Sermon: The Assurance and Encouragement of Divine Election 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

The Assurance and Encouragement of Divine Election

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

Truth Taught- God has set His love upon and chosen, from out of the world, a people for His own possession.

Introduction

Last time we looked briefly at the events surrounding Paul and his team of missionaries taking the Gospel to the region of Macedonia and specifically to the City of Thessalonica. We learned about the difficulties the small infant church had after the Jews forced the Apostle out of the city after just three weeks after arriving there. We also learned what the issues were that prompted his writing of the epistle and the needs the Thessalonian Christians had that he was seeking to meet. Finally, last time we saw how he proved to them that they were, in fact, truly Christians with genuine faith. He reminded them of their deeds, labor, and work that were an outflow of their faith. They were doing things that were only done if their faith was genuine. He reminded them of their hope that was fixed on the Lord Jesus and His return.

To continue with this purpose of proving to them that their faith is genuine saving faith he moves to another proof of their salvation, namely their election. He proves to them that they are the real thing by showing them how he knows without a doubt that they are elect, literally, chosen by God.

Today, the Doctrine of Election has caused great difficulties among the multitude that call themselves Christians. It really isn’t a doctrine that’s hard to understand so the issue is not in the realm of confusion, necessarily. The difficulty comes because it’s a doctrine that is not hard to understand but hard to accept due to the fact that fallen humanity wants to think they have control over the things in their lives and especially in their eternal destiny. To be exposed to the doctrine of election is to be forced to come to grips with the notion that God is in control and we are not.

The doctrine of election is found throughout the Bible. What’s really interesting is that once exposed to the truth of election and then you read your Bible, it seems, you find it on about every page. We see it in places like where God chose Abraham in Genesis 12. There wasn’t anything special about Abraham. He was a pagan like his father before him. He lived with a family of pagans in a city of pagans and for reasons only known to God, he was chosen. We see it in the Israelites who became God’s chosen and treasured possession, a holy nation set apart for God’s glory.

Deuteronomy 7:6–8 (ESV)

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

The mystery of God’s choosing is for God alone. In other words, we don’t know why exactly He chose us and loves us, other than to say that in God’s sovereignty He loves whom He loves.

John Stott writes, That is, He chose us because He loves us, and He loves us because He loves us. He does not love us because we are lovable, but only because He is love. And with that mystery we must be content. [1]

Prayer

1 Thessalonians 1:2–10 (ESV)

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 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, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 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. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

  1. We Give Thanks to God Because We Know He Has Chosen You

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

Paul declares something that may be on the surface a little bold to declare. He tells the Christians in Thessalonica that they are loved by God and chosen by God. He tells then that they are the real thing because they are elect. So sure of their calling by God that he tells them that he thanks God even for their election. How did Paul know this? He knew they were chosen and loved by God because of what they were given. Here these verses show us what God had given these believers.

We also should keep in mind that Paul and the others were continually thanking God for these Christians and a big part of their thanksgiving was for their election. The fact that Paul thanks God and not the Christians for their election shows that they contributed nothing to accomplish their own salvation but that they were the objects of an unconditional divine act.

They were loved by God and chosen by God for His glory. Paul gives them assurance of their salvation by going to the very beginning of their salvation, their election. They were chosen by God even before time began.

Look with me to Ephesians 1:4-5. I want you to see when election occurred and what it is always connected to…

Ephesians 1:4–5 (ESV)

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

The time is before time or literally before creation. Election is always connected to God’s love. It is God’s love that is the basis of His divine choice.

By taking this method of giving them assurance Paul’s logic goes something like this…I know your faith is genuine because I saw all the works you accomplished that could have only come about through genuine faith. Now he explains to the believers, I know your salvation is real because you are showing evidence that God has chosen you. You were chosen/elect before the foundation of the world and you were predestined for adoption by God through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of His will and the only thing you were lacking was the Gospel. Once they heard the Gospel their faith was ignited by God and they were converted. The Gospel was the last piece of the puzzle to be set in place. So, when Paul had that vision in the night that was the Holy Spirit saying…I have a people set in place, chosen before the foundation of the world, ready to hear and ready to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ. I’ve already chosen them. They are predestined to be adopted. It is My will to save them. Paul, go and share with them who Jesus is and what He has done and then stand back and watch what I do.

This is why evangelism is so important. This is also why many if not most missionaries from the past have been those who believe in the doctrine of election. They understood, as did Paul that God has chosen before the foundation of the world those whom He will save and God has also chosen to present the means of salvation through human evangelists.

After God has chosen someone and has set His love upon them He still must do the work to bring them to life and save them. Here’s where the human agent sharing the Gospel comes in. Let’s see what God does when the Good News about Jesus is shared with a group of pagans chosen and loved by God…

  1. How God Works in His Chosen People
  2. The Elect Receive the Gospel in Word and in Power

because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power

The Gospel came from human spokesmen with words of truth. Words matter. The Gospel is a message made up of words. The Gospel is not a feeling, a state of mind but a message. It’s been called the words of the cross, the word of the Lord, and the Word of God.

When Paul and the others preached the Gospel to those in Thessalonica, he writes, it wasn’t just words but it also came with power. He wasn’t saying that he had any power or that there were powerful things having to do with his delivery or even the words he used. It wasn’t Paul’s preaching skill or charismatic personality or his emotional delivery. The power came from God.

He knew that while his preaching was accurate and true his words were just words unless they were accompanied with God’s power. So, when he preached he saw evidence that God was at work. There was divine power in their midst.

  1. The Elect Have the Gospel Applied by the Holy Spirit

and in the Holy Spirit

It’s God, the Holy Spirit that takes the words of the Gospel and applies them personally to us. He illuminates our minds and brings us to life spiritually to understand the message, to agree with the message and then He shows us that we need this message very desperately.

  1. The Elect Experience Full Conviction of Sin

and with full conviction.

Those who heard Paul’s message were supernaturally convinced that they were the sinners he spoke of; they needed to repent and be forgiven. This is what conviction means.

Acts 2:37 (ESV)

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

To be convicted of sin means that God, the Holy Spirit, has worked inwardly in such a way as to cause us to see clearly what we had in the past denied so strongly that God hates sin and we are the sinners.

John 16:8 (ESV)

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:

Now Paul shifts from the internal evidence he saw manifested through conviction of sin to the ways they were becoming what God had called them to.

  1. How God Works Through His Chosen People

After God’s people hear the Gospel message and are convicted of sin and are brought to life by the Holy Spirit, God sends them out. We are never just saved but are saved unto good works. We are brought from death to life to engage in righteousness and evangelism.

  1. The Elect Become Examples to Others

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, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

The missionaries gave them the Word of God and then showed them what pleases God. How are we to live after we are saved? First we are to live lives like Jesus. Paul told them to imitate his life as he imitated Jesus. He taught them the Word of God and then lived out the Word of God in front of them. They knew Paul was a true Apostle because he lived out what he preached. There was no disconnect between his message and his model. This is so important for each of us. We must be an example for others to follow. Especially in the case of a new Christian we need to be able to say to them, Listen, until you learn the Bible and see Jesus through the pages of Scripture just do what I do. Beloved can we tell others this? Can we tell our children this?

1 Corinthians 4:16–17 (ESV)

16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

Notice something else he writes them, that they received the Word in much affliction with joy. Here is yet another proof that their faith is genuine. Christianity didn’t come to them and make their lives easier but made their lives more difficult. They were being persecuted for their faith. So, they received the Gospel and the hardship and they were joyous because of it. They were happy even in hardship because of the life-changing message they had heard. They were a new creation in Christ Jesus and they rejoiced regardless of their current setting.

Next, look with me, the ones who were imitating Paul as he imitated Jesus were now asking others to imitate them. They were now the next generation believers who were setting the example for others to follow. Even other Christians were noticing their lives. These Thessalonians were setting the example for others to follow.

Notice the cycle here…Paul was the example to them and now they were the example to others. The imitators became examples.

  1. The Elect Become Evangelists

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.

Not only were they being examples but they were being evangelists. True evangelism was taking place…the evangelized were now the evangelists. Do you see the cycle of the Gospel? They had received the Word of God with joy and were now sharing it with joy. The phrase sounded forth comes from the Greek word that literally means trumpeted. The emphasis is on the clearness and the loudness of the message. They were sharing the Gospel clearly and loudly. The sound of the Gospel reverberated throughout the entire city then to the region then even out even further. It rang out loudly and clearly. We might be reminded of a foghorn on a ship whose blast penetrates the darkness and echoes into the night. This is the language being used.

The Apostle was awestruck by what Timothy had reported. Paul, you are not going to believe this. The Thessalonians, you know the new, infant three-week-old church has become a force to be reckoned with. Their witness and faithfulness are amazing. What joy this gave the Apostle Paul to learn that those he loved and prayed for were actually doing it.

  1. God’s Continual Work In His Chosen People
  2. The Elect Experience Repentance

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

Here’s where things get crazy. Paul tells the Thessalonians that other reports have come back to him with the content of their message. This shows that the message the Thessalonians shared with others was believed and their hearers were being converted and they were in turn sharing the Gospel and part of their message had to do with the Gospel Paul shared with the Thessalonians. This is confusing but part of the message the Thessalonians were telling others was the genuineness and the power that accompanied Paul’s message. Then those hearers were sharing and the message made it all the way back to Paul, not from Timothy’s report but from someone sharing the Gospel with Paul! Can you imagine that in the vast metropolis of various cities Paul would hear the Gospel from a stranger who had heard the Gospel from one of the Thessalonians? Someone walks up to Paul on the street and begins to share the Good News of Jesus with him and in the context of their discussion begins to tell the Apostle Paul about the Apostle Paul and his conduct!

Here’s what Paul witnessed that was another proof that these believers were genuine. You see, they were all pagan polytheistic Gentiles. They worshipped many different gods in this great city. Once they heard about the true God they turned from their idols to the real God. What a picture of genuine repentance. They left everything they knew and grew up with for the true and living God.

They repented of their idolatry in order to worship God alone.

  1. The Elect Anticipate the Return of Christ

10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Here is yet another amazing mark of election. They turned from their idols, things that can be seen, handled, and manipulated and in a great manifestation of genuine faith, turned to the unseen Christ. So genuine was their faith that they threw down their idols so they could wait for Jesus.

The reason they cast away their idols was because they fully knew that their idols could never save them. Only Jesus saves His people from the wrath to come.

  1. Children’s Illustration

I can remember in school being chosen to be on a sports team. Everyone lined up and, of course, the talented all-stars were chosen first. Then those who were average, then those who were not very good and then there was the one chosen last, oh the shame and embarrassment!

I’m so thankful that God doesn’t choose us based on whether or not we are talented, smart, or in anyway a benefit to Him. In fact, we have biblical proof that when God chooses those He loves sometimes it’s as if He chooses the one the world would pick last.

1 Corinthians 1:26–28 (ESV)

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are

So, children you may be wondering if God has chosen you? The truth is I don’t know. I do know this…when you hear the Gospel if it isn’t just words but is coupled with power and if you trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior then you are one of God’s chosen.

Ask your parents to share the Gospel with you.

 

 

*Resources Used:

John Stott, The Gospel and the End of Time

1 and 2 Thessalonians by Robert Cara

1 and 2 Thessalonians by G K Beale

1 and 2 Thessalonians by Leon Morris

1 and 2 Thessalonians by FF Bruce

1 and 2 Thessalonians by G L Green

[1] John Stott, The Gospel and the End of Time, 31

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