Day 321 (Nov. 17): Paul gives strong advice to the Thessalonica church, Paul encourages church to remain steadfast in the midst of persecution, Jesus’ second coming, Jesus will take down leaders and man of ‘lawlessness,’ Paul warns against being idle, God gives peace at all times, Gallio stands up for Paul, Paul returns to Antioch of Syria

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

2 Thessalonians 1-3:18

Acts 18:4-23

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22): Paul says a lot here.  Are these instructions concrete?  I would think they would be goals.  V. 16: I can’t imagine being joyful all the time.  We all have some low times.  It does seem like some people are much more joyful than others.  V. 18 says to be thankful in all circumstances.  I’m working on that one.  I must say, it would be very hard to thank God in some situations.  I know if you have faith, that whatever seemed so bad will have a reason. V. 22: I would think this means to stay away from evil for yourself.  If we are to reach some sinners, we must brush up to evil.

A. I think Paul is speaking of the position we should be desiring.  We should desire to joyful all the time, for that means that we are able to handle any circumstance.  Paul, like Jesus before him, was no stranger to sin, and surely recommends spreading the gospel among sinners while not sinning yourself.

Q. (2 Thessalonians 1:8): This verse makes it sound like believers will not be judged, only those who don’t follow Jesus.

A. Let’s hold onto this one until we get to Romans.

Q. (1:11-12): So, the church in Thessalonica is being persecuted by whom?  Paul is telling them in these two verses that their good works will bring glory to God.  Of course, God loves people standing up for Him.  However, this does not save a person, right?  People are saved by faith alone?

A. It is likely that the church there (and other places) was persecuted by Jews and Roman authorities, but it was probably not consistent.  The story Acts tells us of Jason being dragged before the civil authorities is probably a good telling example.  What the writers of our readings have been pointing to is the idea that being persecuted offers you the opportunity to test your own heart: are you strong enough to preach the gospel even in the midst of persecution?  As you suggest, this action will not save us, but this level of bravery is surely the sign of a true believer, whose faith WILL save them.

Q. (2:1-12): I was talking to a friend about the horror of the end of days that the pastor at our former church was preaching on.  It was absolutely horrific.  My friend said that she hoped she was in the grave when “the days” come.  I’m with her.  Is it bad to hope that we don’t have to face it?  We have no idea who the “man of lawlessness” is in v. 3?  V. 11 says that God caused them to be greatly deceived, but from the context, I would guess that it means more like God showed them the choice to be saved, but they rejected it.  And because they refused to go “good,” God allows them to be condemned.  What do you say to this, Rob?

A. I see nothing wrong with not wanting to face a time of trial or deal with difficult times, but understand that this may be GOD’S desire for us!  We must be willing to answer the call, even to preach in the midst of difficult times.  As to who the “man” is, this is an image of the anti-Christ, which we will see again in John’s writings and in Revelation.  This is an image of the supreme human evil — but not Satan — who puts himself directly in opposition to the work of Christ (hence “anti”).  There are tons of ideas out there about who this man is (some, for example, say it is Obama, which is just ridiculous), but I’m not going to offer much in the way of speculation except to say that we as believers will know him when we see him.  I, like you, hope that I never have to worry about it at all!

Q. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15): This is a hard passage.  Sometimes I feel lazy, but I have never thought about being lazy in the spirit, which I think this verse addresses both — lazy in spirit and lazy in earning money.  I feel guilty when I am.  Most of us have down times, I think.  Maybe we are supposed to fight them as hard as possible?  Also, when you try to encourage someone to not be lazy, that’s a little touchy too without offending them.  Maybe instead of addressing their laziness, they could be invited to partake in something that would make them more active.  Here’s a kid’s song I love: http://sovereigngracemusic.bandcamp.com/track/lazy-bones  It has motivated me many times!  That CD is awesome even if you don’t have kids!

A. Sloth, or laziness, is one of the so-called “seven deadly sins” — though I would quickly add that there is no particular “list” of them in the Bible — and it is a slow poison to the soul, which is why we are compelled to fight it in ourselves and make war against it when we see it in others.  Your suggestions are good ones.

Q. Paul had so much energy to devote to spreading God’s word.  He likely went by foot and by boat.  I don’t know if the disciples and other teachers of the gospel had any other means of transportation, like a horse?  If you google “map of Paul’s journeys” you will see what a vast territory he covered and how big of an influence he was on spreading the gospel.  I notice on these maps that Asia is where modern-day Turkey is, which I thought was more of where Israel was in Bible times.  Why is it labeled Asia, when Asia is much farther to the east?

A. Well, the region you refer to is called Asia Minor, and it is indeed part of Asia, not Europe, depending upon who you ask.  I suppose that the disciples could have had horses or other transport animals, but most of what the record tells us is that they traveled by foot.

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