July 12, 2015.
Daily Reading: I Thessalonians 1-3.
Background: The first letter that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians is believed to be one of his earliest letters, probably written before 52 AD, and as such, it is one of the first books in the New Testament. The church in Thessalonica was founded in Acts 17:1-19 on Paul’s second missionary journey. The letter deals a lot with Paul’s relationship with the church and the things that are going on in his ministry, as opposed to primarily addressing problems in the church that he is writing to, as is the primary mission of many of his letters. The latter chapters of his first letter do turn to doctrine, as Paul discusses a life pleasing to God and the second coming of Christ. Paul would ultimately write at least two letters to the Thessalonians, which we have as I and II Thessalonians.
Concepts and Connections.
The Thessalonican example: Paul opens this letter with his two companions, Silas and Timothy, to address the church in Thessalonica which was close to his heart. He spends most of the first chapter telling of the thankfulness he has for the church there, as they have become a great example to all the believers, having turned from their idols, as the church was composed of mostly Gentiles who were pagans before they heard the message of the gospel. When Paul and Silas came to Thessalonica, they came not only with the word, but with a demonstration of power, and the Thessalonians had received the word with the joy of the Holy Spirit. For their faith and their example, Paul and his fellow workers constantly give thanks to God for them in their prayers. Note the joy that Paul had when he thought about the people of God living faithfully throughout the world. May we have this same joy for our fellow Christians.
Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians: Paul turns in this chapter to remind the Thessalonians of he and his fellow worker’s ministry to the people of Thessalonica when they were first there. When they came, they didn’t come in luxury, but rather in affliction, as they were greatly persecuted when they came to Thessalonica (see Acts 17:1-19). But they professed the gospel with boldness, not wishing to please man or win popularity, but rather to save souls. Though they didn’t seek glory from people, they were gentle with the Thessalonians, not being demanding as apostles, but rather showing affection. While they were there with the church, they did not burden the church financially, but rather worked for their own needs, that they might set an example for them, and encouraged them to walk in a manner that was worthy of God. Paul was thankful that the Thessalonians received their word not as word of man, but rather as it was, the word of God. With this receiving of the gospel, the Thessalonians became fellow sufferers, just as with their brothers in Judea, of the persecution and affliction that came with putting on the name of Christ. The church in Thessalonica became very dear to the heart of Paul, and many times he tried to go back and visit them, but he was hindered by Satan. He longed to get back to them some day, that he might be both encouraged and encouraging to a church that he loved deeply.
Timothy’s trip to Thessalonica: At the end of the previous chapter we read of Paul’s longing to visit the Thessalonian church, and in this chapter we get a clearer picture as to while he felt so urgent about it. Paul had been hindered many times by Satan so that he could not get back to the Thessalonians, and when he couldn’t bear it any longer, he decided to send Timothy back to them to get a report on how the church was doing. Paul feared that they might have fallen away, whether through persecution or other temptation, and he and his fellow coworker’s labor might have been in vain. Note that Paul really did fear that the church had fallen away from Christ, which necessarily implies this possibility. Fortunately, when Timothy went to Thessalonica and subsequently returned to Paul after being with the brethren there for a while, he returned with a good report, and Paul rejoiced greatly in this. The report of their steadfast faith comforted Paul and the people that were with him, rejuvenating their spirits. With this report, the longing to be with the church there grew even stronger, and Paul prayed that the Lord would guide his way back to them soon, as he also prayed the the Lord increase and abound their love for one another and establish their hearts as blameless and holy, so that they might stand before the Lord Jesus Christ on His second coming.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Leviticus 13-15.
Grace and peace.