Thessalonians Words

 


Thessalonians Words Challenge is a combination of Bible Study and creativity. The idea is to use 31 words to take you through the books of 1 & 2 Thessalonians using the Bible study devotions you will find on this page as catalysts to responding with whatever creative practice you choose - art journaling, collage, photography, poetry, creative writing, Bible journaling, etc. I have a deep desire to see people go deeper into God's Word and to learn how to study it for themselves. I've set Thessalonians Words apart from my other Word challenges because it offers an opportunity to do just that. Take these two relatively small books of the Bible and read them, study it then with the study aides I've included on my site, and then meditate on them with creative practice. In the menu above you will find a Bible Study Tips & Techniques page which was developed during the original Thessalonians Words Challenge. Use those techniques to learn new skills or refresh ones you may already have, but maybe you don't use as often as you like. You'll find that many of the techniques use passages from Thessalonians as examples.  Dig into these books and enjoy both the time in God's Word and responding creatively.


Day 1:Faith

I pray that as these words guide us through Paul's letters to the Thessalonians that we all will have a deeper understanding of these books, but more importantly, that we will find that we have drawn closer to the Lord. Over the past months as we have faced the trials and challenges of a global pandemic, I have continually been drawn to a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was killed for opposing and resisting the Nazi's. He said,
May God in His mercy lead us through these times; above all may He lead us to Himself."
The letters to the Thessalonians can help us in our current age, as we face many challenges, to remind us of who we are in Christ Jesus. It can help us have a right perspective in the midst of trials and suffering, and help us have hope. And it all starts with faith.

Today's post will be a bit longer as we include some of the story behind the letters to the Thessalonians. The story begins with Paul's second missionary journey. On that journey he was accompanied by Silas and Timothy. The journey began in Jerusalem and went through Phrygia and Galatia (modern day Turkey). The purpose of this journey was to visit the churches Paul had planted on his first missionary journey and share with them the results of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-29). As Paul is preparing to leave the Galatian region and head to Asia he has a dream, a vision from God of a man in Macedonia pleading with him to come there. So Paul concludes that God has called them to share the Gospel in Macedonia (modern day Greece). You can read about Paul's vision in Acts 16:6-10. 

In Acts 17:1-10 we come to the story of Paul in Thessalonica. Paul had stopped there because there was a Jewish synagogue. It was there that Paul began to share the prophecies from Scripture about the promised Messiah (the Christ). He showed them through the Scriptures that the Christ would have to suffer and rise from the dead, declaring that, "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." (Acts 17:3). The story goes on to tell us that some Jews, a large number of God-fearing Greeks, and some prominent women believed in Jesus as the Christ, and so the church of Thessalonica was established! But it immediately met with opposition. The Jews there had heard of the message Paul was spreading, they had heard of the riot surrounding the events in Philippi and Paul's imprisonment (Acts 16:11-40), and the Scriptures tell us that "the Jews were jealous". They began a riot and went to the home where Paul was staying. When they did not find Paul and Silas there, they took some of the converted Christ-followers before the city officials to proclaim that they were "defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus" (Acts 17:7). Paul and Silas are able to flee the city unharmed, but so begins the life of this young church which will be defined by persecution and suffering.

Months later Paul sends Timothy back to Thessalonica to see how these young believers are faring. I Thessalonians is Paul's response to the church after hearing Timothy's report. And it all starts with faith.

The word faith, pistis (S4102) in Greek, is used 13 times in the two letters to the Thessalonians; 8 times in the first letter, and 5 times in the second. Faith refers to belief, trust, confidence, conviction of the truth. In the New Testament, faith is mainly used to refer to belief in the Gospel message: The good news that God provided a way for man to be freed from the penalty of sin through Jesus Christ.

Reading through these two letters and the instances in which Paul uses the word faith, I have come to two conclusions. 1. Faith is active and visible. And 2. Faith is like a muscle. Let's look a bit deeper at each of these.

Faith is active and visible. 

Paul begins both letters expressing that his prayers are full of thanksgiving to God for the faith the Thessalonians have. He hears from Timothy that their faith has stood up against the trials and suffering they continually face (1 TH 3:1-8). In fact their faith is enabling them to stand firm in the midst of those trials, and as a result "the Lord's message rang out" from them and was known everywhere (1 TH 1:8). Their faith was visible, it was evident and visible in their works  and in their labors of love (1 TH 1:3). To Paul, one's faith is proven genuine by the work or deeds one does as a result of their faith. We may even wonder, as a result of this, if a hidden faith is even true faith at all.

Faith is like a muscle.

Muscles need activity and exercise if they are to grow and stay healthy. Unused muscles often end up in a state of atrophy, they shrivel up, waste away and become useless. According to the words Paul uses alongside faith, the same is true of faith. Our faith can grow, strengthen, and increase or it can decrease, be tempted away, and be found lacking. Read some of the verses that describe these conditions: 1 TH 3:2, 5, 6, 7, 10: 2 TH 1:3. We are saved by grace through faith as a gift from God, and not as the result of anything we do (Ephesians 2:8). But Paul makes it clear that the faith that results in our conversion must continue to grow and be strengthened and, ultimately, be proven genuine. God gives us the gift of others in our life who pray for us, encourage us, and help strengthen our faith. He gives us His Spirit to help build our faith. And despite, how we feel about it, He gifts us with trials that test and refine our faith, that reveal our faith to others, and that ultimately show God's glory through us.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 Paul says to "put on faith and love as a breastplate". A breastplate is the metal armor used in ancient days to protect a soldier's vitals organs. Faith and love are the breastplate that protects our heart in the midst of spiritual battles and the trials and suffering we face in life.

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Day 2: Hope

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 on day one 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:

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Day 3: Gospel

"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."              
1 Thessalonians 1:4-8

Paul's words to the Thessalonians about their faith in 1 Thessalonians 1:4 echo that of Moses in Deuteronomy:
"The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you..." Deuteronomy 7:7-8

God chooses His people because of His great love for them, and this has not changed from the Old Testament to the New. What has changed is the manner by which He calls them to Him. In the New Testament that manner is summed up in one word; the gospel.

The gospel, known by various terms in the Thessalonian letters (the gospel of God, the gospel of Christ, the Lord's message, the word of God), is "the good news of God's action to bring salvation to sinners" (Leon Morris). That good news is that we "receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 TH 5:9). Receive is key here. God'd gift of salvation through Christ is a gift of love, but it must be received.

Paul is confident that these Thessalonians are loved by God and have been chosen by Him because of the effect that the gospel had on them: They received it and they shared it.

Paul describes how they received the gospel in verse 5.
  • Not simply with words
  • But also with power
  • With the Holy Spirit
  • And with deep conviction
They had an intimate connection with the gospel that made it more than simply words. Verse 2:13 says  they "accepted it as the word of God". They "welcomed" (verse 6) it and took it to heart with the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit. They received it and embraced it wholeheartedly so that it changed their way of life.

The gospel they received impacted them so much that they became imitators of those who shared it with them and then became sharers of it themselves. Paul says of the Thessalonians that the message rang out from you". The Greek word used here for "rang out" is the word we get our English word echo from. It is literally that the Gospel message trumpeted or thundered from them.

We get a glimpse possibly of why the Thessalonians were so open to receive and embrace the Gospel message with such conviction and transformation. In verses 1:6 and 2:8 we see that Paul and his disciples did not simply come to town, share a message, and then move on. They lived among them, they shared their lives with them, and they showed them what life as Christ-followers looked like. They invested in the Thessalonians by building relationships with them, and thus, the gospel message was not just words they heard, but lives they witnesses and were able to imitate and share.The message of the gospel was visible.


"For the gospel to flourish people must share their own lives." ~John Piper
Let's make the gospel more than information we share. Be a living example of it in your home, your neighborhood, at your work or school. Love people, let them see God's love through you, and share the Good News.

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Day 4: Spirit


We saw on day three that the gospel was received by the Thessalonians with power and deep conviction. When they heard the gospel message they knew they were hearing the very words of God. The ability they had in receiving the gospel in this manner came as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit.

"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."  
(1 TH 1:4-5)

In this opening passage (1:4-10) Paul's shows us just a few of the Holy Spirits many works.

The Holy Spirit is the agent by which the gospel message is received with power and deep conviction. He empowers the messengers, he empowers the message, and he opens the hearts and minds of those who will receive it. We see a similar message from Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians.
"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
The work of salvation - having our peace restored with God - takes place through the work of the Spirit and the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit's work is sanctification - a very religious sounding word that simply means to be set apart for God and His purposes. When we accept the message of the gospel by faith, then the Holy Spirit begins the work of sanctification in us. A work that will be ongoing throughout our lives.

Another thing we see about the Spirit's work is found in verse 6 of this passage in 1 Thessalonians 1. 

"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." (1 TH 1:6)

The Spirit gave the Thessalonians a joy that could not be shaken despite severe suffering. They learned a lesson that all Christ-followers need: Happiness is fleeting; it comes and goes based on the circumstances of life. Joy, however, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit produces it in us. We aid the Spirit by standing firm in our faith, helping us to remain unshakable in the power of the Spirit with joy. A joy that Peter calls "inexpressible and glorious" (1 Peter 1:8).

"Receiving the Word is receiving Christ, receiving Christ is receiving the Holy Spirit, and He brings joy and gladness." ~Bruce Hurt

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Day 5: Lord


Jesus is Lord. This is the confession that makes us Christ-followers. It is the expression that declares our belief in, and allegiance to, Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Jesus is Lord exalts Him to His Divine place as the Son of God, and as God Himself.

Let's look at what that word would have meant to Paul's Jewish and Gentile believers in the church of Thessalonica.

Lord in Greek is kurios (Strong's #2962). It's basic meaning is master, owner, one who possesses authority over another. Biblically it means the Supreme One who possesses absolute authority. The word "Lord" is used over 9000 times in the Septuagint, which is the earliest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament. In the Septuagint it is the Greek word used for the occasions in the Old Testament where God is called Jehovah or Yahweh. In the New Testament kurios is used over 700 times and Jesus is referred to as Lord more frequently than any other title. Lord signifies Jesus' divine nature.

When the Jews heard Paul use the title Lord Jesus Christ, they were hearing literally that Jesus is God and the Christ, the promised Messiah. When the Gentiles heard Paul use the title Lord Jesus Christ, they heard that Jesus is King. In both cases, the title Lord given to Jesus, was meant to call the hearers to action:
Bow down and exalt Him.
Worship and obey Him.

Here is a quick rundown of just some of what the Thessalonian letters say about the Lord:
  • The church is established in the Lord Jesus Christ. 1TH 1:1; 2 TH 1:2
  • Hope is found in the Lord. 1 TH 1:3
  • His people are to imitate the Lord. 1 TH 1:6
  • Jesus, the Lord, is Savior. 1 TH 1:10; 5:9
  • The Lord is the substance of the Gospel message. 1 TH 1:8; 2:8; 3:2; 2 TH 1:8; 3:8
  • The Lord enables us to love (1 TH 3:12); to grow in holiness (1 TH 3:13; 5:23), to live in pleasing ways to God (1TH 4:1-2). 
  • The Lord strengthens our hearts and encourages us (1 TH 3:13; 2 TH 3:16-17
  • The Lord will punish those who are in sin. 1 TH 4:6, 2 TH 1:8
  • The Lord is faithful. 1 TH 5:24; 2 TH 3:3
  • The Lord is the Lord of peace. 2TH 3:16
  • The Lord's name will be glorified in His people when He returns. 2 TH 1:12, 2:14 He is coming again! We will dig into this more on Sunday.
Jesus is Lord!

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Day 6: Model

My daughter has always been a very busy child. She began to walk at 9 months and never slowed down. Getting her to sit still in her highchair was a chore. I remember the first time I saw my daughter imitate me. She had placed one of her dolls in her highchair, and although I could not make out her words, her wagging finger in the doll's face spoke volumes! Seeing our children model our behavior or words can be an eye-opening experience. For parents, every instance of our children modeling us may not reveal us at our best, this is not the case with Paul. Paul's idea of modeling begins with Christ.

When Jesus began His ministry on earth, He came at a time when the leading religious group for God's people, the Pharisees, had made following God about a very long list of behaviors. These behaviors were supposed to be reflections of a holy life. Instead they became a grueling list of 613 laws that everyone was supposed to follow. They created a way of life that was impossible to live up to and so it became a burden to the people, and a way of "lording over" the people to the Pharisees. The laws became mere outward behaviors that lost connection with the heart.

Jesus enters the scene inviting others into His way of life with the simple words, "Follow me". He was not simply asking people to come along with Him, but to be devoted to Him and to learn and imitate His way of life. Jesus modeled the Father's way of life in the midst of everyday life. His followers watched how He lived and interacted with people. Many of His teachings and lessons took place as they were going about life, using everyday things like farming and children to teach them the ways of the Kingdom. He described His way of life this way:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Follow Me, Learn from Me.

Paul then took up his ministry with the same mindset. He followed the example of Christ's teachings and life, and then modeled it for the people who ministered with him, and to those he taught as he planted churches all over. He shared his life with the people he shared the gospel with as he says in the Thessalonian letters (1 TH 1:5; 2:8). A theme in many of his letters.

"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1

"Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." 1 Corinthians 4:15-17

"Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do." Philippians 3:17

Paul commends the church at Thessalonica because they are imitating Christ's life seen in the way Paul and his disciples live among them, and then they are modeling it to those they live among. 
"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."  1 Thessalonians  1:6-8
Not only that, but Paul says they are modeling it to other churches throughout the regions of Macedonia and Achaia as well. For a church to be a model, it must have leaders and individuals in it who are living out the ways of Christ. There are some important reasons here for God's call on us to live out our faith in the midst of a Christian community. We need leaders and others in our lives who will show us what living a holy life looks like. We need to be intimately and frequently involved with people who are modeling, imitating, following Christ, and living as examples of His life. And the church needs us - each one of us - to be those who are living out the ways of Christ as best we can. We are each a little bit ahead of someone else and can lead and teach with our lives. And then together, we are all needed to help build up our churches to show Christ to the world.

In the midst of the pain and suffering, the tension and frustration, the overwhelm of sickness and death we face in our current situations today, we need to show others who Jesus is. We all need to know His compassion, love, hope and joy. We can extend His kindness, His willingness to serve and help others. We cam to offer others His gifts of compassion, love, mercy, grace, and peace. Every issue and situation seems to cause more division and arguments right now. Jesus came to break down barriers and to bring peace. We are called to imitate Him.

Wherever you are on your journey of faith -just beginning or having walked with Christ for a long time - you are further along in the journey than someone else. I pray that we will all find God's grace as we strive to imitate Christ to those around us. Strive to be His model to someone else in your life.

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Day 7: Coming

One of the themes running through the letters to the Thessalonians is the Second Coming of Christ, also known as the Second Advent. There appeared to be great confusion in the Thessalonian church about Christ's second coming. Had it already happened, what about those who die before it happens, how to live while they wait for it, etc. While the second letter to the Thessalonians contains more direct details of the Second Coming (and we'll explore them in later words), it is interesting to note a pattern in the first letter regarding the Second Coming. At the end of each chapter there is a reference to the Lord's Second Coming.

"They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." 1 TH 1:9-10

"For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?" 1 TH 2:19

"May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones." 1 TH 3:13

"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." 1 TH 4:16-17

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." 1 TH 5:23-24

What is also interesting, for those of us who like finding patterns, is that these five occurrences at the ends of the chapters are the only places in the first letter where Paul mentions Christ's return. He will wait until his second letter to go into more detail about it.

Since the first occurrence is our verse for today's word, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, I'll focus on it. In Paul's description of the Christ-followers in Thessalonica, he says three things about them:
  • They turned to God from idols. The expression of their faith.
  • They serve the living and true God. The expression of their love.
  • They wait for His Son from heaven. The source of their hope.
In this verse Paul also clarifies who it is who is coming:
  • God's Son.
  • Whom He raised from the dead.
  • Whose name is Jesus (which means savior)
  • Who will rescue us from the coming wrath.
Paul uses both Jesus' human name and His name as Son of God, highlighting both His humanity and His divinity. The gospel message it that Jesus Christ, the Son of God came to earth to live among us. He was crucified on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, to rescue us from the power and condemnation of sin.. He died, but was resurrected from the dead, and later ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God. He gave us His Spirit to live within us and enable us to live for God, planting in us hope that inspires us to live this life in expectation of the life to come, and of the return of Christ, when He will make all things new again.

One of my favorite authors and commentators, John Stott, points out one more thing in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10. He notes that "waiting" and "serving" are hand-in-hand here. He says,
"This is at first sight surprising, since 'serving' is active, while 'waiting'is passive. In Christian terms 'serving' is getting busy for Christ on earth, while 'waiting' is looking for Christ to come from heaven.Yet these two are not incompatible. On the contrary, each balances the other. On the one hand, however hard we work and serve, there are limits to what we can accomplish. We can only improve society; we cannot perfect it. For that we have to wait for Christ to come. Only then will he secure the final triumph of God's reign of justice and peace. On the other hand, although we look expectantly for Christ, we have no liberty to wait in idleness, with arms folded and eyes closed, indifferent to the needs of the world around us. Instead, we must work even while we wait, for we are called to serve the living and true God."



Day 8: Love

Love flows throughout both of Paul's letter to the Thessalonians. Whether he speaks of God's love for them as His children, Paul and the disciples love for them, or their love for others, it is a constant thread in these letters.

We first come upon the word love in verse 3 of chapter 1 in the first letter, where it is combined with faith and hope. Faith, hope and love are often called the three most eminent Christian virtues. All three are evidence of one's salvation in Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their life. Ten times these three virtues are listed together in the New testament letters: Romans 2:3-5; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 5:5-6; Colossians 1:5; I Thessalonians 1:3 and 5:8; Hebrews 6:10-12 and 10:22-24; 1 Peter 1:3-8 and 1:21-22.

Of the combination of faith and love, John Calvin said they were "the sum total of godliness". Love, as we saw with the word faith on our first day of the challenge, is a fruit of the Spirit, but also something we have a responsibility to nurture and grow. And so Paul prays that  love will continually increase and grow in the lives of the Thessalonians (1 TH 3:12; 2 TH 1:3).

In fact, love is something that Paul repeatedly commends the Thessalonians for. It would appear that, based on the comments in Paul's letters, that they are a loving community that is known far and wide for how they love each other and love those outside of their community.

  • Their love prompted their service. 1 TH 1:3
  • Paul called their love "good news", the same word used for the gospel. 1 TH 3:6
  • They were known for their brotherly love, not only in their church but to churches throughout Macedonia. 1 TH 4:9-10, 2 TH 1:3
Paul reminds the Thessalonians repeatedly that they are loved by God and that God produces love in them (1 TH 1:4; 2 TH 2:13, 16; 3:5). God is love (1 John 4:8,16). Love is God's nature. It is God's love for us that keeps our faith firm, that provides us with stability and confidence. It is God's love for us that builds the desire in us to love Him and to love others. Love is our response to His love for us.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:10

"We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19

God's love is sacrificial and unconditional. He does not force it on us. He does not make us earn it. It is a gift. We are called to respond. Either we yield to it and accept the gift, allowing it then to transform us. Or we don't. The choice is ours. May we embrace God's gift of love fully and allow it to transform us into Christ-followers, who like the Thessalonians, become known for our love for each other and for extending it to those in our community, by sharing our lives and the gospel.



Day 9: Believe

"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe." 1 Thessalonians 2:13

"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth." 2 Thessalonians 2:13


To believe something is to have faith in the truth of that thing. In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul repeats over and over his confidence in their faith that they believe the truth, the gospel of Christ. In the two verses above Paul points out a number of things about their belief.

First, is what they believe. They believe the message Paul shared with them is actually the word of God, not merely human words. The gospel message Paul preached to them was received by them and accepted, or welcomed, by them. Although receiving and accepting are similar terms, there is a slight variance between them. The Greek word used for received is one used of taking in something with the mind, while the Greek word used for accepted is to take hold of something and embrace it and take it upon one's self. It is more about taking in something with the heart and letting it become a part of one's self.

Second, is what that belief does. First we see in 1 TH 1:13 that for those who believe, the word of God is at work in them. In this verse the word work in Greek is energeo, from which we get our words energy and energize. The word of God provides us with energy. It empowers us in our heart, soul and mind. We see this spoken of elsewhere in the Bible:

"Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4. The word of God is the bread that provides nourishment, sustenance, and energy within us.

"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrew 4:12. The word of God penetrates our innermost being, doing God's work within us. 

Take a look at Psalm 119 sometime and see that in 8 of its verses the Psalmist writes that we are enabled to live a pure life, are preserved and strengthened, are shown God's goodness, receive direction and understanding according to the word of God. (Psalm 119:9,25,28,37,65,107,133,169). That is in addition to the many other terms used in Psalm 119 for the word: law, precepts, decrees, commands, etc.

The second thing that belief does is it brings salvation. In 2 TH 2:13 Paul reminds the Thessalonians that God chose them to be saved. How? "Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth" the gospel of Christ.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes." 1 Peter 2:2

"For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." 1 Peter 1:23

When we believe in the truth of the gospel of Christ we receive salvation and with that the work and power of God in us. Here is another good reason to study, hear, and know the Word of God!



Day 10: Joy

"For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy." 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20


Joy is a deep-down sense of well-being in the heart of one who knows with confidence that all is well between them and God. This is a joy that withstands the trials of suffering and opposition. A joy that is not dependent on good circumstances or happy emotions. All Christ-followers can experience this joy, which is a gift from God.

But Paul shows us in today's verse, a joy that is a special experience for the preacher, evangelist, and discipler. (And we can all find ourselves somewhere in that list!) A special joy that comes from seeing the reception of the gospel message in those preached to, from seeing them grow in the Lord, stand firm in their faith, and become sharers of the gospel themselves. Paul describes a joy greater than no other that comes from investing one's self and time in the lives of others for the sake of the Lord.

He expresses this joy again later in this letter:
"How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?" 1 Thessalonians 3:9

He speaks in a similar fashion to the church at Philippi:
"Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!" Philippians 4:1


Another thing we see about this special joy is that it is both present and future. It gives Paul joy in this life as he witnesses the transformation of Christ in their lives and as they grow in their faith. It is also a joy he looks to in the future - in the next life. Jesus said, "I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 5:10). Paul will share in that rejoicing with the angels when he stands before the Lord in heaven. He will glory in His heavenly reward, which he refers to as a crown, and he will rejoice when those he discipled stand before the presence of the Lord with him in heaven. It is a holy joy!

Jesus commissioned His followers to "go and make disciples" (Matthew 28:19). May we be about the business of carrying on His work of making disciples and experience this special, holy joy Paul's speaks of, both in this present life and in the glorious life to come!



Day 11: Suffering

Throughout his letters to the Thessalonians Paul repeatedly makes reference to the fact that the Thessalonian church faced trials, opposition and suffering.
  • "In spite of severe suffering..." 1 TH 1:6
  • "You suffered..." 1 TH 2:14
  • "So that no one would be unsettled by these trials." 1 TH 3:3
  • "We would be persecuted..." 1 TH 3:4
  • "...In all the persecutions and trials you are enduring." 2 TH 1:4
  • "...For which you are suffering." 2 TH 1:5
  • "To you who are troubled." 2 TH 1:6
Paul encourages them in the fact that he too, along with his disciples, experienced trials, opposition and suffering.
" We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition." (1 TH 2:2)

Paul goes a step further even, teaching them that trials and suffering are a normal part of life for those who follow Christ. It is at the heart of this letter. A vital life lesson for them, and for us.
"So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain." 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5
We will recall from the story in Acts 17:1-15, that Paul and his disciples spent many weeks sharing the Gospel at the synagogue and in homes in Thessalonica, and thus establishing the church there. It did not take long for the opposition to begin and Paul and his companions had to flee. We are told that Paul then went to Berea, but it was not long before the Jews from Thessalonica turned up in Berea to agitate and stir up the crowds listening to Paul. Paul was then sent on to Athens, and it is from there that he sends Timothy back to Thessalonica to encourage and strengthen the faith of these young believers, to make sure the trials they face have not tempted them away from their faith, and then to report back to Paul to relieve his concern over the Thessalonians.

Both Jesus and Paul spoke often in their ministries of the cost of following Christ. They were both clear to their followers that they should expect trials and suffering, not see them as strange and unusual.

Jesus said,
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11-12

"Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." John 15:20

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Paul said,

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” Acts 14:22

"Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Romans 8:17

"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him." Philippians 1:29

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." 2 timothy 3:12

Suffering is a normal part of our lives as Christ-followers. But Paul does not leave it there. To Paul's theology, we can bear with the sufferings of this life because He is confident that God will use them in some way, for our good and for His glory. Our suffering is not meaningless. Look at a few more passages from Paul's letters that help us gain his perspective to view suffering in the light of God's purpose and glory.

"Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord." Acts 11:19-21. The suffering they faced in persecution led to the gospel being spread.

"Not only so, but we also rejoice 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 5:3-5. Suffering helps our faith and our hope grow.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort...Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead." 2 Corinthians 1:3-7,9. The sufferings we go through bring us comfort from God and help us know how to comfort others, and ultimately, they help us to rely more on God not ourselves.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Here Paul helps us view our suffering in the light of God's kingdom and eternity. In suffering, there is so much more going on than what we are able to see. 

Over the years of going through many trials, some worse than others, my husband and I developed a saying to help us remember that there was a greater purpose than the suffering we were experiencing. Whatever the trail was, we would say, "It's not about ______." Fill in the blank: the money, the sickness, the relational troubles, etc. We need to look beyond what is going on if we will be able to learn what God is trying to do in and through the trail and suffering. Paul did not say rejoice for the trial, but rejoice in the trial (Romans 5:3). Paul never made light of the trials and sufferings he or his followers faced, or that we face. They are real, they are hard, they cause distress and hardship. Paul just knew from His own experience and from the experiences of Christ, and from His knowledge of Scripture and the character and nature of God, that there is a greater purpose for them. Suffering can cause us to question God, to falter in our faith, and some even walk away from it as a result. But Paul urges us to gain a godly perspective of suffering and allow God to use it to grow our faith, to grow our trust in Him, and to let Him work through us to minister to others and to bring Him glory.



Day 12: Sanctified

Sanctification is the process where something or someone goes from being unholy to being holy; it is consecrated - set apart- for service to God. This consecration to God's service is what marks them as holy. Sanctification and holiness are sometimes used interchangeably in the New Testament. 

Sanctification in the New Testament is both an indicative and an imperative. An indicative is a statement of fact. We could also call it positional. We are sanctified at a particular moment in time. Hebrews 10:10 says, "By the will of God we have been made holy [sanctified] through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Our position before God in Christ is that of sanctified people, holy and blameless in His eyes.

Yet the process of sanctification is ongoing and, thus, we see throughout the New Testament the call -the imperatives, commands - to continue to do the things that sanctify us, to live holy lives. As we see in Hebrews 10:14, "By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." We have been made holy and are continually called to be made holy. It is both who we are in Christ and what we are called to become and do in Christ.

So in the Thessalonians letters we then see both prayers and calls for the Thessalonians to continue to become sanctified, as well as reminders that they are holy.

"May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones." 1 TH 3:13

"It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable." 1 TH 4:3-4

"For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." 1 TH 4:7

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."  1 TH 5:23

Here is the catch though, it is impossible in human strength for sanctification to take place and to grow. Sure, we are the ones who must make the decisions to live in manners that are holy and pleasing to God. But as we see in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, God loves us and calls us to be saved "through the sanctifying work of the Spirit". And it is His Spirit at work in us and through us that enables us to live a holy life and become more and more sanctified. We are sanctified and we are becoming sanctified. 



Day 13: Please

Today's word flows right from yesterday's word, sanctified. 

"Finally, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more." 1 Thessalonians 4:1

As we saw yesterday we are made holy through our union with Jesus Christ. We are called to live a holy life and to grow in holiness throughout our life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our purpose for living a holy life and growing in sanctification is found in today's verse: to please God. 

The order of sanctification is important. We don't try to please God in order to try and gain salvation, that would be what is called the works gospel. We are told in the Bible that salvation is a gift from God. He calls us to Him and we respond in faith by accepting His gift through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. Our aim to please god is a response to our salvation. It is because of the salvation we have received from Him through Jesus that we want to please Him. 

Paul tells us in our verse today that the way we please God is to live His kind of life. Look at how Paul says it elsewhere:

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord." Ephesians 5:8-10

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1-2

"...that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior." 1 Timothy 2:2-3

How we live - our behavior, our attitude, our character - brings God pleasure. He is not looking for us to follow a list of do's and don't's, but rather to learn what it is to know and do His will and to live a holy life. This is our call as God's People. The good news is that He does not leave us wondering what it looks like to live a holy life. God has given His Word to instruct us - which we will look at tomorrow.




Day 14: Live

Over the past few days, as Paul has progressed through the letters to the Thessalonians, we have seen that through our union with Jesus Christ we are made holy (sanctified). We are then called to grow in holiness (sanctification) in order to please God. We please God by how we live our life, which is what we will look at today.

"For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy live." 1 Thessalonians 4:7
Earlier, at the beginning of chapter 4, Paul states that he had instructed them when he was with them in how to live in order to please God. He then urged them to live this way more and more (1 TH 4:1-2). The Greek word Paul uses for 'live' is peripateo. It is a favorite word of Paul's. One he uses in almost every one of his letters. Paul does not write a letter that does not include instructions for how to live God's way of life. In fact, he will often contrast the Christ-follower's former way of life with that of their new way of life in God, and remind them of this to encourage and call them on to greater holy living. 

Peripateo literally means "to walk around' and is used figuratively in the New Testament to refer to the way Christ-followers behave or conduct daily life. It refers to their manner of life. It encompasses not just what one does, their behavior, but also one's speech, attitude and character. It encompasses all parts of life in order to live to please God. John Stott says, 
"Pleasing God is the foundation on which Christian ethical behavior is built."
We never want to separate our character from our behavior lest we fall into a lifestyle  like that of the Pharisees in Jesus' day. They practiced holy laws, behaviors that were meant to make then holy, but became self-righteous, actions divorced from the heart, merely giving them an outward appearance of holiness. Read Mark 7:1-23 for an encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees that describes this..

 What pleases God is living life by the way of life that is holy and worthy of Him. (1 TH 2:12, 4:1 & 7). So in his first letter, for example, in chapter 4 Paul gives some instructions on what holy living looks like in daily life in areas such as sex/marriage (4:3-6), work (4:11-2), and bereavement (4:13-18). Holy living is to penetrate every area of our lives as Christ-followers.

Jesus told us, "I have come that they [His followers] may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). He is "the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6), and calls us to be holy. Why? 
"Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16. As Christ's followers we are the people of God, called to imitate and live out His holy character in all that we do and say, and to be holy in who we are. Paul will remind us later in the book that Jesus died so that we may live in union with Him (1 TH 5:10). That union with Christ is the work and power of His Spirit living within us enabling us to live holy lives.



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.



Day 16: Asleep

As we progress through Paul's letters to the Thessalonians it becomes apparent that Paul is addressing some concerns and questions form the Thessalonians that must have been passed along to him via Timothy. So, we come upon a number of words that seem to be rabbit trails in Paul's letters. We are left to assume that these are topics that concerned the Thessalonians. Today, and over the next few days, we delve into some of those topics.

Today's word, asleep, is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It is used by Paul to refer to those who have died, and specifically, those Christ followers who have died. Asleep or sleep is a fitting way to describe the death of a Christ follower, for death is only temporary. Although they leave us in the body, they will live on with Christ in eternity. As seen further in the letter when he writes, "He died for us so that, whether awake or asleep [alive or dead], we may live together with Him." 1 TH 5:10

"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words." 1 TH 4:13-18

The Thessalonians must have had some confusion regarding the Second Coming of Christ. They apparently expected it to happen soon and they may have thought that all believers would live until Christ's return. But the death of fellow Christ followers brought questions. What about those who have already died? Will we see them again? Will they take place in the events surrounding the Second Coming of Christ? Will only those who are alive when He returns be resurrected? Will the dead in Christ also be resurrected? 

Paul goes on to explain: Jesus died and rose again, so we believe that God will bring those who have fallen asleep in Him with Jesus when He returns. No one will be left behind, the living or those in Christ who have already died. On that day the Lord Himself will come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. We will live together with Him in eternity!

Paul does not tell them not to grieve those who have died. Grieving is a natural part of life. We mourn and miss those who are no longer with us. What he does instruct them, with the care and concern of a pastor, is not to mourn like those who have no hope of seeing their loved ones again. Paul's words were meant to encourage the Thessalonians, and so too they encourage us. 



Day 17: Day

Yesterday we looked at the questions and concerns the young Thessalonian Christ followers had/ regarding those who died in Christ before the Lord's Second Coming. Today we look at another concern they had. It also had to do with the Second Coming of Christ, but now it turns to the fate of those in Christ who are living when He returns.

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness." 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5
The phrase "the day of the Lord" comes from the Old Testament prophets and would have been a part of Paul's teaching, just as it was a part of Jesus' teaching. In the Old Testament the prophets spoke of a day that would come that would bring destruction.
"Alas for that day!
    For the day of the Lord is near;
    it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved." Joel 1:15; 2:31-32
"Woe to you who long
    for the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
    That day will be darkness, not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion
    only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
    and rested his hand on the wall
    only to have a snake bite him.
Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—
    pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?" Amos 5:18-20
Paul continued that teaching in his letters, for example the passage below in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
"By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames."
The day of the Lord will be a day of judgement. Christ first came as a suffering servant and Savior. He will return as Judge and Lord. Paul describes the Lord's judgement in his second letter to the Thessalonians:
on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you." 2 TH 1:5-10
It is apparent that the Thessalonians were not overly concerned with trying to figure out exactly when the Lord would return, a topic even the people Jesus Himself taught seemed to be concerned with. (read Matthew 24:36-41 for how Jesus explained that we do not need to know the when it will happen). Paul points out  in 5:1-3 that they know the day of the Lord will come suddenly and unexpectedly. Like the metaphor of a pregnant woman, we know for certain the day will come, the exact day will, however, come upon us suddenly.
Paul goes on to reassure the Thessalonians that, though they may not know the exact time of Christ's return, His return will not be unexpected, catching them unaware or unprepared. For they are people of the light and the day, not of darkness. Light is often used in the Bible as a metaphor for the righteous people of God who live in the light of His revelation and grace.
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9
Those who are people of the light need not fear the day of the Lord for they have received His salvation (1 TH 5:9-10). Paul's call to the Thessalonians has laid a foundation for them to continually abound in living a holy life, this is their preparation for the coming day of the Lord. His words throughout his letters regarding the day of the Lord are meant to encourage them, as well as for them to use his teaching to encourage each other (1 TH 4:18 and 5:11).


Day 18: Night

We continue today to dig into Paul's theme of Christ's Second Coming and the concerns it stirred up for the Thessalonians. Yesterday we looked at the day of the Lord and Paul's continued call on God's people to be prepared for that day by living a holy life. We saw that one metaphor used in the Bible for God's holy and righteous people is that of light. Today we look at the opposite metaphor of night or darkness.

"You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him." 1 Thessalonians 5:5-10

Night or darkness are terms used in the Bible to refer to people who do not believe in God or in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Again we see this in 1 Peter 2:9 as we did yesterday.

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

As God's holy people we have been called out of the darkness and into His wonderful light. Paul, in describing his first encounter with Jesus, shares the story of his own conversion, sharing the words Jesus gave him of God's call on Paul's life to be sent to the Gentiles, "to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me." Acts 26:18

Darkness and night, light and day, are metaphors Paul uses often to describe unbelievers and believers. Those who live in darkness have not accepted God's gift of salvation found in His Son Jesus Christ. They instead live within the realm of darkness - the realm under the power of Satan - the realm in which the light of Christ does not shine.

But Jesus promised that sons of darkness can become sons of light. In Him, hope is not lost.

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

"Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” John 12:36



Day 19: Died

"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him." 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10


Today I thought we would walk through this passage to get a better understanding of it, as well as practicing that technique again. You can look at the document "Walk Through a Passage" on the Bible Study Techniques page for a refresher. This really is an exercise that can quickly lead to understanding a passage. Remember we let the important connectors (connectives, prepositions and conjunctions) and the verbs lead us through the passage pointing us to which investigative questions to ask.

Since the passage begins with 'for', which is a conjunction that is a term of explanation, we need to look backward to find out what it is explaining. Since we have two meanings for the word 'for' a good way to determine which form is being used is this: If you can read the sentence and replace the word 'for' with the word 'because' then it is a term of explanation. As opposed to using 'for' as  'on behalf of' or 'in place of'. When we see 'for', a term of explanation, we will almost always need to look at what was said before  it (the words, verse or passage) to determine its meaning.

So, again, our passage begins with 'for' and we see its explanation back in verse 8.
"But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet." 1 TH 5:8
In verse 8 Paul says that since (because) we are children of the day (which we looked at on day 17) we are called to be self-controlled. How are we or can we be self-controlled? Look at the verb: By "putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet". Paul likes to use military language to give us a visual picture. Both a breastplate, that covers the chest to protect vital organs, and a helmet, which protects the head, offer life saving protection for a soldier. So faith, love and the hope of salvation, like armor, protect us. Why do they protect us? Here's where we come to the 'for' in verse 9.

Faith, love and the hope of salvation protect us. Why? Because God did not appoint or destine us.  To what? To suffer wrath. When would we suffer wrath? We look at the context of the passage this verse is in to get the answer. The context encompasses 4:13-5:11. But we can simply look back at the preceding verses in chapter 5.  We know from our previous words that this passage is about "the day of the Lord" (5:5), the day of judgment. Paul said that those in darkness sleep, meaning they are not aware of its coming. The children of the day will be "alert and self-controlled" (5:6) because Paul has taught them the importance of living a holy life (4:7), thus they are prepared for the coming day and they will not suffer wrath (judgment of death). We can also remember that way back in chapter 1 Paul told us that those who have turned to the living and true God are waiting for His Son to come down from heaven and He will rescue us "from the coming wrath" (1:9-10).

Chapter 5 verse 9 continues with 'but' (instead). Instead of being destined to suffer wrath we are instead destined to what? "Receive salvation". We already know through this book that we have received the salvation of having been reconciled to God through the forgiveness of our sins through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross. SO this cannot refer to that salvation. So in the context of our current passage, this salvation refers to the salvation of being freed from the wrath of God on the day of the Lord. How do we receive salvation from the coming wrath? "through our Lord Jesus Christ". 

Here is a side note: In Paul's letters he uses three tenses of the word salvation - past, present, and future. Our past tense salvation looks back to the day we receive Christ as Lord and through Him are saved from the penalty of our sins. Our present tense salvation is the ongoing work through the Spirit  of Christ in our lives to live a holy life saving us from the power of sin in our life (see Phil 2:12 for an example). Our future tense salvation is what we have looked at in this passage, we will be saved at the time of Christ's second coming, again through Jesus Christ, from suffering the wrath of God . So we have received salvation, we continue to work out our salvation, and we will finally be saved on the Day of the Lord. Notice the word "through" in each of the tenses. This is an important theological preposition in the New Testament. In Greek it is "dia" and is most commonly translated as 'through' or 'by' and points us to the means by which something happens. Used often in the New Testament for significant truths: "Through Jesus Christ', 'through the Spirit', 'by faith', by the power of the Spirit' etc. Don't quickly read on when you see 'through' or 'by'. Pause and see what significant truth is being communicated by this little preposition! Back to our passage.

Now at the beginning of verse 10 it say 'He'. Many of the other translations say "Who", which really helps the flow, because in the Greek verse 10 is not a new sentence but a continuation of verse 9. So we can read it as, "...through Jesus Christ, who died...". So what does Paul say about Jesus Christ in verse 10? That He died. Who did He die for? Us, those who are children of the day/light. Remember the 'for' here is used as 'on behalf of'' or 'in place of''. Jesus Christ died on behalf of us, in our place. Why? We have to look past the parenthetical statement, which we'll come back to, for the answer. He died 'so that' we may live. How may we live? Together with Him. This is a statement of eternity. We will not suffer wrath instead we will complete our salvation, living together with Him forever. The parenthetic statement, 'whether we are awake or asleep' refers to the topic he has covered in previous passages. So whether the children of the day are awake (alive) or asleep (dead) when Christ returns, they will all live together with Him forever. Salvation - past, present, and future - is a gift of God provided through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!




Day 20: Each Other

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Today's verse is the last verse  of the passage we looked at yesterday's. Here Paul tells them, and us, that what he has said - everything about being prepared by living a holy life, about those who are living and those who are dead in Christ when He returns, and about our salvation from suffering the coming wrath of God at Christ's return - are meant to be used by them and us to encourage and build up the body of Christ.

There are a number of 'each other' and 'one another' passages in the letters to the Thessalonians. Such passages in the New Testament letters refer to how we are to live in the body of Christ with our fellow Christ-followers. Paul, and the other New Testament writers, make it clear that a part of holy living is how we live with one another as God's family. There are 100 verses in the New Testament that give us information on how we are to live with and treat each other as God's people. It is especially a topic Paul is passionate about with 60% of those verses being in Paul's writings. Another thing to note about both the verse we are looking at, and much of Paul's writings, is that this call to encourage and build up (edify) each other comes after he has given us the theology that should bring about that encouragement and edification. Paul often will lay a theological foundation - a teaching of biblical truths - and follow it with instructions on how to live with one another, on how we are to treat each other in God;s family. This pattern of Paul's shows us that right living flows from right learning (doctrine). In other words, what we learn about biblical truths should result in our living them out in community. This is not a parent telling his children to do something just because he says so! Rather it is a loving pastor teaching his people the truth of God's ways, and then, asking them to allow that truth to transform their way of living by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that they will be the holy people of God.

Here are the ways Paul encourages God's people to live with each other in the Thessalonian letters:

"May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you." 1 TH 3:12

"Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other." 1 TH 4:9

"Therefore encourage one another with these words." 1 TH 4:18

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" 1 TH 5:11

"Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other." 1 TH 5:13

"Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else." 1 TH 5:15

"We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing." 2 TH 1:3

Read through this list again, slowly. Think about our current day with our world and our country facing a deadly pandemic. Think about our country with so much divisiveness and hate prevailing. We continue to let issues of politics and racial injustice divide us. Now take special note of verses 3:12 and 5:15 about love and being kind. Use your observation skills to note what has been added. Paul calls us to not just love and be kind to those we are in community with in God;s family, but to love and be kind to everyone else as well. Paul's instructions on how to live in community are never conditional, as in love, be at peace with, be kind to, or encourage only those who act the same way to us. Think of how different things in our world, our nation, our cities, our neighborhoods, and our families might be if we Christ followers led the way in loving and being kind to everyone else. Not letting it matter if they are of the same faith or not, if they are of the same race or not, the same political party or not, the same generation or not, and on and on. Let's live out Paul's call - the words approved by God - to love and be kind to each other and to everyone else.



Day 21: Pray

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It is amazing to think that these are Paul's instructions to a church that is in the midst of severe suffering. Paul knows what they face, for he has faced on many occasions the same types of trials they have. Paul also knows that the way to bear with the suffering and to remain steadfast in the faith is to always rejoice, constantly pray, and thank God through it all. Paul is a model of this to all of the churches he writes to. His letters are full of his prayers and give us a model of how to pray for others and for the church.

In the letters to the Thessalonians alone Paul includes ten prayers. He shares how he is praying for them. He uses prayer to encourage them and build them up.  He uses prayer to urge them on and give them hope. And he uses prayer as a blessing over them. The frequency in which Paul inserts prayer in his letters gives us a model of a life devoted to prayer. It is a life that, beyond taking time continually to pray, has an attitude of prayer. A life that is totally dependent on God and looking to God at all times and in all things

"We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually 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." 1 Thessalonians 1:2–3

"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last." 1 Thessalonians 2:13–16
"How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones." 1 Thessalonians 3:9–13
"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." 1 Thessalonians 5:28
"We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. . . ." 2 Thessalonians 1:3
"With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12
"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17
"And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance." 2 Thessalonians 3:2–5
"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you." 2 Thessalonians 3:16
May we, also learn to live a life of prayer and become devoted to praying continually from Paul's example.



Day 22: Thank

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Yesterday we looked at Paul's model of praying continually and how he made prayer his lifestyle. In this passage where Paul urges the Thessalonians, and us, to pray continually, we notice that he has sandwiched this call in the center of two other commands. Rejoice and give thanks. It makes you think that Paul might be communicating that prayer is key to being able to rejoice always and to give thanks in all things. Or, is he saying that rejoicing and giving thanks is key to being able to pray continually? Or, possibly, are both true?

In another letter from Paul, he also combines rejoicing, thanksgiving and prayer.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7


Paul tells the Philippians that rejoicing in the Lord always and praying with thankfulness results in reducing worry and anxiety, and giving us the peace of God.

To the Colossians, he again combined prayer and thankfulness:
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2

The call to rejoicing and thanksgiving seem to be an attitude that Paul continually calls God's people to live out of. He reminded the Colossians that part of living a life worthy of the Lord is "joyfully giving thanks to the Father" (1:12). He called them to live in Christ "overflowing with thankfulness" (2:7), to "be thankful" (3:15), and to do all things "giving thanks to God the Father" (3:15). 

To the Ephesians he also reminded them to "always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (5:20)


We are best able to rejoice when we are able to see with eyes of gratitude. When we are thankful for who God is and for all that He has done for us through Jesus Christ. Rejoicing and thanksgiving then naturally lead us to going to the Father in prayer. A lifestyle of continual rejoicing and thanksgiving then means a lifestyle of continual prayer.

Prayer reminds us that we are not alone. It reminds us that we cannot do life alone, it helps place us in continual dependence on God. Thankfulness and joy flow from a growing trust in God and belief that He cares for us and provides for us.

Through constant prayer we are better able to have the mind of Christ, to see things as He does, and thus be able to rejoice and give thanks in all things. Prayer with thanksgiving helps us focus on what we have in Christ, and leads us to rejoice in Him. 

Thanksgiving, rejoicing and prayer are so intimately connected that they constantly work together: thanksgiving in prayer results in joy; rejoicing stirs up thankfulness and moves us to pray; prayer brings both thanksgiving and joyfulness as we talk to and depend on the Father.  

It all brings us to the end of this passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19: "for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." A lifestyle of continual rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving is motivated in us because it is God's will for us. But we are not left to go it alone, for it is God's will for us in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ provides us with the ability and the power through His Spirit. The more we grow in Christ's likeness, the more we are able to grow in rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving.


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