■■■■■† 화란한인교회에 오신 것을 환영합니다. 암스테르담, 암스텔담, 암스텔빈, 암스텔펜 한인교회 †■■■■■
English Sermon (`19.06.30) The Church of the Thessalonians
2019-07-02 17:20:14, view [
The Church of the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10)
30 June 2019 Korean Reformed Church in the Netherlands
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers[b] loved by God, that he has chosen you,5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 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. 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, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thes.1:1-10)
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy sent a letter to the church of the Thessalonians. A letter addressed to a church. So we call this letter ‘the Letter to the Thessalonians’. To the ‘Thessalonicher’ in German, and ‘Tessalonicenzen’ in Dutch too.
The letter to all the saints living who are at Philippi (Phil. 1:1) is the Letter to the Philippians. The letter to the saints at Ephesus is the Letter to the Ephesians. The Letter to the Colossians is a letter written to the saints in Colossae. But the Letter to the Thessalonians is not written to the saints who live in Thessalonica. Strictly speaking, the recipient is the church of the Thessalonian people.
To add a little more explanation, you cannot say it is addressed to the people who live in the city of Thessalonica, just because it is addressed to the church of the Thessalonians. I say this for the fact the Thessalonians’ church does not automatically mean that it is a church in Thessalonica.
The Thessalonians are the Greek who live in Thessalonica. They can be compared to the people who live in Busan, quite a way from the capital city Seoul. But, even if they lived elsewhere, not just in their hometown of Thessalonica, they would still be called Thessalonians. It's like we are called Koreans even though we live in the Netherlands.
In this respect, the church of the Thessalonians does not mean a church found in one geographic place but it is addressed to the church built by the believers, who are originally from Thessalonica, you may find else where in the world. Paul, Silas and Timothy did not say either that the church they were addressing was in the second port city Thessalonica that had a hot spring.
Instead, Paul said that they were ‘in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thes.1:1)’. Usually in the other letters, the names of the churches depended on where the believers lived, like the church of Ephesus and the church of Philippi. But as much as the church of the Thessalonians is concerned, it does not denote a geographic place, but a very spiritual place.
It also means that this church is not just limited to the geographical area called Thessalonica, but rather a church scattered to other larger areas, even though it would have started there. It is a church that is scattered all over the world, like us, a Diaspora church.
In 1 Thes. 1:7, it says ‘And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.’ Their reports have been spread all around. By this, it would not mean that only the rumors and stories about them were spread. But along the reports, the Thessalonians congregation will have progressed in advance to various parts of Greece or even more widely to abroad.
From the Dutch Reformed Church there are also those who immigrated to Canada or the States. They are referred as the Reformed Church (Gereformeerde Gemeente) here, but they call themselves "Ledboerian" or add "in Nederland en Nordamerika" after their names. It is like we live in the Netherlands, but we call ourselves a Korean church.
It means that while it is true that a church is a community that is located within a local unit, it does not necessarily remain within that physical limit. A church may be in Corinth, but it also may well be a church where the Thessalonians gather. It is like a church may be in Amstelveen, but it may still be a Korean church composed of a Korean national unit or language group.
As Paul wrote to this kind of church, that is, the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, he greets them with a blessing ‘Grace and peace to you’. He blessed this scattered people’s gathering that came from a particular region with the same grace and peace he blessed the churches in other regions. This means that Diaspora churches like ourselves, scattered but gathered elsewhere again in ethnic groups, are also the beneficiary of the grace and peace of God Paul blessed.
This is also true with our church and the Dutch Reformed Church: the church in the Netherlands and the church of the scattered Korean people, wherever they may be, are of the one same Church that enjoys the same grace and peace of God. The regular church and the so-called Diaspora church, or the local church and the ethnic church are of the same kingdom of God.
Then, why would you receive the same grace and peace of God, no matter whether you are a native or a Diaspora church? Paul wrote to the church of the Thessalonians, ‘we give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers’. Why would he do that?
It is because of ‘their work of faith, the labour of love, and the steadfastness of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ’, which we know so well. For this, though scattered and divided, they are still called the true bride of Christ.
Our church too is a church that is like the church of the Thessalonians Paul wrote to. We are a church that has the apostolic succession inherited since then. Because we have the same faith, hope, and love as they do.
This means in reverse that how they came to imitate the Lord having received the Word from Paul and why and how we came to believe and came to church are the same. In addition, how they gathered as the church of the Thessalonians in not known places, loved and laboured, is the same as how our church now endures and bears as a stranger here. What they persevered and endured is what we now hope and endure too.
These three things are the symbol of the upright church that we should always go back to. The formation of their faith and the works of love they have achieved! And hope and perseverance in their hearts! They are the medium that makes us, the church two thousand years ago, and the churches and brothers scattered all over the world into one. We can be friends with the world or unite with Belial.
This is also true with each of us, in the relationship between believers. Just because they attend church, it does not mean people can immediately recognize each others as brothers as soon as they meet in a foreign place. Just because they are from Thessalonica they cannot automatically be one church. Surely, what one hopes and believes, thence the reason he lives and endures has to be the same as what we hold.
Then, what do these three features precisely point to? First, what is the work of the Thessalonians’ faith? What did they believe, and how did they live out their faith? This is written in 1 Thessalonians 1: 4-6.
First of all, they believed that they were loved by God. To quote Paul who preached the gospel to them, they believed that they were chosen by God.
What did Paul do to preach that faith? Just as he has done in the church of Corinth, Paul lived among them, and became a certain person for them. He spent his time in a particular way. And they knew in what way (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
Let’s remember when Paul preached the gospel in the church of Corinth. Paul did not give a great lecture, hold a rally, nor did he run a specialized programme. Amidst them, Paul was weak, fearful and even trembling. Nevertheless, they were born again, the gift of the Holy Spirit unfolded and they became a church. Paul has confessed that such a way of preaching the gospel was the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit. He suppressed his great scholarly discipline and background and gave way to God to do His work.
It was the same when Paul preached the gospel to the Thessalonians. So their church too is said to have received the gospel with joy given by the Holy Spirit in the midst of severe suffering. This is the part how they became an example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia. This is the way how our church should receive the gospel and have such faith too.
In 1 Thess. 1: 9, Paul says that he has heard ‘they tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God’! This is the labour of love of the Thessalonians who came to have faith in that way our words cannot express all: How they turned from idols and believed that God loves them.
Then we too will have to give up our idolatry of ourselves, money, honor, and power and return to God; and trust the God who has chosen us and loved us. On the other side, we have to abandon even the forms of faith we have created to our pleasing, and return to the way of faith at that time these epistles preach.
Finally, the steadfastness of their hope is that they wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead. It is a life that waits for the 2nd coming. Theologically speaking, it is the eschatological faith.
It is a life that has its hope in heaven, discarding all kinds of greed, putting hope in this world and following the values of this world, for example thinking how to make a larger church? how do we become more of a church that suits our own taste? how exercise the benefit as a Korean community here?
When you get to enter a church while you are traveling anywhere in the world, do not look at the building, the ceremony or the people, but look at what faith, love, and hope they have. And if it is indeed the same as the faith the Thessalonians had, then know that it is the Church of Christ, the Body of Christ, established by the Lord Himself.
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