Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. (1 Thessalonians 1:1-4)
A Big Church Sign
Churches are easily identifiable by the signs out front declaring their allegiance to various faiths and practices. They say a lot about what group the church follows, what they believe and how they practice their religion. Sign makers have long been prosperous in creating elaborate edifices highlighting groups identifying marks. The popularity of having a sign in front of the building is a new novelty in the history of man and development of the many church faiths. For nearly 1500 years, there was only the one true church of the Lord and a few apostate representatives of the early church (Roman Catholic; Eastern Orthodox). It was not until the period of the Reformation that ‘attending the church of your choice’ would become a popular national pastime through the years of protestant branches of the Roman Catholic Church developing in Europe and America. Today there are thousands of different denominations and most of those have signs out front with thousands of different names and descriptions.
Turning an eye back nearly two thousand years to the early church we see a different picture. There was only one church. For nearly six hundred years, the truth of one church remained constant in the minds of men. In the first century of the church Jesus died for there was a group of saints that met in a city just north of Athens, Greece. Thessalonica was a Roman town that had a prosperous and lively group of people who believed in the Father and Jesus Christ as Lord. Paul addressed them as a body of people who were in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ. They did not have a name like so many churches today. The sign in the front of their church building declared who they were and what they were and it was a big sign. Okay, they did not have a church building with a sign out front but in a figure that is how Paul identified the church in Thessalonica. He called them a church. The apostle recognized these saints were individuals who knew what it meant to be in God.
The brethren at Thessalonica were models of what the New Testament church should be. The church in this city was full of hard workers diligently sharing the gospel message of salvation to a lost world. Paul commended them for their work of faith and labor of love. These are words of action. Faith and love were not signs out front but signs of the heart. Working and laboring suggested these brethren were active in what they believed. Being a Christian during the Roman period would bring a lot of persecution but these brethren continued the work of God with a patient hope knowing their eternal destination was secure in Christ. The church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ did not need a painted or electrified sign out front to let the world know what they were doing. This province of Greece was being turned upside down by the lives of the saints who knew what it meant to be in God and in His Son.
There was a big church sign in Thessalonica. It was found in the hearts of simple people loving the Lord God with all their hearts, souls, minds and bodies. The Lord Jesus radiated in their lives as men and women, husband, wives, fathers and mothers and citizens of the Roman Empire. Whatever labor they engaged in was measured by the word of God and their faith in His word. Death was not fearful for them as they looked for the glorious coming of Jesus Christ. They faced persecution with the faith of their Lord who was killed on a cross. The church of the Thessalonians was filled with rejoicing, prayer, thanksgiving, the Holy spirit, preaching and abstaining from every form of evil. The coming of the Lord would not come soon enough for these brethren. And they did all of this without a sign in front of a church building. These people were the sign.