2016-08-12 - 1 Thessalonians Study
Letters to a Young Church ~ The Real Believer: Application
Having had the joy of seeing many in the city come to know God, Paul had the additional blessing of seeing them grow in the Lord. Part of the joy of being in a family of believers is that we can help one another grow in the faith.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24–25).
The Thessalonians had apparently observed the lives of saints in other local bodies, the Judean churches. They had taken these observations as models for their own lives. They walked in a way that brought honor to God. They had also observed how these Judean believers handled the persecution they faced, and in turn, they applied this example in their own situation.
It appears the persecution the Thessalonians faced was from their own neighbors, while the believers of Judea specifically were harassed and attacked by an element of the Jewish population. Paul goes even further, to note it was Jews of similar disposition who had killed Christ and the prophets, and chased Paul and his associates out of Judea.
It is important to recognize that while Paul stated the Jews had killed Christ, this does not teach the nation was to blame for His death. This must be understood as speaking of only the element of Judaism which was involved with act. And in actuality it was all men who were responsible for Christ’s death. He died for the sin of all, therefore we personally are also responsible for His death.
Second, it was the Jews, including Paul, who made up the early church. What is clear is, the type of men who were persecuting Paul and the believers at Judea where the same types who were responsible for the deaths of the Prophets and Christ. As Stephen noted when he was attacked by the leaders at Jerusalem:
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it” (Acts 7:51–53).
Paul made it clear these men were first displeasing God. It's interesting to note Paul had also been one of the persecutors. But he now desired only to please God. When he discovered it was the Messiah he was persecuting, he turned to Him and became His apostle. On the other hand, these men did not desire to please God, but to satisfy their own desires. The result of this was, these men were hostile to all who disagreed with their views.
Because of the hostilities of these individuals, they wanted to prevent all from hearing the truth of the Gospel. Their hatred was such that they tried to keep Paul from speaking, not just to other Jews, but even to Gentiles. They wouldn't try to teach the Gentiles themselves, but they didn't want anyone else to.
What was to be the final result of their actions? They would be filled up with sin. The actions that started with the death of Christ and rejection of Him, were capped with trying to prevent others, both Jew and Gentile, from accepting Him. Their corruption was so great that they would be judged, and God’s wrath would fall on them.
Don't worry about those who try to prevent the Gospel from being disseminated. Nothing will prevent the truth from getting out. The very fact we are harassed is a statement that we are where God wants us to be. (see John 15:18-25) We aren't called to try to stop those who would stop us. God will take the responsibility for judging them.
To be continued.
All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.