Sojourning Through Thessalonians Pt. 2

Sojourning Through Thessalonians Pt. 2

Study Guide, January 14, 2024

Pastor Clay Olsen

So, Thessalonica…Thessaloniki…different pronunciations, but with this city that we are talking about, it’s the same city that we have in the Bible and that is still in modern Greece today. And just how old is this city? It was founded in 315 BC by King Cassander of Macedonia. And he named it after his wife, Thessaloniki, who, by the way, was also the half-sister of Alexander the Great. It is now the second largest city in Greece with about one million people.

Okay, how about this? If we were to say “Et tu Brute” what would you think about? Right, that’s what Shakespeare wrote that Julius Caesar said to his friend Marcus Brutus on the Ides of March, March 15, 44 BC, when Julius Caesar was fatally attacked. Why do we bring that up? Because Julius Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian, who became Emperor Ceasar Augustus, was the same Emperor that ordered the census that caused Joseph and Mary to make the trip to Bethlehem to fulfill Micah’s 500-year-old prophecy…although Augustus didn’t realize he was being used to fulfill Messianic prophecy. But also, Augustus went to war against the followers of Mark Antony out of revenge against his father’s death. And guess who supported Augustus in his war? Right, the people of Thessalonica. And from then on, the Thessalonians and Rome were greatly committed to one another.

And why do we point that out? Because the Emperors claimed positions of deity and many of the Thessalonians worshipped them as such. In fact, the very coins that the Thessalonians used in everyday life had Julius Caesar, named ‘God’ on one side of the coin, and on the other side was Augustus, named ‘the Son of God’. And so into this Emperor worshipping culture came the Apostle Paul and Silas and Timothy with the Gospel, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And not only is Jesus, alone, the Son of God, but Jesus is also one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Triune God…and this God is the only God in existence!1 And that, of course, led to…well, let’s read it and see.

When we open the letter to the Thessalonians, we read this: 1 Thess 1:5-7- “For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you. So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia.” NLT

These Thessalonian believers were living in the midst of a godless government that was acting like it was God, and the people of their society were looking to the government like it was God as well. Why does that sound familiar? Right…so many in our own government have usurped the position of God alone, particularly in redefining morals…destroying Biblical morals and redefining truth…destroying Biblical truths as well. And so many of our society also look to those ungodly officials in our government as their source of what is moral and what is true…or looking to the government to reinforce the immorality and the falsehoods of their constituents.

How fascinatingly disappointing it is to realize that the sin nature of humanity just goes on and on, staying at least as depraved as it has always been through the centuries of time, but even getting worse, in degree, that is. Of course, we are in one of the times when immorality and falsehoods are at their highest in degree. So again, we have a lot in common with those Thessalonian believers in our common clash of cultures.

But before we examine this culture clash further, we need to finish our ‘trinity of ministry’ from our last study. For, as you remember, what became the mantra of the Thessalonian’s ministry and subsequent testimony was this: their ‘work of faith, their labor of love, and their steadfastness of hope.’ We were just getting to ‘their steadfastness of hope’ last time, so let’s get to it. Hope has been called the offspring of faith and love, or at least of that faith which works by love. Paul calls it “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,” because “in Him all the promises of God are yes and amen.” Biblical hope is particularly connected to the return of our Lord and His coming Kingdom. It is a settled understanding that for every child of God, the best is always yet to come…and it could come at any time…our Lord could come at any time.

And Biblical hope is a patient grace…a pulsating grace…like a constant heartbeat that calls for us to expect all that God has promised, however long we may have to wait for it; and to then go on in our daily duties of worship to God and service for others, as we seek to fulfil all that God has required of us, to the utmost possible extent.

The ‘hope’ of the New Testament is an enduring hope, which is able to suffer long…for as long as we are in this world of suffering, we are to clearly know and realize that those who desire to live godly will suffer, as Paul so clearly pointed out. But this hope, this Biblical hope, is a hope of assurance of final recompense, where God will make every wrong done to us become right unto us and rewarded for us. Every wrong done against you will be made right. Our God, who is Just, will make every offender give an account to Him and make it right by you for every offense they did not make right on their own. Justice delayed never means justice denied. Justice is coming along with Jesus’ coming. Everyone will give an account for any unsettled accounts of wrongs done against God’s children.

And, again, this hope is a hope that is steadfast. We could say this hope, this Biblical hope is one that ‘stands fast’. As the philosophies and the whims and the wants of the world around us flow back and forth like the waves and tides, the hope that is built upon the solid rock of Jesus and His word stands fast and firm…a stead-fast hope!

Truth does not change with fads and fashions. Morals do not change with preferences and practices. Faith, love, hope…and truth and morals all stand fast, because our God is immutable, unchangeable…He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the yes and amen! And each house, each human, is intended to build their house upon the Rock of the One who is – the one Way, the one Life, and the one Truth! And any other foundation is what? Sand! And it will crash and wash away.

You remember that, right? That every human is a house. And that house is either built upon the Rock of Christ and His Word or it’s built upon the sand of this world and the devil’s lies. Plus, remember that every human house that has made room for Jesus Christ and opened their door and asked Him in as their Lord and Savior has also become a ‘temple’, a temple of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. Whereas every human house where Christ has not been invited in as Lord and Savior remains a tomb, a tomb with a dead spirit. And that means every person that you know, every person that you see, every person everywhere and anywhere, is either ‘a temple’ or ‘a tomb’. They are a temple where the Spirit of Christ abides, or they are a tomb, whose spirit is still dead in trespasses and sin.

How strange that our culture full of so many human tombs is so caught up with their self-esteem and their self-image and their self-pride. For no matter what you do to fix up a tomb, to decorate, or to place trophies upon, or adorn a tomb…a tomb is still a tomb, whose resident is dead. Without a person inviting or receiving Christ into their lives and become born again and a temple of the Spirit of Christ, regardless of what that person thinks of themselves or what the world thinks of them, they are still a human tomb, and their spirit is dead in trespasses and sin…awaiting final sentencing and eternal separation from God.

The greatest crisis the world faces every day is the urgent need to make sure that have become ‘Born Again’ in their spirit. Jesus’ declaration to the whole world is: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 NASU Every person on Earth is in a daily crisis, with the urgent need to make sure that they have asked Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life and only Savior of mankind, to forgive their sin and come into their life and raise their dead spirit to life…life in union with Christ’s own eternal life. That is the only way that a human tomb can become a human temple of the Spirit of Christ.

And yet, here is something else that is also so very strange, that this eternal life message of Jesus, this Gospel of salvation for anyone and everyone who turns to God in repentance and trusts in Jesus Christ as their Savior, is yet so often met with such fierce resistance from not only the secular culture, but also from religious cultures. For example: When you are reading through the Book of Acts, you come to Acts 17 and you realize that you have walked right into Thessalonica, for Paul is describing one of the accounts where these new followers of Christ were attacked and harassed by the so-called ‘religious people’ of Thessalonica. How strange indeed!

We need to note something here, and not only note it, but be clear about it. And that is, we need to understand that although people are religious by nature, they still tend to resist or reject a relationship with God. And the reason they resist or reject a relationship with God is because they resist or reject repenting unto God… or turning to God from their own ways to serve the living and true God. Paul describes what Biblical repentance involves in his commendation to the these Thessalonian believers concerning their repentance. Notice: “For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thess 1:9-10 NASU

What a great description of what’s involved in Biblical repentance! For until a person has turned to God from their own thoughts and ways with the intention to serve the living and true God, they have not Biblically repented at all. God said exactly that through the Prophet Isaiah. The Book of Isaiah has often been called ‘The Fifth Gospel’ for how often it declares the way of salvation. Notice God’s words in Isa 55:6-7- “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him,and to our God, for He will freely pardon.” NIV Until a person comes to God, turning from his ways and his thoughts, with the intention of following God’s ways and God’s thoughts…God’s Word, that person has not repented toward God at all. Remember that the Apostle Paul said that everywhere he went he preached the same message of salvation…repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. Acts 20:21- “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” NIV

This is the great crisis in so-called ‘Christendom’ across the world. Many have a head belief about Jesus, but no heart repentance toward God. They have never come to God forsaking their ways and their thoughts and turned to God with the intention of following God’s ways and God’s thoughts, or His Words. They have believed in their head, but never in their heart, like Paul pointed out in Rom 10:8-10- “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” NIV To believe in your heart describes a repentant faith. Without a repentant faith there is still an unrepentant belief. And since our culture is so full of so-called Christians who only have an unrepentant belief about God, we have a culture filled with religious, yet worldly unrepentant people who have never turned to God from their idols to serve the living and true God, like these true believers of in Thessalonica. We have churches filled with head belief, but no heart repentance. They have beliefs about Jesus in their heads, but they have never repented in their heart toward God and trusted in Jesus to forgive their sin with the intention of following Him as their Lord.

Now, certainly the Bible does not call for people to become righteous before they come to God. Jesus did not come to save those who thought they were righteous, but to save those who knew they were sinners. Nor does the Bible call for people to become perfectly obedient in order to have assurance that they are saved, for that is not realistic nor is it possible anyway. But the Bible certainly does call for any who want to be saved, as Isaiah said, to, in repentance, be willing to turn from living by their thoughts and ways and turn and seek to live by God’s thoughts and ways. The Bible certainly does call for any who want to be saved, as the Apostle Paul said, to turn in repentance to follow God and trust by faith in Jesus to forgive and save them. Or, as these Thessalonians, to turn to God from whatever idol…whatever took God’s place before in their life, with the intention of worshipping and serving God with their life. To be saved by Jesus Christ, the Prophets and the Apostles call for us not to just believe things about Jesus in our head, but to believe in Jesus from our heart…to receive Jesus into our heart as our Savior with the intention of following Him as our Lord. And for any who do come to God in repentance and trust in Jesus as their Savior, Jesus promised to come into their life and give them eternal life in union with Him! And that’s what blesses and assures us and inspires us to worship and serve our living Lord, day by day!


  1. Ray Vander Laan, A Clash of Kingdoms, pp. 217, 218