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Feb 06, 2022

Church Reputations

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: 1 Thessalonians

Keywords: love, faith, hope, works, grace, peace, perseverance, thessalonians, labor, church reputation


Church Reputations

I Thessalonians 1:1-3

February 6, 2022


REVIEW:  Anyone pay a price for integrity this week?  Receive a blessing for the same?  (Local doctor’s interview with Spokane Regional Health Board???)

Welcome to a new exegetical series in Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica. 


We’ll be in 1st Thessalonians for several months, Lord willing.  It’s one of Paul’s earliest letters written, probably around 50 A.D.  He apparently first visited Thessalonica on his 2nd missionary journey as they were sent out from the church in Antioch.  After getting run out of Philippi, they walked about 100 miles west to Thessalonica and probably stayed there several months. 

            Thessalonica, unlike Philippi, was big enough to have a Jewish synagogue.  So Paul preached there in the synagogue for at least 3 weeks (Acts 17:3) and saw a number of Jews and quite a few Greeks respond to the Gospel, among them some leading women of the city (Acts 17:4).  The Philippian church apparently sent some support to Paul a couple of times while he was staying there but he also was compelled (either by financial need or out of a desire to model the normal Christian life to the people) to set up shop making tents. 

            After probably several months, his work attracted enough attention from the Jews in Thessalonica that they stirred up the city against him.  They formed a mob and went looking for Paul at the home of a new convert, Jason.  Not finding Paul there, they drug him to the local Roman officials and accused him and Paul’s team of rebellion against Rome since they preached another king/god other than Caesar.  In this case, rather than face prison, Paul and Silas were sent away by the church to the town of Berea, some 50 miles away. 

            This particular letter is written about 6 months to a year after Paul & Co. had been in Thessalonica.  So the church is less than 2 years old. 

            But they’ve already “got a reputation”, thankfully a good one.  Then, as now, reputations matter.  Whether we’re talking a city or a person or a church, reputations do matter. 


  • Nations: What’s the reputation of…FranceSwitzerland?  Rwanda?  China?
  • How about cities? Chicago?  Ottawa, Canada? (Truckers?)  Orlando, FL?  Spokane???
  • People: Abe Lincoln?  Richard Nixon?  Martin Luther King, Jr? 
  • YOU?
  • Mosaic?

Well, let’s see what Paul had to say about the Thessalonian church—the people of God in a city about the size of Spokane. 

1 Thessalonians 1

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

            This is a pretty standard greeting for biblical literature of the day.  Letters in Paul’s day began with identifying both the authors and the recipients right off rather than as we tend to do today with correspondence where, unless you glance at the end of the letter to find the signature or look at the letterhead or return address, you might read an entire letter without knowing who sent it until the end. 

            I don’t want to give a biographical sketch of these three missionaries today.  Suffice it to say that Paul, whose name comes first, was the team leaderSilvanus was also a missionary of note as his name occurs 4 other times in the N.T.  He was, apparently, well known to Peter too as Peter calls him “a faithful brother” in I peter 5:12.  Timothy shows up in the N.T. a couple dozen times and is clearly someone Paul leaned on frequently. 

            But the truth I’d like us to see here with this little greeting is that ministry was a ‘team sport’ for Paul. We never see him doing ministry alone.  As great and spiritual as he was, he shared the stage with numerous co-workers throughout his ministry.  In fact, when he was alone in Rome towards the end of his life, he writes to Timothy, urging him to come to him before winter hits (2Tim. 4:21).  When you read 1 and 2nd Timothy, you can feel the ache in Paul’s heart to have his closest coworkers with him. 

APP:  Some of my richest memories in life are the people I’ve been privileged to minister together with.  As a teenager, several summers I joined a team of 6 or 7 other high school and college students as we went to smaller towns around Spokane and did DVBS or evangelistic services. I can still tell you the names of most of those people.  We grew close…and the same has been true through the decades since. 

            This concept of doing ministry as a team is why we will always be inviting you to join ministry teams here at Mosaic.  Whether it’s a prayer team or a parenting team, an outreach team or a missions team, we ALL need team.  We all learn more in teams.  We all have to grow up more in teams.  We all have more wisdom and strength in a team. 

            So if you’re missing close, deep relationships in life, let me encourage you to join a ministering ministry team!  Or MAKE one yourself.  Find the people you can work with, are drawn to and have something to give them.  Start that Bible study you want in your home or apartment.  But do it as a team.   This very letter to a whole church was a team effort.  Surely our ministry in this community should be too.  

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

What makes “THE church” in any city?  ALL the people “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Church literally means “called out” people.  What are we “called out” of? 

  • Sin, death, unrighteousness, evil, addictions, destructive habits, selfishness, the world.
  • WHO are we called into? God!  The Triune God.  God the Father, God the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Holy Spirit. 

If you have embraced Jesus Christ as your Lord, then you have embraced God the Father as your eternal, heavenly Father.  You are “in Christ” and “in the Father.”  And that makes you, as long as you are living in Spokane, part of “THE church…the called-out people of God…in Spokane.” 

            To all who are “in” God in this city, we ought to be speaking, praying and wanting what Paul wanted for the church:  grace and peace

  • Grace = the blessings of God that we all need to experience life to the full.
  • Peace = the tranquility, wholeness, calmness, prosperity of soul and safety of relationship that we were made for free of sin.

Anyone needing a little peace in your soul today?  A bit more of the blessings/grace of God in your family or business or friendships or church life?  This isn’t just a throw-away phrase for Paul.  This is a prayer! 

APP:  Turn to someone near you and ask them if they need any more peace or blessings of God than they are enjoying right now?  If they say, “Yes”, then SPEAK that into their life today.  Look at the and say, “May God’s grace flood you today!”  Or, “May God’s peace fill you today.”  Something happens when we call upon God to grant these needed things in all our lives.  Leave a blessing today with someone. 


Now we come to the heart of today’s text, vss. 2-3. 

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly 

mentioning you in our prayers….

Interesting little fact about the word “give thanks” here.  In Greek it’s the word eucharisteo.  Sound like anything you’ve heard somewhere in church?  Sure, the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper.  It literally means an act of THANKSGIVING.  If you took the Communion today but didn’t give thanks, you’re missing a big part of what Communion is about. 

            Paul wanted this church to know that they were the cause of thanksgiving to God in his life.  In fact, the way he states it in the original Greek in which he wrote it, Paul is emphasizing some rather inclusive, superlative language:  “always” (pau-tote) “allpanton) of you (pl.), “constantly”—added in by the translators to indicate the ongoing nature of their praying (present middle participle).

APP:  Is this the tone of our prayer lives? 

  • Thankful for everyone in the church, different though we may be?
  • Are we actually talking to God about the church, each other, a lot?

How many people in the church are you praying for repeatedly?  What if we started getting the names of the handful of people around us on a gathering of the church and simply decided to pray for them that week…and then repeated the same thing next week… and next week… and next week?  Not only would we become a praying church; we would knit our hearts together.  So…

APP:  Turn to 2 people around you who are not in your family and get their first name.  Write it down…and put it in your Bible where you are going to see it in your daily Bible reading (Yes, I’m assuming you are reading your Bible daily!)  When you open your Bible to read and glance at those names this week, THANK GOD for them…and pray God’s grace and peace over them. 

            If we want a heart like Paul…a prayer life like Paul… impact on the lives of others like Paul…perhaps we should start DOING what Paul did with his brothers and sisters in the church. 

            These two verses tell us HOW Paul, Silvanus & Timothy were actually thankful for the believers in Thessalonica.  That participle “making mention” or “remembering” them in their prayers was the first way.  This was the standard for being someone who impacted others:  You PRAY for them


  • Praying grandparents
  • Praying parents
  • Praying friends
  • Praying spiritual mentors
  • Praying small group Bible study members
  • Praying Pastors
  • Praying brothers and sisters—Wed. night and Thursday morning, on the Emergency Prayer Chain, etc.
  • Praying siblings, praying neighbors, etc.

Challenge:  Develop a prayer journal where you put the names of people you care about in God’s family, what their needs are, when they told you and when God answers.

Challenge:  Put reminders in your phone to pray.  You know that little “clock” symbol?  They work when you set them!

By the way, notice HOW Paul prayed.  Verse 3 says, “…remembering/bearing in mind” three qualities we’ll see in just a moment.  But this word “remembering” is one that carries the idea of remembering with feeling, with a sense of connection to the person or event.

ILL:  Jesus used this word when he predicted in John 16:21 how the disciples’ sorrow over his death would turn to joy.  “ When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”  This isn’t just Jesus speaking like a true man:  “Hey, you’ll forget the pain as soon as that kid’s out!”  I haven’t met a woman yet who completely forgets that childbirth is painful.  But after that child arrives, she’s not immersed in the pain of the moment.  She’s not identifying with the pain more than she is immersed in the joy of having a child. 

            Paul is saying, if we want to be a people who connect deeply with one another in prayer, we need to enter in emotionally with the people we are praying for.  We need to be connecting at a feeling level with what we are grateful or burdened for about them. 

So now we come to what the Thessalonian church was famous for.  What was their reputation?  “…remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Let’s finish this morning figuring out how WE might become a church famous for these three qualities. 

1.) How do we become a church who is famous for our “work of faith”?  What does “work” mean here?  It means WORK!  It means sweating, toiling, getting tired, expending energy to accomplish something.  Honestly, one of the reasons the church has such a bad reputation in the world today, especially in America, is that a.) people have forgotten that God designed life to include a LOT of WORK and, b.) we’ve carried this idea into the church that church is where I go to BE served rather than TO SERVE.  But hitch this term “work” to “faith” and now we really are confused!  Isn’t faith just a mental thing you do, a ‘belief’ you do at a moment in time that doesn’t necessarily demand some action to prove it?  Not according to James 2:20—“…faith apart from works is useless.” Biblical faith always evidences in some visible action…or it isn’t biblical, living, breathing, alive faith. 

  • When someone says, “I’ve put my faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,” IF that is true, you will almost always be able to SEE a difference in their life. They won’t be perfect.  They will still be sinners.  But there will be numerous evidences of that faith. 
  • If I say I have faith in the power of prayer but I don’t actually spend time praying, don’t participate in prayer meetings with others throughout the week and don’t seek to expand and extend my prayer life, I really don’t have biblical faith. The “work of faith” when it comes to prayer means my prayer life takes time, takes energy, leaves me tired at times and requires sacrifice of other things at times. 

ILL:  One of the images/illustrations the Timothy Initiative discipleship studies use is the notion of “unfurling/hoisting the sails” on a sailboat.  Some friends of ours who have a sailboat on Lake Pend Oreille invited us to come sailing last fall.  They heard I wanted to take up sailing and were kind enough to invite us to spend a day on the lake with them.  I quickly learned that, before you go anywhere, you need to a.) unstrap/untie the sails from the boom.  This material likens our getting free from sin through recognition, conviction of the H.S., repentance, etc. as the “untying the sails” step.

            But while that step makes it possible to go sailing, that isn’t sailing.  Unless I “raise the sails”, no wind is going to fill them and there won’t be any power to move the boat.  Raising the sails is the metaphor for taking some small step of faith that God can respond to and fill with His power and His Spirit.  Raising the sails doesn’t necessarily move the boat; it just makes it possible for the wind (of the Spirit) to do so. 

            One of the things I’m being challenged on with this discipleship process is to take steps of faith when it comes to sharing the Gospel of Christ.  I’m not responsible for winning anyone to Christ.  But I am responsible for doing things that put me into the lives of people who need Jesus and looking for and creating opportunities where I can share Christ with them.  This week that looked like…

  • Praying with one of the drug dealers on the street outside that window this week…and I plan to do it next week and the next and the next until he either can’t stand the ‘smell’ of me and the Gospel or he becomes a passionate follower of Jesus.
  • Stopping to thank and appreciate a couple of policemen stopped alongside the road in Manito Park when I was running one morning. I was frankly so emotional just thanking them for what they do in our city that I forgot to pray with them…but I will next time…and ask them what they need God’s help with…and at some point share my story of meeting Jesus. 
  • Being kind to the man in front of me at Grocery Outlet… and responding to his statement with something that pointed us both to God.
  • Thanking the waitress at lunch on Wed. for serving us so well…and asking her how we might pray for her.

None of those things was very big…or took much time…or preached the Gospel…yet!  But all of them a small steps of faith that God’s Spirit filled with just a little wind of His Spirit.  They became spiritual encounters with people that never would have existed otherwise. 

            2 Thess 1:11 further explains just a little about the “work of faith” when Paul says, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.”  It’s up to us to “resolve by faith” to DO spiritual work.  It’s up to God to bring it to fulfillment “by His power.” 

APP:  in what part of your walk with Jesus is He inviting you to “unfurl the sails”…to take small steps of faith that He can fill with His power and life?  I believe God wants to do that EVERY DAY we are alive on this earth.  But He won’t waste the power of His Spirit on a sailboat/person whose sails are buttoned down by sin or lying limp on the boom. 

WRITE DOWN where you want Jesus to help you with some “works of faith.” 

2.) Labor of love

There’s something you need to know about this term “labor”.  It is more than just hard work.  It is demanding work, trying work, work that is tied to trouble and toil.  Paul almost always pairs this particular word for “labor” with things like being imprisoned, enduring sleepless nights, going hungry, working night and day (cf. 2 Cor. 6:5, 11:23, 27).  The Apostle John uses it a lot in the book of Revelation when he is calling churches to endure extreme hardship and persecution.  And he says we will only “rest from our work/toil” when we die and go to heaven!

ILL:  It’s like the difference between walking vs. backpacking.  I like both, but I can tell you, there is a definite difference.  When I go walking in my neighborhood in the morning or evening, I don’t get winded even though, if I walk long enough, my legs might feel a little tired.  But every time I go backpacking and have to carry an extra 40 pounds as well as ascend 2,000-5,000 feet of elevation in a day, I’m pooped!  My legs ache at night.  They sometimes cramp up at night.  I get sweaty during the day, even when its 40-degrees and windy. 

            What on earth moves me to want to do that?  I LOVE the views, the beauty, the time with my sons, the grandeur, the colors, the scenery, etc.  My LOVE for nature drives me to “labor” in hiking.  It’s not a hardship; it’s a tremendous privilege I can’t get enough of. 

Q:  What does a church, a people of God, look like that is wearing itself out and encountering what many would consider “unnecessary” hardship for the Gospel of Christ?  What churches around the world would you say are known for their “labor of love”? 

  • Chinese Christians who get sent to concentration camps?
  • Believers in Nigeria kidnapped by Boko Haram and treated as slaves because they refuse to renounce Christ?
  • The churches and pastors in Calgary, Alberta that refused to close and had their buildings locked and pastors imprisoned?

APP:  Many of you are certainly expending quite a bit of energy and labor loving others in and around Mosaic.  I don’t know that it’s brought us a lot of opposition or trouble yet, but it might.  When our love for this community starts getting pushback from others, then we will be at a new level of love.   Q:  What might Mosaic look like when we “labor in love”, self-sacrificing, God-like agape love?


3.)  Steadfastness of hope:

This term “steadfastness” is also translated “endurance” and “perseverance”.  It has the sense of “being unswerving from a deliberate course when faced with times of trial and suffering.”

Hope in the Scriptures always has to do with a.) something future and not yet realized, and b.) something promised by God and therefore certain to occur

ILL:  Anyone here doubt that summer will actually come to our region June through September?  Why?  You have a track record to look at that, for the duration of your life, it has always come, every June-Sept, for as long as we have been tracking summer.  You have a firm (and sometimes comforting, at this time of year) expectation about something that hasn’t yet been realized.  In fact, almost everything around us right now would say, “NO SUMMER!”

            So much around us in this world and throughout human history is preaching “NO HOPE” at us as believers.  We look at the seemingly unstoppable march of evil in every generation through political and international forces.  We look at our streets and see the growth of human misery and sin.  We see wars spring up like mushrooms every generation and we wonder, “What will life be like 5 or 15 years from now if the trajectory of history doesn’t change?” 

            That is why God has always called His children to experience he “steadfastness of hope.”  But too many of us are looking for hope in all the wrong places. God doesn’t promise or call for hope in governments or economies or freedom from difficulties or suffering.  We can and should work for better governments, better economies and better societies. But if we happen to live at some place or point in history where those things evaporate, our ‘steadfastness of hope’ should grow all the more. 

            If the world economy completely collapses this week and we begin to experience hunger in this land…if our government melts down and we are plunged into the darkness of totalitarianisms or the chaos of anarchy…if war breaks out on our soil and we are overrun by an extremely hostile world power, that is precisely when our “steadfastness of hope” should flourish. 

            But we must ask, “HOPE in WHAT?”

Let me remind you of a handful of things God has promised to deliver to each of us who know Him and walk with Him but are still in the future for us.

  • At God’s perfect time, we will reap a harvest of eternal life if we don’t give up, (Gal. 6:9; Titus 1:2, 3:7).
  • Hope of the resurrection of our bodies (Ac. 23:6, 24:15; I Thess. 4:13)
  • Hope of a creation liberated from sin (Rm. 8:19-21), of righteousness forever in God (Gal. 5:5).
  • The hope of experiencing forever “the glory of God” (Rm. 5:2).
  • Hope of the return of Christ (Titus 2:13)

How do these things compare in our thinking with all the things that steal our hope in this life? 

  • How does experiencing life with God unhindered and uninterrupted compare with a failing economy?
  • How does the resurrection of our bodies incorruptible and immortal forever compare with present battles with cancer or aging?
  • How does an end to all sin and a future of nothing but righteous, holy living compare with the darkness of this sinful world and the evil of human governments?

Yes, this life matters.  But just like winters in Spokane in February and March, we must keep SUMMERS in view.  We endure the passing ‘winter’ of this sinful world knowing that we are headed shortly into an eternal ‘summer’ of the glory of God

Paul went on to write some years later to the church at Rome this blessing in Romans 15:13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

            Working, believing faith will always lead to laboring love that will cause steadfast hope to grow large.  Let’s call one another to these soul-nourishing qualities the darker the world becomes around us!