The model Church is, in the Word of God, the Church at Thessalonica.
Paul wrote of this Church, saying, "So that ye were examples to. all who believe in Macedonia and in Achaia" (I Thess. 1:7, 1911 Bible).
The word "examples" is the synonym of our word "models."
We have often heard the song entitled: "The Model Church." It runs something like this:
"Well, wife, I've found the model church,
And worshiped there to-day;
It made me think of good old times,
Before my hairs were gray."
Perhaps there are other churches who can stand up by the side of the Church at Thessalonica, but their number is not legion.
We never want to take the role of a carping critic, and give ourselves to maligning the churches of God. We know that Christ loves His Church, for He bought the Church with His own precious Blood.
However, it is sadly true that the churches of the day have, for the most part, left the old moorings. There are very few of them which stand side by side with this model Church.
As the lesson progresses, let us place the church of the present time side by side with the Church at Thessalonica.
If you know that the Lord has added you to His Church, may this constrain you to unreservedly yield to Him, so you may, by precept and example, prove your relation to Him as well as to the Body, and by seeking with all prayer in the spirit, of love to show His very eternal life, and thus represent the spirit of the Model Church.
"For they themselves relate, with regard to us, what manner of entering in we had unto yon" (I Thess. 1:9, 1911 Bible).
Paul came into the city of Thessalonica, and "as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath Days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures" (Acts 17:2).
Paul, then, approached the city of Thessalonica with the open Bible. He preached the Word.
There are a few tilings said about his preaching which will give us an idea of how he entered Thessalonica.
"For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit (A. S. V.), and in much assurance" (I Thess. 1:5).
This is the only kind of Gospel preaching that can bring results. It is not merely preaching a true Word, but preaching a true Word in the Holy Ghost.
Paul preached with power because he was Spir-it-filled. He preached with much assurance because he believed what he spoke.
This is the great need to-day—a message with no uncertain sound, a message delivered with unction.
"For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile" (I Thess. 2:3).
When Paul was commissioned to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he felt that a great trust had been committed unto him. God had put into his care, the Gospel. This Gospel Paul preached just as he received it. He never sought to please men with His statements; he never used flattering words; he never wore a cloak of covetousness. He preached the Word of God without guile, and without hypocrisy.
We also need men who speak in the fear of God, and not in the fear of men. We need men who are ambassadors sent with a message, and who exalt their ambassadorship. We need men who never seek glory for themselves and never use flattering words to obtain it. We need men who are not swept along by the love of money, but who preach the Gospel without money and without price.
Paul said definitely: "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail. Labouring night and day, not to be chargeable to any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God" (I Thess. 2:9, 1911 Bible).
There are some to-day who will preach at so much "per;" they place dollar marks before their sermons, and unless their price is promised, their message is not delivered.
"So, being affectionately desirous of you, it was our joy to impart unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us" (I Thess. 2:8, 1911 Bible).
The Apostle Paul had the people to whom he preached, in his heart. He was gentle among them, even as a nurse, cherishing her own children. He was affectionately desirous of them, even unto pouring out his own soul. He exhorted and comforted them, and charged everyone of them, even as a father his own children.
We need not wonder that such a minister was blessed.
"When ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word, of men, but as it is in troth, the Word of God" (I Thess. 2:13).
We have found how Paul "entered in," now we discover how the Word was "received."
1. It was received not as the Word of men. Some one might have told Paul that he would, by his tender love and compassion to the people, draw them unto himself.
Some one might have told Paul that, because of his earnestness and the fire of his testimony, the people would put their faith in him.
This was not the case. The messages, as Paul gave them, were not received as his messages.
There is altogether too much talk these days about men. The Word of God says, "Cease ye from man." Again it says, "Let no man glory in men."
Paul never preached himself; he never even preached so that the people would put their faith in the wisdom of men. His messages unfolded the Word of God, and were proclaimed in the Spirit of God.
He wrote to the Church at Corinth, "My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (I Cor. 2:4, 5).
2. It was received as the Word of God. Paul went into Thessalonica and opened up unto them the Scriptures. They accepted what he spoke as it was in truth, the very Word of God.
(1) We have before us a tremendous and emphatic claim for the inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures. It was from these Scriptures that Paul preached; and it was these Scriptures which were acclaimed, "Not the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God."
(2) We have before us the great foundation faith of the church in Thessalonica. They believed in the Bible, as the Word of God.
Today hordes of rationalistic teachers are marching through the land. They are dropping their Bible-denying, God-dishonoring, Spirit-defying bombs of rationalism into the camps of the saints.
Let us observe some of those who, like the Thessalonians received the Word, as the Word of God.
"The word of God increased" in Jerusalem (see Acts 6:7).
"Samaria * * received the word of God" (Acts 8:14).
"The Gentiles * * received the word of God" (Acts 11:1).
"Sergius Paulus * * desired to hear the word of God" (Acts 13:7)
"Almost the whole city came to hear the word of God? (Acts 13:44).
We wonder if such statements could be spoken of many individuals, cities, or nations to-day?
When the Apostles preached, the result was: "Mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed" (Acts 19:20).
"The Word of God was the Sword of the Spirit in the hand of the saints."
"The Word of God was quick, and powerful, and a critic of the hearts" (see Heb. 4:12).
God pity the men who corrupt the Word of God; who handle the Word of God deceitfully; who refuse to obey the Word of God.
God bless the men who are ready to die for the Word of God.
"How ye turned to God from idols" (I Thess. 1:9).
We are now coming to the practical results of Paul's work in Thessalonica; results that caused the Holy Spirit to speak of the Church at Thessalonica as a model Church.
1. They turned to God. They had never known God before. Among them were many who had worshiped false gods. If they had known anything of the True God, it was falsely conceived. They never knew God as a God of grace, of love and of mercy, Who had given His Son to die upon the Cross, in their behalf. They never knew God as the One Who had opened the door for their entrance into glory.
When they heard the Apostle Paul preaching Christ crucified, Christ raised from the dead, and Christ coming again, they turned to God.
They had found the way of access to the Father, and they had come to Him with contrite and believing hearts.
They had learned that the God Whom they had always feared, and sought to placate by various rites and ceremonies, was, indeed, a God Who commended His love unto them.
With their new found faith, they came to God; they looked up into His face and they cried, "Abba, Father."
2. They turned from their idols. How could they do anything else? They could not turn to God with their idols. They knew that their idols separated between them and God. As they came to God, they left their idols, and left them gladly.
"Thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).
The action of the Thessalonians in turning from their idols, was a work of faith.
Faith in Jesus Christ is never a dead thing. When a man has faith, the Cross becomes a separating Cross. It was at the Cross that these Thessalonians turned from their idols to serve the Living God.
Some one has suggested that since Paul preached three Sabbath Days in Thessalonica, that, the first Sabbath he preached on "Christ must needs have died." As a result of that message his hearers turned to God, from their idols.
"Ye turned to God from idols to serve the Living and True God" (I Thess. 1:9).
The second Sabbath that Paul was in Thessalonica, he may have preached "That Christ must needs have been raised from the dead."
Whether it was the second Sabbath or no, he certainly preached upon this theme. The result was, the Thessalonians served the Living and the True God.
1. They believed that Jesus Christ was living. They received Paul's message on the resurrection as the Word of God.
They believed that Christ's body did not see corruption, and that His soul was not left in hades.
They believed that the Lord Jesus Christ could not have been holden of the grave; that He arose, and that He ascended up on high, where He ever liveth to make intercession for them.
To them Christ was a living reality.
The Thessalonians did not follow a cold, dead creed, but a glorious, living Christ.
The women of old went down to the tomb on the first day of the week, carrying with them their precious spices. They found the stone rolled away from the grave; they heard the angels as they said, "He is not here but is risen;" they heard the query—"Why seek ye the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5, 6). Then the women departed with great joy and brought the disciples word. That joy of resurrection hope, was the life of the early Church.
The saints of old, and the Thessalonians in particular, did not relegate the resurrection of Christ to a once a year celebration. They were not satisfied with a few Easter lilies, some fancy music, and a sermon on flowers. They walked every day with the living Christ. They set the Lord always before their face, therefore did their hearts rejoice.
2. They believed that Jesus Christ was the Living and True God. They did not speak of the Lord Jesus, as Joseph's son; they knew Him as the Son of God, born of the virgin; they knew that He had come forth from the Father, and that He had returned to the Father.
They believed that He was living, because He was raised; and that, being raised, He was very God of very God.
There was no doubt in the minds of the Thessalonians concerning the Deity of Christ. They believed in His Deity and believed in it tremendously.
The Church at Thessalonica was a model church in this. They knew that the Son of God had come into the world, and that He was true. They knew that they were in Him, that was true, even in Jesus Christ; they knew that He was the true God and eternal life. Compare I John 2:20.
There are many denials going the rounds to-day. There are those who deny both the Father and the Son. There are those who deny that Jesus is the Christ, all of these are of the antichrist. There are those who deny that Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh; they are of the antichrist.
3. They SERVED the Living and True God. They not only believed, but they obeyed. They not only trusted, but they served.
Paul sums up their service, as "a labor of love" (I Thess. 1:3). Whenever a vision of the risen Christ grips the heart, those who see Him and trust Him will never be satisfied without they serve Him. No sacrifice will prove too great, no gift too large, no burden too heavy, no task too irksome.
"And to wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, our Deliverer from the wrath to come"
(I Thess. 1:10, 1911 Bible).
Perhaps, the third Sabbath Day that Paul preached in Thessalonica, he preached upon the fact that there was another King, one Jesus.
We know, at least, that he did preach on the Kingship of Christ (see Acts 17:7).
We know also the result of his preaching—the Thessalonians waited for the Son from Heaven.
They certainly obtained the knowledge of the Lord's Return from the preaching of Paul,—they had no other source of information.
They certainly received Paul's message concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it was, in truth, the very Word of God.
Paul certainly preached the coming of Christ from the Old Testament writings, for he reasoned with the Thessalonians out of the Scriptures.
What then is our conclusion?
1. The Second Coming of Christ is a vital part of Gospel preaching. Paul preached a full, and not an emasculated Gospel. He preached the Cross and its salvation from the penalty of sin.
He preached the resurrection and its salvation from the power of sin.
He preached the Second Coming and its salvation from the presence of sin.
Paul preached the Second Coming of Christ in Thessalonica, a heathen city; he preached it to men who had been idol-worshipers; to men who had known but little, if anything, of the way of Truth.
Some ministers to-day have an idea that the Second Coming of Christ is a theme to be proclaimed only to advanced and matured Christians. It does not seem to dawn upon them that the Lord's Return is a doctrine that is vital, in every way, to one just coming into the knowledge of salvation.
2. The Second Coming of Christ is a vital part of the Church's faith. A model church must hold to a threefold message concerning the work of Christ.
The model church will never fail to emphasize the Cross, to live in touch with the risen Christ, nor to anticipate the coming Christ.
We care not what a church may be called; it may be Baptist, or Methodist, Presbyterian or Episcopalian; it may be Mennonite, or the Church of God; but, unless that church has a clear, positive conviction concerning the Second Coming of Christ, it is not a model, New Testament church.
The blessed hope of Christ's Return was vital to the Church at Thessalonica from its very beginning. Yet the Blessed Hope became more and more a comfort and a stay to the Church, as the days progressed. The time soon came when Thessalonica was called upon to suffer greatly for the cause of Christ; many of its trusted saints were early martyred for the faith.
Then it was, that the doctrine of the Blessed Hope became exceedingly precious.
The Holy Spirit comforted the Church concerning the Second Coming of Christ. He wrote unto them by Paul and said: "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope" (I Thess. 4:13, 1911 Bible).
Then, the Holy Spirit enlarged upon the fact of Christ's Return from Heaven with a shout; He told how the dead in Christ would rise first, and how the living that remained, would be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.
Then the Holy Spirit added: "Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (vs. 18).
The model church will give the Second Coming of Christ, not only a place, but a large place in her faith.
This is emphasized by the fact that, in the Epistles to Thessalonica, God's model Church, the Second Coming of Christ is set forth in the closing verses of every chapter.
"To the end He may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints" (I Thess. 3:13, 1911 Bible).
We pass no�