For the second year now, some local pastors and I will be preaching through a book of the Bible in five consecutive nights (Sunday-Thursday). Last year we worked through 1 Peter and this year we will be studying 1 Thessalonians. We break it up into five (hopefully manageable) sections and take turns preaching through the text. We call it Feast Week because our hope is that we will feast together on the Word of God!
This year begins on Sunday and we are preaching through 1 Thessalonians. My assignment? 1:1-2:16 (still wondering why I was given almost two chapters!) It has been fun preparing for my message Sunday night. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians were some of his first (most think only Galatians was earlier). In these, we get an early glimpse into Paul’s missionary work and the fruit that it produced through the power of the gospel. In particular, we see his love and concern for the churches he planted and his longing to see them live as faithful followers of Christ. He also addresses some issues that had already arisen in the lives of these new believers. For instance, a good bit of 1 Thessalonians deals with the question of what happens to believers who die before Christ returns? Paul speaks of the hope that we have for them in chapters 4-5. One of my all-time favorite verses is found chapter 5: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 9). What a gracious God we serve!
My passage (1:1-2:16) includes Paul’s thanksgiving for the Thessalonians and their faith and a recap of his visit with them, which probably happened a few months to a year before he wrote the letter. He is reminding them of their identity in Christ (indicative) before he gives them instructions for living out their faith (imperative). He follows a similar pattern in a number of his letters. In preparing for teaching this passage, I came across some good quotes from a couple of commentators:
Leon Morris: “In every age this (that we are not to please men but God) needs emphasis, for the Christian preacher is always tempted to accommodate his message to the desires of his hearers. People do not want a message that tells them that they are helpless sinners and that they must depend humbly on God’s mercy for their salvation.”
Every preacher must learn from Paul the importance of striving to please God and not men (2:3-4).
G. K. Beale: “God’s word is the power that works in people and transforms their lives, whether at the inception of the believer’s life or at any other point along the way.”
Beale is commenting on 2:13, which says, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” The word of God continues to be at work in believers. It continues to comfort and strengthen, wound and heal, convict and transform. It is our hope and belief that the Spirit will use the preaching of 1 Thessalonians to do just that. I can’t wait for the feast!
(If you are in the area, come out and join us each night at 6:30)