Thoughts From I Thessalonians

Chapter 1
(I Thessalonians 1:1-3) - Greeting and Thanks
(I Thessalonians 1:4-5) - The Coming of the Gospel
(I Thessalonians 1:5) - With Full Conviction
(I Thessalonians 1:6-7) - Imitators
(I Thessalonians 1:6-7) - Imitators
(I Thessalonians 1:8-9) - Sounding Forth
(I Thessalonians 1:10) - Turning To God
(I Thessalonians 1:10) - The Son From Heaven

Chapter 2
(I Thessalonians 2:1-4) - Remembering the Beginning
(I Thessalonians 2:5-7) - The Proving Ground
(I Thessalonians 2:8-10) - Imparting Their Lives
(I Thessalonians 2:10-12) - Imploring as a Father
(I Thessalonians 2:13) - The Word of God Works
(I Thessalonians 2:14-15) - Enduring Persecution
(I Thessalonians 2:16) - Wrath upon God's Opposition
(I Thessalonians 2:17-20) - Pauls Crown and Joy

Chapter 3
(I Thessalonians 3:1-4) - Concern for the Brethren
(I Thessalonians 3:5-6) - Overpowering the Tempter
(I Thessalonians 3:7-9) - Encouraged about the Brethren
(I Thessalonians 3:10-11) - Some Important Prayers
(I Thessalonians 3:12-13) - Prayers for the Brethren

Chapter 4
(I Thessalonians 4:1-2) - Excel Still More
(I Thessalonians 4:2-3) - The Will of God
(I Thessalonians 4:4-8) - God Called Us for Sanctification
(I Thessalonians 4:9-12) - Love of the Brethren
(I Thessalonians 4:13-14) - Asleep in Jesus
(I Thessalonians 4:16-17) - The Rapture?
(I Thessalonians 4:15-18) - Descent of the Lord

Chapter 5
(I Thessalonians 5:1-2) - Thief in the Night
(I Thessalonians 5:3) - "Peace and Security"
(I Thessalonians 5:4-7) - Sons of Day, Sons of Night
(I Thessalonians 5:7-9) - Sober Saints
(I Thessalonians 5:9-11) - Together With Him
(I Thessalonians 5:12-13) - Appreciation and Esteem
(I Thessalonians 5:14) - Interacting with the Brethren
(I Thessalonians 5:15) - Seek After Good
(I Thessalonians 5:16-22) - Pithy Exhortations
(I Thessalonians 5:23-24) - God's Purpose
(I Thessalonians 5:24-25) - Key Considerations & Closing Comments

Greetings And Thanks

Paul's first epistle to the brethren in Thessalonica is perhaps the oldest book included in the New Testament writings. The church in Thessalonica had a turbulent beginning on Paul's second missionary journey, with the Jews there being extremely hostile to Paul and to the introduction of the teachings concerning Christ and His new way. They not only ran the apostle out of Thessalonica, but they were so intensely opposed to his teaching that they also went down to Berea and drove him out of there as well, so that Paul ended up going by sea to Athens. After spending a comparatively short time in Athens, Paul went to Corinth, where he wrote this letter out of his intense concern for the welfare of the Thessalonian brethren.

Your labor of love - It is clear that spreading the gospel and strengthening the Saints takes labor. If there is no concerted effort, nothing happens. But unless that labor for souls is an outgrowth of love for the lost and earnest desire for the security of the saved, then the effort is also wasted and tends to be counterproductive. Paul comments that he always bears in mind the Thessalonian brethren's "labor of love."

What awesome brethren these in Thessalonica were! The honest commendation by Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, showed that these were not mere polite words, spewed out into the atmosphere because it was customary. For them to have the true works of faith, the honest labor of love, and rock-solid steadfastness of hope serves as an enduring example. May modern saints imitate their example, so that the same words of commendation may be said of them likewise.



The Coming of the Gospel

The apostle Paul, on his second missionary journey, had wanted to go to Ephesus. But the Holy Spirit blocked him, sending him to Macedonia instead. Within a short time, the apostle found himself in Thessalonica, reasoning with the Jews in the synagogue. Immediately he faced entrenched and vicious opposition, and had to flee the city. But he was able to leave men like Silas and Timothy behind to continue follow-up teaching so that the congregation could be established and not driven away from the foundational teachings of Jesus Christ. As Paul Writes this letter to the brethren in Thessalonica, the scenes of his early work flashed before him, and he remembered some of the keys to his reception there.

With this exhibition of power-coming through the actions of the Holy Spirit - the gospel came to Thessalonica, and the "word" which had the power to save and to cause the individual saints to be born from above was confirmed. Thus the congregation in Thessalonica was established and strengthened.



With Full Conviction

There is no doubt that the apostle Paul believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Early in the history of the church, he - then known as Saul of Tarsus - was instrumental in the death of the first martyr of the faith, Stephen. From that point on he persecuted the church intensely, being firmly convinced that their belief that Jesus was raised from the dead was a hoax or contrivance of confused men and women. But Saul was soon to reckon with the Christ who he had believed was permanently dead and buried. On his way to Damascus to round up disciples of Christ and bring them to Jerusalem for trial and punishment, Saul encountered the Lord Jesus. Blinded and knocked to the ground, he could only ask, "Who are you, lord?" when spoken to. "I am Jesus the Nazarene," the voice responded, "whom you are persecuting" (Acts 22:8). That answer rocked his entire belief system; Jesus was clearly raised from the dead, and in a position of demonstrated power. "But arise, and stand on your feet," was the command in the continuing conversation. "For this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you" (Acts 26:16). Jesus not only appeared to Paul that one time on the Damascus road, but also many times following. There is no doubt that the apostle Paul believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Conviction not only gives the words of the gospel a resonance that those without conviction can never achieve, but it drives the one with said conviction onward. A sense of this driving conviction can be gleaned from some of the statements of the apostle to the church in Corinth: "For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake," he adverted, "that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." Having laid the groundwork for his next driving comment, he wrote, "But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, therefore also we speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus (II Corinthians 4:11-14). That is the conviction that drove him onward.



Imitators

The theme of being an imitator is one that runs through the pages of the Scriptures. Elisha, for example was spoken of as one who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah'; that is, he trained under and imitated his mentor prophet. Joshua was an imitator of Moses, and was trained to take Moses' place as the one who would lead the children of Israel in the conquest of the promised land. "A pupil," said the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, "is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40). That is why the apostle Paul would command the Corinthian brethren in the Roman province of Achaia, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ' (I Corinthians 11:1).

But the effects of their victorious suffering were not limited to their own contemporaries. Because God has seen fit to have this letter recorded in His eternal word, their faith continues to encourage brethren today. A lesson for modern Saints today is clear: Suffering and persecution is not for the moment and the event only. God has a much bigger picture, and often is willing to shine His light on that Suffering, and have the Saint's positive overcoming of that persecution serve as an encouragement for multitudes. May modern saints be willing to learn from their example, and to face the coming persecution of our time with hope and with the joy of the Holy Spirit.



Sounding Forth

Many of the saints in the first century were very excited about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Within one generation, they took the good news of salvation through the Messiah to the ends of the world, as Paul described in his letter to the Colossians: the gospel, said he, "was proclaimed in all creation under heaven" (Colossians 1:23). It was "in all the world constantly bearing fruit and increasing" (Colossians 1:6). In spite of the fires of persecution from the Jews, and the black cloud of the impending doom of tyranny from the Roman government, these early Christians were excited about the eternal things connected with Christ, and in their excitement publicly and privately preached and taught the word of God with great success. And so it was in Thessalonica.

One of the challenges for the spread of the gospel in the twenty-first century is getting it heard. First of all, the forces of darkness have created massive confusion about the way of salvation, so that much teaching and persuasion on an individual basis must take place. Secondly, the airwaves and social media are jammed with nonsense from the world itself, so that there is such a cacophony that the truth from God's word has very little space in which to compete. This is why it is imperative that the Saints of today, while it is still called "today," be very zealous about the Bible studies in prospects' homes. By following a good "track to run on," the word of the gospel and follow up teaching can be distributed, saints will develop conviction, the lost will be reached, and once again, the word of the Lord will sound forth. May each of us raise his spiritual shofar, and sound the blast that will be heard around the world!



Turning To God

Many of today's so-called Christians glibly use the phrase "turning to God." They like it because it is generic enough for them to duck the issue of the necessity of immersion in Jesus' name for the forgiveness of sins and for the receiving of the indwelling Spirit. But "turning to God" is a scriptural term, and it is important that the word of God itself define the meaning of that term. The apostle Paul, in writing to the church at Thessalonica, comments that the message had spread - throughout the congregations - that the Thessalonians had "turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.' They turned; how did they do that?

There is only one living and true God; there is no substance at all to idols other than that of which men have been convinced. Through their immersions into Christ, these brethren turned to the Lord, were being transformed as the inner man beheld the Lord's glory, and they had fellowship with the blessed and only Father of all who is over all and through all. What blessed people these were!!



The Son From Heaven

The second coming of Christ is a great motivator for Christians. The scripture teaches very emphatically that He will come again to reward His saints and punish those who did not know Him or obey His gospel, and this return is one of the great themes of Paul's first epistle to the Thessalonians. Mankind as a whole tends to live as if this life were the only part of man's existence, ignoring the fact that man is an eternal being who will live forever either in heaven or in hell. The teaching that Jesus is coming again brings eternity to the fore, and causes the honest ones among the Sons of earth to take careful inventory of their spiritual condition. The apostle Paul made this clear in the closing portion of his message to the pagan Athenians gathered at Mars Hill to listen to his discourse: "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance," he animadverted, "God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:30.31). Even Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied that the Lord would come with many thousands of His holy ones (angels), "to execute judgment upon all" (Jude 1:14). As the old spiritual queried, "Are you ready for the Judgment Day?"

The brethren in Colossae understood the eternal consequences or blessings connected with the choice of following Jesus. The modern saint would also do well periodically to ponder the great blessings of having heard the gospel of Christ, and having had the opportunity to obey it. The brethren of today certainly need to turn from any modern idols to serve God, to wait for His Son from heaven, and to be delivered from the wrath to come. What a deliverance that is! And how worthy of praise is He who accomplished such a great redemption at the price of His own earthly suffering and separation from the Father!



Remembering the Beginning

Paul arrived in Thessalonica on his second missionary journey, having come into town from Philippi. While Paul was preaching in the place for prayer outside of Philippi, a slave girl having a spirit of divination kept following Paul and his fellow workers. Being demon possessed, she was kind of like a crazy person, and day after day she was saying, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation' (Acts 16:17). Paul was annoyed by the testimony coming from this source, so at one point he cast the evil spirit out of the slave girl. With the spirit cast out, the girl did not have any ability to predict the future with the extra accuracy attributed to someone demon-possessed, so her masters lost their source of profit from her. The result was that Paul and Silas were cast into prison and beaten severely. God caused an earthquake to shake the prison, the Philippian jailer heard the gospel and was immersed, and Paul and Silas were asked to leave town by the judges. To Thessalonica they went, since it was the next locality with a Jewish synagogue.

The God who examined the hearts of Paul and those other first century purveyors of the gospel also examines the hearts of modern Christians. Paul passed the test; he was approved by God and was thus entrusted with the sound doctrine of the new covenant. The question is: can any of twenty-first century Christians pass that same test, preaching and teaching the gospel of God without compromise, speaking the truth in love?



The Proving Ground

The Father expects His children of faith to exhibit the character befitting those making a claim to godliness. "And do not be conformed to this world, was the exordium to the brethren in Rome, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2). Proving basically has to do with passing some sort of test. "You have been distressed by various trials," commented the apostle Peter, "that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:6,7). Before Jesus sent the apostles out with the message of salvation beginning in Acts chapter two, He put them through the tests to prove that they were trustworthy. The Lord knew that the character of Saul of Tarsus, once he turned to the Lord, would similarly shine as he would pass through tremendous pressure and persecution without compromising the gospel.

As apostles of Christ," he adds, "we might have asserted our authority." However, seeking glory from men was not their motive, and Paul was not trying to elevate himself in some sick game. "But we proved to be gentle among you," he avers, "as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her children" (I Thessalonians 2:7). The congregation in Thessalonica consisted of new Christians who were willing to follow Christ in the midst of intense persecution from the local Jews. Not only would they have the normal personal issues to overcome as they spiritually moved forward from their past lives and habits, but these tensions would be exacerbated by the ill-treatment they were enduring. The leadership of Paul, proving to be the proper combination of care and correction, had been critical to their spiritual growth. The picture he used is one for modern leadership to keep in mind: "As a nursing mother tenderly cares for her children"!



Imparting Their Lives

It cannot be overstressed that the gospel of Christ is carried from person to person. The growth of each Christian requires personal involvement on the part of church leadership in order to help the struggling Saints move forward and upward. The scripture pictures sheep being led by shepherds, who know the by name and are personally involved. The great picture is that of the Chief Shepherd, who is described in this foundational manner: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). Even the great God, in dealing with the sons of men, became one of us in order to have the personal touch, and share in the one to-one interaction so necessary for the word of God to have its proper impact. Hence the apostle Paul and those traveling with him, when they came to Thessalonica, engaged in these same important personal interactions.

The apostle is not writing this epistle simply because he could not think of anything else to do on a fine Saturday afternoon. He is penning these thoughts because of his continuing desire to help the brethren remain solid and secure in their faith, and to extend the influence of the gospel. So when he is ready to make his appeal to them, they know that he has no hidden agenda, but that his concern is solely for them and their eternities.



Imploring as a Father

Dads love their children. Sometimes, because of the sin that so easily besets the human race, that love is not perfectly shown, nor perfectly carried out. But, especially if the dads are Christians, they really want the best for their children – guiding them, developing their characters, getting them educated, bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. One of the greatest challenges, of course, is for the initiative, character, and discipline to become the child's own as he moves into adulthood. The father can want with all his heart for his sons and daughters to walk uprightly with the Lord, but at some point the now-adult child has to function on his own; the nestlings must flutter out of the nest and begin to fly without being propped up by their parents. However, if the communication and relationship has been maintained, dads still have many opportunities to encourage and strengthen their grown children, and the relationship often becomes friend-to-friend and partner-to-partner.

The apostle Paul knew how fraught with danger is the path that leads to eternal life. The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life are lurking around every corner. The challenges of continually facing persecution and disappointment are great, and fighting the battle against discouragement while the outer man is decaying are great. Hence Paul and the others were "exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one as a father would his own children. And through the scripture, he still is!



The Word of God Works

One of the great themes of the Bible is that the scriptures are composed of living words. "For the word of God is living and active," penned the author of Hebrews, "and sharper than any two edged sword' (Hebrews 4:12). "You have been born again, affirmed Peter, "not of the seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God" (I Peter 1:23). "The words that I have spoken to you." asseverated the Lord Jesus Himself, "are spirit and are life" (John 6:63). Dead words lie there on the page and do nothing, but the words of God - while distributed on printed page or in some form of digital transmission - are endued with a life in themselves, and able to beget life in the process of regenerating man. This power and this life are to be pondered, and not dismissed or diminished in any way by the hearer.

Not only does spiritual life come magnificently from the word, but the maintenance and continuing growth of the Christian comes from that word as well. Just as the DNA in the cell has the information for reproduction and also has the instructions for keeping the living cell functioning, the word of God has the instructions for the living Saint. The word ultimately performs the work, while the disciple of Christ feeds on and implements those instructions. The message is clear: if the saint will do his part, God and His word will accomplish the transformation.



Enduring Persecution

The Lord Jesus had stated that He would build His church upon the "rock' - the foundational truth that He is the Son of the living God. He also remarked that "repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). Thus it was that the church began on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost, AD 30, as recorded in Acts chapter two. 3000 souls were added to the apostles' number, having been immersed in Jesus’ name, and the church of Jesus Christ had its beginning in Jerusalem. Shortly thereafter, the number of men became 5000, then the brethren numbered multitudes. But by Acts chapter eight, a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem headed up by one Saul of Tarsus, and the church was scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. The apostle Paul - the former Saul of Tarsus - described his efforts before Herod Agrippa II and the governor Porcius Festus: "Not only did I lock up many of the Saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them ... I punished them often in all the synagogues" (Acts 26:10,11). It was clearly a rugged time for the brethren.

The church in Thessalonica endured persecution at the hands of the Jews in their region. They held to the doctrines the apostles preached, and kept moving forward in faith, comforted and strengthened by the indwelling Spirit. Paul was therefore very thankful that they received from him and his fellow workers the word of truth, and that the brethren did their part so that the word could continue to perform its positive and edifying work in them. Awesome progress in the face of immense opposition!!



Wrath upon God's Opposition

The only reason this world exists is so that God can call from the nations of earth a special people for the sake of His name. When there is no one left who will answer the call, then God's plan is finished on earth and He will destroy the physical universe. Jesus Himself said, during the years of His earthly sojourn, "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and I wish it were already kindled!" (Luke 12:49). But the time was not yet at hand, and, nearly 2000 years later, if anyone is still reading this, the time is still not yet at hand. "The Lord is not slow about His promise," commented Peter, "as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). This is making it clear that God will hold off the day of judgment until every last person who will repent can be converted.

The Scripture consistently pictures the ultimate destruction which will come upon those who are not obedient to the gospel of peace. But those who oppose the preaching of the word of God seem to get a hotter spot in the fires of hell. As Paul spoke of those Jews who tried to block the spread of the word of God to the Gentiles, he used this terminology: "But wrath has come upon them to the utmost." They will, as Revelation pictures it, say to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?' (Revelation 6:16,17). But they won't be able to run, and they can't hide!



Paul's Crown and Joy

In his epistle to the Roman congregation, the apostle Paul describes what might be termed a road. The first section for a Christian is tribulation, followed by another section called perseverance. When the saint has successfully traveled the road through this tribulation and has exhibited the requisite perseverance, then he has demonstrated R "proven character." This proven character now has hope, because he has seen that if he perseveres through the difficulties, God always grants him spiritual victory. In this whole process he can now really exhibit the "love of God poured out" within his heart through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:3-5). Certainly the apostle Paul had demonstrated all aspects of traversing this road to the brethren in Thessalonica who heard him preach and were converted to Christianity. The tribulation and his perseverance were obvious, his character had clearly been exhibited in the midst of great persecution, his continued hope shone through, and his love of these brethren was evident even in his writing this letter.

The Lord, speaking through the prophet Daniel so long ago, stated, "And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:3). Certainly there would be few who would be able to match the apostle Paul in those categories. But he always gave credit to the Lord for giving him the grace to accomplish what he did in his lifetime, and his concern was always for the eternities of those he taught. "For you," he emphasizes to the Thessalonian brethren, "are our glory and joy!" (I Thessalonians 2:20).



Concern for the Brethren

Immersion is not the end for the Christian; it is the beginning. There are spiritual mountains and caves and holes in the ground that must be endured victoriously. There are battles to fight, betrayals to overcome, Strategies to orchestrate, and enemies to defeat. The warfare, while spiritual rather than physical as it was in the Old Testament, is just as intense. Thus the New Testament writings are replete with warnings, instructions, and concerns for the brethren as they engage in their solo skirmishes and as they collectively battle for the purity and progress of their local churches. Hence the apostle Paul, working with so many brethren, and involved with so many congregations in the ongoing Striving against the forces of darkness and for the victory of the light, exuded solicitude for all the brethren. In describing his beatings and challenges of survival while taking the gospel everywhere he could go, he commented, "Apart from such external things, there is daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches" (II Corinthians 11:28). He exhibits that concern for the congregation in Thessalonica.

On concluding their work on the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas informed the brethren, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). The modern saint must take this perspective into consideration as the world moves on toward its final destruction. Evil men will proceed from bad to worse, and the gospel of Christ will be increasingly hated in civilizations that have deliberately turned their backs on God. Hence the brethren of today need the same type of strengthening and encouragement that their first century counterparts in Thessalonica experienced. May today's preachers and teachers be up to the task!



Overpowering the Tempter

"How's your faith?" is a fair and honest question. Since a Christian is saved by faith, justified by faith, lives by faith, and walks by faith, the condition of the faith of the individual certainly needs to be monitored. The "testing of your faith," affirmed James, "produces endurance' (James 1:3). Peter added, "the proof of your faith [the faith being more precious than perishable gold] may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ' (I Peter 1:7). The honest concern, then, of the apostle Paul would be connected with how the faith of the persecuted and tested brethren was holding up.

The earnest desire of the Lord Jesus Christ is for the salvation of the lost among the sons of men. Clearly He does not wish "for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). He longs for fellowship with His saints, and has set in motion His tremendous plan to reach and redeem every truth-seeker on the face of this planet. To accomplish this, He has implanted His love in the hearts of His servants so that they might carry His message to the lost and keep preaching and teaching to preserve the saved. Hence it is that the apostle Paul is truly concerned about the brethren in Thessalonica, and, with every fiber of his being, hopeful that they will be able to come through the fires of persecution and the wiles of temptation orchestrated by the prince of darkness. Thus he was tremendously excited when Timothy brought back a positive report of the progress of the Saints, how they had overpowered the efforts of the temper!



Encouraged about the Brethren

"Greater love, said Jesus, "has no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Our Lord led the way on this, backing His words with the laying down of His life, His suffering a violent execution on the cross for the sins of mankind. This precept is then passed on to the true disciples of Christ, expressed in these terms by the apostle John: "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (I John 3:16). As Jesus was wholly committed to reaching the lost and building His church, so also are those who lay down their lives for the brethren. This "cause", then, becomes the primary focus of their interests and conversation. Hence Paul, having suffered intensely in getting the gospel to Thessalonica, was supremely interested in the spiritual safety and progress of those brethren.

One of the great challenges for the Saint is keeping what is important as important, and keeping what is secondary as secondary. Whether it is suffering beatings and shame for the sake of Christ, or enduring jail time, or suffering loss of property, those things are secondary to the value of Souls saved. The apostle Paul was able to understand the will and perspective of God, and thus experience great joy in the good news concerning the faithful brethren in Thessalonica!



Some Important Prayers

From the time of the apostle Paul's conversion in his immersion, he suffered persecution as a result of his preaching Christ. At some point, the inquirer might ask what big benefit Paul was getting from going through all the privations he experienced. Was it fame? Clearly not. In Paul’s own words, "I think God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as men condemned to death ... we are fools for Christ's sake. Was it fortune? Not that either. "To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed" (I Corinthians 4:9-13). What motivated the apostle was his desire to see souls securely saved for all eternity. This is why he preached, why he was willing to suffer hardship, and why he prayed.

The apostle Paul was evidently a man of God who spent much time in prayer; his prison time undoubtedly gave him a little more time for such personal prayer. The words of prayer automatically flow as part of his stream of consciousness. As one who spent prayer time in praise, thanksgiving, petition, Supplication, and intercession, Paul in his prayers did not focus on self, but on the Spiritual needs of others, for the growth of the church, and for the glorification of King Jesus. "We really live," he says, but only "if you stand firm in the Lord." Again he says, "we rejoice before our God," but not for anything personal, rather "on your account." His desire is to see their face, but so that he might "complete what is lacking in your faith." The honesty of his concern is reflected, then, in his sincere petitions to the great God over all.



Prayers for the Brethren

It is hard to comprehend the earnest desire that the Lord Jesus has for the salvation of even one soul. As the exhibition and embodiment of the concept that "God is love," Jesus was willing to leave the comfort Zone of heaven willingly to seek and to save that which was lost. The scripture positively vibrates with the idea that if there were only one who would believe, Jesus would still have come and suffered. Thus, when the blind man who was healed at Siloam was put out of the synagogue because he would not back down on his stand that the One who healed him was a prophet, Jesus personally came to him to comfort and encourage him. The message resounds: Jesus cares for each soul.

The apostle Paul, as an imitator of His Lord, likewise had an intense desire for each person to be reconciled to God. But he also recognized that if a person were immersed into Christ but then at some point was pulled back into the world, the immersion was wasted. Therefore he continues to have great concern for the positive progress of each saint in each congregation, as exemplified in his prayers for the brethren in Thessalonica.

Jesus is coming again. He will bring with Him "those who have fallen asleep in Jesus," those who passed from earth and regarded by the King as faithful. The disciples of Christ therefore need to be found busy doing the things that please King Jesus: abounding in love for one another and for the lost, perfecting holiness, and eagerly awaiting the appearing the King and Savior.



Excel Still More

What pleases the Lord has to be taught, and this instruction has to be received by one who is humble in heart. Man on his own has no ability to know God, much less know what pleases Him. Hence instruction must come from the Lord, specifically through that teaching which has now been recorded in the sacred writings. That is why Jesus commissioned first the apostles, then those subsequently instructed by the apostles, to go and make disciples, and after immersing them, to continue to teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded. "You were formerly darkness," Paul reminded the disciples in Ephesus, "but now you are light in the Lord." As children of light, then, they were to be "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8-10).

Because congregations consist of people in various stages of personal growth, there is always room for improvement. Even on an individual basis, the saint should never stay in a comfort Zone; he should always be looking for the next way in which he can make improvement, set bigger goals, or increase his effectiveness. And people in Christ do tend to become complacent. The congregation in Laodicea of the book of Revelation fame is an excellent example of a numbing that can set in. They said, according to Jesus, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17). The Lord's analysis was that they were "wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked." So the brethren in Thessalonica were exhorted so that they too would not fall into that complacent and deadening condition. So also, then, the modern saints are similarly exhorted through these inspired scriptures: EXCEL STILL MORE!



The Will of God

Because God is love, one of the major attacks of the prince of darkness is on the meaning and understanding of love. The All Wise, knowing the nature of the individuals with whom He must communicate, has various means by which He does develop an understanding of what true love is. The apostle John, in making his inspired emphasis on love, laid down a very interesting and instructive principle. "The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen," was the premise, "cannot love God whom he has not seen" (I John 4:20). Hence God has given relationships to provide real life teaching on understanding love, such as brother-sister, parent-child, and brethren-in-Christ. But probably the greatest general teaching tool is the marriage relationship, properly defined as husband-wife. The devil, then, majorly attacks the institution of marriage, and works to pervert the husband-wife relationship. An important component of that husband-wife relationship is what the apostle Paul called "the natural function of the woman." Some women, he said, resorting to other women, are described as having "exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural." Men who resort to men are similarly pictured as having "abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another" (Romans 1:26,27). Clearly, the deceiver works to pervert what God intended.

To be a follower of Christ in the truest sense of the word means to be one who eliminates selfishness. Jesus informed His followers of this precept in these words, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:27). In order to properly carry that cross, the individual must deny himself. A major source of the loss of self control in matters of sexual purity is self gratification; hence the saint is to crucify self, and focus on loving God and loving his spouse. This sanctification is - again making an important emphasis - the will of God!



God Called Us for Sanctification

Solomon, the sage of Proverbs, had some wisdom on the subject of husband-wife relationships of an intimate nature. "Drink water from your own cistern," advised he, to the man and regarding the man's focus on his own wife, "and fresh water from your own well. He continued, "Let your fountain be blessed in the wife of your youth ... be always exhilarated with her love." He then advanced the following question, "For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress, and embrace the bosom of a foreigner?" In addition, there is the continuing presence of the Lord, whose eyes roam to and fro about the earth, and miss nothing. "For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths." The All Knowing has always warned man that sin is destructive, both to the individual and to those around him. "His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin. He will die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he will go astray" (Proverbs 5:15-23). Such exhortations and warnings were in the mind of Paul as he wrote to the brethren in Thessalonica.

God is serious about this matter of sanctification in all areas, but in this 50 context especially in the matter of marriage faithfulness. "Consequently," Paul intones, "he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you" (I Thessalonians 4:8). To describe God as the One who "gives His Holy Spirit to you" puts tremendous weight on what has just been said. Moderns, take heed!



Love of the Brethren

The church has a job to do. It is to go into all the world and get the gospel preached to all creation. It is to seek and to save the lost. It is to engage in spiritual warfare with the forces of darkness, and - as a mighty resurrected army - to win that warfare. But that is not going to happen if the brethren are in disarray, hateful and hating one another. To further His purpose, God has gone to a lot of work to create the proper atmosphere inside the local congregation, to have the Spirit of Christ pervade everything the church does. Each saint is repeatedly and in various ways exhorted to put aside petty selfishness and work together with the brethren in harmony and for the accomplishment of God's goals.

Living the Christian life is living a life of common sense, with a perspective of doing things that please God. A quiet life, minding your own business, and hard work are common sense principles for the upbuilding of society and making any community function. Even if the world as a whole goes the opposite direction, the Father in heaven still wants His children to live by those values, taking care of themselves, with instructions that "you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need" (I Thessalonians 4:12). Carry on!



The “Rapture”?

There are supposed theologians who grabbed some scriptures out of the book of Revelation, and came up with some wild ideas about the times and events connected with Jesus' second coming. (This is called "eschatology," by the way, meaning essentially "study of the end times.") Because they started from their ideas of the book of Revelation rather than the plain statements of the epistles and other clear points from Acts or the gospel accounts, they have to use a twenty pound post maul to beat on the scriptures to try to get them to fit. Proper understanding of the word of God, however, allows the scripture verses to connect perfectly, just as jig-saw puzzle pieces nicely drop into place when they are in the correct location. But these false teachers ignore many straightforward scriptures and come up with something called "the rapture," followed by seven years of "tribulation," during which "the antichrist' comes and has a tyranny of terror over the earth, after which Jesus in "the second advent' comes down and reigns as king for 1000 years while David reigns as co-regent over Jerusalem and the priests of the descendants of Zadok offer sacrifices in a rebuilt temple. Whew! Pretty farfetched, and definitely counter to the teaching and tenor of the new testament writings.

There are many other problems with the whole pre-millennial perspective. The church, for example, — the very bride of Christ - is relegated to nothing more than a temporary fix until the pipeline of Israel could be restored. Such false doctrine totally turns the teaching and tenor of the new testament writings upside down, and clearly is a satanic attack on the Lord and His church. It is important that modern disciples of Christ recognize pre-millennialism for what it is, and focus on what the scriptures themselves teach.



Asleep in Jesus

The specter of physical death has always plagued mankind. Hence one of the things Jesus came to accomplish was to deliver His disciples from fear of death. Fear of death paralyzes, especially if it were to occur in connection with the intent to preach the gospel. Sooner or later the desire to preach the word of God accurately and importantly runs counter to the desire to please men; and it is when men are sufficiently un-pleased that they "kill the messenger." Hence, as Paul put it, "If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ' (Galatians 1:10). But there is another aspect of fear of death - concern over loved ones who have passed on, as to what will happen to them. Again, the desire of God through His word is to provide honest encouragement.

The confidence of the saints that Jesus' return is real is based on their belief, as Paul puts it, "that 'Jesus died and rose again." When this same apostle Paul spoke to the pagan crowd gathered on Mars O Hill in Athens, he made the same point, noting that the great Creator God "has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). When He returns, the saints will rejoice, but the rest will cry to the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. Modern brethren, then, can take courage, and press forward in the faith once for all delivered!



Descent of the Lord

Jesus' return is the great finale for earth! For those who simply live on this planet and are unaware of the scripture's teaching, the earth seems so massive that it would have to last forever. However, those who believe and understand even a modicum of the word of God know that God created the heavens and earth out of nothing, and that He will destroy them when He is done with them. "They will perish." the writer of Hebrews quoted from the Psalms, "but You remain; and they all will become old as a garment, and as a mantle You will roll them up" (Hebrews 1:11,12). This will happen in connection with Jesus' second coming; this is THE END!

It is encouraging to know how all the events and confusion of earth's upheavals and uprisings turn out. Faithful saints, either those resurrected or those who were instantly changed in the twinkling of an eye, will meet the Lord in their resurrected bodies in the air. "Therefore comfort one another with these words' (I Thessalonians 4:18). Amen!!!



Thief in the Night

There are certainly going to be many, many surprised people at Jesus' return. Billions of earth's residents may have heard Something about Jesus, but have no concept whatsoever that He is returning, and that "in that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship" (Isaiah 2:20). Many know of the The Second Coming claims of scripture, but deny its truthfulness and scoff at the idea of Christ that the Lord will return. Others believe in the return of Christ, but have been confused by the obfuscators of the day and totally misunderstand the nature of His second coming. All these will be Surprised when they end up in the place that Jesus Himself described as a place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:12).

Peter also referred to the same day. "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief," noted the apostle, using the same type of language that Jesus Himself had used as He discussed the time of His second return, "in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up" (II Peter 3:10). On that day, the physical universe ceases to exist. The day of judgment will take place, the unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire, and saints of God will enter the glories of heaven. The Saints may "have no need of anything to be written' to them. But they certainly need to be reminded repeatedly!



“Peace and Security”

Mankind is blissfully unaware of the sudden devastation that is about to come upon them and the earth they live upon. They tend to get caught up in believing their own propaganda, beginning with thinking that earth is something like four billion years old. While they profess some concern about "earth's dwindling resources," they really expect this planet to last billions of more years. "It escapes their notice," was the way Peter described them, "that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago but not four billions of years), and the earth was formed out of water and by water. The rebellious ones not only refuse to recognize that God created the earth, but they also deny that man's sinfulness caused God to destroy the earth with the Flood. Naturally, then, they are totally unaware and unbelieving that "the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (II Peter 3:5-7).

Of man, whether he be rich or poor, his tendency is not to think about eternity. "Their inner thought is, that their houses are forever, and their dwelling places to all generations' (Psalm 49.11). "While they are saying, Peace and safety.' " is Paul's tipoff to the saints, "then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." Whether the current emphasis on "peace and security" is the prelude to the Lord's Second coming, or whether it is a temporary phase of human history, time will tell. Certainly there have been similar promises throughout the span of man. But one thing that should be considered is that this time the emphasis is on global or international peace and security. This has never happened before on that scale, and if the people who are pushing for it get their way, there will be no freedom left on this planet for the proclamation of the gospel. But the Saint can be encouraged either way: if it is not the final, there is future opportunity on earth; if it is final, Jesus is coming!!



Sons of Day, Sons of Night

At the first of creation, everything was dark. Then God said for the light to come into existence, and there was light. From the get-go, then, there has been this contrast between light and dark in the physical realm, setting the stage for the communication of the concept of darkness and light in the spiritual realm. "For you were formerly darkness," the apostle Paul explained to the brethren in Ephesus, "but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). This usage of dark and light is not just metaphorical; Christians really are "light," and non-Christians really are "darkness." The apostle informed the congregation at Corinth that the God who caused the light to shine on the first day of creation is "the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (II Corinthians 4:6). Inside each true saint of God there is a tremendous light shining, the treasure currently obscured by "earthen vessels" (II Corinthians 4:7). Brethren are "sons of light."

By contrast, then, "we are of the day," and the exhortation is "let us be sober" (I Thessalonians 5:8). For the saint, the sober warning of Jesus still stands: "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming." If the householder had known when the thief was coming, he would have been ready with his shotgun. "For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will" (Matthew 24:42-44). Are you still willing to say that Jesus is not coming today?



Sober Saints

It is good and acceptable to be "of Sober spirit." This does not require the elimination of all humor or levity, but it does require a willingness to take a hard and honest look at facts, issues, personalities, and potentials. For example, if a person has a denominational background where he thought that salvation was accomplished by saying a prayer and "inviting Jesus" into his heart, he would have to take a Sober look at scripture. If he attempted to be angry about it and by this means duck his responsibility, he would not be "of sober spirit." If he tried to laugh it off, making some joke to change the conversation, he would not be "of sober spirit." "Be of sober spirit," exhorted the apostle Peter, "be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (I Peter 5:8). That picture, honestly processed, would make a person sober in a quick hurry!

God raised Jesus from the dead, and then took the step of seating Him at His right hand in the power position. This is pictured as "within the veil"; that is, that as the veil or curtain separated the holy of holies from the outer room or the holy place, so Jesus has entered into the true holy of holies within the veil, or into heaven itself for us. "This hope," said the writer of Hebrews, connected with Jesus resurrection and ascension, "we have as an anchor for the soul" (Hebrews 6:19). This "hope is also the salvation of the body, set to occur at Jesus' return. "For God has not destined us for wrath," Paul encourages the brethren in Thessalonica, "but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ' (I Thessalonians 5:9). "He shall appear a second time," the writer of Hebrews also assures us, "for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him" (Hebrews 9:28). Crank up that eagerness!!



Together with Him

The more a person contemplates the plan of God, the more clear it becomes as to how much God loves each person. It is also very clear that God wants a spiritual people who will appreciate what He has done to rescue mankind and reconcile the sinner to Himself. The Word of God is so designed that, as it works its way through the masses of mankind, it separates out those who truly are in tune with God from those who are not. "His winnowing fork is in His hand," said John the Immerser of His Lord Jesus, "and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12). The earth is the threshing floor, and, as the process of winnowing goes on, only those who have an honest and good heart will hear the voice of Jesus as expressed in the written word, obey the gospel, and remain firm and faithful to the end. Jesus, in His prayer before He crossed the Kidron to Gethsemane, expressed the desire of His heart and thus illustrated the purpose of the winnowing. "Father," petitioned He, "I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). He is looking for a spiritual people who will desire to see His glory and appreciate it, and His sifting the hearts of men is for that purpose.

Moses said to the Almighty on the summit of Sinai, "Show me Your glory" (Exodus 33:18). This could not happen for Moses because no one still in the physical realm could behold that glory and live. Hence Christ through His gospel plan and winnowing action has produced a people who are able to see that glory. "Beloved," said John the apostle, "now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2). Jesus desired it enough to die for us; may we desire it enough to live for Him, regardless of external circumstances.



Appreciation and Esteem

The flesh tends to chafe when directed by the bit of God's directive, and often tries to remove the saddle of responsibility. Hence come some instructions and exhortations from the word of God for the encouragement and strengthening of the brethren. In addition to these from the scriptures, saints can encourage others. "Encourage one another," says the apostle Paul, "and build up one another." This edifying of one another is one of the important functions of the local assembly; the noting of positive accomplishments, and truly complimentary remarks about the brethren really assist in the development and growth of saints, especially the new ones. The apostle is even complimentary to the brethren in Thessalonica, adding, "just as you also are doing." As the disciples of Christ assemble, the exhortation from the author of Hebrews is, "consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24). Thus the apostle has some stimulating exhortations for the brethren.

God brought Israel out of the "iron furnace" of Egypt, but they had to wander in the desert for forty years because of their initial unbelief. This was traveling under difficult circumstances, but necessary to accomplish God's objective. "Now the people," recorded Moses, "became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord" (Numbers 11:1), and their carcasses fell in the wilderness. One of the lessons clearly to be drawn from their example is not to complain about adversity and cheerfully to heed God-ordained leadership. If this were true under the terms of the old covenant, how much more true it is under the terms of the new. Appreciation and esteem should rightly be given to those who have a proven track record of getting the work done! "Live in peace with one another."



Interacting with the Brethren

Living the Christian life is a struggle. "I have fought the good fight." was the apostle Paul's commentary just before he made his "departure" from earth, "I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (II Timothy 4:7). It is clear, then, that the Christian life is a struggle, and has to be fought successfully to the end. Brethren, then, coming from all sorts of backgrounds and home environments, have mental and attitudinal challenges in fighting that fight and hence have some need of help. Paul thus encourages the saints at Thessalonica, and through them the rest of us who have been designated to live out the earthly sojourn at a different time, to do their part to assist struggling disciples of Christ.

The church universal is God's vehicle for victory over the forces of darkness. But where "the boots are on the ground" is the local congregation. This is where the work really gets done, and where the saints must function as a well-oiled machine to do their part to combat the rising tide of evil. The unruly and disruptive have to be tamed, the fearful have to be given a backbone, the weak need to be helped and strengthened, and everyone must be patient as the brethren work their way through personal obstacles and foibles. Then the church will be ready for "the God of peace to crush Satan" under their feet!



Seek after Good

There is a natural tendency on the part of people to want to get even or get back at someone who has, at least in their view, wronged them. So strong and ingrained is this desire that the scripture has to deal with it in a variety of ways and from a variety of people. The challenge, from God's perspective, is to change the thinking of Saints in particular so that they are looking for positives to compliment rather than negatives at which to be enraged. When the inside of man is a seething cauldron of anger, waiting for the slightest disturbance to enable it to boil over, then it is only a matter of time and some incident will serve as the excuse for outrage or the opportunity for "evening the score." Rather, God wants those He calls His children to be calm on the inside, looking for ways to soothe the spirits of others, and in general making peace.

The Saint who is following in the footsteps of Jesus recognizes that he is always scattering the seed for the word of God. The kind deed, the word of encouragement, the card of appreciation ... who knows what big plant can grow from such a small seed! For the sake of the gospel, the Christian lets the evil pass without retaliation; but he continues to focus on what is eternally important. "If you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others?" asked the Lord Himself. "Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" (Matthew 5:47). The saint is to do good for his brothers in Christ, but also reach out and do good for all men!



Pithy Exhortations

The Saints need continual reminders about their attitudes and actions. More often than needing to learn something new, brethren simply need to have things they already know and to which they are already committed brought to the forefront of their minds. Hence it is that the Lord has given memorials such as the Passover for the Israelites, and the Lord's Supper for Christians to keep important things at a high level of consciousness. "Do this," said Jesus of the breaking of bread, "in remembrance of Me!" What could be more important than remembering Jesus? Reminders, remembrances, and occasional remonstrations focus the child of God and help keep him on task and heaven bound.

This series of punchy, pithy, and powerful reminders bring the Saint to the continued recognition that he needs to keep moving forward with a great attitude. He needs to be in a state of continual prayer, thankful and honoring the precepts of the word of God. He needs to turn away from evil and do good. Certainly the words of Paul to the Colossian brethren fit here as well: "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17).



God's Purpose

The tremendous plan of God has been to produce a truly spiritual people who can and will appreciate the glory of Christ. A key ingredient, as far as God is concerned, is that these truly spiritual people be spiritual by their choice. The integral part of the process, however, is that it takes a powerful act of God's creative powers to produce such a spiritual new creation. So the challenge has been for the All Wise and the Almighty to set in motion a system wherein both the individual's free choice out of love for God and God's infinite power both are actuated to produce this spiritual being which is desirous and capable of seeing the glory of Jesus. "Father," said the Lord Jesus in His prayer before He crossed the Kidron to the Garden of Gethsemane, "I desire that they also, who You have given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24).

"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely," is Paul's ultimate prayer, "and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass" (I Thessalonians 5:23,24). With the glorified body, the saint can see Jesus’ glory, and fulfill His earnest desire. "Beloved, now we are children of God," was the apostle John's reminder, "and it has not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is (I John 3:2).



Key Considerations & Closing Comments

Jesus was very serious in His quoting from Deuteronomy, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Thus the words in the letters, such as the opening and closing comments, are very necessary in establishing the authenticity of the epistles, and give us a look at the interrelationships of the first century church. Additionally, they often add punchy or encouraging exhortations in the form of one-liners, and strengthen the modern reader as well as those to whom they were directly addressed.

This awesome letter of encouragement for the suffering brethren of Thessalonica was deemed worthy of inclusion in the inspired record by the Holy Spirit. Its scope is broad, detailing the apostle Paul's thankfulness for the faith of the believers, his recall of his time with the saints, his encouragement from the Word he received from Timothy about the continued faithfulness of the Saints, his admonition on sexual purity, his information about the visible return of Christ, and his closing points in exhortation. Appropriately, the epistle closes with standard but important words: "The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you'' (I Thessalonians 5:28).