Gospel-Centered Ministry, 1 Thessalonians 1:3

July 7, 2016 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement | Tags: love, Thanksgiving, fruit of the Spirit

Turned Upside Down by the Gospel, Part 1
Gospel-Centered Ministry, 1 Thessalonians 1:3

I have always come back to Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians as an example and inspiration of faithful gospel ministry. One of my first sermons I preached at Oak Hills as pastor was a prayer for our church based upon 1 Thessalonians. Over the next few weeks, let’s look again at this personal, pastoral letter, and reaffirm our focus on the gospel and the ministry of the gospel.

As he frequently does, Paul begins his letter to the Thessalonians with a word of thanks to God. He thanks God for their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3).

What is significant about this thanksgiving? Paul was anxious about their spiritual well-being. Paul’s visit to Thessalonica was cut short by an angry mob, staying only about a month (see Acts 17:1-10, particularly verse 2). He even says that they “were torn away from” them (1 Thes. 2:17). He plainly expresses his real concern for the Thessalonians in 3:5, “when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.”

Paul was concerned that their profession of faith in the gospel would not have taken root and produced fruit in their lives because of the affliction they witnessed. Notice that he doesn’t express concern for their physical well-being, even though the situation turned violent (see Acts 17:5-6). Paul’s ministry aim among the Thessalonians was gospel-fruit.

Pray with me that the gospel would bear fruit among us and through us at Oak Hills. Nothing else has eternal significance or consequence. Our first concern and priority is to hear the gospel, believe the gospel, and allow the gospel to bear fruit in our lives.

What is your first concern and priority when you come to church?

The other aspect that stands out to me regarding Paul’s thanksgiving is his personal and pastoral love for the Thessalonians. If we follow the time marks from Acts 17, Paul really did not spend much time in Thessalonica. His ambition was to preach the gospel (see Rom. 15:20), and yet, he was not so task-oriented, nor was he so concerned about his reputation and success rates, that he overlooked the people. Within a very short period of time Paul became “affectionately desirous” of the Thessalonians because they “had become very dear” to him (1 Thes. 2:8). Paul ministered among people with a genuine love for them.

Pray with me that each of us, as ministers for the gospel, would let our love be genuine and that “the Lord make [us] increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Thes. 3:12). The purpose for which Paul makes this prayer is that God “may establish your hearts blameless in holiness” (3:13). Genuine love is gospel fruit. Genuine love is a litmus test of growth in holiness. One is not growing in the gospel or in holiness without growing in love for others. Paul’s love for the Thessalonians not only gives us an example for how to minister to others, but it also sets the bar high for gospel growth in our lives.

Next week we’ll come back to Paul’s thanksgiving prayer in 1:3 to understand what these specific gospel fruits look like in our lives and how they make all the difference as we live in this tumultuou


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