Thessalonians: Hope for a Hopeless World
By Ray C. Stedman
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The first letter of Paul to the Thessalonians is also the first letter the apostle wrote. It was written to a struggling, yet vigorous church that was only a few months old, made up of Christians who had just come to Christ under Paul's ministry. This is a delightfully revealing letter, showing the heart of the apostle toward these new Christians, and also showing the struggles that were present in the early church. We sometimes get very distorted conceptions of these early Christians; there's a tendency to regard them as always triumphant, always waging the battle with vigor, and always winning great victories in Christ's name. But they also had very severe problems, some of which are reflected in this letter. It was written about 50 A.D., and may well be the first part of our New Testament to be written. Most scholars feel that the gospels were written about this same time or shortly afterward, though some hold that the gospel of Matthew, and perhaps of Mark, appeared about 43 or 45 A.D. At any rate, this letter is at least one of the earliest Christian writings. The account of Paul's founding of this church is recorded in the seventeenth chapter of Acts. After he and Silas were thrown into prison in Philippi because of their preaching of the Gospel, an earthquake shook down the prison doors and freed the prisoners. Paul was then freed by the Roman magistrates, and he left Philippi and went to Thessalonica. Many of the places where Paul preached have crumbled into ruin, but Thessalonica is still a thriving, bustling metropolis. It was then the capital of Macedonia, but it is now in Greece proper, and is called Salonika. From the account in Acts, we learn that Paul had only been there about three weeks when persecution began and he had to leave the city for his own safety. He went down to Athens and from there he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to see how these Christians were doing. He was very disturbed about them; he felt that perhaps the persecution they were undergoing would drive them from their faith. He went on to Corinth where he founded a church after several months of difficult labor. After some time, Timothy returned to him at Corinth, bringing word of how the Thessalonians were doing, and of some of the problems they were facing. As we read this little letter through, we can recognize them as the kind of problems that we also face.
||CleanChanged Lives (1 Thess 1:1-10)||The Thessalonian letters of the Apostle Paul were written to a young church that was situated in an extremely dangerous world. Within twenty years of their writing, the whole of the ancient East was convulsed in warfare and rebellion. In 70 A. D., the armies of Titus surrounded the city of Jerusalem. Following a bloody siege, the city was overrun, the temple destroyed, and the Jews taken captive. The movements that culminated in these events had already begun when this first letter was written.||29 9 2010||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanWhatever became of Integrity? (1 Thess 2:1-12)||Last week I was in Southern California, meeting with some thirty pastors from large churches all over the country. A new phenomenon in the church in America is the rise of the mega-church. A congregation of two or three thousand members is today regarded as just a moderate-sized body, although when I was a boy, a church of that size was considered enormous. Today, however, there are dozens of them. Among the churches that were represented were some that had congregations of ten thousand or more every Sunday. One had 3,500 people coming on Wednesday evening, most of them untouched pagans.||22 9 2010||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanThe Mysterious Word (1 Thess 2:13-16)||What a week this has been! On top of Christmas shopping and through the kindness of some friends, I had the delightful experience last week of flying by private jet to Kalispell, Montana, and speaking to a Christmas party of both Christians and non-Christians on the theme of the Babe of Bethlehem. In the news things are pretty much the same. Once again Congress failed to bail us out so the United States went broke last night, as we always seem to do at this time of the year. But the highlight of the week, of course, was the second coming of Gary Hart!||15 9 2010||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanA Father's Joy (1 Thess 2:17 - 3:13)||Real father love is in short supply in our world today. What we see is a frightening increase of child abuse, of fathers actually attacking their own children. A simple little song, "Dear Mister Jesus," the tale of a child who remembers the abuse she suffered at her father's hand, is being played on radio stations all over the country. Some time ago I read the sad story of a four-year-old boy who was beaten to death by his stepfather because he boy had wet his pants. When his body was dug up, a tiny cross was found clutched in his hand.||8 9 2010||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanHandling your Sex Drive (1 Thess 4:1-8)||I must say that 1987 was one of the most depressing years that I have lived through. Looking back, it seems the headlines continually spoke of disasters, murders and scandals. As I reflected upon the year, I wondered if there was not some way to eliminate, or at least cut back, all this evil. I thought of one thing which would certainly reduce crime, bring an end to the divorce scandal, eliminate teenage pregnancies, reduce the prison population, stop the sale of pornography, and decrease poverty.||1 9 2010||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanComfort at the Grave (1 Thess 4:9-18)||No one knows what circumstances he is going to face tomorrow. That is characteristic of the future. But there is something that comes before tomorrow. It is called today, and that is where we must live. We cannot live in tomorrow, but we can live today. This issue was troubling the Thessalonian Christians. They were looking toward tomorrow, but wondering what to do today. The Apostle Paul's advice to them in his first Thessalonian letter is, as usual, very practical. We have it in Chapter 4, beginning with Verse 9:||25 8 2010||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanThe Fate of the Earth (1 Thess 5:1-11)||Having just returned from the Middle East where I was able personally to observe many of the turbulent currents that are challenging the peace of the world in that area, I realize afresh why people are concerned about the fate of the earth. This title is borrowed from a book by the same name by Jonathan Schell. The book, which was published in 1982, describes in chilling detail what would happen if this country went through a nuclear war. It is a very grim and pessimistic account that offers little hope if such a holocaust should occur.||18 8 2010||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanLiving Christianly (1 Thess 5:12-28)||I heard a man say, "The most important thing in learning to relate to others is personal honesty. Once you learn to fake that," he added, "everything else is easy!" Many people, unfortunately, seem to follow that philosophy. Perhaps one of the most discouraging aspects of modern-day living is not so much the moral collapse of leaders, such as we have seen many examples of recently, but the low level of ethical behavior on the part of many Christians.||11 8 2010||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanThe Fire next Time (2 Thess 1:1-12)||I am greatly encouraged that the Apostle Paul had to write a second letter to the Thessalonians to explain his first letter to them. I have had to do that on occasion. Some of my writing is not always as clear as it could be and I have had to write a second letter. The apostle's second letter was written within a few months of the first, and in it he seeks to make clear what was still unclear to the Thessalonians.||4 8 2010||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanThe Man who Claims to be God (2 Thess 2:1-12)||We come to a passage now where we must confront the question of whether the church will go through the great tribulation. Does the Lord come for his church before the great time of trouble that is coming; does he come in the middle of it; or does the church in fact go through the tribulation and Jesus comes at the end. That is a much debated and controversial question. The Scriptures are at times hard to understand concerning these issues; that is why there are differences of opinion among believers regarding them.||28 7 2010||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanStand Firm (2 Thess 2:13 - 3:5)||As a boy, growing up in the State of Montana, I loved to read stories of the Wild West. These tales convinced me that those days were perilous times. There were hostile Indian bands roaming around, seeking someone to torture and scalp; lawless gunmen waited in saloons, ready to shoot down anyone who caused them displeasure; and entire towns could be wiped out overnight by terrible plagues. The 19th century, it seemed to me, was a time when life seemed cheap and fraught with great danger.||21 7 2010||Free||View in iTunes|
||CleanIs Work a Curse? (2 Thess 3:6-18)||Our final study in Paul's letters to the Thessalonians deals with the value of work. It is a rather strange subject for Sunday worship, but one that we should find profitable. If you have ever gone into any of the Charlie Brown restaurants in this area you will have seen displayed somewhere the words, "Work is the curse of the drinking class." That is clearly a reversal of the old maxim, "Drink is the curse of the working class."||14 7 2010||Free||View in iTunes|