Connections 12.13.2020: God Will Do This

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

By my count, Paul offers a list of fourteen instructions to the Christians in Thessalonica in verses 12-21 of this week’s lesson text.

As I imagine the believers in that Greek city sitting in a house listening to someone read Paul’s letter, I see their faces as Paul’s appeals strike their consciousness one by one.

“Respect and esteem your leaders.”
“Be at peace among yourselves.”
“Admonish the idlers.”
“Encourage the fainthearted.”
“Help the weak.”
“Be patient.”

I can imagine what the believers might have been thinking. “Okay, these are doable. That one about getting along with each other might be tough, but we can do it. So far so good.”

“See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.”

I imagine the listeners thinking, “Oh my. That’s difficult. Maybe too difficult.”

“Pray without ceasing.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances.”

The listeners think, “Pray all the time? Give thanks in all circumstances? Is that even possible?”

“Don’t quench the Spirit.”
“Don’t despise the words of the prophets.”
“Test everything.”
“Hold fast to what is good.”
“Abstain from every form of evil.”

I imagine the people’s anxiety level being sky high by now. “Paul expects too much. The demands are too high. The challenge is too great. This is beyond our capabilities. Who can live up to all of this?”

Maybe Paul anticipated such a reaction. Maybe he knew his numerous appeals would stress the Thessalonian believers out.

Maybe that’s why he began his next words with “May the God of peace…”. Maybe he wanted to assure the Thessalonians that God would bring peace where they felt anxiety and doubt.

Paul’s full statement is, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this” (vv. 23-24).

I imagine the people thinking, “God will do for us what we think we can’t do. We have doubts about ourselves, but we can trust God. Thanks be to God.”

We need such assurance as well. We can trust God to work in us to help us grow into who we can be so that we will be fully ready for Jesus to come.

We still have our part to play. We still have to try. We still have to be willing and ready to do what we can do. But we do all we do knowing that God is working in us to accomplish God’s will.

Thanks be to God indeed!

Discussion

  • Pick three of the instructions Paul gave the Thessalonian Christians. Why do you think he thought those were important? Are they still important today?
  • Why should we want “to be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 23)? What does it mean to be “sound and blameless”?
  • What do we learn from Paul’s asking the Thessalonians to pray for him and his companions (v. 25)? Do we ever think that someone has made so much progress in the faith that they don’t need our prayers? Is there anyone who doesn’t need us to pray for them?
  • Most of our churches have probably never greeted each other with a holy kiss (v. 26). In these days of COVID-19, we certainly don’t. How can we apply the principle underlying that instruction? How might this principle underlie some of Paul’s other instructions in the lesson text?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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