Monday, July 20, 2020

Thessalonians Words ~ Day 15: Instruction

Day 15: Instruction

We have seen in Thessalonians that we are called to live a holy life. But just how do those who lived a former way of life learn what it is to live God's way of life? This is at the center of Paul's letters to the Thessalonians. He makes reference to a number of ways in which we learn how to live the holy life.

Paul begins with references to how he and his disciples "lived among you for your sake" (1TH 1:5) and Paul says we shared the gospel and "our lives as well" (1 TH 2:8). One way we see and learn what holy living looks like is by being in close relationship with other Christ followers who are further along on their spiritual journey. Look at the language Paul uses for how he taught the Thessalonians when he was with them, he was: "gentle like a mother caring for her little children" (2:7), "we dealt with you as a father deals with his own children" (2:11), "encouraging, comforting, urging..." (2:12). Paul nurtured these young believers while he was with them, modeling life for them and helping them grow in holiness.

Not only did Paul and the disciples live among them and show them examples of holy living, but he also taught them while he was in Thessalonica when the church was first established. He reminds them in his letter of the teachings he gave while with them: "We instructed you...","you know the instructions we gave you...", "as we already told you and warned you", ...just as we told you" (1 TH 4:1,2,6,11). 

Then Paul uses a number of terms to describe his teaching: message, instruction, teaching, commands. It's important here that we distinguish between how Paul uses 'message' and 'instruction'. When Paul says 'message', he is referring specifically to the gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Instruction, along with teaching and command, refers to his teaching in reference to how to live daily life in the ways of the Lord.

Without digging into the content of the instructions, let's notice instead a number of things about the nature of the instructions. First, the instructions are not from Paul alone, but rather from the Lord. One of the words Paul uses for instructions and commands is parangelias, which was more often used in his day for military instructions passed on from one in authority. Paul states throughout his letters that his message is "the word of God" ( TH 2:13), and that he speaks and instructs them "in the Lord" ( 1 TH 4:1, 2 TH 3:4,12), and that he gives instructions "by the authority of the Lord" (! TH 4:2).

Second, it's good to note once again, that Paul wants them to obey these instructions for holy living because of the desire to please the Lord (1 TH 4:1). Paul gives these instructions to help believers live in order to please the Lord, and thus he has some pretty strong instructions to the church in how to live with fellow believers who are not living by the Lord's instructions:

"For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit." 1 TH 4:7-8

"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us." 2 TH 3:6

"Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed." 2 TH 3:14

Finally, we must take note that living to please the Lord is a progressive thing, we do not come into faith in Christ and then automatically live a completely holy life. Paul urges the Thessalonians to live as he instructs "more and more"(1 TH 4:1, 4:10, 2 TH 1:3). Even in his instructions about those who reject his instructions, his desire is that they "may feel ashamed" (2 TH 3:14) and urges them not to "regard them as an enemy, but warn them as a fellow believer" (2 TH 4:15). His desire is always for reconciliation to the Lord, first and foremost. His instructions are for the good of the believer, for the good of the community, and for the glory of the Lord.

Yesterday I posted an overview of the Bible study method I use. Each of the pages on the Bible Study Techniques page highlights a different step in the process, providing tutorials for that step and tutorials for how to use the various Bible study tools online. Today we look at why we use Scripture to interpret Scripture and how to cross-reference.

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