“ For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
Paul’s preaching in Thessalonica was not in vain (2:1). God granted him an “entrance” into their city, but most of all, into their hearts. After just a few short weeks, a New Testament church had been established in that thriving metropolis. No sooner had the work begun, however, but Paul was forced to flee for his safety, leaving these newly converted believers to face the hostility of their persecutors. After several weeks, Paul could stand the silence no longer. He sent Timothy on a reconnaissance mission to the Thessalonians and eagerly awaited the report. When Timothy returned with the news that these newly converted Christians were standing fast in the face of the relentless assault of persecution, Paul sat down immediately to pen this letter expressing his gratitude to God for their faithfulness. If a title was given to 1 Thessalonians, it might be called “The Relief of a Worried Pastor.”
Knowing that pressure makes people question the reality of their faith, Paul’s initial concern is to affirm that their experience was genuine Christian experience. He takes them back to the beginning, reminding them that the gospel came unto them “not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” They believed the message and “became followers of us and of the Lord.” Further, they circulated the gospel with enthusiasm. In every way, the Thessalonians were living authentic Christian lives.
From this passage, four characteristics of authentic Christianity may be inferred. (1) An authentic Christian is someone who has “turned to God from idols.” Turning “from idols” is repentance. Turning “to God” is faith. A Christian is someone who has abandoned his/her past lifestyle and devoted himself/herself entirely to the Lord; (2) An authentic Christian is someone who is now concerned “to serve the living God.” Every day is now defined in terms of service to God. The Christian does his Master’s bidding. His meat is to do his Lord’s will; (3) An authentic Christian is someone who is “waiting for His Son from heaven, even Jesus.” He lives in this world with the next world in view. Life in this world is viewed as a pilgrimage; therefore, the Christian hold to this world with a loose hand. There is nothing in his life that he would not gladly lay aside to see his Savior returning in the clouds with great glory; (4) An authentic Christian is someone who is motivated by the fact that Jesus has “delivered us from the wrath to come.” The cross is the supreme incentive for godliness.
The Thessalonians had not been deceived. They were indeed “the elect of God.”
– Michael L. Gowens