1 Thessalonians 1:7 – …so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
Importantly, Paul’s first line of 1 Thessalonians reveals he is writing to “the church”. The original Greek word “ekklēsia” is the most common word used to refer to the Christian community of believers. A Bible commentary says, “In the NT, the word ekklēsia, which can refer to a “gathering” or assembly of people, is used specifically to refer to the community of Jesus’ followers.” (1)
Christians are supposed to be in a local church relationally connected to one another and under Bible teaching to grow in their faith and lovingly support one another. The New Testament knows nothing about Lone Ranger Christianity and, before sin entered the world, the only thing God said was not good was for us to be alone.
This reality has become obvious since the COVID season in which many churches closed and people isolated at home, having ever since struggled with depression and mental health. God’s people need each other, especially when the culture is against them, as was the case in the days of 1 Thessalonians, as well as our own day.
The new Christians had suffered for their faith with joy and remained fully devoted to the Lord and the Scriptures as they “received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” Paul also tells us they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
Idols are part of powerful counterfeit demonic spirits, often including sin of every kind, especially sexual, which Paul speaks of in both of his letters to the church at Thessalonica. The new Christians were surrounded by the seduction of idolatry by the same spirits at work in our day in everything from entertainment to politics and government.
As one Bible commentator says, “A variety of pagan deities were worshiped in Thessalonica. Archaeologists have discovered a temple dedicated to the Egyptian god Serapis [or Osiris the god of sexual fertility and the realm of the dead], where a board of some fourteen priests ensured that the rites of the Nile were performed diligently. Inscriptions unearthed from this temple indicate that the Egyptian goddess Isis, who is associated with culture and mysteries, was also worshiped here. Epigraphic evidence reveals that Dionysus, the god of wine and joy, was among the more influential religious cults in Thessalonica. The patron god of the city, however, was Cabirus…Other gods worshiped in Thessalonica included Aphrodite [goddess of sex], Demeter [sensual goddess of fertility and happiness], Zeus [supreme god of the environment], and Asclepius [the god of healing willing to save your body to damn your soul].” (2)
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Our world today worships the same gods in different forms including the gods of sex, convenience, money, power, and pleasure, among others. In the same way Paul wanted to strengthen the believers at Thessalonica, it’s my hope, prayer, and goal that this study of 1 Thessalonians encourages and builds up your faith in the One True God.
Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 and make note of what is said about God and about you as a believer in Jesus Christ.
- Derek R. Brown, 1 Thessalonians, ed. Douglas Mangum, Lexham Research Commentaries (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), 1 Th 1:1–10.
- Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Romans to Philemon., vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 413.
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