But don't sit and wait for the day.
Christianity around the world is under attack. It’s easy to see why some may feel that this time in history is the most trying time to be a Christian. But, sometimes I wonder if every generation felt this same way. Consider that first generation of Christians, at the time of the Apostle Paul. They were surrounded on all sides by pagans. They had to face the excesses of both the Greeks and the Romans. How could Christianity not only take root, but grow? Paul started a church at Ephesus. In Ephesus was the Roman temple to the goddess Diana. This impressive building is now considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Pagans from all over the Roman Empire would have flocked to this city, but here the church grew. Corinth was a major city in Greece. Ships from all over the Mediterranean would have come to Corinth. The Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar gave free land here, as a reward for ex-Roman soldiers creating a strong Roman influence. Corinth was the site of much sexual immorality. In fact, Plato coined the phrase ‘Corinthian women’, which meant prostitutes. But, in Corinth, Paul planted a church. And then there is Thessalonica. If you look for the city on a map, it appears it is way out of the way, far from the center of the Roman Empire. But in reality Thessalonica sits on the cross roads of two major Roman trade routes. The city would have had a large Roman garrison to guard these important trade routes. The Romans built an amphitheater here and held public games and gladiator fights. Yet here also, Paul started a church. Is it any wonder that Paul reminds us “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8: 31)
Naturally, it would be impossible for Paul to spend as much time in each of the churches he established as he would like, so he relied on the people he put in charge of each church, and contact through letters. I wanted to take a look at his first letter to the church in Thessalonica. This letter is encouraging and educational. I am focusing on his final remarks, I Thessalonians 5: 12-22. “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle…” (vs. 14) Greek teachings said that manual labor was only for a certain “class of people”; specifically slaves. Paul is disputing that philosophy. But, I think there is something else here. The Thessalonians were very concerned about the Second Coming, and believed it would happen in their life time. We’re not supposed to sit down and wait, rather keep on going until that glorious day arrives. “…encourage the timid and help the weak…” (vs. 14) This is ‘the weak’ in all areas, including weak in faith and commitment. Paul addresses all these verses to the ‘brothers’. Maybe we think helping those weak in faith and commitment is the job of church leaders. Paul tells us this needs to be a concern for all Christians.
“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” (vs. 15) This is a hard teaching for most of us, but it is something we need to work on, it’s important. Paul gives us almost the same instruction in Romans 12: 17. “Be joyous always” (vs. 16). We are in the world, but not of the world. Being part of God’s forever family brings great joy. Paul’s letter to the Philippians really focuses on this idea. “Pray continually…” (vs. 17) Obviously, Paul is not talking about constant prayer every second of every day, he’s talking about good prayer habits. If your prayer time is in the morning, do it continually. “…give thanks in all circumstances…” (vs. 18)
“Do not put out the Spirit’s fire…” (vs. 19) Don’t offend the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mark 3: 29) Paul concludes his encouraging remarks with words that really don’t need an explanation, “do not treat prophesies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (vs. 20-22) People will know we are Christians by the way we act. Jesus said, “…as it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world…” (John 15: 19)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Dan is a graduate of Otterbein College (now University). He graduated with a degree in education. From time to time Dan still substitute teaches. His interest in history led him to investigate the historical accuracy of the Bible. This, in turn, led to a full investigation of Apologetics.