Bible Book of 1 Thessalonians Commentary | Free Bible Commentary | Agape Flashcards
Can you imagine for a moment that you have never heard of God or Jesus. Where ever you are in life, up until this moment you have been painfully oblivious of your Perfect Creator who extends all grace, love, and happiness to us. Try to picture that gap in your life, the gaping hole in your chest or wherever it is that the Holy Spirit occupies within us. Now imagine your sudden realization that there is a wonderful perfect God who loves you in a way you’ve never known and that through Him you have salvation. Imagine the explosion of realization filling that gaping hole in your soul so quickly you swear you’re going to explode! What overwhelming emotions would fill you in that moment and all moments thereafter?
If you have trouble imagining that, it’s ok, I do too! When I try though and I get just a glimpse at the raw power of such a moment, it makes me a little jealous of the Thessalonians. You see, before Paul led them to Christ, they had never been exposed to the God of Abraham, and certainly not Jesus Christ. When Paul brought them the Good News though, they embraced it and as 1 Thessalonians depicts, the church flourished and became a cornerstone for Paul’s ministry! His love for them was immense, and theirs for him.
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul shares his love for the church of Thessalonica, but also goes into great details in encouraging their growth in Christ. Though Paul has a soft spot in his heart for this particular church, he also worries about them! They are relatively young and immature in their faith, so he decides to give them some pretty masterful advice in this letter. Consequently, we too can enjoy and learn from what Paul had to tell them so long ago and guess what, it still applies!
“We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly.”
-1 Thessalonians 1:2
So, Thessalonians is a letter from Paul to the church at Thessalonica, and like many of his letters, it is one of encouragement and direction. I first heard this chapter while sitting in church not too long ago, and since the sermon was pretty boring and uninspired, I read through this chapter like five times haha. Though it’s just an introduction and doesn’t seem to have that much to glean, I feel like God pointed out something to me, something that Paul is trying to show the church; how to be a good church member. I had plenty of time to think about this, so this is what I think.
There are four components of being a model church member:
- First component is to live in Jesus Christ- Your life must center around him and be your top priority. Love him, listen to his will and act on it. Key qualities: you are aware of where he is working and aware of where he wants you to join, you can truly love your neighbor as yourself, you are faithful with your money and time, etc.
- Second component is our Spiritual Labor- What should our spiritual labor look like? Verse 3 basically gives us a very straight forward three components:
- Work produced by Faith- this means you act on the work that God calls you to do and of which you could not accomplish without faith. It’s the real kind of work God calls us to. Not the kind where you feel ambitious or guilty so you go out and try to make things happen for God. I think this has recently been a huge change in my relationship with God. This is like tier 2 work for God, above and beyond what our normal actions as Christians should be. We wait on God with patience until he calls us to a work, one that is perfect and usually not within our normal means of accomplishing. Examples would be starting a business that dedicates all of its profits solely to charity or whoever else God desires, starting a bible smuggling group in some far off country, Moses leading the Israeli’s out of Egypt, etc. Not all have to be so grand, but the idea is the same. Only God can accomplish these. When our walks with God are close, he will likely always have you involved at least partially in work of faith.
- Labor prompted by Love- I think that outside of work God calls us to do, on our own we can work out of Love. I say the above is divine initiated, this is spiritually initiated. This is like tier 1 work for God. Buying a homeless person a meal, loving your neighbor, blessing the world around you routinely with your routine actions.
- Patience of Hope- This is like the QA/QC (quality control) process of God’s work/projects. The way God works almost always demands patience and timing according to his plan and timing. This ensures that it is done his way and he receives the glory. By our hearts being filled with hope, we have a naturally positive outlook on life, which enables us to see where God needs work. This hope allows us to rest in confidence in him, and gives us the patience we need. It’s a forcing mechanism designed to make us slow down at each step of his work, return to him for more guidance, then carry on.
- Third component is for us to be Examples to all the Land- Our spiritual labor is the example we set for the world, not our words, prejudices, beliefs, etc. Verse 8 says “we need not speak anything.” It’s not our job to go out and tell the world they suck, to condemn the down trodden, the drugged, the broken, the sexually enslaved. It’s our job to show them God’s love with our spiritual labor as the example. And don’t think that it’s just an example of morality! When we are living in spiritual labor, the things God has us do are more exciting, adventurous, and even downright crazier than anything else life has to offer! This is the example we set, a life that is more fulfilled with love and passion than anything else the world has, not just a life of morality. I feel like I say this a lot in my writings, but it’s because I feel it’s the ultimate dilemma facing the American church, it’s all about your sins and repenting, when it should be about having an awesome time with God!
- The fourth component is Repentance and Forgiveness- I know I just harped about it in the last component haha, but morality is a big component of being a church member. However it is quite simple compared to the others. Turn from your sins, forgive others for theirs, work together to not sin again. I think if we didn’t blow up sin to be such a huge, big, nasty shameful monster, then we would be more comfortable discussing our sins and problems with each other and helping each other overcome them. Work together to get over it.
So much packed into one little chapter! Hopefully this chapter speaks to you like it does to me: there is a lot more to going to church and being a good church member than just showing up and listening every Sunday!
“After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.”
-1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
Here in chapter two, we have Paul recount his visit to both Phillippi and Thessalonica (a previous trip). Most of this chapter is Paul recounting the difference in the way he was treated in both places. Some lessons to pull from this recounting:
The first part where he discusses how awful they were treated in Phillipi, how they were persecuted, is followed immediately by a cool statement, “Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly.” See what Paul is really saying is that no matter what, the message doesn’t change. His message doesn’t change. It’s easy to find ourselves tailoring the way we act or speak around each other, or how boldly we want to discuss matters of faith. But here he’s saying, don’t. Speak the truth plain and simple, show it with your actions, and if it’s rejected, move on and do it again.
Next Paul talks about how they interacted with the Thessalonians, how they came to them square and honest, they worked hard as to not be a burden, and they loved them. Again he makes a really cool single statement here: “And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money!” I think you can easily substitute the word money for many other words though “to get glory!”, “to get favor!”, “to make ourselves feel good/holy!”, “to show others how holy we are!”, “to look like a Christian!” No Paul is saying we really did and do love you! You really are our friends! We would do anything for you because that’s how much we care for you! That’s how we are to be with our brother’s and sister’s in Christ. Even with the lost. Don’t just do things because you think it is your duty, do them because you have gotten to the point where you can call anyone your true friend!
Last thing I’d like to touch on is another cool statement at the very end of this chapter “after all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.” This sums up Thessalonians nicely so far. It’s about the relationship. With God, with the church, with the lost. It has to be personable and a point of pride, not just some obligation we begrudgingly fulfill.
“And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grown and overflow, just as uor love for you overflows.”
-1 Thessalonians 3:12
I believe the key takeaway from chapter three here is a lesson about Mentors. In this chapter we see Timothy sent to Thessalonica to support, teach, and mentor them on their way to understanding and growing in Christ. Paul specifically says “we sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken…” You know, this concept is almost obnoxiously present throughout the bible haha. Whether it is God mentoring his children, Jesus mentoring his followers, the disciples mentoring the world. Nearly every event/person in the bible is tied to some sort of deep and devout mentoring, probably because we are all dumb as sheep. I think this is a key to a strong and progressive relationship with God. You can throw it in with the good church member notes. To really see full growth in God, you have to be under an umbrella of mentorship. And I don’t just mean under God’s mentorship, that’s a given and post-Christ does not fly. The Holy Spirit mentors everyone continuously. Just like being a productive member of the body of Christ and being tied in, you have to be tied into mentorship. Sadly I have little to no mentorship currently in my life ore really ever. Just my office, my lunch, this old bible, and my laptop are the only thing in the way of mentorship I have going on. Well ok really it’s just God showing me stuff, but you know. I must get tied in. It’s so unfortunate how hard it is to find this kind of mentorship in the work environment.
The second part of this chapter I think show’s us another interesting concept, how this mentorship thing really goes both ways, how the mentor is blessed in the relationship too by great joy and happiness. When Timothy returns and reports how well the Thessalonians are doing, Paul goes off on this little giggle fest spree talking about how tickled and overjoyed they are haha. They should be that happy! That’s what it’s all about, pushing each other to a closer and more tender relationship with God.
“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.”
-1 Thessalonians 4:11
It’s funny how God seems to set aside time for me without my realizing it when I’m about to undertake a chapter that can throw you for a couple loops, like this one! I usually get a quick workout in at lunch, and today I was like “but I’m le tired (French accent) and do not want to lift le heavy weights.” So I didn’t. Instead I heated up my lunch, slunked back to my office, and then God was like “good thing you didn’t go workout, because it’s gonna take you a minute to figure this one out!” Haha. So yea, this chapter is pretty short, but a few parts were kind of hard for me to wrap my brain around. Let’s talk about it!
First thing I came across that stood out to me is vs 3-4 “so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor.” The stay away from sexual sin part, makes sense, duh. But then we’re told that if we do, then we WILL control our bodies and live in holiness! THAT seems kind of like a stretch. I first read that and I was like “that escalated quickly.” I think it’s just the way it’s said so matter-o-factly, like it’s final. But as I thought about it more, I guess that does make sense. I mean of all the bodily sins we can commit, I suppose sexual sin is the easiest and most alluring. I mean what other sins will our body lead us into? Gluttony, anger/hatred that manifest in physical harm to others or yourself, stealing, addiction. I can’t really think of any more that are directly tied to controlling your body. So yea of these, sexual sin is probably the hardest to handle and easiest to succumb to. If you learn to beat it, then you can likely overcome the rest. I like how it says stay away as opposed to overcome or conquer, etc. God knows that for most people, being in the direct presence of potential sexual sin isn’t going to bode well for them. They are going to give in. In the moment you’re not going to be able to stop and be like “well, that’s as far as I’ll go, let’s wrap it up, call it a night, I don’t want to fall into sin. Let’s go get some pizza.” A more realistic conversation will be afterwards and will sound more like “dang, I really messed up AGAIN. Why can’t I ever beat this?” Anyways, I think it’s safe to argue that sexual sin is a devastatingly strong opponent, learn to STAY AWAY as opposed to overcoming it, and then we will have control over our bodies.
Next we look at vs 11-12. Basically we’re being told to live quiet humble lives minding our own business and staying out of the way. I read that and was like “yea ok Paul, you’re one to talk dude, you’re turning the world upside down!” It’s like being a brother or a parent and telling your bro or kid “don’t do this, only adults do this, I’ll be mad if you do this,” and then you really expect them to not do it haha. I mean Paul was all up in EVERYONE’s business. But after thinking about it, I get his point. I talk about this a lot lately too as God has put it on my heart. But as Paul suggests, we really should “Make it our goal,” our personal, earthly body focus to live quiet, adequate, hard working lives where we treat everyone with love, care, equality, etc. I mean really with our pea brains and conceptualization, it’s all we can really hope for. You leave it to GOD to call you to other things, you leave the big picture, changing the world, witnessing and making disciples up to Him. Those are HIS goals, not ours. We focus on our lives, soft and quiet, all the while constantly maintaining our closest of relationships with him, then he calls us outside of that. It’s like I’ve talked about a lot lately, how God is always working, his work is perfect, and outside of him directing us, we cannot accomplish it without him. And you’re darn right, the instant he calls you out of your goals of a quite hard working life, you go headlong into the direction he has called. When we live this way, it erases the possibility of us trying to conduct witnessing, preaching, judging, etc. under our own strength, which can be disastrous. That’s how churches fall apart, how non-christians grow to despise us, etc. Because someone under their own pathetic abilities got too ambitious and took God’s work into their own hands without following his constant direction.
Ok I’ve been blabbing a lot, but this is the last part I’d like to discuss. Really it’s from vs 13 and on but vs 16-18 are what stopped me and made me go “what?” Basically this whole portion is Paul telling the Thessalonians what happens when Christians die so they will not grieve. He says when God comes back, the dead Christians will rise from their graves and see his coming, and together with the rest of the Christians be raptured, “then we will be with the Lord forever.” Maybe not everyone gets this impression when they read this part, but the first two times I read it, I felt like it was saying tha when Christians die, we wait in our graves until we meet Christ, then we all rise and live with him. That didn’t sound quite right to me, and it sounded like the description of “soul sleep” which some church sects preach about how when we die our soul is actually asleep and we don’t go to heaven until Christ’s return. This still didn’t seem to be quite what it was describing either though. Anyways, I looked into it some with my old boy Google, and I found some pretty interesting clarifications. You see at the time, the Thessalonians were brand new Christians, they weren’t even Jews before so they had literally been pagans forever! They were really, really excited about Jesus return because they had not been fortunate enough to be involved in everything. It was literally one of the most exciting things in the world for them, Christ’s return. They were really sad when some of their family members and friends died after they became Christians because they thought they were going to miss out on this event that they were all so excited about! This section is Paul encouraging them and re-assuring them, letting them know that they won’t miss out! So I suppose Paul isn’t necessarily saying that our souls stay here and sleep, just that we will all get the opportunity to see Christ’s return.
“For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:9
Paul is good at wrapping up his writings and doing us a solid with some great advice. This is sadly the last chapter of Thessalonians, a book full of great lessons, and it’s topped off with a few more good ones.
In vs 6-8, Paul tells us “be alert and clearheaded,” for we are children of the light and are protected by the armor of faith and love, we wear a helmet called confidence in salvation. I particularly like this section because it is one of those jewels, the promise scriptures that you can take, keep in your pocket, then pull out almost like a get out of jail free card. You see here we are being told a promise, that God has protected our minds and granted us the gift of clear-headedness. This means that when you’re confused, uncertain, fearful, etc., you’re not living in the promise God has given us. It’s ok though, don’t beat yourself up, all you have to do is remember this verse! Verse 8, “But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.” This promise is dramatically evident throughout my experiences I feel. There are so many times where friends, peers, anyone really, are distressed over a situation or an action they should take, and it’s clear their mind is clouded with confusion and indecision. In almost all cases I sit there and think to myself “this is a no-brainer! It’s so clear what you should do!” and sometimes I even tell them that. Most of my close Christian friends are the same way. There is a clarity of mind that God gives us. You could almost say it’s a freedom of mind, for God and the Holy Spirit guide our thoughts and reasoning, so really there’s no way for us to be confused!
Towards the end of this chapter, Paul just goes on a roll with just random good advice. Some of my favorites; verse 16 “Always be joyful,” vs 18 “Be thankful in all circumstances, this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” I’m glad he follows up vs 16 with vs 18, because I feel like in mainstream Christianity this is a pretty big misconception. We’re not to be constantly happy and joyful so that we can please God, or so that we can show the world how happy we are. God just wants this for us, like a gift, like a sign of love between Him and us. There is no amount of effort we can conjure that would allow us to be constantly happy in our circumstances. But God is saying that if we trust him, he can give us that peace and joy for no other reason than that he loves us. So if you find yourself unhappy, etc. don’t try harder! Give up and tell God you want that unconditional joy and happiness!
Last thing, vs 19 “do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said.” Just an interesting tidbit. Don’t hold back the Holy Spirit, and don’t hold back from doing what he tells you too. If direction comes from man though, take care and check in with me first!