At Orwell Bible Church, which I pastor, each week we put out a little booklet called, “This Week’s Walk with the Lord.” Most of my thoughts on biblical passages that I record here are the result of my daily Bible reading from that booklet.
This morning I read 1 Thessalonians 1. I have always been both interested and amazed to consider the things Paul taught these Christians whom the Lord saved–in a matter of three weeks (Acts 17:2-4)! Especially interesting is his teaching concerning the Lord’s return. Most churches would probably not rank eschatology as an essential part of new believers’ discipleship, but it was!
In opening his letter, Paul characteristically expresses his thanks and praise to God for his gracious work in the lives of those he writes to. Here, while Paul is moved to thank God for the fruit evident in the believers’ lives (1:3), the ultimate reason for thanksgiving is God’s gracious choice of each individual believer to salvation in Christ (1:4–”knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you”).
This motivation for offering thanksgiving to God only makes sense. Would I thank someone else for something you were responsible for? The ultimate reason for the salvation of any and every believer is due to God’s gracious and sovereign will and action.
How did Paul know that these former pagans (1:9–”you turned to God from idols”) were elect? Did he have some kind of personal pipeline to the mind of God? He gives the basis for this knowledge in verses 5-7. Paul knew that God had sovereignly chosen these individuals to salvation in Christ because of his experience while preaching the gospel (v. 5) and the response of these pagans to that gospel (vv. 6-7).
If you have experienced Christ’s salvation, have you thanked the One responsible for it?
’Tis not that I did choose Thee,
For Lord, that could not be;
This heart would still refuse Thee,
Hadst Thou not chosen me.
Thou from the sin that stained me
Hast cleansed and set me free;
Of old Thou hast ordained me,
That I should live to Thee.
’Twas sov’reign mercy called me
And taught my op’ning mind;
The world had else enthralled me,
To heav’nly glories blind.
My heart owns none before Thee,
For Thy rich grace I thirst;
This knowing, if I love Thee,
Thou must have loved me first.
–Josiah Conder (1836)