1 Thessalonians 2: 13-20, Sermon by Rev. Philip Azad, Visiting Pastor, 06/29/08
 
Authenticity of 1St and 2nd Thessalonians was for the first time questioned F. C. Baur. He was 19th century German theologian. He was teaching since 1826 to his death at Tubingen. He said that NT should be viewed ontologically. 
 
Explanation: He meant that it should be viewed without any confessions or creeds. But strangely whenever this thought process is applied it is never without reservations.
Explanation. Baur was greatly impressed by Hegel’s philosophy of conflict.
 
He presented history as a progression of conflicts. Rather he began to apply this principle to every field. He proposed that every field/thing begins with a thesis and then an antithesis arises which results in synthesis. Marketplace example of selling items.
 
Baur took this thought and applied it to the NT. According to him there existed a conflict between Gentile Christianity and Jewish Christianity, which is visible in the authentic epistles of Paul. Baur based upon this set pattern considered only those epistles to be authentic which included conflict, others were considered to be non-Pauline. Since there is no conflict of Gentile and Jewish Christianity in the epistles to the Thessalonians, therefore, they were rejected as Pauline by Baur.
 
Then there is also a question regarding the integrity of the letters. It is thought by some scholars that Paul did write the 1St letter to the Thessalonians but the 2nd one was written by someone else because of the differences that exist between the epistles. The differences are based upon the eschatological teaching presented by the two epistles. According to this school of thought 1 Thess. 5:2 “Lord will come like a thief in the night,” teaches that the return of Christ is immediate, whereas 2Thess. 2:3 “apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed,” shows that the return of Christ will only happen after these events i.e. It is not immediate. Same writer can’t present inconsistent views so there has to be some other author of 2nd Thessalonians.
 
Let us try to answer these accusations by looking at the context of the letters and the respective passages.
There were confusions building within the church regarding believers who had died. Paul gives them a sound teaching concerning the dead and then he explains when will they be physically resurrected at the return of Christ, at that moment the unbelievers will be caught by surprise - “like a thief in the night.” v 3 explains it further. The same is not true for the believers, rather, on the contrary they are not in darkness or they won’t be caught with surprise.
 
The context of 2 Thess. 2:3 is that the church has received a message or a letter which says that Christ has already returned. Paul answers that 2nd coming of Christ is not predated by the events he mentions in v 3.
Similar/same teachings can be found by Christ Himself in Matt 24. Christ teaches about His return like a thief in 24:42-44. He also gives signs of His return in 24:4-31. Paul is not only consistent in his thought and letters rather he is Biblical and far more drenched with Christ’s teachings.
 1) Both the letters are penned by Paul.
 2) He is consistent.
3) His Christ like teaching is also a response to liberalism and Islam who assume that Pauline theology is different than Christ’s theology, rather Paul takes his teaching from the Lord as can be seen in 1 Cor. 7:10.
4) How far are we drenched with the Word of God?
Paul wrote this letter in A.D. 51 when he was at Corinth. He was sent of Thessalonica because of persecutions, so the purpose of the letter is to encourage the newly converts. 1 Thess.2:13-20.
V 13 Paul and others constantly thank God.
For “thank” the verb used is in present tense which by its aspect is continuous, but still to emphasize Paul uses the adjective adialeiptoswhich means continuously or continually or constantly.
In 1:2 Paul also identifies for whom he is thanking. He writes “for all of you,” thus, Paul is thankful to God for the church at Thessalonica.
Paul also gives the reason why he is thankful to God According to Paul they have received the word which they were teaching as the Word of God, which truly is the Word of God. Paul clarifies that it is not the word of men although it is delivered through human lips but it is still the word of God. This is very similar to the situation of the OT when a prophet would say, “thus says the Lord” as in Jer. 23:16. Most of these converts know it; Paul is saying that his word is just like those words of OT. He thanks God that they have not only received the word but it is also working in them.
In this verse Paul calls it “work in you who believe,” but even before this in v 3 he mentions the work of faith. This work is not the same as “works of the Law” which is a human effort to attain righteousness. In 1:4 Paul clearly considers the elected ones to be members of the family of God purely because of God’s grace. It is God’s act of making us righteous. As soon as we enter sanctification we begin to show works that prove that we have faith. Paul points to these in v 14.
The work of believers is the imitation of the churches. In 1:6 Paul gives detail of their imitation. Paul goes on to explain how this imitation is not just imitation of the churches but also of apostles and Christ Himself in suffering v 15. Acts 17:5-7.
Paul uses very hard words, “they are not pleasing to God,” because of what they have done to His Son. Paul is further going to comment on Jews not being pleasing to God in v 16. apeskonton is present participle indicating the action to be continuous. Jews have been doing displeasing acts in the past, even unto Christ, and they have even continued till now. The stem apesko derives its meaning from a positive relationship between the two parties. According to Foerster it meant “making peace” with someone. In sense of this it meant that Jews were rather making war with God; they were being against Him. Paul says that the Jews have acted against or opposing to all men in v 15. Paul explains it in v 16 as “hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles.” They have hindered the spreading of the Gospel which is an act against all men which means all humanity. By doing this the Jews have as a result invoked the wrath of God. In v 15 Paul was saying that the Jews have continuously displeased God and now to the point where they have hindered the Gospel and thus resulting in provoking God’s wrath to be poured upon them.
“To the utmost” is not saying to its maximum rather at the fullness of the time. 
Verse 16 is considered to be an interpolation by some scholars. They think that this is non-Pauline. This verse indicates to the wrath which God was to pour upon the Jews. Paul was indicating toward the destruction of the temple which exactly happened about 20 years after Paul already had written it to the Thessalonians. Those who consider this prophesy to be interpolation have not been able to find a single evidence from the monographs or codices or extra-biblical literature to support their view. Christ also pointed to the same event to occur in Matt. 24:2. The evidence points to the truth of the Scriptures.
We don’t suffer so how can we be imitators of Christ as Paul is mentioning here?
There are ways to imitate Christ if not by physical suffering. The world wants the believer to conform to it. Do we conform to the world or are we ready to pay the price for being loyal to Christ. Remember you can either serve the world or Christ, there is no middle ground.
Verse 17 and following, Paul desire to see these believers as soon as possible. Note in v.17 He says though physically he is not with this church but still through the prayer which he prays 1:2 he is spiritually with them. Going back to the question which I raised before you. Do we suffer to become imitator of Christ? Paul gives an answer. Paul gives even a better solution to be imitators of Christ. Are we spiritually present with our brothers and sisters in prayer in their suffering?
And then in the end Paul considers this church to be a reason for his joy, glory and crown of exultation. Remember this church is a new church, may be even without any church offices and surely a poor church without any financial assets. Why is Paul joyful on their behalf? Surely, not because they are suffering but because they have “turned to God from idols...” 1:9.
If Paul sees us as a church would he be joyful? Can he say that we are his glory? If not we need to look at this church.
 
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