Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Thessalonians Words ~ Day 2: Hope

Day 2: Hope

I hope you tried a Word Study, or if you have not yet, that you plan to this week. Use any of the words in the challenge. Word studies are a great way to better grasp an author's meaning for the words he uses. Although, my notes for how to do a Word Study are long, they are actually a quick and enjoyable way to study Scripture. As with anything else in life, it just takes practice!

Today's word is hope. This is a word that our culture has watered down to simply something you hope will happen, a wish that might come true. But biblical hope is something much deeper.  It is an assurance of future good. John Piper says, "Biblical hope not only desires something good for the future - it expects it to happen".

We saw yesterday that Paul uses a lived out faith in Christ as an indicator that one's faith is genuine. In 1 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul thanks God that one of the visible signs of their relationship with God, is that their hope has produced endurance. In fact, we get a pretty good picture of what hope looks like in the first chapter of this letter. It may be helpful to pause and read 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 real quick.
"1 Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath."
Here's a very easy way to walk through a passage. It's much like the work of an investigative reporter. Look at your verbs and the connectors (connectives, prepositions, and conjunctions) and ask questions, letting those verbs and connectors lead you through like markers on a map. Remember our focus here is on verse 3 which uses the word hope.

Who is speaking here? "We", which we see back in verse 1 is Paul, Silas and Timothy.

What do they do? Remember (the verb). Who do they remember? Look at verse 2, those in the church at Thessalonica. ("The church" gives us an indicator that this letter is written to Christ-followers.)

When do they remember them? Look back at verse two where it shows that the context of their remembering is prayer.

Who do they direct their remembering to? Both verses 2 and 3 point out that it is God the Father.

Now the meat: What do they remember about the Thessalonians when in prayer to God?
  • Their work produced by faith,
  • Their labor prompted  by love,
  • Their endurance inspired by hope.
Notice what is repeated in each phrase: "by". This shows us that each of these things, work, labor, and endurance comes about or is produced by the means of something else So we could ask a "how" question here. How did the Thessalonians do the work and labor and get the endurance for which Paul remembers them? BY faith , love and hope. And these, we are told in Galatians 5:22-23, that these are fruit of the Spirit, produced in us by our relationship and walk with Jesus Christ. 

So, focusing on the word hope, we see that the Thessalonians endurance is visible. What clues tell us what they are enduring? Take a look at verse 6 where Paul says they are experiencing severe suffering. At this point we don't know what that suffering consists of, we just know that it is true of them. 

So, what is their hope in and how does it inspire them to endure severe suffering? This is at the heart of what we need to know, both for understanding this letter, and for understanding how we can endure in times of pandemic, financial hardships, racial injustice, and any other types of trials and suffering we may face as Christ-followers.

What is their hope in? The short answer is found in verse 3, "in our Lord Jesus Christ". But a deeper look at verses 9 and 10 reveal the story of how the Thessalonians gained their hope. Again, look at the verbs. They turned to God. They made a mid-turn correction in life. And what did they turn away from? Verse 9 says idols. This tells us that many of those in the Thessalonian church were Gentiles who had served the gods of their culture. What was significant about this change in life? They turned away from idols, from their old way of life, to serve the living and true God. The word serve carries with it a weight of wholehearted devotion. Note Paul's description of God as living and true, as opposed to idols which are dead and false. 

In addition to turning to God and serving Him, they are also waiting, verse 10. What are they waiting for? God's Son in heaven. What are we told about God's Son here? That God raised Him from the dead. Who is the Son spoken of here? Jesus. What will Jesus do when He comes from heaven? He will rescue His followers from the coming wrath of God. THIS is what they look forward to in hope. And this hope is what enables them in this present age to endure trials and suffering.

Let me give you two other passages that help fill out our understanding of this hope. 
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:3-9

The Thessalonians turned to the living and true God and received a living hope in Christ Jesus.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5:1-5
Our peace with God through Jesus Christ gives us the hope of the glory of God . That hope enables us to persevere, to endure, to press on as the Thessalonians did. Hope puts our focus on the future and the promises of God to enable us to live in this present age. Praise be to God!

Here's a sample of walking through this passage:

Try walking through 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10 before tomorrow's post and see what you find out about the gospel.

You can "walk" through most Bible passages using these simple investigate questions, using verbs and connectors to guide you to understanding. By week's end I will have a document on the Bible Study Techniques page that will fill this our more.