Reading through the Bible together

Sunday, May 3, 2015

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Relationships are delicate things. They can be exquisite one day and stormy the next. Paul’s relationship with the Thessalonians was deep in feeling yet short on contact. Paul’s first visit to Thessalonica lasted only a few weeks, yet something deep within his soul was stirred by that contact. Paul couldn’t bear separation from them, so he wrote a letter to assure these believers that they remained at the center of his thoughts and prayers.  


Perhaps the closest thing to Skype in Paul’s life was prayer. Paul used prayer to review his earthly relationships in the presence of God. The depth of that review spills out in the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians.  His prayer summary in verses 2-5 is a single sentence in the Greek. The main point of the sentence is “we give thanks.” The main reason for thanks is the spiritual growth and practice of the Thessalonian church. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:10). But joy is kindled by thanksgiving.


In verses 6-10 Paul continues giving reasons why he is thankful to God for the Thessalonian believers. The church was imitating the character of Jesus and the apostles and becoming a model for new believers everywhere.  Both the apostles and the Lord had suffered unjustly, yet experienced joy in the midst of suffering (1 Thess 2:1-2; Heb 12:1-2). The fact that the Thessalonians were doing likewise was for Paul further evidence of their spiritual growth. Paul had been worried about their spiritual condition in the days before getting news about them (see 1 Thess 3:1-8). When he finally heard of their faithfulness, it drew out from him a paean of praise and thanksgiving to God (1:2-10). 


Jon Paulien

Loma Linda University

United States