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1 Thessalonians 1:8-The Thessalonians’ Faith Toward God Spread Throughout the Empire and Consequently, the Message of the Lord Lesson # 14

Wenstrom Bible Ministries; Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom; Sunday, October 28, 2018; www.wenstrom.org

First Thessalonians:1 Thessalonians 1:8 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. (ESV)

1 Thessalonians 1:8 For out from each and every one of you, the message originating from and about the one and only Lord is circulating not only in Macedonia as well as in Achaia but in fact, news of your faith, which is toward the one and only God, is spreading in each and every place. Consequently, each and every one of us does not possess a need to say anything. (My translation)

1 Thessalonians 1:8 contains a causal clause followed by a result clause.

This causal clause presents the reason for the statements in 1 Thessalonians 1:7 and asserts that not only did the gospel message originating from and about the Lord circulate from the Thessalonian Christian community in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place reports of their faith towards the one and only God spread.

Therefore, a comparison of verse 7 with verse 8 indicates that the Thessalonians set a godly example of Christian behavior “because” the message originating from and about the Lord circulated from them not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place reports of their faith towards the one and only God spread.

The implication is clear that the Thessalonians’ obedience to the gospel message presented to them by Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy is the reason why they became a godly example for all the Christians living in all the provinces of the Roman Empire. 

In 1 Thessalonians 1:8, the noun logos, “message” refers to the content of the gospel message proclaimed to the Thessalonians by Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.

The one and only Lord” is the particular form of the noun kurios which is a reference to Jesus Christ and indicates the following about Him: (1) His equality with the Father and the Spirit. (2) His joint-rulership with the Father over the entire cosmos. (3) His highest ranking position as Chief Administrator in the divine government. (4) His absolute sovereign authority as Ruler over all creation and every creature. (5) His victory over the sin nature and Satan and His kingdom.

In His deity, Jesus Christ is “Lord” (See Luke 20:42). However, in His human nature, He received this title as a result of His obedience to the Father’s will, which called for Him to suffer a spiritual and physical death on the cross as a substitute for every member of the human race past, present, and future (See Philippians 2:5-11).

The noun kurios, “Lord” is in the genitive case and functions here as both a genitive of source and objective genitive.

The former would then indicate that the gospel message which Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy communicated to the Thessalonian Christian community and which they obeyed “originated from” the Lord Jesus Christ.

The latter would indicate that the gospel message which Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy communicated to the Thessalonian Christian community and which they obeyed was “about” or “concerning” the Lord Jesus Christ.

Not only in Macedonia as well as in Achaia, but in fact, news of your faith which is toward the one and only God is spreading in each and every place” is an emphatic correlative clause.

It expresses in emphatic terms that the circulation of the gospel message was “not limited” to the Roman provinces of Macedonia and Achaia or in other words, it emphatically rejects the idea that the circulation of the gospel message was limited to these two provinces.

Macedonia” refers to the Roman province located in the region of the Balkan peninsula north of the Roman province of Achaia and “Achaia” refers to a Roman province that was located on the Peloponnesian Peninsula, on the south coast of the Gulf of Corinth and is now called Morea and the south of Greece.

 When this emphatic correlative clause speaks of the Thessalonians’ faith towards God, it is referring to both justifying faith as well the Thessalonian’s post-justification faith in the Word of God.

The former is indicated by the assertions in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 whereas the latter is indicated by 1 Thessalonians 1:3-7. The former states that the Thessalonians turned from idols to serve the living and true God and that they were waiting for God’s one and only Son to come from heaven to deliver them from the wrath of God which would manifest itself during the seventieth week of Daniel.

They turned from idols at the moment of their justification when they trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior and they continued this rejection of idols after justification by appropriating by faith their union and identification with Jesus Christ in His, death, and resurrection.

That the mention of the Thessalonians’ post-justification faith toward God is also being referred to is indicated by the fact that 1 Thessalonians 1:7 associates their faith with work, which refers to their Christian service.

Furthermore, 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 asserts that they received the gospel message in the midst of great adversity with a joy produced by the Holy Spirit and thus correspondingly they became godly examples to the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

One cannot become a godly example to other believers unless one is already a believer through faith alone in Christ alone.

So, therefore, verse 8 is speaking of news of the Thessalonians’ faith at justification and post-justification faith toward God the Father spreading in every province of the Roman Empire so that their faith became widely known in the various Christian communities in the Empire.

Some commentators believe that when 1 Thessalonians 1:8 asserts that the message originated from and about the Lord Jesus Christ circulated not only in Macedonia and Achaia is referring to the Thessalonians sending out missionaries to evangelize the non-saved in these provinces.

This interpretation does not pay attention to the context since the correlative clause in 1 Thessalonians 1:8 goes on to say that the news of the Thessalonians’ faith toward the one and only God was spreading in every place in the Empire.

This assertion is qualifying the previous assertion in the correlative clause which states that the message originating from and about the Lord Jesus Christ was circulating in Macedonia and Achaia.

This is indicated by the fact that both of these assertions present the reason for the assertion in 1 Thessalonians 1:7 which states that the Thessalonians became an example for all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

So, therefore, verse 8 is presenting the reason why the Thessalonians became an example to the believers in these provinces.

Thus, the assertion that the message from and about the Lord in verse 8 circulating in these provinces is speaking of the Thessalonians’ example to the believers in these provinces.

Thus, the assertion in verse 8 that news of the Thessalonian's faith toward God spreading throughout the rest of the Empire is simply advancing upon and intensifying in emphatic terms the first assertion in this verse.

Therefore, the message from and about the Lord circulating in Macedonia and Achaia is equivalent to the news of the Thessalonians’ faith toward the one and only God spreading throughout the Empire.

This is indicated by the fact that both are giving the reason why the Thessalonians became a godly example to the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

The advancement and intensification is that the Thessalonians not only became an example to the believers in Macedonia and Achaia but to all the believers throughout the various provinces of the Empire.

Therefore, a comparison of verses 7 and 8 indicates that the Thessalonians became an example to the believers throughout the Empire because the news of their faith toward God spread throughout the Empire with the result that the message from and about the Lord did so as well.

Consequently, believers throughout the Empire were encouraged by the Thessalonians’ example in the sense that it gave them more confidence to trust in the transformative power of the gospel which was manifested in the lives of the Thessalonians.

The message from and about the Lord is the gospel message from and about Jesus Christ and thus the changed lives of the Thessalonians, which was the result of obeying the gospel, demonstrated the transformative power of the gospel to believers throughout the Empire.

Another issue in interpreting 1 Thessalonians 1:8 is deciding who received this news about the Thessalonians’ faith.

The context would indicate clearly that it was the various Christian communities in the Roman Empire since the assertion in verse 8 is presenting the reason for the assertion in verse 7, which concerns itself with the Thessalonians becoming an example to believers in the Empire.

The news of the Thessalonians’ faith provided an example to the various Christian communities throughout the Empire.

This correlative clause in 1 Thessalonians 1:8 is using the figure of “hyperbole,” which means that this verse is not saying that every place on planet earth or every place in the Roman Empire heard about the faith of the Thessalonians.

This figure is so-called because the expression adds to the sense so much that it exaggerates it and enlarges or diminishes it more than is really meant in fact or when more is said than is meant to be literally understood in order to heighten the sense.

This figure in 1 Thessalonians 1:8 is emphasizing that the Thessalonians’ post-justification faith toward God the Father was well-known throughout the Roman Empire and also expresses the joy of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy with regards to the positive response their gospel message received from the Thessalonians.

The news of the Thessalonians’ faith became well-known throughout the Empire because Thessalonica was a commercial center located along the Via Egnatia and was a port city on the Aegean Sea, which thus made it strategic for trade and made it a place in which news was disseminated quickly throughout the Empire.