5 Reasons You Should Preach through 1 Thessalonians
The book of 1 Thessalonians encourages believers in the ordinary occurrences of the Christian life. Paul’s letter recounts the work of God in how the gospel is received; as a result, it inspires the church to endure the trials of persecution, hope for the future, and pursue everyday faithfulness. These themes are most certainly applicable to churches today.
Here are five specific reasons you should preach through 1 Thessalonians.
1. It will prompt a correct understanding about how to decipher God’s will.
Some of the questions I’m most commonly asked as a pastor is “What does God want me to do?” and “What is God’s will for my life?” How we understand the relationship between the Bible, prayer, and the personal guidance of the Spirit is important to the Christian life. Where the Bible speaks clearly, we must exercise attentiveness.
Nowhere is Scripture clearer about God’s will for people than in 1 Thessalonians 4: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (4:3). The careful application of this truth is so important for Christians. Not only does this passage give clear teaching about growth in holiness and the shedding of sinful behavior, it also gives us a needed framework to think through our questions of guidance and the voice of God. If sanctification is the expressed will of God for us, then the primary framework by which we probe questions like “Which job should I take?” or “Which house should I buy?” becomes much clearer. As a result, Christians begin to experience both wonderful freedom and helpful boundaries of life under the banner of God’s expressed will.
2. It will remind you and your congregation of the proper motivation and disposition for gospel ministry.
Paul’s example gives gospel workers an approach to ministry while contrasting many of the common trappings ministers find themselves in. This disposition of a gospel worker can be described as:
- Not pleasing ourselves through greed or glory, but desiring to please God (2:4–6)
- Not demanding, but gentle and affectuously desirous (2:6–7)
- Not lazy, but hard working (2:9–10)
- Not founded on the word of Men, but the Word of God (2:13–14)
If we as pastors follow Paul’s footsteps, we’ll set the right expectations in the church and guard against many of the contemporary business models of what a pastor-leader should look like.
3. It will compel you toward others-centeredness.
One of the most powerful expressions in the book is found in 2:19: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.”
This is a curious expression, but the more you think about the things of greatest value, it begins to makes sense. When Jesus comes back, all will recognize him in his pure, brilliant, loving, just, powerful majesty. We will do whatever we can to worship him. So Paul is thinking to himself, “How can we worship? What will be most valuable to him? What will give him the most glory? What will make him the most pleased?”
Those created in the image of God. Those redeemed by the blood of the Savior. Those are most precious to him. This compels the Christian to invest themselves in others for the sake of worshipping Jesus.
When Paul says that these people are his “joy,” we’re convicted. We want to love people like this. But we’re also spurred on to invest in the spiritual growth of others. It’s truly one of the most exciting and joy-inducing dynamics of this life. We sense this when we lead someone to Christ. We experience this in an ongoing fashion when we disciple other people. A front row seat to the life-changing work of the Spirit brings great joy.
4. It will comfort the grieving.
Every culture seems to have a plethora of ideas about what happens when a person dies. Some don’t believe in life after death. Others believe in different versions of reincarnation. It seems that many today believe that a person goes to a “good place,” and then their spirit travels in and out of the physical realm to help the living.
In our mix-and-match culture, it’s not uncommon to hear hybrid theories as well. Confusion about what happens after death compounds and prolongs the grief of those who have lost loved ones. That is why Paul teaches Christians, “We do not want you to be uniformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope (4:13).” Therefore, we can “encourage each other with these words” (4:18).
The pain of grief can be profound. Thank God for clarity that helps the grieving Christian understand what happens next.
5. It will press upon us the reality of the Second Coming as a motivation for obedience.
It’s common for Christians to struggle with the motivation to remain faithful. The battle between the flesh and the spirit is real and the allure of the world leads us toward spiritual apathy. However, when we’re reminded of the imminent return of Jesus, we’re jolted out of apathy and prompted toward urgency. Nearly every chapter of 1 Thessalonians refers to the second coming of Jesus as a motivation for faithfulness.
First Thessalonians 5 provides an opportunity to attack our cultural anxieties about the end of the world coming through nuclear holocaust or climate change. It sets us at ease about the end while offering a clear warning for the non-Christian of the imminent, unexpected Day of the Lord. The encouragement for Christians is that we shouldn’t fear that Day because children of the light are to be “awake and sober” and therefore unsurprised.
First Thessalonians is immensely practical and wonderfully motivating. It paints the picture of the grandeur of God and the glory of the gospel. Your church will benefit greatly.
- Gene Greene’s, The Letters to the Thessalonians (Pillar New Testament Commentary) provides a scholarly work with practical implications.
- John Stott’s, The Message of Thessalonians (Bible Speaks Today) and Leon Morris’ 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Tyndale New Testament Commentary) are helpful preaching resources.
- Charles Wanamaker’s, The Epistle to the Thessalonians (New International Greek Testament Commentary) is still the standard for a technical treatment of text.
- Charles Spurgeon’s messages on 1 Thessalonians in The Treasury of the New Testament are, as always, encouraging and stimulating.