Year 2 Day 353
Read - 1 Thessalonians 5v12-22
Message - Scott Woodburn
As we finish Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians we remind ourselves of the rich eschatology contained within the book. We are living in the last days, Christ is coming and those who trust Him will be raised to everlasting life. Yet with that stated Paul closes his letter with entirely practical wisdom concerning today and not tomorrow. Discussion about the end of the world can lead us to debate, speculation and even sometimes fear but Paul urges the Thessalonians to get on with their everyday Christian witness. Christ is surely coming but this is no reason for retreat to a bunker in the mountains.
Paul's first word of advice is for the Thessalonians to respect, esteem and love those who are over them in the Lord (v12-13). Paul here speaks of the leadership in a local church. The end of things is at hand but Christians are to strive to make the work of their leaders incredibly easy. They are to strive for peace in the body (v13b) and they are to encourage and support their leaders.
In any local congregation there will be men and women of great faith and there will be others who struggle. Paul says that in light of the return of Christ we are to admonish the idle, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak and show patience to all (v14). Christ's return should not diminish how we care for one another. The lazy are to be challenged. The one who doubts is to have their gentle heart encouraged. The Christian who is weak is to be strengthened and to everyone we are to show patience. Future events are not to distract us from present realities.
The world might end tomorrow but it is no excuse for wickedness. We should never repay evil for evil but instead we should always seek to do good to our neighbour (v15). In good days or bad we are to continually rejoice in the light of what Christ has done (v16) and instead of worrying endlessly we should constantly come before the Lord in prayer (v17). For what should we pray? It is God's will that we give Him thanks in any and all circumstances (v18).
As Paul reaches the end of his letter he urges the Thessalonians not to quench the Spirit. How is it possible to quench God the Holy Spirit? We can refuse to listen to Him as He guides us into the truth of God's Word. The Spirit taps us on the shoulder and tells us to repent and we sinfully thumb our nose. We are convicted by the Spirit and yet we let days pass and the conviction fades. We know what the Word says and the Spirit underlines this truth and yet we ignore it and go our own way. Do not quench the Spirit says the Apostle.
The Thessalonians lived during the days of the Apostles. They were recipients of Apostolic prophetic teaching and Paul's challenge was for them not to despise the prophetic word. How could any Christian despise the message of the Lord? It doesn't encourage us but instead it rebukes. It makes us uncomfortable because it challenges our attitudes and opinions. Prophecies have now ceased and the office of the Apostle is closed, nevertheless we are still to guard our hearts. It is easy to despise the preached Word. We can believe sermons to be tiresome and the preacher boring. But if this is the attitude of our soul we must repent. Do not despise the Word says Paul, love it, listen to it and test the message you have been given (v21). Be discerning not discontent.
Finally we are to keep ourselves from evil and hold fast to the good. We should never underestimate the activity of the enemy. Abstain therefore from evil and be alert to the devil's schemes.
There is a quote associated with Martin Luther which most likely didn't come from his mouth. Allegedly the Reformer once said that "If I knew the world would end tomorrow I'd plant an apple tree today." What did he mean? Exactly what Paul advises in today's passage. Christians know the world is coming to an end and Christ is coming back. Nevertheless we are to be active in doing good as we wait patiently for the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, read today's passage again and perhaps a third time. These are not days for sleep or stockpiling food in your underground bunker as we wait for the second coming. May we be both hearers and doers of God's precious Word.
Q105 What do we pray for in the fifth petition? In the fifth petition, which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” we pray, that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.