From Sinners to Saints

Pastor Phil Andrukaitis, October 30, 2022

The Apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians

 General Theme: Living Righteously While Waiting Patiently for Jesus to Return

Sermon Title:  From Sinners to Saints

Sermon Text: First Thessalonians 1:4-5

Subject: The gospel’s impact

Complement: The gospel is powerful enough to change a person’s life.

Big Idea: God transforms sinners into saints (1:4-5).


I.          Spiritual leaders prove their concern for the church. (1:1a)

II.        Spiritual leaders provide care for the church. (1:1bc)

III.       Spiritual leaders pray for the church. (1:2-10)

            A.         By giving thanks to God for the lives of believers (1:2a)

            B.         By naming the believers in their daily prayers (1:2b)

            C.        By remembering the godly virtues of believers (1:3)

            D.        By acknowledging the gospel’s impact upon believers (1:4-10)

Our focus today:        1.         God transforms sinners into saints. (1:4-5)

                                    2.         Transformed saints become imitators of Christ. (1:6-10)


“Bryan Wilkerson and his wife own a sterling silver tea set in their home.  The tea set was a gift a gift from a family member as a reminder of her love for them.  It’s quite old and beautifully made, and it sits on a stand in their living room.  However, there’s only one problem:  They can’t use it.  Evidently, just before the family member gave Bryan and his wife this tea set, she had the set chemically coated so that it would not tarnish.  Consequently, any hot water would ruin the finish.

“God’s not looking for sterling silver tea sets; He is looking for the “rough-and-tumble” clay pots – the kind that can be used every day.  God is looking for the kind of pots that don’t need to be tucked away in some china closet but can be sent out into this “crash-bang world” carrying the life of Christ. 

“The church was never meant to be a china cabinet, where precious pieces could be safely stowed away out of harm’s way.  The church was meant to be a working kitchen, where well-worn pots are filled again and again to dispense their life-giving contents to a thirsty world.”

Source:  Bryan Wilkerson, “Unbreakable?” 

Transitional Thoughts

However, before God sends His saints into this world to testify of His grace as His “rough-and-tumble” clay pots, the Lord desires for the saints to know Him before attempting to help sinners to know Him.  God created you and me to know Him.  Jesus defined eternal life in this way:  Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know You [God the Father] the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent” (John 17:3).  In other words, the knowledge of God is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else [J.I. Packer].  Jeremiah added:

“Thus, says the LORD.  Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom [skillful living], let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD Who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Last week, we examined three reasons why Paul thanked God for the Thessalonian church: 

A.         By giving thanks to God for the lives of believers (1:2a)
B.         By naming the believers in their daily prayers (1:2b)
C.        By remembering the godly virtues of believers (1:3)

  • Work of faith
  • Labor of love
  • Patience of hope

This morning, we will examine a fourth reason why Paul thanked God for the church (1:4-5).  What is that reason?  God transforms sinners into saints.  Here are two significant truths that undergird this amazing miracle.  When…

I.         Sinners are elected by God (1:4).

II.        Sinners are exposed to the gospel of God (1:5).

God transforms sinners into saints.

I.         Sinners are elected by God (1:4).

“…knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.”

(First Thessalonians 1:4)

The transformation of any sinner always begins with God!  According to the text, Paul knew three facts about the Thessalonian church.

A.         Paul knew that the Thessalonian saints belonged to God.

Paul’s use of the word “know” oida (Strong’s #1492) indicates that he had seen – perceived that these believers were genuine, belonging to God because of the fruit their lives exhibited.  What fruit did the Thessalonian saints exhibit?  The following verses (First Thessalonians 1:6-10) reveal their godly lifestyle.  [This will be the focus in next Sunday’s sermon].

In other letters written by the apostle John, John uses the same word, oida, to assure believers of their salvation in Christ (First John 5:13, 15, 19).

B.         Paul knew that the Thessalonian saints are children of God.

Paul’s use of the word “brothers” adelphos (Strong’s #80) literally means, from the same womb.  In other words, Paul understood that all believers are related because they are born of God.  Listen to John 1:12-13.

“But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He [The Father] gave the right to         become children of God, even to those who believe in His [Jesus] name:  Who were            born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God                 [Spirit].”

You will notice that in John 1:12-13, the Triune God is at work in the lives of sinners, transforming them into saints.  When Nicodemus sought out Jesus to question Him about the source of all the signs and wonders Jesus was doing, Jesus replied,

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus said to Him, ‘how can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’  Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [Scripture?] and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’” (John 3:5).

Know this, apart from the Holy Spirit’s ministry (John 3:5) and the Holy Scriptures (1st Peter 1:23), no sinner can be saved.  Listen to First Peter 1:22-23.

“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…”                                 

C.        Paul knew that the Thessalonian saints are chosen by God.

Paul knew that the saints of God are “chosen” eklogē (Strong’s #1589); an act of God whereby He selected some sinners to receive His divine grace.  In the Greek, the article appears before the word election, tēn eklogēn humōn, signifying that God had specifically chosen some of the Thessalonian citizens unto salvation, by way of hearing and receiving the gospel.

In his later letter to the Ephesian church, Paul reveals the same theological truth.  Before God brought about creation, God chose sinners according to His pleasure and not because of His omniscience (Ephesians 1:4-5).  Listen to these two verses.

“…He [God the Father]chose us in Him [Jesus] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”  Read Romans 8:23 – adoption!

God did not choose sinners to become saints because of any righteous things we might have done but because of His mercy (Titus 3:4-7).  Listen to Paul’s words to Titus.

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us    through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Whom He [Holy Spirit] poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been         justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

God is a loving God and desires an intimate relationship with those whom He has elected to Himself.  Listen carefully, being chosen by God to be His child, to be pardoned for our sins through the shed blood of Jesus, and to have eternal life is the greatest gift any sinner can receive.  The Bible teaches that no one can come to God on his/her own because we are spiritually dead.

God chooses:

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…” (John 16:16a).

God draws:               

“No one can come to Me [Jesus] unless the Father Who sent Me draws him [the sinner]. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).

God reveals            

“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows Who the Son is except the Father, or Who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Luke 10:22).

God keeps:                

“I [Jesus] give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29).

Statement of Fact:   

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Transitional Thoughts

God transforms sinners into saints because they were elected by God the Father, redeemed by the Son of God, regenerated by the Spirit of God, and witnessed to by the child of God with the Word of God! 

According to our text there is a second significant truth; God transforms sinners into saints when they are exposed to the gospel (1:5).

II.        Sinners are exposed to the gospel of God (1:5).

“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit
and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.”
(First Thessalonians 1:5)

A.         The gospel comes with words.

Words are necessary for intelligent communication.  Without words, it is impossible to understand what is in the mind of the one attempting to communicate.  The gospel literally came “in word” so that we may understand God’s message – salvation by grace through Jesus Christ.  Therefore, we must not only work at better understanding the gospel message but also improve on the way we present the gospel to others. 

Read 2nd Timothy 2:15. “Be diligent to present yourself approved by to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Author Dorothy Sayer stated, “I believe it is a grave mistake to present Christ to sinners as something charming and popular with no offense in it.”  The church must be clear in its understanding of the gospel and to present it with bold faith, yet with a loving spirit.  The church must not dilute the gospel for fear that it might “turn off” people.  Is the goal of the church to increase its membership or to see sinners become saints?

Read First Corinthians 1:18, 21. “For the message of the cross is foolishness [an offense] to those who are perishing.  But to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

B.         The gospel comes with power.

The gospel does not depend, however, upon a person’s eloquent speech or human understanding but when speakers are empowered by God to proclaim the gospel, the speaker becomes aware of God’s involvement and the hearer is convicted and regenerated by God’s power.  The gospel is the power (strength and power) because it comes from the heart of God. 

Read 1st Corinthians 2:1-5.  “And I, brethren, when I came to you [to the Corinthians], did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom   of men but in the power of God.”

C.        The gospel comes in the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the 3rd Person of the Trinity and He is the One Who brings the powerful message of the gospel upon a sinner’s heart, through people like you and me.  How connected are we with God and the gospel message?  How’s our intimacy with God?  How available are we to God?  Are we ashamed or too busy to tell others about the good news?

Read Titus 3:4-7.  “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Whom He [God the Father] poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

D.        The gospel comes with full conviction.

This deep “conviction” plērophoria (Strong’s #4136) refers to the preacher’s assurance and confidence that the gospel is true and effective because the preacher knows that God is the Source of the message and the One Who brings the “good news” upon the listener’s soul.  Do you have any doubts about the   gospel?  Do you believe that God could use you to tell others about Jesus Christ? 

Read Romans 1:16. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”

Moreover, this deep “conviction” regarding the gospel also resulted in a changed lifestyle among those   who believe the gospel.  Paul stated, “…you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake” (First Thessalonians 1:5).  Saint Augustine, bishop of Hippo [350-430 AD] stated: “There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.”

These missionaries [Paul and company] had been transformed by the gospel and over time matured in their faith.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, these missionaries lived godly lives thereby impacting the lives of the Thessalonians.  Their lives and ministries were above rebuke and criticism, at least from a moral viewpoint.  While Paul elaborated more fully how they lived among the people (2:3-12), listen to Paul’s heart, as his words to the Corinthian church describes his concern regarding his lifestyle and the lifestyle of all believers.

Read First Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Give not offense either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.  Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1st Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1).

Conclusion                                                     Preaching to the Dead

Dr. Erwin Lutzer teaches preaching courses at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Every year, he takes his students on a field trip to the local cemetery—so they can preach.  

He says:  I take them to a little cemetery in Deerfield, Illinois, and I have them all gather around a certain gravesite. I point out the name, and then I tell one of the students, Preach the gospel to Mr. Smith here.

They look at me like I’m nuts.  So, I preach to Mr. Smith with enthusiasm:  Sir, Jesus died for your sins, and you must put your faith in him.

Then I look at the students and tell them, this is no different than preaching the gospel to unsaved people. The Bible says that they are dead in their sins.  You can preach your heart out, but nothing will happen unless God does a miracle to give them the life to listen.[1]

 How about you; has the Spirit of God “opened your heart” as He did for Lydia of Thyatira to heed the things spoken by the apostle Paul (Acts 16:14)

If your heart is desiring the things of God [forgiveness of sin and life with God, now and forever], it’s a good indication that the Spirit is working in your life.  Call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved (Romans 10:13).

[1] Lee Eclov, Preaching to the Dead, [doc online];, accessed 2018, Oct. 19.

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