Lessons on the Christian Life-I Thessalonians 5 & 3:11-13-October 17, 2012
The church at Thessalonica was a new church started by Paul. Paul was only there for about three weeks or so. Paul began in the synagogue trying to teach from the scriptures that the Messiah must die and be raised from the dead. There were some that were convinced and left the synagogue and became the core of the Thessalonica church. There were also those who did not believe and were unhappy with Paul and the loss of the people from their flock and began to stir up things in town for Paul. Paul left shortly after headed to Berea, but a church had been born in Thessalonica.
The people there were new converts and desired to do what was right but they did not have history or tradition to fall back on and Paul’s time had been shorter than usual. Paul asks Timothy to go and check on the church, and the news was both good and bad. Good news was the church was alive and was earnest about being Christian; the bad news was the new Christians were having a hard time. Some believed that Paul was about himself, a dictator; others were worried about the Second Coming and had given up work creating a level of confusion for the young community without a strong foundation or leadership.
Paul picks up at the end of chapter 4 telling them about that Second Coming, and now in chapter 5 about how to live and get along in the process. The Christian life involves an understanding of correct doctrine but cannot and should not be reduced to doctrine alone. It is the living out of the word of God in our daily sometimes difficult lives that is the refinement process for the body of Christ. We are a people called to do life together.
He speaks of the day of the Lord coming quickly like a thief and it will catch some by surprise because they are living that life for themselves or as if the day will never come. Paul warns them to remember that they are sons of light and day, and not night or darkness, so don’t sleep walk around like the day won’t come or numb ourselves to the reality through the vices of this world. As those that are of the day be sober and alert protecting our hearts with faith and love, and our minds with the hope of salvation.
In God’s coming He did not destined His own for wrath, but for salvation through Jesus. It was He who died for us whether we are dead or alive so that we may live together with Him. Knowing this should help us not to break one another down but to build up one another, and continue in that work. The world is hard and we must be prepared to support one another, and remain strong as the body of Christ.
Paul begins with teaching here that before we can make Christ-like decisions, we have to get a Christ-like attitude, and this is the target always for a church who seeks to grow in Him.
(1) Be at peace. Contentious, fussy people are not likely to get in touch with the Spirit of Christ.
(2) Do the basics:
- “Admonish the idlers” was special counsel for this church. They had people sitting around waiting for Jesus to come back. When some are working and other are not, it is hard to keep everybody at peace.
- “Encourage the fainthearted” is a word for us. Some have so little vision/faith. They are whipped when the wake in the morning, desperately in need of heart and hope.
- “Help the weak” is one that always requires attention.
- “Be patient with all of them” is tough. William Barclay said, “To be patient with all is perhaps the hardest of all, for the last lesson most of us learn is to suffer fools gladly” (207). Lift the fellowship at church-no “payback time.” Just forgive and go on, trying to do good to everybody all the time. When we do become “rejoicing, praying, and thanksgiving” people, we elevate the company and give evidence that the Spirit is already among us.
Jesus raised the standard on morality. Good and evil have become vastly more complex, more difficult, more at variance with what “the world” sees as good and evil. Merely obeying the law is not good enough for the believer. It is obeying Jesus that is the standard.
Trust the movement of God in the prophetic utterances. Don’t believe everything but put the “prophet’s” words alongside Scripture, considering what trusted church leaders think, and asking for the Spirit’s help. From that combination of resources, there should be come idea of the mind of Christ. This is not an individual exercise. It is “church work.” Too much of our religion is done in private.
We follow Jesus when we care and share; it’s church work. The church really can and does change-but slowly at times. We are at our best when we catch the Spirit, organize the church to service, and set out on mission to make wrongs right. “Do not quench the Spirit” (5:19), for the very life of the church is indeed in the life of the Spirit. The Spirit has made some people do foolish things, but a spiritless church is the most foolish of all.
Excerpts from Formations Commentary by Cecil Sherman, vol. 5 (pg. 129-133), Smyth & Helwys Publishers, c. 2006
“Our greatest fear should not be failure…but of succeeding at things that don’t really matter.” Francis Chan