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Understanding 1 Thessalonians – part 5
Paul’s First Letter to the Church at Thessaloniki – Study 5
Watch the Video Message Below:
Paul has thus far applauded the believers at Thessaloniki for their genuine faith in Christ Jesus that brought forth powerful transformation in their lives and that also impacted their region with the glorious Gospel of Jesus. It is also plunged them into persecution as the counter culture of Jesus was being embraced by more and more people and therefore collided with the world around them (Acts 17:6) . He is rightly proud of them and thus reaffirms his love for them and sets forth the true motivations that he has in his heart in terms of his ministry and calling to be a servant God among them. These are wonderful insights into the attitudes and principles that should guide and govern every person called into ministry and we should take note of them.
In the section now before us he gives us a concluding summary to all the things that he has just said. We should note the following:
1. Paul affirms the power of prayer and that of the Word of God
“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word from men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” 2:13
Prayer should be unceasing and always punctuated with thanksgiving (2 Timothy 1:3). The great sin of the modern day Church is that it is, by and large, prayer-less. According to Jesus, the Church should be a “house of prayer for all nations”, (Matthew 21:13) but this is not true as it has instead become a house of entertainment, good feelings, positive thinking and platform dominated ministry. Lip service is given to the biblical concept of the priesthood of all believers and to the powerful demonstration and manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We have to hear this and rectify it urgently.
The Word of God, Paul tells us, must be:
(A) Carried by faithful preachers
(B) Welcomed as the very word of the God from heaven…….and,
(C) Truly embraced in a manner that it transforms our lives because It effectively works in us. In short, we neglect the Word of God to our peril! Jesus said that it is life giving bread (Matthew 4:4).
All this reminds us that we must have a high view of the Bible as it reflects the nature of God, the glory of Christ and the true state of humankind. We must honor the Bible and seek to understand it properly. Paul, in his pastoral epistles to Timothy, underlines this when he writes:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15
The Apostle Peter does the same when he writes:
“……knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
2 Peter 1:20-21
2. Paul affirms the reality of trial and persecution.
“For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as to always fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.” 2:14-16
This reminds us that the true testimony of Jesus Christ will enrage those in the world and induce them to resist it. It will also enrage so called Christians and people who claim the name of Christ but really have no knowledge of Him. Sometimes this will be the source of the greatest persecution that the Church will have to face and endure. This was the experience of the first century church. Those who should have received the message of Jesus ended up rejecting it, resisting it, and persecuting those who did receive it.
The Jews of Jesus time had a remarkable spiritual history where as, in terms of the actions of God in their national journey as a people, they had witnessed amazing things like the Exodus from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, God coming down on Mt Sinai to talk with them, the cloud of God’s presence by day and that of a pillar of fire by night, and many amazing miracles of deliverance and provision. In addition they were sent great prophets and kings who had left them with a remarkable spiritual heritage and yet, when their Messiah of promise arrived they rejected Him and killed Him. How could this be?
Well, the truth is, their scriptures had warned them of this and, by the time that Jesus came they had fallen into apostasy (Deuteronomy 31:16-18). Their Rabbis of the time affirmed this when they stated that the catastrophe that overtook the Jews in AD 70, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, was because they had hated God and one another without a cause. Given that all things spiritual run counter to our carnal hearts and have to be spiritually appraised, they, being far from God and blind spiritually, resisted their prophets, rejected their Messiah and crucified Him in concert with the Romans (Romans 8:6-8).
That generation is to be seen as a unique and sinful one (Matthew 11:16-24) that by the judgement of God was consequently carried off into exile by the Romans, their national life and institutions also being destroyed. However, for all of this, scripture nevertheless affirms that they are not Christ killers as, being spiritually darkened, they killed Him in ignorance (Acts 3:17). Their judgment in AD 70, according to scripture, was more related to their rejection of the Gospel message than for their hand in the death of Christ (Acts 13:46). Jesus, while warning of this coming judgement also predicted their future national restoration and redemption(Luke 21:24).
From time to time this spiritual blindness has also settled upon the Church as she, just like the Jews of Jesus’ time, has resisted the will of God and has also stoned and burned at the stake her own prophets that God in His grace had sent her. Indeed, the book of Revelation, in the 17th chapter, pictures a world-wide apostate Church, likened unto a whore, that will arise in the earth and be guilty of spilling the “blood of the saints” (Revelation 17: 1-6). So, here we have two groups both claiming the name of Christ but the one killing the other ! The testimony of history confirms this and therefore the underlying truth is that religion, if unhinged from a personal relationship with God, will in fact become an enemy of His true followers (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus knew this and sadly confirmed that a day would come when people will think that they are doing God a service by killing others (John 16:2).
The believers at Thessaloniki found this to be true as did the first century Jewish believers in Jerusalem and many more brave followers of Jesus down through the centuries. This will continue to be our lot but the grace of God is well able to secure those who love God in times of trouble. Paul knows this and is thankful for it.