What does it say?
Having just seen Paul’s visit to Thessalonica in Acts 17, our reading of 1 and 2 Thessalonians is appropriate. Thessalonica in northern Greece is the second city in importance only behind Athens, both in the first century and to this day (Thessaloniki).
Paul’s opening (1The 1) celebrates the growth, maturation and influence of the church and summarizes the Gospel’s essence. Chapter 2 recounts the church’s beginning during Paul’s brief visit about 50 AD as well as their current reality. Paul’s love and concern for the Thessalonians is evident from the relationships and prayer described in chapter 3. Chapters 4 and 5 teach a variety of subjects, especially concerning Christ’s second coming and the need to be ready.
Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, written a few months later, reinforces teaching from the first letter and clarifies certain misunderstandings, especially about Christ’s return. The last part of chapter 3 is a masterpiece of teaching on a number of topics in the most concise manner possible.
What does it mean?
Paul’s stay in Thessalonica lasts only three weeks. From the beginning, the opposition from unbelieving Jews is fierce. These two letters convey the impression of a mature church despite the brevity of Paul’s personal investment. This reminds us that sometimes less is more when it comes to making disciples. Making disciples is not micro-managing or controlling people. With a basic understanding of God’s truth and controlled by God’s indwelling Spirit, people are capable of continued growth. As we face the prospect of reaching the least reached peoples of the world that often live in places of danger and/or limited access, we must remember that a visit of three weeks is often enough for remarkable and sustained transformation.
Christ’s return is a key focus of both letters. There are many interpretations offered for Paul’s instructions about future events leading to Christ’s return, but the main point is our need to be ready regardless of when it occurs and the need to not focus so much on the future that we lose sight of our present mission.
How will I respond?
Am I properly engaged in the mission of reproducing myself (making disciples)? If so, do I sometimes take upon myself too much responsibility? Do I sometimes do things FOR people rather than teach them to be responsible for themselves? What specific application can I make to my life from what I read here in Thessalonians?