Friday, July 9, 2010

An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday July 11, 2010

(Live a life that glorifies GOD)
(2 Thessalonians 1)

According to information recorded in scriptures, it is highly likely that Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians was written in Corinth, during his second missionary journey, probably within twelve months of his first letter to that church in A.D. 50.
It is Paul’s third known canonical writing, if we assume that the letter to the Galatians was the first, and the first letter to the Church at Thessalonica was the second. Corinth is the last known place that Paul, Silas, and Timothy were all together (Acts 18:5), and so Paul’s mentioning of that fact here in this letter (2 Thessalonians 1:1) lends credibility to the time and location of its writing.
This letter was written in response to new developments that had taken place since the writing of the first letter. Persecutions in Thessalonica had intensified and many Christians were struggling in despair and losing hope. Also, false rumors were spreading that Paul was saying that the time of the end had come, and, as a result, many people in Thessalonica had stopped working and were living off others instead. They had taken the attitude of “Why bother, if JESUS is coming back tomorrow to end the world?”
In the Greek, the word used for “encouragement” is “parakaleo” (par-ak-al-eh-o), and it means “to call one near, for the purpose of giving comfort to, usually through prayer”. Here in 2 Thessalonians 1, the Apostle Paul seeks to encourage the Thessalonians through praise and supplication. He expresses his gratitude for the increasing love that they were showing for each other in hard times, and, for their perseverance through all of their suffering. However, Paul is not praying that the Thessalonians find immediate relief from their trials, but rather, he is praying that they be worthy of GOD’s calling by persisting through their suffering, and thereby, putting themselves in a better position to fulfill HIS purpose in them.
Paul knew of the difficulties and trials that Christians would have to face in a world that insists on living in ways that are contrary to the will of GOD. Trials are permitted by GOD in order to help us achieve HIS ultimate calling upon our lives. And so Paul prays that the Thessalonians would respond in a positive way to GOD’s testing, and be able to fulfill the purpose that GOD has in mind for each of them. He was seeking to teach them that, when troubles persist, they should pray to GOD for strength to endure, and not just for relief. Trials are not sent to make us fail, but rather, they are sent to strengthen us and make us better warriors in the army of CHRIST JESUS.
As I mentioned earlier, false rumors had been spreading throughout the Church at Thessalonica saying that Paul had identified their present trials as being the beginning of the end, or the onset of the “Day of the LORD”. However, Paul is really urging the Church to stand firm and rejoice in their salvation, and in the awareness that, when JESUS does come, they will indeed, share in HIS Glory.
Many people complain today that GOD is not fair. They say that the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer. In verses 6-7, Paul is insistent when he says, in effect, that GOD is not only fair, HE goes beyond being “fair”, and is indeed “just”. Being “just”, requires GOD to “pay back” troubles to those who trouble the righteous, and give relief to them in the process of time. GOD is good, just, and fair, in all things, but HE does not necessarily balance HIS books at our convenience, HE does it when it will best serve us, in the most beneficial way possible. In other words, GOD does not necessarily balance HIS books every weekend.
In the biblical Greek, the word sometimes used for “train”, or “teach” is “paideia” (pahee-di-ah), and it means “to guide or direct, sometimes by disciplinary means”. Verses 5-9 tend to indicate a righteous response from GOD toward those who do evil acts upon those who serve HIM. These verses tell us quite plainly, that, GOD’s discipline is not vindictive, however, it can be harsh, because wickedness must be redressed in a manner that teaches us to respect the will of GOD and reduce our desire to do things our own way.
Paul promised to continue to pray for the blossoming church at Thessalonica. Like with all of the newly founded Christian churches, he wanted them to always glorify and honor GOD, and reflect JESUS’ image to others, through their own personal behavior.
Christian unity must always transcend the organizational differences of the various denominations within the body of CHRIST. And we must pray that our good intentions, or our intended faithful deeds, will not hinder us from doing what GOD has really called us to do, and that is, to remember what we all have in common, CHRIST JESUS, and to win souls over to HIM, largely, through our own obedient behavior.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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