Introduction: Faithfulness Greater Than Success
God makes it abundantly clear throughout Scripture that He cares more about faithfulness than success. In other words, He wants His church to be steadfast and faithful instead of “successful” in the worldly sense (cf. Revelation 3:7-13). God doesn’t expect a local church to have thousands of members or thousands of dollars in the bank. What He expects is for all true churches to remain true to Him, His people, His word, and His mission. The body of believers at Thessalonica were a faithful church, as Paul makes apparent in every verse of this letter.
Therefore, Paul appropriately begins this letter explaining the three necessary components all churches must have in order to be faithful. What a faithful church needs are (1) faithful leaders, (2) faithful people, and (3) a faithful God.
Historical Background of First Thessalonians
Through Paul’s ministry, the Lord converted souls and established a vibrant church in the busy city of Thessalonica (cf. Acts 17:1-15). But why did Paul write to them? At this point in time, Paul was separated from them due to a “hindrance” of Satan (1 Thess. 2:18). Therefore, he sent Timothy to check on them. Timothy brought back an encouraging report (1 Thess. 3:6-7), and Paul wrote in response to it.
I. A FAITHFUL CHURCH NEEDS FAITHFUL LEADERS (V. 1A)
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.”
The church of Thessalonica was faithful partly because of her three faithful leaders:
- Paul, the apostle. Paul founded the Thessalonian church, and he loved them dearly. Paul would have taught theology and sound doctrine, thus giving the Thessalonians a study foundation of truth. They would need biblical truth in order to live faithfully; all churches do.
- Silas, the missionary. Silas (or Silvanus), an outspoken leader of the Jerusalem church and missionary companion of Paul (Acts 15:22; 40-41), was left in Thessalonica to minister to this young church after Paul’s departure. And, while Paul provided the Thessalonians with a solid foundation in truth, Silas would have instilled in them a passion for evangelism as he modeled missionary zeal. All churches need leaders like Paul to instruct, as well as leaders like Silas to imitate.
- Timothy, the young minister. Timothy, Paul’s youthful ministry pupil, also stayed behind with Silas to nurture the Thessalonian church in his absence (Acts 17:14). Timothy could uniquely minister to the Thessalonians because of his young age. God used him despite having little experience or elderly wisdom. All churches can benefit greatly from raising up young leaders to love and learn from.
The Point: A faithful church needs pastors, elders, deacons, and other leaders to instruct in doctrine and live exemplary lives of godliness. Certainly, a church can have the best leaders and still remain unfaithful. Remember, the plagued and sinful churches of Corinth were led by the apostle Paul himself! There can be faithful leaders without faithful churches, but there can be no faithful churches without faithful leaders. Therefore, pray for your leaders, hold them to biblical standards, and honor them with support (Gal. 6:6-10; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; 5:17).
II. A FAITHFUL CHURCH NEEDS FAITHFUL PEOPLE (V. 1B)
“To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- The church of Thessalonica was faithful because their members were saved by grace and serious about graceful living.
- Living faithfully is impossible if you are not “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” If you are unsaved and out of spiritual union with God, you cannot walk in obedience. The Thessalonians were indisputably converted. Therefore, they possessed the passion and power to live faithfully, as all true Christians do.
- As you read and study First Thessalonians, you can see just how faithful they were (which we shall see in future sermons).
The Point: A faithful church needs faithful members who will pray fervently, evangelize urgently, give sacrificially, learn eagerly, love unconditionally, and live faithfully by God’s grace in Christ. Faithfulness must come from both the pulpit and the pew.
III. A FAITHFUL CHURCH NEEDS A FAITHFUL GOD (V. 1C)
“Grace to you and peace.”
- The Thessalonian church was unmistakably strong and faithful because of her faithful leaders and faithful people, but they were nothing without the grace and power of a faithful God. No matter how great their leaders or how gracious their people, they could not live faithfully for even a nanosecond without the empowering grace of God.
- Paul wishes them such grace from God, as well as peace. All believers need both in order to be faithful people.
- Grace. You received saving grace at salvation, but you need sanctifying grace for service (cf. 2 Cor. 9:8). If we wish to be faithful believers, we must depend wholly upon God’s strengthening grace. Relying on the grace of God, you can stand strong; relying on anything else ensures a dangerous fall.
- Peace. Believers possess peace with God, peace with others, and inward peace within the heart (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:11-22; Phil. 4:4-7). But we must continually plead for and pursue such peace because living faithfully is not always peaceful. Faithful living always causes conflict with those living unfaithfully. It requires that we make sacrifices, too.
The Point: Without grace and peace from a faithful God, we cannot be faithful members of the Lord’s church.
Every church should want to be faithful. But faithfulness cannot be ordered from Amazon and delivered in two days. Faithfulness must be sought after. Therefore, for a church to be faithful it must have faithful leaders, faithful members, and the grace and peace which comes abundantly from Almighty God.