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Rejecting the Rivals to God

December 22, 2019 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series: 1 Thessalonians

Topic: Idols Verse: 1 Thessalonians 1:9–1:9

Rejecting the Rivals to God

1 Thessalonians 1:9

Theme: Those chosen by God will devote themselves to the true and living God.

I. They Received of Servants of God – “… what kind of reception we had with you …” 

A. The Astonishment at Their Reception of God’s Messengers

  • As we continue to view the impact of being elect, we recognize this text building upon the previous verses where the notoriety of their faith is spreading worldwide.
  • Now, Paul declares that the people who are hearing about their faith – “they themselves report about us what kind of reception we had with you.”
  • The word “report” [ἀπαγγέλλουσιν] – is a word used to describe making something publicly known – “to proclaim” or to “announce” something to interested parties.
  • It demonstrates that people were astonished at the way that the idolaters in Thessalonica were receiving the truth of the Gospel in ways that resulted in dramatic and real changes – cp. Acts 17:6.

B. The Attentiveness of Their Reception of God’s Message

  • This change in their lives was marked – as they clearly not only received the messengers but were attentive to their message.
  • That message was “explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead” – cp. Acts 17:3.
  • Hence the “reception” was of both the men who preached and the gospel that was preached – and how they favorably responded.
  • This is explained by Paul’s next comments regarding their repentance.

II. They Repented of Sins against God – “and how you turned to God from idols …”

A. Repentance Is Conspicuous in the Adoration of God

  • This is a summary of their conversion experience, being expressed in both a positive and negative aspects.
  • First, the “reception” resulted in “how you turned to God …”
  • The word “turned” [ἐπιστρέφω] – to change direction, to change one’s course of conduct or belief.
  • They were aberrant in their religious pursuits, following after idols and were strangers to the true God, having refused to acknowledge Him as God – cp. Romans 1:21-23.
  • But when they heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they “turned” – repenting and pursuing the glory and adoration of God – cp. Acts 3:19; 11:18, 21; 26:20.
  • This is the ministry that Paul performed wherever he went – calling upon people to turn to the Lord in faith believing – cp. Acts 20:18-21.

B. Repentance is Confirmed in the Abandonment of Falsehood

  • It is impossible to truly turn to God, repenting of sin without abandoning the idolatry from which a sinner needs to be delivered.
  • Our text tells us that they “turned to God from idols …”
  • They recognized that the worship of the true God excluded the worship of idols.
  • When they turned to the true God, their false gods were brought into focus – worthless and empty; materially solid, but spiritually empty.
  • The scathing assessment of idols by the godly became clear and relevant to them – cp. Isaiah 44:9-20; Jeremiah 10:1-10.
  • There is no agreement or affinity between the true God who cannot be represented physically and an idol – 2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6.
  • When people are saved, they abandon idolatry even as they do other abominations – cp. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
  • Thus, when a person abandons their former life of idolatry and abhors sin in order to adore the true God, their life of faith is confirmed.
  • Indeed, the human heart craves some kind of physical representation of God – an idol, which is why the 2nd Commandment reads: “You shall not make for yourself and idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” Exodus 20:4.
  • This is one of the reasons that Jesus satisfies the heart for worship – since He himself is the image of the invisible God – Colossians 1:15.

III. They Resolved to Serve the True God – “… to serve a living and true God”

A. The Contrast to Their Former Lives

  • Paul here uses two terms to contrast God with the idols they had once served: “living and true …”
  • The first term “living” [ζάω] – emphasizes being alive physically
  1. It actually underscores living as opposed to inanimate such as the idols.
  2. Additionally, in that God is “living,” He both acts alive as well as gives life to all that is – John 5:26, 40.
  • The other term “true” [ἀληθινός] – conveys that God is genuine, or authentic – all that He is corresponds to what is true, instead of being counterfeit as are the idols.
  • Their lives now were being informed by the God who is truly alive and real instead of the superstition and assertion of their previous idols.

B. The Commitment in Their Future Lives

  • As a result, they are now living “to serve” this genuine God.
  • The term “serve” [δουλεύω] – indicates that they were actual slaves, having yielded their rights of autonomy to a master – who is God.
  • The present infinitive form emphasizes the continuous, complete and constant service to God.
  • They have exchanged a bondage in servitude to idols for a bondage in servitude to the true and living God!

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