Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Reading Through First Thessalonians #2 (3.14-5.28)

This post continues my devotional study 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.

In chapter 4.1-12 Paul urges the Thessalonians to continue what they have started by taking the resources God has given them and become more Christlike and live this out in loving relationships within the church and to those outside. Christ’s character grows in our life as the Spirit teaches us to control our bodies, as we allow him to love others through us and as we become content by making his ambition for us our own.

Christianity was originally called “The Way” (cf. Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22; 18:25–26). This speaks of an abiding lifestyle faith. Our initial response in repentance and faith must be followed by continuing obedience and perseverance. I Thessalonians 4.1-7, 104

Love is the signature of God. We never love enough...Believers are to use their resources for the needs of the Christian family. I Thessalonians 4.8-12, 107-8

In 4.13-5.11 Paul responds to the Thessalonians questions about the 2nd coming of Jesus and how to be ready for it. The Thessalonians were concerned about what would happen to people that had died before Christ returned. Paul's response was that they would be the first to join Christ in the air and then, with living believers, would receive resurrection bodies and rule with Him forever. The 2nd coming will catch unbelievers unaware, but believers should be vigilant and ready for it. We prepare for the 2nd coming, and are eternally minded, by being faithful to live out our salvation day to day.

The Thessalonian believers did not understand Paul’s preaching about the Second Coming. They wanted to know if those of their church who had already died would participate in the end-time events. This is Paul’s positive response. Not only will they participate, they will receive their new bodies first and will accompany Jesus on the clouds of heaven. I Thessalonians 4.13-18, 109

Believers are going to meet the Lord in the air, because in the NT the air was seen as the realm of Satan (cf. Eph. 2:2) and Greeks thought the lower air (atmosphere) was unclean and, therefore, the domain of unclean spirits. Believers will be reunited with their Lord in the midst of Satan’s kingdom to show its complete overthrow. I Thessalonians 4.13-18, 110

Salvation is not a product, but a relationship. It is not finished when one trusts Christ; it has only begun! It is not a fire insurance policy, nor a ticket to heaven but a life of growing Christlikeness. I Thessalonians 5.1-11, 116

Paul closes the letter by applying the truth that Christ is returning to present, daily life. The hope of Christ’s coming should encourage alertness and present living focused on eternity. This is seen as church relationships are characterized by faithfulness in ministry to one another, attitudes of joy, prayer and thankfulness, discernment that clings to what is of God and avoids what is not, and uses the sufficient resources God provides for holiness.

Leadership is a gift from God (cf. Eph. 4:11–13). When He assigns the task, he honors the task, not necessarily the person who receives it...NT Christianity does not make a distinction between “clergy” and “laity.” We are all God-called, Spirit—gifted ministers of Jesus. Within this family of gifted ministers God does choose leaders! I Thessalonians 5.12-18, 118

Clearly NT prophets are not synonymous with OT prophets. The NT gift usually relates to practical application issues, not new revelatory information. However, there is a predictive element in Acts 11:27–30 and 21:10–11. In I and II Corinthians prophecy and prophesy (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1; 14:1, 39) mean proclaim the gospel. Exactly how this proclamation differed between: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers is uncertain. I Thessalonians 5.19-28, 119–120

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