I realize that the thought of reading two whole books of the Bible at the same time might seem daunting. But in reality, these two letters from Paul are best read in one sitting, and even better read together. They are, perhaps, the two most unappreciated of the letters we find in the New Testament. If you have time to think about it, consider how much of Galatians or Timothy or Romans you know. Even Christians who are the least faithful in their Bible reading know about the fruit of the Spirit, or the armour of God or know that somewhere in Romans Paul wrote: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (it’s in chapter 3 by the way).
But how much do you know from 1/2 Thessalonians? Perhaps as you read through 1 Thessalonians 4 some familiar bells were ringing. Indeed that chapter about what will happen when Jesus returns is the most preached from these two books, especially at funerals. But did you notice the vast trove of other treasures that Paul shares with this little church in Thessalonica?
Let me pause for a second to remind you that we are reading through the Bible chronologically for a reason. So when you read through Acts 17-18 yesterday about Paul’s short ministry in that town, it should have given you a very little bit of insight into the existence of the church there. First, it was small. Luke tells us in Acts that vast throngs did not flock to the gospel in Thessalonica, only “some were persuaded”. Second, the people there (especially the Jews) were kind of close-minded and jealous. They did not want to share the religious spotlight with anyone else, especially this upstart preacher named Paul telling them about a Messiah named Jesus. Third, we learn that the Christians in the town would have faced opposition. While Paul is in town we’re told that a mob attacked the house of Jason, the man who was housing them.
In light of that knowledge from Acts, consider what Paul is writing in Thessalonians. He talks of faithfulness in the face of severe persecution. He talks about resistance to the Message of Christ in chapter 2. Then he spends chapters 4 and 5 encouraging them, talking about being faithful to the Lord in their conduct in the face of close-minded neighbours. It all flow together.
There is a lot of relevance for believers today to be found in Thessalonians, if one takes the time to appreciated these unappreciated letters.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Acts 18:19-19:41