Devotional # 185. 2 Thessalonians 1:1-3

Devotional # 185. 4/11/16. 2 Thessalonians 1:1-3.

Intro. Last week we finished up 1st Thessalonians talking about how each person has a body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23) and how the order Paul put them in is important (Devotional # 184). Before we become a Christian our body is first, next our mind (“soul”) and then our spirit; but when we become a Christian Jesus transforms us and our spirit is first, next our mind and then our body takes a backseat. This week we’re starting the book of 2nd Thessalonians and there is plenty more to learn. We’ll talk again about “grace” and “peace” as a unifying factor but also look into our growth in “faith” and “love.”

vv. 1-2. Paul is going to start with a very similar salutation as he did in 1 Thessalonians. In fact the first two verses here are identical to the first verse of 1 Thessalonians. Just like in 1st Thessalonians, this letter comes from “Paul, Silvanus [Silas], and Timothy” although it was Paul who wrote the letter. My first question is, how much time passed between the two letters? “Because of its similarity to 1 Thessalonians, it must have been written not long after the first letter—perhaps about six months. The situation in the church seems to have been much the same. Paul probably penned it (see 1:1; 3:17) circa A.D. 51 or 52 in Corinth, after Silas and Timothy had returned from delivering 1 Thessalonians” (Source 1). 

So the greeting is from these men but also from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul has full authority to write this since it is God who is inspiring him to write this letter. When he says, “grace to you and peace” (again, from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ“) it’s the same as we’ve talked about before, “grace” was a common greeting among Gentiles and “peace” was common among Hebrews so there is recognition of the diversity of the Church while at the same time bringing unity!

v. 3. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians the first time it was because he had gotten a good report from Timothy’s visit (Acts 18:5) and wanted to encourage them. It appears that he had gotten another good report and wanted to encourage them again. I mentioned that the first two verses here are the same as 1 Thessalonians but the theme of this verse is very similar to the last letter also: thankfulness. Here Paul says, “we are bound to thank God always for you.” There is such appreciation from Paul, Silas and Timothy that the Thessalonians are doing as God has instructed them. I know first-hand how rewarding it is to see other Christians remaining steadfast in the things of God. You must understand that the way you live doesn’t just affect you, and not just affect non-Christians who are watching your testimony but also other Christians. And when our brothers and sisters (“brethren”) are faithful in this, it is “fitting” for us to thank God also.

Notice that the way they are being faithful is that their “faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other.” These are valuable lessons to learn: 1. Our “faith” can continue to grow and 2. Our “love” for other Christians can continue to grow. Let’s look into this more deeply:

  1. Our “faith” can grow: Never think that your current “level” of faith is enough. Never become comfortable in this. Always allow the Holy Spirit to increase your faith. This sounds great on paper but are you really willing to allow God to stretch you beyond your comfort zone? Be used by God so that the increase of your faith produces a furthering of God’s will in the world. We need it!
  1. Our “love” can grow: Don’t be discouraged if you feel like it’s too hard to love other Christians. I get it – people are hard to love. But what did Jesus do when one of His friends sold Him out for a couple of bucks and the rest of His friends deserted Him? He loved them. He loved He didn’t wait for their apology, He didn’t beat them over the head with a lesson; He loved them. In the same way when we love our brothers and sisters, regardless of what they’ve done, it produces, among many other things, a thankfulness on the part of other Christians.

Conclusion. If you read ahead then you noticed Paul’s first sentence is 8 verses long! I split up the sentence since there is plenty just in the first half. Next week we’ll look at verse 4 and following to see how the “faith” and “love” that has grown affects other churches (verse 4) and is evidence of “the righteous judgment of God” (verse 5). For now, here in verses 1-3, it is good that we meditate on how we as a Church in 2016 can be like the Thessalonians. How can we do this, you ask? By celebrating our diversity in unity (“grace” and “peace” – verse 2). By recognizing that these come from both “our Father” and “the Lord Jesus Christ” – verse 2). By thanking God for our brothers and sisters (verse 3). By recognizing that it is “fitting” to have that thankfulness (verse 3). By demonstrating our growth in “faith” (verse 3). And finally, by demonstrating our growth in “love” for each other (verse 3). These are great things for us to aspire to! I pray that you have the patience and determination to be encouraged by the Church and to encourage the Church. Remember, the Church is not four walls, it is the people that have admitted they are sinners who need Jesus as their Savior. If Jesus can forgive them so should you! Have patience with your brothers and sisters in the Lord! God bless!

 

References.

Source 1: http://www.biblica.com/es-us/la-biblia/biblia-en-linea/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-2-thessalonians

 

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Devotional # 142. Colossians 1:1-2

Devotional # 142. 6/23/15. Colossians 1:1-2.

Intro. I’m excited about starting the book of Colossians today. It’s great to be able to continue on, having gone through Galatians, Ephesians and Philippians (for most of you). We call Colossians a book but, like the other books I just mentioned, it was actually a letter. Colossians was written by Paul (and also came from Timothy, as we’ll see in verse 1) to the Christians in Colossae.

The church in Colossae was not founded by Paul, instead it was planted by Epaphras (Col. 1:5-7) who had gotten saved in Ephesus because of Paul’s ministry there (Acts 19). Colossae was made up mostly of Gentiles although there were a significant amount of Hebrews there. This translated into a racially mixed church, which was a good thing although it also meant that forms of heresy were issues. The Gentiles pagan mysticism and Jewish legalism became a weird mix that hadn’t been seen prior to this. It became known as the Colossian heresy and was a serious threat to the church at this time. It’s thought that Epaphras “made the long journey from Colossae to Rome (Col. 4:12, 13),” to ask for Paul’s advice regarding this heresy. And that’s why we ended up with this letter, which was written by Paul while in prison in Rome (Acts 28:16–31) sometime between A.D. 60-62″ (Source 1).

v. 1. Paul starts off similar to the other books giving his credentials of being an apostle. But the two cool things about it is that he actually had a lot more degrees and experience that he could have referenced here (as we talked about in Philippians 3:2-6, Devotional # 130) but he doesn’t because being an apostle was the only thing that mattered. The second thing is that it wasn’t him being an apostle by anything that he had done but it was all from “Jesus Christ by the will of God“. So, as always, Paul gives his credentials on why he should be listened to and believed -because God is speaking through him to the reader. As I mentioned in the intro above, this letter is also from Timothy, he believes in and agrees with what Paul, and ultimately God, are saying here.

v. 2. Paul isn’t classifying the Christians in Colossae into two groups here, instead he is saying this letter is to the Christians who fulfill both categories: they are both “saints” and “faithful brothers [and sisters]”. Although “saints” is another name for Christians in the church, it’s really important to note the “faithful brothers [and sisters]” because of what we now know about the church in Colossae, from the above “Intro”. The “Colossian heresy” that had morphed weird aspects of Jewish legalism and pagan mysticism was threatening to pull members away from the church. So Paul was encouraging the members of the church who would hear this letter read out loud in their church that they were and should continue to be “faithful” in the Lord. It is so crucial for us Christians to be “faithful” to the church that Jesus has called us to. This isn’t just “the Church” that is made up of many members of the faith over time and space but actually, established churches also. How many people do you know that went to church for a while but drifted away because sleeping in or tee-ball games became more important? I think one of the most difficult things to do in this life is to remain “faithful” to the Lord and the things of God. Jesus wouldn’t have said so much about persevering and remaining faithful if it wasn’t such a big deal.

Another way to look at the “saints” and “faithful brothers [and sisters]” here, is that where “saints” implies Christians being united with God, then “faithful brothers and sisters” implies unity between Christian men and woman (Source 7).

The differences and similarities of the Gentile and Hebrew cultures are evidenced by how Paul greets them. When he says, “Grace to you” it’s a Greek greeting and then he says, “peace from God” which is a Hebrew greeting. What can we learn from these? Well, the words Paul uses for “grace to you” in Greek are charis hymin* (slightly different from using the standard chairen**) and then “peace” is eirene *** but Paul basically coined his own greeting by combining two “standard” greetings. “By doing this he placed the focus on the unmerited blessings given to believers in Christ. Through God’s marvelous grace sinners are delivered from their sins and brought into a saving relationship with a holy God by the work of God on their behalf completely free of charge. This grace does not cease with salvation from sin’s penalty, but continues on as the foundation of the believer’s life with God throughout all eternity. These blessings of grace Paul and his associates wish for their readers” (Source 6). This is interesting and applies to us today, but that’s only half of Paul’s greeting blessing. The use of “peace” is more than just a flippant way of saying ‘I hope you’re OK.’ When a Jewish person, even to this day, enters or leaves a house the greeting or farewell is “shalom.” But, again, Paul means it more than just a customary saying, one of the reasons he says it is that, “peace with God refers to the peace of salvation wherein the barriers, like man’s sin and God’s holiness, which separate man from God are removed through faith in God’s gracious work in Christ. In Ephesians 2, Christ is seen as the Peacemaker” (Source 6).

I find it amazing that having just showed difference and similarity in cultural greeting, Paul then says that it’s from “God our Father” “and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Isn’t it interesting how he mentions them “jointly from both, and distinctly from each” (Source 5)? So Paul took the time to recognize the differences of the cultures, not ignoring them but bringing them together in unity, and in the same sentence he recognizes the distinction between the Father and the Son but also brings them together in unity with one small word – “and”!

 

*“Grace” is charis (G#5485) in Greek meaning “good will, loving-kindness, favour” (Source 2). “To you” is hymin (G#5213) in Greek meaning “you” or “to you” (Source 3).

** Source 6.

***“peace” is eirene (G1515) meaning “peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord” in Greek (Source 4) but translated in Hebrew is shalom.

 

Conclusion. As we begin the book of Colossians we’re hit with four contrasts, three of which  melt into unification. The first difference is between a man-made false religion combing pagan heresy and Jewish legalism and true Christianity.

The remaining three are great learning experiences for us: 1. The difference between “saints” and “faithful brothers and sisters” shows a unification between each of us with God and unity between our brothers and sisters. 2. The contrast between Gentile and Hebrew greetings, recognizing that we’re different by culture but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be united as Christians. Paul proves this even just by creating a new greeting (“grace and peace”). 3. The distinction between the “Father” and the “Son” showing they are indeed two different Persons (as the Scriptures teach) and yet the LORD is One (Deuteronomy 6:4).

I pray that you’re relationship with God is the most important in your life. And second to that is your relationship with other believers. I also pray that you recognize and celebrate cultural differences between yourself and other believers, actively allowing it to create something new and beautiful. Lastly, I pray you think rightly about God: that the Father sent the Son to die on the cross for our sins, but also that the Son went willingly and joyfully. The only way for Jesus to be a perfect sacrifice for our sins was if He was in fact perfect, which only God can be. So even if we don’t understand it, we celebrate the distinction and unity in our Lord God almighty!

 

References.

Source 1: John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1830.

Source 2: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5485&t=KJV

Source 3: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5213&t=KJV

Source 4: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1515&t=KJV

Source 5: Matthew Henry, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Col/Col_001.cfm?a=1108001

Source 6: J. Hampton Keathley III, “Grace and Peace” article, https://bible.org/article/grace-and-peace

Source 7: A.R. Fausset, quoting Bengel, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Colossians Commentary, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/Col/Col_001.cfm?a=1108001 .