Timothy also contributed to Paul's first letter to this church. In the past, Paul had sent Timothy to comfort the Thessalonians believers. He says in I Thessalonians 3:2 that he sent Timothy "to establish them, and to comfort them concerning their faith". Paul founded this church on his second missionary journey. He was not able to stay there long because he was forced out by the enemies of Christ. Though he was not present with them, Paul cared for them greatly. He had heard good reports concerning this church and he sought to help them grow stronger. He loved them and they certainly loved him.
One of the reasons that the early church thrived was the love and unity that they possessed.
46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added [a]to the church daily those who were being saved.
Unity helps promote the Gospel. Unity will bring growth in the church. Discord brings division. Discord harms the cause of Christ. We are joined together by the common bond of Jesus. When God's people join together, love should be apparent and abundant. The leaders should love the people and the people should love the leaders.
A church will never be what God would have them to be if there is not love. Love leads people to Jesus and discord pushes them away. The people in a strong church will be close to each other, and…
B. THE PEOPLE IN A STRONG CHURCH WILL BE CLOSE TO THE LORD.
This is vitally important... we will never be close to one another if we are not close to the Lord. In verse 1 Paul speaks of the Thessalonian's "faith in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ".
This was a young church, filled with recent converts but they were a strong church, the reason is that they were built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. Paul states that this group of believers was "in Christ". They were born again believers living for and focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, they were anticipating His imminent return. We too, must have at the same mindset.
Christ is the foundation that we must build upon as individuals and as a church…
1 Corinthians 3:11
11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Many churches have large crowds, big buildings, huge membership. Their buildings may be full, but are they strong? Do they all really know each other? How much unity do they really have if they don’t know each member? Someone once said that "some big churches are not healthy they are just fat." Somewhere along the way many churches have lost sight of their purpose, they have taken their eyes off of Jesus.
If you take Jesus out of the equation or if you allow Him to become crowded out, you have a civic organization, you do not have a church. If you seek a strong church, look for a church that is Christ centered. If Christ is not the focus... get out as fast as you can!
Let's move on to verse 3 and consider:
II. THE GROWTH IN A STRONG CHURCH…
2 Thessalonians 1:3
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other,
Most of the time when you hear the words "church" and "growth" together in a sentence, it is referring to numbers. For some reason we have been trained to believe that budgets, baptisms, and buildings are guaranteed indicators of a strong healthy church. Without a doubt, some strong churches will see an increase in their budget and their baptisms, and there may be a need to build bigger buildings.
However, these are not the proper metrics to measure a church's success. There are many churches that have not seen a net increase in membership over the last year, but they are growing stronger. They may not be growing numerically, but they are growing spiritually. Spiritual growth is eternal growth.
The church at Thessalonica was growing spiritually.
Notice that: A. THEIR FAITH WAS GROWING - v3b “because your faith grows exceedingly”, To "grow exceedingly" means “to grow beyond measure, far beyond what is expected.” I don't think that Paul was surprised that they had grown in the Lord. But the level of their progress far exceeded his expectations.
I love to see the church grow. I get excited when people move into the community and choose to worship with us. I am thrilled when we see people come to faith in Christ, follow through with Baptism and then join the church. But my greatest joy comes in seeing Christians young and old growing and maturing in their faith. I want to see our brothers and sisters come to a greater understanding God's Word. When people better understand God's Word it is manifested in their obedience to God.
The Thessalonians faith was growing, and verse 3 also tells us that:
B. THEIR LOVE WAS GROWING - v3c “and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other”. The Thessalonian believers possessed an abundant, ever increasing love for one another. Christian love is more than an admirable trait, it is commanded by Jesus Christ. Jesus said in…
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Last Sunday’s message was about the greatest commandments. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ [a]This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
In these 3 verses He summed up all the commandments. One speaks of our love for God and the other speaks of our love for each other. The believers at Thessalonica were following these commands. Their faith was increasing, this speaks of their love for God. And their love was increasing, which speaks of their love for one another. They were doing their part to honor and obey the great command.
A strong church in 2019 will do the same. Our church should have an ever-increasing love for God. And our love for one another should increase as well. If not, then don’t be surprised if one day God steps in and takes what belongs to Him.
When a church possesses the love of Christ, it will not go unnoticed. Consider if you will:
III. THE INFLUENCE OF A STRONG CHURCH:
2 Thessalonians 1:4
so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure.
This young church had endured much persecution in their short existence. Through it all they were steadfast in their faith. Because of this, they were a great influence to others. In…
1 Thessalonians 1:7
so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.
The Thessalonian church was one that could be pointed to, as an example of how things should be done. In fact, that is what Paul had been doing. He states that he had "boasted" of the love and faith of the Thessalonians to other churches.
These were people who had forsaken manmade idols and turned to the one true Living god. Once they turned to Jesus, they were enthusiastic about sharing Him with everyone that they encountered. Another great characteristic of this church was how they anticipated the imminent return of Jesus. They were looking ahead in faith, to the fulfillment of Christ’s promised return.
In the same way, we should look and long for that day when our Savior returns for us. We are not to stand gazing into the clouds, but we are to anticipate His return. Chances are good that when we do this, persecution will come. Our Enemy does not want the church to be strong, healthy and vibrant. He wants to tear it down... he seeks to steal, kill and destroy. This is why we must comprehend… “v4 patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure”
Paul says that their faith brought them great suffering and affliction. The bible warns us that "all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution". We may face persecution as individuals. We also may face persecution as an assembly of believers. Sooner or later there will be an attack from without or an attack from within. Especially if we seek to have an impact on the Kingdom. When this occurs, we must resolve to remain faithful.
The Thessalonians were attacked, but they were steadfast. This leads us to one final characteristic of a strong church that I would like to consider. Notice: THE ENDURANCE OF A STRONG CHURCH:
“for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure”.
The Thessalonian believers had suffered much persecution. They faced opposition from the Jews and from their own countrymen. But they were steadfast in their faith in Christ. These faithful believers trusted in the power of God. They resisted Satan and his attacks.
They endured all of the persecution that they faced. Paul said that they were an example to other churches back then, and they remain, and they are an example for us today. They show us certain characteristics that will be found in a strong church.
I don't know what the future holds for the Fil-Am Baptist Mission Church, but I know that if we seek to advance the Kingdom of God opposition will come. When it does, I pray that we trust in Christ and stand firm no matter what the Enemy throws our way. The attack on the church should not come from within.
We are able to press on with great assurance because of the promise Jesus made in…
(Matthew 16:18) “Jesus said…I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Let us continue to follow the greatest commandments and see this church make it to the finish line.
Pastor Richard Santos
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