February 16, 2014.
The apostle Paul writes two letters to the disiples in Thesslonica, both of which are short and a good read. He does something that I find very interesting and unique at the end of the first letter, however. He gives some final instructions, but they seem rushed and compacted. It’s almost like he gets done with his letter and then is like, “oh yeah, and by the way…” But there are some very important admonisitions and implications that come from the last, few final words that I believe deserve a closer look.
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:12-22)
Throughout this epistle, Paul seems to be very concerned about people working to support themselves and not being busybodies. This was important enough to Paul that when he went there, he worked (as a tentmaker) to support himself rather than have the church support him. He makes it clear that it is in no way wrong to support a missionary or anyone who labors for The Lord (in another letter to another church), but he sets an example so no one would say “Well, Paul didn’t work when he came, so I don’t have to work either!” The church at Thesslonica seemed to have issues with this.
Afterwards, Paul gives his usual admonition of love. We are to love one another, and help one another in whatever way we can. Love puts our fellow brother or sister above our own self. “See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Fortunately for Thesslonica, they had the concept of brotherly love down.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I would put these three instructions together. It is important that we experience the Christian joy that seems to be lost in so many of our lives. I believe that this can be found in contentment. As Americans, we are taught from a young age not to be content with what we have and to always be pressing to get something bigger and better. Christ wants us to put our happiness and contentment in him, so that we always have the joy that comes with being a Christian. This is something that should not be looked over.
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” Paul then turns to some doctrine and teaching issues this church seemed to be having. Have we quenched the Spirit today? How much power over our own self do we give to him? How much do we trust him? How much do we truly rely on him, not just in word, but in deed? “Test everything.” Do you test what you are taught? Do you search the scriptures to see if what the preacher is telling you is the truth? We need to be truth seekers, and truth alone.
“Abstain from every form of evil.” Last, but certainly not least, abstain from every form of evil. Abstain is a hard word. It holds power. It is not alright to skirt close to sin as long as you don’t actually partake in it. We are to flee sin, get away– as far as possible! “Well, this isn’t really sinful…” No. Sin separates us from the one we call Holy. We must strive to completely abstain from it. I believe Paul is pretty clear.
Paul ends the first letter with a whirlwind of instruction, but that does not excuse us from glazing over it without paying much attention to it. There is a lot of truth in his final few words to the church here, and I believe it would bless us to apply these truths to our lives.
Suggested Daily Reading: I Thessalonians 1-5.
The Lord send you his grace.