COLLINS COLUMN: Living Out Paul’s Lasting Instructions

Published 9:15 am Saturday, June 22, 2024

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Paul’s closing words to the believers in his first letter to the Thessalonians can be applied to all believers. Many bible scholars believe that 1 Thessalonians may have been the first book of the New Testament that was written. While the gospels record the story of Jesus and therefore took place earlier than the start of the church, most scholars believe that one or two of Paul’s epistles were actually written to churches before the full gospel accounts were completed.

So, possibly within a couple decades of the resurrection, the Thessalonian church received a letter from Paul. Shortly after Paul had started this church, he faced opposition and had to leave this young church abruptly. It is clear that Paul loved this church and was pleased with their growth in the Lord. As he wrapped up his letter, he addressed the attitudes and behaviors that should guide the church as they await the second coming of Jesus.

The Thessalonians, though a young church, had grown dramatically, despite experiencing persecution for their allegiance to Christ over their allegiance to Rome. They believed that loyalty to Christ was more important than their loyalty to political governance. This is a relevant reminder for us today. There are some in the Christian world who seem to think that we can mix our allegiance to Christ with our preferred political leader. To do so is dangerously close to idol worship, if not outright heresy.

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Paul’s instructions at the end of this short letter, if followed, can lead to a personal and communal transformation far greater and more powerful than anything this world has to offer. Paul called the church (including today’s church) to action. We are to remember and practice the following:

·      Admonish or correct those who are simply sitting on the sidelines waiting for Jesus to return instead of doing their part in sharing the good news of Jesus.

·      Encourage those who are feeling the burden of grief and loss. Some in Thessalonica had seen loved ones die, possibly as martyrs, and wondered about their status since Jesus had not yet returned. Paul’s words all through this book encourage us to remember that those who died before Jesus’ return are and will be with Jesus forever.

·      Help the weak. As Christians, we are to serve and help those who cannot help themselves.

·      No matter what is going on in the world, Christians are to do good to those around them, proving that Christ is at work in us and in the world today.

·      Rejoice always because we know that God is in control and Jesus will return.

·      Pray without ceasing because we know that God is alive, active and responsive to his children.

·      Give thanks, no matter what is going on around us, because we know that God is always at work to accomplish his grand purpose, and somehow, he uses even our hard times to bring about his will.

·      Do not block the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives because of sin or apathy. Remember to surrender daily to the Spirit who is at work in us, constantly transforming our lives to be like Jesus.

·      Avoid evil at every turn and every temptation.

·      Know that God is actively bringing about holiness and sanctification in our lives as we surrender to him.

·      As we focus on Jesus, he will keep us blameless until he returns.

·      God is faithful, and he will do all that he promised.

Father, thank you for the direct and simple reminders of who you are and of what you are doing in the world even today. We ask that your Holy Spirit guide us in all truth, that we may always be faithful and active in our faith journey until you come again. In Jesus’ name, amen.