Wenstrom Bible Ministries; Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom; Sunday, November 4, 2018; www.wenstrom.org;
1 Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. (ESV)
1 Thessalonians 1:2 We make it our habit of always giving thanks to the one and only God (the Father) on behalf of each and every one of you because we constantly make it our practice of bringing each and every one of you into remembrance during our prayers. 3 Specifically, because we make it our habit of remembering in the presence God, our Father, your work, which was produced by your faith, as well as your labor, which was motivated by your divine-love and also your perseverance which was produced by your confident expectation of blessing from our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 Furthermore, because each one of us possesses the conviction He elected each and every one of you to privilege brothers and sisters, divinely loved by the one and only God (who is the Father). 5 At the same time, each and every one of us possesses the conviction that our proclamation of the gospel was by no means manifested by the act of speaking only but on the contrary, by means of power as well. Specifically, it was manifested by means of the Holy Spirit’s power as well as with deep conviction. In the same way, each one of you possesses the conviction regarding the quality of character each one of us as individuals manifested among each one of you for the benefit of each of you. 6 Consequently, each one of you entered into the state of imitating each one of us and as a result the one and only Lord because each one of you received our teaching in the midst of great adversity with a joy produced by the Spirit, who is holy. 7 Correspondingly, each one of you benefited by becoming an example for the benefit of each and every one of those believers located in Macedonia as well as in Achaia. 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 9 because they themselves in contrast to us are sharing information concerning our manner of welcome each one of us experienced among all of you. Specifically that each and every one of you has turned to the one and only God from idols in order to serve the living and true God. (My translation)
1 Thessalonians 1:9 is composed of a casual clause followed by an epexegetical clause.
The former presents the reason for the assertions in 1 Thessalonians 1:8.
As we noted, verse 8 presents the reason for the assertion in 1 Thessalonians 1:7, which states that the Thessalonian Christian community became a godly example for the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
1 Thessalonians 1:8 gives the reason why this was the case and asserts that out from them, the message from and about the Lord Jesus Christ was circulating not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in fact news of the Thessalonians’ faith toward God was spreading in every province of the Roman Empire.
Consequently, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy did not need to say anything to these Christians about the Thessalonians.
Now, here in 1 Thessalonians 1:9, the causal clause asserts that Christians everywhere in the various provinces of the Empire were sharing information concerning the manner in which Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy were welcomed by the Thessalonians.
The epexegetical clause which follows identifies how they welcomed these three men and asserts that the Thessalonians turned to God from idols in order to serve the living and true God.
Therefore, this indicates that Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy had no need to say anything to Christians living in the various provinces of the Roman Empire about the Thessalonians’ faith toward God because they heard how they welcomed them.
Specifically, they heard that the Thessalonians turned to worship the true and living God from idols.
So, the people who were sharing information with one another about the Thessalonian's conversion to Christianity and rejection of idolatry were the Christians in the various provinces of the Roman Empire.
Thus, the statements here in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 are a clear indication that the Thessalonian Christian community was in fact primarily Gentile rather than Jewish.
The Jewish people were no longer practicing idolatry upon their return from Babylon in the fifth century B.C.
The gospels make clear that the practice of idolatry was no longer found among the Jewish people but on the other hand, the pagan Gentiles living in the first century A.D. were totally and completely immersed in the practice of idolatry.
Therefore, 1 Thessalonians 1:9 is referring to the Thessalonians’ positive response to the gospel message communicated to them by Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy which is indicated by the two assertions which follow it.
The first assertion is here in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 and asserts that the Thessalonians turned from idolatry to worship and serve the true and living God.
The second appears in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, which asserts that they were eagerly anticipating the rapture of the church when Jesus Christ would come from heaven and deliver them from the wrath God which the inhabitants of planet earth would experience during the last three and a half years of the seventieth week of Daniel.
Notice, the order, the Thessalonians turned to God first and then away from idols, which means they first placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and then they stopped the practice of idolatry, thus, they did not reform their ways and then turned to faith in Christ but rather, it was the other way around.
Thus, they repented of the idolatry they practiced prior to being declared justified by the Father through faith in His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, or in other words, the Thessalonians repented of their idolatry “because” they trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
In relation to receiving eternal salvation and the non-believer, sin is never an issue in repentance according to the Scriptures but rather one’s attitude toward Jesus Christ is the issue (cf. Ps. 103:10; John 1:29; Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 1:3-4; Heb. 8:12; 10:17; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; 1 John 2:2; 3:5; Rev. 1:4-5).
In relation to receiving eternal salvation, the Scriptures never teach repentance of sins but of a change of attitude regarding Christ as one’s personal Savior.
An individual’s personal sins are not an issue because they were all paid for at the cross by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, with respect to the non-believer, repentance would involve simply faith alone in Christ alone (John 3:16-18; Acts 16:31).
The only issue in repentance that the Scriptures teach us regarding the Person and Work of Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:13-20).
The sins of the entire world-past, present, and future were paid for at the cross through the death of Jesus Christ.
The issue in repentance is simply, “Will you change your mind about Jesus Christ and accept Him as your Lord and Savior?”
Salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone and nothing more and nothing less (John 3:16-17, 36; Acts 16:31).
So, 1 Thessalonians 1:9 asserts that the Thessalonians repented from the practice of idolatry, which by way of definition, pertains to the worship of something created as opposed to the worship of the Creator Himself.
It is not only the giving to any creature or human creation the honor or devotion, which belongs to God alone, but also is putting anything ahead of your relationship with God and which would prevent you from doing His will (1 Cor. 10:14; Gal. 5:20; Col. 3:5; 1 Peter 4:3).
In Romans 1:18-23, Paul describes the entire human race as involved in idolatry.
Deuteronomy 32:17 and 1 Corinthians 10:20 teach that the worship of idols is connected to the worship of demons since the sacrificing to idols is in reality sacrificing to demons who promote the worship of idols.
Ultimately in the New Testament idolatry came to mean, not only the giving to any creature or human creation the honor or devotion which belonged to God alone, but the giving to any human desire a precedence over God's will (1 Cor. 10:14; Gal. 5:20; Col. 3:5; 1 Peter 4:3).
So, therefore, 1 Thessalonians 1:9 asserts that Christians throughout the various provinces of the Roman Empire were sharing information with each other regarding the Thessalonians rejected of idolatry and were now serving the true and living God.
When 1 Thessalonians 1:9 describes the Father as “living” it speaks of eternal life, which is an attribute of each member of the Trinity and is received as a gift at the moment of justification by the sinner the moment they exercise faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.
It is experienced by the justified sinner after conversion through obedience to the teaching of the Word of God and in particular obeying the command to love one’s fellow believer as Jesus Christ does.
As we noted, 1 Thessalonians 1:9 asserts that the Father is characterized by truth, which like eternal life is an attribute of God.
God is “the God of truth” (Isa 65:16) and because of His perfect nature and will, God has to speak and act in truth; He cannot lie (1 Sam 15:29; Heb 6:18; James 1:17-18).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the truth of God since He is the Word of God incarnate (John 1:14) and all Jesus said was true, because He told the truth which He heard from God (John 8:40).
He promised His disciples that He would send “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13)-a Mentor and Teacher who would abide in them forever (John 14:16), testify about Jesus (John 15:26), guide them into all truth (John 16:13), and glorify Jesus (John 16:14).
God is truth, the Spirit is truth and Jesus is truth (John 14:6).
This attribute of truth is expressed in the Word of God and is manifested in history through the fulfillment of prophecy both in the Person and Work of Christ and the church and Israel.