1 Thessalonians 1 v 7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia
We start this morning with a fairly provocative question – is Whiddon Valley Evangelical Church a MISSIONARY CHURCH? Do you know what I mean by Missionary Church? Some friends may THINK they know what a missionary church is – they would say that a missionary church is a group of people who have an interest in missions – who pray for and support missionaries – who receive many, many prayer letters and who are constantly praying in the prayer meeting and on their own at home for missionaries. Societies and individuals, it may seem, are part of the focus of a missionary church and a church is often judged by the level of interest that it has for missionaries.
But is this the right definition of a Missionary Church?
May I suggest that this view is one view, but a narrow view that limits any church to a set of principles and policies that restricts genuine missionary activity?
The Church at Thessalonica was a Missionary Church. Because from that group of believers in that big Macedonian City the good news of Jesus Christ spread far and wide. There was nothing secretive about the company of people who had received and embraced the Gospel and who had remained utterly loyal to the Lord Jesus even after the messengers had been forced to leave their city. The Church at Thessalonica became a beacon of spiritual light in a world of pagan darkness. The people did not SEND missionaries – they WERE THE missionaries! Thessalonica was a true Missionary church and provides a pattern for us today 21 centuries later.
We find out how this happened in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.
In 1 Thessalonians 1 v 5 to 10 Paul the Apostle tells us certain facts about
The Gospel – God’s Vital Message to the World!
Paul outlines FIVE things about the Gospel and how it came to the people in Thessalonica. We have already thought about two of the five – namely
1. The DEMONSTRATION of the Power of God in this Gospel – verse 5 –
Our Gospel came to you. The Gospel came in power through the preaching of the message from the missionaries.
Then 3 weeks ago we thought about
2. The DEFINITE evidence of grace that followed in the lives of the Thessalonian Christians – verse 6 –
You welcomed the message – you received it. The 6th verse is about the Thessalonian believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, who
1. Received the Word; 2. Followed the Lord; 3. Suffered persecution; 4. Were nevertheless full of Joy.
These dear believers at Thessalonica, to whom Paul is writing, were those who had welcomed into their hearts and minds the gospel of salvation with joy. Furthermore they had given unmistakable evidence of being imitators, first of the missionaries and then of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. They had proved themselves to be God’s elect. And as we have noted many times before the way to know that you are one of God’s elect and chosen people is to have a testimony – a testimony of a transformed life that is real and genuine and that is centred on the Lord Jesus Christ and His word and ways. You become an imitator of the Lord Jesus Christ – and if your life is not progressively becoming more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ’s life, then you must challenge yourself and ask, “Am I truly a Christian? Have I been saved?” And if you are just the same as you were when you made your profession of faith – then beware! It is possible to think or suppose that you are a believer based on a feeling or an impulse of belief – when all along you have not been called at all! A transformed life that imitates the beautiful life of the Lord Jesus Christ is a sure and certain test of the genuineness of our Christian profession. Jesus kept all the law – do you and I? Jesus obeyed the will of God His Father – do you and I? Jesus went about doing good in a selfless way – do you and I? Jesus’ life was different – is yours and mine? These are important questions and we need to prayerfully answer them on our knees before our Lord God.
So these Christians at Thessalonica became imitators. But now we see them in a different light as we come to our next description of them – from v 7 & 8
6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: 7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
The third thing about the Gospel and how it came to the people of Thessalonica was this – we observe
3. The DECLARED examples and sincere effective witness of the new converts – verse 7 & 8 –
God’s message rang out from you, says Paul – you passed on the Gospel. The imitators became EXAMPLES! They moved on from imitation to demonstration and proclamation.
William Hendriksen describes a circle in process at Thessalonica. God performs his works here on earth – the Father elects; the Son and his special ambassadors give an example of rejoicing and suffering; The Holy Spirit imparts joy.
Then the Thessalonian Christians believe, welcome the Word and become imitators. They in turn carry the Good news to others whose praises (after they have experienced a great change too) glorify God in heaven. Thus the circle has been completed. The Thessalonians as it were stand in the middle. The word of the Lord came to them, and they, having accepted it by faith, have sounded it forth so that others might hear and believe – and complete the circle. This is the way that God has ordained that the Gospel should be spread – via His people! So the example that the Thessalonians were, is an example to us! They themselves became the missionaries. Let us think about this a little more closely.
1. The Christians at Thessalonica became examples to others.
7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
Paul is very careful with the words that he uses to describe these Christians in Thessalonica. The Authorised Version word here ENSAMPLE is exactly the same as EXAMPLE. It is a translation of the Greek word TUPOUS – from which we get our English word TYPE. It is a fascinating word, which is rich in historical meaning. Originally it meant to strike something and what was struck was probably metal. A shape was engraved on a piece of metal. The metal was hammered onto something softer and an imprint was left behind after the striking. For those of you who are not too old to remember what a TYPE WRITER was, then the principle is in that machine. The Type was in the shape of letters and numbers at the end of metal levers. When the lever was struck the type struck the paper having collected a little ink on the way from an ink ribbon. Every time the type struck the paper an imprint appeared – an example of the type, a pattern of the letter or number, was reproduced on the paper. The imprint was an imitation of the letter.
A few weeks a go some of the men of the church visited the Steam museum in Swindon. The vast GWR factory that used to be very active in that Wiltshire town, shut down in the 1980’s – but the museum faithfully records its work. I will never cease to be amazed at the way that metal components for steam engines were made. A pattern was designed out of wood faithfully representing the metal part. This was placed in a box and sand was packed tightly around the wooden shape. Then the wooden pattern was removed leaving an imprint of the metal component. Molten metal was then poured into the sand shape and the metal cooled to the shape. The Pattern Shop and the foundry were next door to each other and we saw examples of the wooden patterns that had been used years ago.
TUPOUS is rendered ensample, example, fashion, form and pattern in the New Testament verses where it occurs.
1 Timothy 4 v 12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Titus 2 v 7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
Romans 5 v 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
The word was also used for a mould or pattern of an image of some kind such as an idol.
When we say that we IDOLISE someone, we profess that we want to be like that person. Young people are doing it all the time with sports and music heroes.
In Thessalonica the Imitators in turn became imitated. And it seems that those who take the Lord Jesus and His apostles as their model or pattern – they inevitably become a model to others.
But this word is in the plural –
7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe
ALL of the members of the church at Thessalonica were examples to others as to how to be a Missionary church. What sort of example were they? They were persecuted! They were those who suffered at the hands of pagans and Jews alike. But they were also joyful and were glad like the apostles before them, to be counted worthy to suffer for the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ whom they loved with all their hearts.
Is this true of us my friends, brothers and sisters in Christ?
Does the Gospel sound out from us here as we live for Jesus Christ? Are we good examples of what it is and should be to be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? Does anyone in our community have cause to observe us and say of us, “If he or if she is a Christian then I do not want to be one!” Or can they see that the Lord Jesus Christ has made a real difference to our lives so much so that we are like Jesus Himself? That is DIFFERENT!
We should be, as a Church and as individual Christians, examples of Christian confession – that we confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is our saviour and Lord and that we live for Him every moment of every day.
We should also be examples of True Biblical Christian Conduct – we should be obedient to God’s word, courageous and joyful amongst the people of the community that we know. Most of all we should be living examples of those who know and love our saviour – we should be Christ like. May the Lord help us to be so – and may there be such a stir amongst this community that folks will be saying, “What has happened in Whiddon Valley? What is going on at the Church? Something seems to be happening – we have heard that God had visited His people!”
They were examples to others in two main areas –
1. Macedonia. This was the immediate area around them – Thessalonica was the chief city, but Philippi and Berea were also large settlements in the province of Macedonia.
2. Achaia. This was the rest of Greece including Corinth, Athens and all other places. Word got around about the happenings of changed lives in Thessalonica.
2. Their Testimony had a Local Effect.
8. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia,
In some fairly old churches one can notice a large piece of wood mounted above the pulpit and it looks like a small roof. It is arranged on a slight angle with the front part higher than the rear. It is called a sounding board and it was the ancient equivalent of a microphone. The sound of preaching and public address from the human voice of the preacher was enhanced and amplified by this sounding board. Sound waves travelled in various directions enabling a congregation to hear the Word.
The sounding board itself does not create the sounds. It merely receives the sounds, reinforces them and then sends them on to the hearers.
The Christians at Thessalonica are likened to sounding boards. God’s word had been received by them – it had been reinforced by their own joyful experience accepting the word and becoming born again; and after this they were strengthened, so much so that they ECHOED FORTH the same message to all and sundry. The verb here is EXECHOMAI.
But there is more to this word that is rendered “sounded out”. W.E. Vine suggests that it relates to a fanfare – the sound of many trumpets.
With the 50th Anniversary of our Queen’s Coronation last Monday there were fanfares to announce Her Majesty’s arrival. Everyone needed to know the news that she had arrived. Trumpets feature often in the Bible to be a sounding of warning or calling people to attention – or simply communicating news. Before Radio a trumpet call was one of the methods of communication to soldiers in both peace and battle. Reveille is a trumpet call to wake up – the Last Post is sounded at the other end of the day. Trumpets therefore have that capacity to arouse others and from Thessalonica Paul says that the Gospel was trumpeted with a clear and distinct sound.
It was a clear sound through direct preaching to the people in the cities of Thessalonica, Philippi and Berea first of all. The good news of the Lord Jesus Christ and salvation through His sovereign grace became known through the new believers telling family, neighbours and friends about the wonderful change that had happened to them. They were uninhibited even though they suffered persecution and derision for it. They spoke as heralds wherever they went. The impression is given that these believers were so full of the Lord that they saturated their community with the news of the gospel.
It has been suggested that we today are a very media conscious generation. We know the power of the mass media on the public mind and we want to use it for evangelism. Print, audio, and video and broadcasting could be called trumpeting the Gospel and it is right to a certain extent to harness these things which are available to us. But there is another way that perhaps is more effective which requires no complicated gadgetry and is very simple. It does not require computers or photocopiers. It is neither organised nor computerised – but is spontaneous. Furthermore it costs absolutely nothing! What is this method of evangelism then?
We can call it Holy Gossip! It is gossiping the gospel. It is transmitting from person to person the truth of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for our souls. “Have you heard what has happened to so and so? Have you heard that Fred and Susan have become believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and have been transformed? The drinking has stopped – there is harmony in their home and they are kind to each other. What a difference Christ has made to them!”
The Gospel news was sounded out by these excited believers in Thessalonica, from this truly missionary church. Does that happen in our Church? In your church if you are a visitor? The testimony had a local effect in and around Thessalonica.
3. The Testimony had a WIDE EFFECT.
8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad;
Paul now indulges in a little HYPERBOLE – An overstating of a fact with the intention of making a point. “In every place” means the regions beyond Macedonia and Achaia. The word got around very quickly that salvation had come to a group of people in Thessalonica – it was “spread abroad”. A similar sounding word is used in the Greek New Testament – EXERCHOMAI and literally means to go out or go forth – to proceed. It is the same as the thoughts of Psalm 19 v 1
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. 2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
Paul says the same sort of thing to the Christians at Philippi in Philippians 2 v 15
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
The believers at Thessalonica told everyone about the Lord Jesus Christ so that the wider community heard about Him – those in Palestine, Syria and Asia Minor and even in Rome. How could this happen? Did they send missionaries and then pray for them? Not at all – their city was strategic as an excellent missionary centre. Their harbour was connected to all the harbours in the then known world. The main road, the Egnatian Way passed right through the city. News could travel very quickly from place to place. All the believers had to do was to make use of the opportunities of living in Thessalonica. With enthusiasm they actively told others of their faith towards God. But they also demonstrated by their changed lives the power of the Gospel on those lives. Christian dockers became honest and worked hard for their pay. Christian merchants became sincere in their dealings with merchants from other lands. Christian shopkeepers were known for their honest weighing out of goods forsaking their contemporaries cheating ways. The believers spoke respectfully, were hospitable and kind to travellers. There were so many ways that changed lives earned them the right to speak for their Lord and master.
Surely this is the better way to evangelise my friends? There seems to be an anonymity in publishing tracts and magazines; making radio programmes and other media methods. The people on the receiving end do not KNOW THE MESSENGER! But when we move amongst people and they see the difference that Christ has made to us – then the opportunity to trumpet the Gospel becomes more real! Do you want to share your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Then be prepared to know people and enable them to see your life and its quality. Of course this implies that you do have a different life to the unbelievers around you – that you are living a godly and holy life that is fundamentally different to theirs – so much so that it shows! Are you known by your neighbours as a Believer in Jesus? Do they hear you speaking well – respectfully not grumpily – kindly and not angrily – are you faithful in your dealings with others – keeping promises as far as you can? This is the way to hold forth the word of life. May the Lord help us all to follow the examples of the Thessalonian Christians.
4. Their Testimony helped the Missionaries.
It was quite remarkable that as Paul and the other Apostles went to new places to evangelise, they found that there were people who already had heard the message! They told him what they had already heard!
Paul did not mind this as he offered no criticism here at the end of verse 8 – but rather commended them
8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
The Thessalonian Christians had influenced people at home and in other cities – including Athens, Corinth and Rome – and who knows of the other places too. We can assume that this pre-evangelism made the hearers of Paul and the others more ready and eager to hear the message when they came. The message was spreading WITHOUT the missionaries and there could have been a danger that they felt a little redundant! This only goes to show how effective the Thessalonians had been in a short space of time. And it can be a great encouragement to us this morning. As we grieve over the lack of response to literature work, door to door and other means of making Christ known, we are left with the most effective means – personal contact. Changed lives with a valid testimony. Are we prepared for this my friends? Do you have something by your front door ready to give a tract or booklet to any who may call? Are you prepared to speak to anyone about the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you prepared to spend time being interested in your neighbours and work colleagues so that they have the opportunity to see what Jesus has done for your soul? May we all be committed to godly living so that people will think well of our Saviour and be drawn to Him when they see what Jesus has done for our souls!