Monday, July 09, 2018

Reading Through First Thessalonians #1 (1.1-3.13)

This post continues my 1 year read through of the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries. This post comments on a quick read through of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians accompanied by Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians, Study Guide Commentary Series, by Robert James Utley. This commentary is more like a handbook for lay readers that helps with grammatical, background and other issues with some brief commentary. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

1 Thessalonians is a very emotional letter written by Paul to a church that he planted during his 2nd missionary journey. Because of persecution, he had to leave Thessalonica and was unable to disciple the congregation as long as he wanted to. He sends Timothy back to check on the progress of the church and minister to them. The letter is occasioned by Timothy's report on returning to Paul. He brings back a glowing report on the progress of the church, but also reports that the church is still under tremendous persecution and has some confusion about the return of Jesus. Paul encourages the church by praising them and giving thanks to God for their faithfulness. He prays for their ability to withstand persecution and to continue growing in Christ-likeness. He also answers their questions about the return of Christ. The letter encourages the Thessalonians that God will produce holiness in you as stand faithfully on his promises, allow him to love through you and focus on the sure hope of his return to take us to be with Him forever.

The Thessalonian Letters have a threefold purpose: to share Paul’s joy and thanksgiving to God for the faithfulness and Christlikeness of the Thessalonians, even amidst persecution; to answer the criticism of his motives and character which had been brought against him; to discuss the return of the Lord. I Thessalonians Intro, 75

The letter opens with Paul's relieved praise for the progress of the Thessalonian church. He is thankful that the church is acting by faith in the gospel truths which he taught, is working hard to love another and reach out to their community and maintaining their hope with joyful living in Christ despite persecution. Their response shows that the Holy Spirit is acting within their community and that they will be ready for 2nd coming.

The theological concept of “covenant” unites the sovereignty of God (who always takes the initiative and sets the agenda) with a mandatory initial and continuing repentant, faith response from man. Be careful of proof-texting one side of the paradox and depreciating the other! Be careful of asserting only your favorite doctrine or system of theology! I Thessalonians 1.1-4, 80

Salvation is both a message and a person. We receive the gospel message and befriend Jesus. We must trust completely in both. This results in a new life of faithfulness and holiness. I Thessalonians 1.4-10,  81

Paul begins chapter 2 by using his missionary team as an example of how ministry is to be done and the image of Christ is to be lived out. They faithfully and boldly announced the truth of the gospel despite persecution. Their motives for ministry were right. They did not minister for self-glorification, money, or honor. They lovingly met the needs of the Thessalonians like a "nursing mother." No one in this world works harder, gives more with less wages, and has a closer relational connection than the mother of an infant! Paul's ministry was done with integrity and self-sacrificing love. Paul then calls the Thessalonians to faithfully respond to God’s Word in the power of the Spirit and let it produce His character in them. That is how it will affects everyone around them.

The believer’s confidence in Christ’s work on his behalf gives him courage to speak the truth of the gospel. The preaching of the gospel always caused problems. Paul prays for opportunities and boldness, not for tranquility. I Thessalonians 2.1-2, 86

Ministry is not something we do—it is who we are.  I Thessalonians 2.3-10, 88

The gospel focuses around three emphases: (1) personal relationship, (2) doctrinal truth, and (3) lifestyle Christlikeness. The believer must respond to all three for maturity. I Thessalonians 2.11-20, 90–91

He ends the opening section of the letter by responding to Timothy's good news by calling the Thessalonians to become even more mature in Christ. Believers grow in Christ as they minister together, endure hardship together and pray together. They must minister together to one another with self-sacrificing commitment by teaching one another the truths of the faith, encouraging one another to do what is right even in trials, and by holding one another accountable to apply the Word to life. The must live together in the presence of Jesus, basing their lives on His Word and seeking His presence together in prayer. They will then experience God's peace despite difficulty and be able to be a burden bearer rather than a burden to others.

The Bible presents our salvation in a tension-filled pair of truths: (1) it is free, it is in Christ, but (2) it is costly, it is progressive, it is seen in our lifestyle choices. Both are true. This verse emphasizes the first truth. I Thessalonians 3.1-10, 100

Paul prayed for himself in v. 11 but now his petition turns toward the church at Thessalonica. He prayed for their love for one another and all people (cf. Eph. 6:18). He also prayed for the believers’ holiness (cf. v. 13; Eph. 1:4). God’s will for every believer is Christlikeness...God’s love is as wide as the world, so too, must be ours who know Him. I Thessalonians 3.11-13, 101

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