A Community of Hope and Joy of the Apostles

01.12.2019

 

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.
(1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 NKJV)

If those who ordered the books of the New Testament had done it in chronological order, according to the date of composition, the first letter to the Thessalonians would have been at the beginning. It is, in fact, the first New Testament writing. Therefore it is the first letter written by Paul, probably a neglected pearl among the letters of the apostle because it does not raise so many doctrinal questions. Given its brevity, it is perfect for today's era of "hit and run", and those wishing to devote time to it will discover the heart of the apostolic ministry. From the book of Acts (17:1-10) we have news that the recipient church was founded during Paul's second missionary journey (around 51 AD). The apostle in the company of Silas and Timothy, as usual, had gone to the synagogue, where he had begun to preach the message of Christ. Several received the Gospel and among them a good number of people from paganism. But the opposition from the Jewish community authorities led Paul to leave the synagogue and look for another location. The opposition was so vehement that they were forced to leave the city, in the direction of Berea, where Paul left Silas and Timothy and continued alone to Athens. He was anxious for the Thessalonians, so when he was joined by the two companions, he immediately sent Timothy back to gather news. Timothy joined him in Corinth with good news: they were bravely facing the persecution. This news raised the spirit of Paul, who felt the need to write to them.

It is striking the pastoral affection that transpires from the writing. Despite the difficulties encountered, the apostles did not lack courage, and their conversions are the result of this tenacity. What men (or the devil) try to prevent, God brings to fulfillment. The three servants had taken care of the young Thessalonian believers "a nursing mother cherishes her own children" (2:7). Their joy was communicating the Gospel, to the point that they made sure not to be a burden to anyone. The text that best describes the precious apostolic work is: "as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory" (2:11-12). A tender care in nourishing young faith on one side and on the other the paternal exhortation and consolation in guiding them in the Christian way in a worthy way. In these verses there is the synthesis of what the ministerial service should be, nothing more, nothing less: care and nourishment, protection and exhortation. The community of Thessalonica has received such a wonderful example, that they themselves have become an example in faith to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia (1:7), and not only, but up to par with the churches of Judea.

When belief is life, the practical example is such that no words are needed to preach, but the good smell spreads by itself. Even today there are many, perhaps too many, those who daily risk their lives for Christ, while we lose ourselves in frivolous discussions or argue bold theological disputes. Apostolic preaching is in the midst of trials, and those who believe quickly come to terms with the same persecution. Like the Jewish believers, the Thessalonians suffered because of Christ. And this condition is not a shame to anyone but the persecutors, for whom divine wrath is reserved. I think it has a certain effect to consider that both the one who preaches and the listener is not free from affliction and suffering. In fact, for Paul and his companions the believers of Thessalonica are "glory and joy". God help us. Let us reflect.

 


Devotional 49/2019
Weekly Bible reading plan

December 2, Ezekiel 42-44; 1 John 1
December 3, Ezekiel 45-46; 1 John 2
December 4, Ezekiel 47-48; 1 John 3
December 5, Daniel 1-2; 1 John 4
December 6, Daniel 3-4; 1 John 5
December 7, Daniel 5-7; 2 John
December 8, Daniel 8-10; 3 John

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