Be a Builder, Not a Blaster - Part 2
Do you encourage and motivate others with your words or do you find it easier to point out the flaws in others? Join Dr. Marty Baker as he takes us through 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 and continues to unpack what it means to Be a Builder, Not a Blaster.
In order to build up believers in local churches he founded, Paul gave them various “one another,” that are as viable today as they were then.
- “Be devoted to one another” (Rom. 12:10)
- “Be of the same mind toward one another (Rom. 12:16)
- “Love on another” (Rom. 13:8)
- “Stop passing judgment on one another” (Rom. 14:13)
- “Accept one another” (Rom. 15:7)
- “Greet one another” (2 Cor. 13:12)
- “Serve one another” (Gal. 5:13)
- “Bearing with one another” (Eph. 4:2)
- “Be kind to one another” (Eph. 4:32)
- “Submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)
- “Forgive one another” (Phil. 2:5)
- “Teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16)
Paul’s letters, as grouped in the NT, close out their “one another” commands with this one:
- “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11)
Show me a mature, growing church, and I’ll show you one where the saints are attentive to thirteen divine mandates. Show me a mature, growing church, like the Thessalonian church, which is the only church praised for being a magnificent model for other churches, and I’ll show you one where joy, hope, and positivity fill the air because the saints are devoted to building instead of blasting believers.
Our church is this type of church. We are here to help you grow into the character of Jesus Christ, and to showcase His holy character in your daily living. We desire for you to leave this place of study and worship feeling emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually stronger when you arrived. We want you to develop relationships here that will serve as a medicinal balm for your battered and weary soul. How is this all accomplished? It is realized by our commitment to being encouragers, not discouragers. Are we good at it? Yes. Is there room for improvement? Always.
How do we enhance Paul’s command in this crucial spiritual area? In his opening words to the Thessalonians, we learn from his teaching on the subject. Within verses two through ten, we encounter this over-arching motif:
Build Up Believers By Focusing On Their Spiritual Gains (1 Thess. 1:2-10)
By way of review, in our last study we dug into Paul’s first three validating practical points:
- Mention Their Place (1 Thess. 1:2), or let other saints know you love them enough to thank God for them as you think about them. Additionally,
- Mention Their Performance (1 Thess. 1:3), or specifically tell other saints exactly why you are thankful for them. Lastly,
- Mention Their Position (1 Thess. 1:4-5), or remind them how their amazing salvation is proof-positive they are one of God’s special chosen children. They possess a unique standing despite what naysayers might articulate.
Before we move on to analyze Paul’s fourth and fifth points, I must ask you a personal question. In light of Paul’s counsel in this opening three points about how to encourage other believers, did you up your game this week?
Within verses six through nine, we encounter Paul’s fourth concept we would do well to understand and apply so we grow, along with the church body.
Mention Their Pattern (1 Thess. 2:6-9)
What does this mean? It means you tell other Christians exactly why they are positive spiritual examples for other Christians. True, if they are not examples, then the command to “admonish one another” comes into view (Col. 3:16 ); however, if the saint’s life is a model for others and is having a positive impact, then let them know you see how God is using them. Watch how Paul skillfully developes this idea:
6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
In Greek, which is the language of the NT, the second-person personal pronoun “you” is located in an emphatic position toward the front of the sentence (Καὶ ὑμεῖς μιμηταὶ ἡμῶν ἐγενήθητε καὶ τοῦ κυρίου, δεξάμενοι τὸν λόγον ἐν θλίψει πολλῇ μετὰ χαρᾶς πνεύματος ἁγίου). It’s as if Paul says, “You, yes, you are imitators of the missionary team and the Lord.” The word for imitator is mimetes (μιμητής), which is the lexical word for our word, mimic. Who did these saints mimic? First, Paul, because he was the flesh and blood saint who led them to Christ, and second, Christ, the Lord they could see from Paul’s teachings and the Scriptures.
What exactly did these new converts mimic from Paul and Christ’s life? The ability to be joyous even though their newfound faith came under constant attack by Jewish and Gentile persecutors. I’m sure they were mocked, belittled, maligned, ostracized, laughed at, ridiculed, and canceled when they swam against the spiritual flow by believing Jesus was, in fact, the prophesied God-man Savior for sinners. And you thought opposition to the faith was relatively new. Think again. To know and walk with Christ is to draw fire from those who reject Him and His teachings. Jesus said this much:
20 Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also (John. 15).
Paul also made this point in his last letter to Pastor Timothy:
12 And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3).
If you are a believer, expect to experience what Paul calls tribulation in First Thessalonians 1, verse 6. The word, thlipsei (θλῖψις), literally means to place something in a pressurized, restricted situation so it can be slowly crushed. You know how this works, I’m sure:
- You speak up regarding how equality and equity are illogical, and you are quickly called all kinds of names.
- You speak up with your T-shirt regarding how Jesus saves, and you are initially questioned by security for trespassing by breaking mall anti-solicitation rules.
- You say your religion keeps you from wearing a rainbow jersey as a professional (Christian) hockey player (Ivan Provorov, a Russian who plays for the Philadelphia Flyers), and all of a sudden the sportscasters are not concerned about how you play the sport, but about how bigoted and hateful you are.Hey, what about our freedom to choose?
The list goes on, but you know the drill if you live for Christ. If you are experiencing any form of persecution for your faith, learn right now it comes with the turf.
Why are saints opposed? The list is long, and the answer could be a lengthy series in and of itself. Suffice it to say, Christ’s statement in John 3, verse 19, gives us a flash of insight as to why the faithless attack the faithful:
19 And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil (John 3).
The spiritual and moral light you obtain through the Word of God, which, in turn, is hopefully showcased in your daily life, bothers and convicts those who love darkness more than light. So, to deal with and silence their consciences, they come at you in various clever ways.
What is most motivational and encouraging is that these new Thessalonian saints didn’t buckle when the winds of opposition came at them from the moment they came to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord. They stood their ground, they didn’t retreat, they didn’t offer apologies, and they didn’t complain. No, they joyously endured. Who did they learn this from?
They learned it from Paul’s example in Philippi. When he and Silas cast the demon out of the young slave girl, resulting in her handlers losing profit because she could not provide divination anymore, these unscrupulous businessmen had Paul and Silas stripped, beaten, and then locked away in the innermost dark, dank, and dismal cell in the local prison (Acts 16). How did the missionaries respond?
25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; (Acts 16).
When most would have sulked and complained, these godly men, who believed in the providence and protection of the living God, yes, these men, prayed and joyously sang hymns of praise. Nobody sang in that prison, ever. Nobody ever expressed joy while being in that place. But these men did. Why? They knew and applied the teaching of their Lord:
10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt. 5).
All of this makes me wonder, when you are opposed for your faith in Jesus, what will be your go-to song? I stand with my late sister, Marla, on her favorite hymn:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of his Spirit, washed in His blood
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
What about it? If you don’t have that spiritual song ready now, then now is the time to get prepared so you can sing joyously amidst your persecution and thereby praise God, while also piquing the interest of the lost.
Paul encouraged the saints in Thessalonica because their faith in the fire of persecution and opposition made them a model for all other churches to follow:
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. 9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, (1 Thess. 1).
This is the only church Paul extols as a model. This data point makes them worthy of our study and application. The Greek word here for example is typos (τύπους). Gene Green, a NT Greek scholar, defines the word well:
The term model (typos) could mean various things, such as the example or model that would be used to produce clay pots, or a relief carving or painting that represented not only the one depicted but also the person’s character. It could also denote the seal that leaves an impression or the mold by which some material, such as soft clay, was shaped. It was used metaphorically in ethical teaching as the “model” of conduct to which a person should, or should not, conform.
This is all so amazing. While Paul is traveling to Berea, Athen, and then Corinth, the radical spiritual transformation these saints in Thessalonica evidenced spread like wildfire throughout Macedonia and Achaia (where Athens and Corinth were located). How did this happen? It probably occurred as folks traveling on the Via Ignatian highway shared how multi-generational idol worshippers dropped their vain belief for belief in the living God, Jesus, the Christ. I’m sure mariners also quickly took the story of how these saints joyously held up under persecution and opposition to nearby and far-away ports. Spiritual enlightenment was occurring in Thessalonica and everyone was talking about it, almost everywhere.
Don’t you know these courageous saints were encouraged when Paul wrote these commendable words? This is precisely what they need when saints are living as they should. They need precise words identifying what they are doing that serve as a model and pattern for other saints to follow. I, like Paul, commend you, church, for also bearing up under the various forms of persecution we face because we hold to the inerrancy and absolute, unchanging truth of the Word of God and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I praise you for the joy and peace you exude, and I challenge each of us to continue to be a model in this fashion, especially as the spiritual and moral darkness grows and swirls around us. We are a pattern for other churches, but more will be required of us as our society becomes more radically secularized. In the meantime, continue to be joyous in the fire of faith, and mince no words about the radical transformation the gospel brings to a life shackled to sin.
Finally, we can encourage saints by adding a fifth concept:
Mention Their Purview (1 Thess. 2:10)
According to the Britannica Dictionary, purview means “an area within which someone or something has authority, influence, or knowledge.” What theological knowledge do saints possess, which, when reminded, encourages and builds them up in hard times? Here is Paul’s answer:
10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.
Paul speaks openly here about the blessed hope these saints had concerning the imminent return of Jesus from heaven. They knew from Paul’s teaching that the Lord could return at any moment. This is called the doctrine of imminency, and Renald Showers gives us a cogent definition:
“. . . an imminent event is one that is always hanging overhead, is constantly read to befall or overtake a person, is always close at hand in the sense that it could happen at any moment . . . In light of th meaning of the term ‘imminent’ and the fact that the next coming of Christ has not happened yet, we can conclude that the concept of the imminent coming of Christ is that His next coming is always hanging overhead, is constantly ready to befall or overtake us, is always close at hand in the sense that it could happen at any moment.”
Paul drives home this spiritual truth in his letters to churches:
5 Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near (Phil. 4).
James talks about it as well:
9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door (James. 5).
If Christ’s return was close 2,000 years ago, we are really close now, right? It is exciting to think about. The Lord is coming back, just as He said (Matt. 24-25), along with the angel at His ascension (Acts 1:9ff). Talk about an encouraging thought!
Concerning Christ’s return, Paul says the Thessalonians waited for Him. The word in question is composed of a preposition, ana (ἀνα), which means up, and a verb, meno (μένω), which means to remain or abide. Since the preposition wedded to the verb makes it emphatic, Paul emphasizes how these saints were super excited about and committed to the soon revelation and arrival of their Lord. Think of a child waiting up the night before he leaves for Disney World and you have an idea of what the word connotes. Say, are you this excited about the Lord’s return? You should be. He who defeated death and sits at the right hand of the Holy Father is coming back to accomplish many spectacular, wonderful, and jaw-dropping purposes (this is another study altogether).
The question, however, in light of Paul’s statement here is this: Which return is this? Is it His Second Coming, which is clearly revealed through the Old and New Testaments as occurring at the end of the seven-year tribulation (Dan. 9:24-27; Matt. 24-25)? Or is it another revelation at another time? I think the answer is found in the last clause of First Thessalonians 1, verse 10:
10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.
10 καὶ ἀναμένειν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν, ὃν ἤγειρεν ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦν, τὸνῥυόμενον ἡμᾶς ἐκ τῆς ὀργῆς τῆς ἐρχομένης.
The verb delivers, is from rhuomia ( ῥύσομαι), which connotes saving someone from acute peril and danger. Note: It does not denote keeping someone safe in or through a perilous, life-threatening situation. This is our first clue concerning identifying the Lord’s return mentioned here.
A second major clue is found in the preposition from, ek (ἐκ). According to Danker’s Greek Lexicon, this preposition is a “marker denoting separation, from, out of, away from.” Had Paul wanted to say the saints waited for the Lord who would deliver them through the coming divine wrath, he would have chosen the preposition dia ( διὰ). Paul chose ek/from to underscore how saints would be spared the coming time of divine wrath.
A third major clue rests in the phrase “the wrath to come.” The article before the word informs you this is not just any time of divine wrath, but the big one, which is prophesied throughout both testaments (Isa. 24-27; 65:17-19; 66:22; Joel 2-3; Zech. 12-14; Matt. 24-25; Rev. 19). The word Paul uses for wrath is orge (ὀργή). According to the French Greek grammarian Richard Trench, this unique word is more of an abiding and settled habit of mind, as opposed to a quick, explosive show of wrath as in thumos ( θυμὸς). Think of how a coal fire burns under the ground for years, and then all-of-a-sudden it breaks out and devours and destroys. This is like orge.
As such, God’s day/time of wrath against sin and sinners is prophetically wedded to this particular word in the OT.
14 Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. 15 A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16 A day of trumpet and battle cry, against the fortified cities and the high corner towers. 17 And I will bring distress on men, so that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; and their blood will be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. 18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the LORD's wrath; and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth. (Zeph. 1).
The Septuagint, or Greek version of the OT, rightfully used the word orge when the prophet foretold the divine judgment at the end of time.
LXT Zephaniah 1:15 ἡμέρα ὀργῆς ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη ἡμέρα θλίψεως καὶ ἀνάγκης ἡμέρα ἀωρίας καὶ ἀφανισμοῦ ἡμέρα σκότους καὶ γνόφου ἡμέρα νεφέλης καὶ ὁμίχλης (Zeph. 1:15 LXT)
Concerning this time of frightful, fearful judgment, which entails the seven-year tribulation (Dan. 9:24-26), and which will culminate in the Second Coming of Jesus (Rev. 19), Paul says saints will be divinely delivered from this time of ultimate peril and disaster. What is this a reference to? It could only be to the Rapture of the Church, which will precede this time of judgment prepared for Israel (Jer. 30:7 ) and the lost (Zeph. 3:8), and it will be a concept Paul will develop further in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Here he only intimates its existence with his careful wording. Later, he will bring it to the forefront to encourage saints of all ages.
As D. Edmond Hiebert cogently remarks:
“In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 the Thessalonian believers are pictured as waiting for the return of Christ. The clear implication is that they had a hope of His imminent return. If they had been taught that the Great Tribulation, in whole or in part, must first run its course, it is difficult to see how they could be described as expectantly waiting Christ’s return. Then they should rather have been described as bracing themselves for the Great Tribulation and the painful events connected with it.”
What an excellent point! What an encouraging fact! Be encouraged despite the encroachment of evil you see, and build up and encourage other believers by zeroing in, more often than not, on this auniqueand exciting purview.
 Renald Showers, Maranatha: Our Lord, Come (Bellmawr, New Jersey: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), 127-129.
 Benjamin Chapman, New Testament-Greek Notebook (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), 8.
 Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 298.
 D. Edmond Hiebert, The Thessalonian Epistles (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), 205.