Thessalonian Letters Part 2
The Thessalonian letters are the least dogmatic of all the Pauline Epistles. Yet there are still five main doctrines brought forward to the attention of the young church.
i. Doctrine of God (1st Thess. 1:9)
Paul preaches one true God in contrast to all pagan deities. Making it clear that it is from this God that the Gospel, Paul proclaimed, is obtained (1st Thess 2:2). It was to this one true God that the believers were to submit themselves to (1st Thess 2:4, 10). Paul showed that it was God who providentially directed their lives (1st Thess 3:11), and would perfect them at the coming of Christ (1st Thess 5:23). It was also God who had both chosen them (1st Thess 1:4), and called them to His kingdom and glory (1st Thess. 2:12). Paul assured the believers that God is faithful to accomplish the work which He had begun (1st Thess 5:24).
ii. Doctrine of Christ
Paul so unites the Son with the Father as to indicate clearly His essential equality with the Father (1st Thess 1:1) The doctrine of union with Christ is clearly implied in the designation of the “Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1st Thess 1:1)
iii. Doctrine of Holy Spirit
Paul speaks clearly that it is the Holy Spirit who makes the message effective in the hearts of hearers (1st Thess 1:5), and gives joy in their affliction (1st Thess 1:6). He teaches that it is the Holy Spirit who gives those mysterious gifts which the Thessalonian believers were tending to despise (1st Thess 5:19). Paul wanted them all to know; it is God who gives the Holy Spirit to all believers (1st Thess 4:8).
iv. Doctrine of Salvation
The Apostle mentions the doctrine of redemption through the death of Christ only once and that in a very general way (1st Thess 5:10), but it should be remembered that this central truth had already been fully proclaimed and accepted by the Thessalonians (1st Thess 2:13).
v. Doctrine of Eschatology
Paul is more concerned that the Thessalonians are living holy lives encouraged by the knowledge that the Living Christ is returning than in the specific knowledge of when and how the return will be accomplished. (1st Thess 5:9)
1st Thessalonian Purpose and Themes
In the writing of this first letter, Paul reveals his heart in an intimate way that is not normally seen as clearly in other letters. Paul, with both the authority of apostleship and a spiritual father’s heart, emphasizes several issues.
i. commended and encouraged the Thessalonian believers for their steadfastness under trial, and whatever future conflicts they might experience (2:14; 3:1-4)
ii. defended his conduct and motives against those, in the Jewish and the Gentile community who sought to malign him (2:1-12)
iii. reaffirmed the Christian standard of holiness for those new converts who were still tempted by the prevailing immorality of the time (4:1-8)
iv. clarified certain features of the doctrine of Christ’s return (4:13-18)
v. rebuked those of the congregation who had become lax in their daily tasks in light of what they considered to be the impending return of Christ (4:11)
vi. urged his readers to respect their leaders (5:12)
vii. rectified inconsistent attitudes towards spiritual gifts which some apparently were attempting to suppress. (5:19, 20)
viii. affirmed it was before God, that the highest human hopes would be achieved (2:19)
The entire letter is essentially practical, containing a message geared to meet the problems of Thessalonian Christian community both in heart as well as in practice.
2nd Thessalonian Purpose and Themes
The central concern for Paul in his second letter is the correction of the Thessalonians mistaken view regarding the “Day of the Lord” and rebukes their idleness that came as a result of this false view.
1. God is the true author of all grace and peace (1:2; 2:16; 3:16)
2. God specifically chose the Thessalonian believers for salvation (2:13)
3. It is God before which the believers must walk worthy (1:5, 11)
4. It is God who strengthens the saints to perseverance (3:3, 4)
5. Christ is so united with the Father as to leave no doubt concerning His essential equality hence His true deity (1:1-2; 2:16-17)
6. The spirit’s distinctive work of sanctification (2:13)
The second letter to the Thessalonians holds a strong eschatological emphasis, specifically the future time of judgment (2nd Thess 1:5-10) and the “Day of the Lord” (2nd Thess 2).
One of Paul’s major challenges regarding the Thessalonian believers was what Holmes called “resocialization”--helping believers to learn, understand, and live by the very different social and ethical code of Christianity. The Thessalonian were facing intense persecution, experiencing social ostracism, isolation and physical attacks from their surrounding culture. Paul’s task was further complicated by the high degree of apprehension, misunderstanding, and speculation about the return of Jesus. The believers had become upset rather than hopeful, unsettled rather than strengthened. It was these challenges that Paul faced in discipling the Thessalonian believer that is so beneficial to believers today. Holmes makes this transition for us:
“…anyone involved in pastoring, teaching, or discipling other Christians knows that one of the major challenges facing Christians nearly everywhere today is that of helping believers break free from the shackles of a secular, self-centered, and often hedonistic mindset so that they can begin to think and live on the basis of a genuinely Christian view of reality.”
This then, is the value and treasure of the Letters to the Thessalonians today. Helping people today learn there is an alternative to contemporary social behavior, to the common held secular ethic and how to live out their Christianity consistently. Praise God that it is, “the God of peace, who sanctifies us through and through. And keeps our whole spirit, soul and body blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls us is faithful and He will do it, Amen (1st Thessalonians 5:23-24 my own paraphrase).
 Holms, pg 17
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