This may be the oldest letter in the New Testament, written before the Gospels and yet long enough after the death and resurrection of Jesus that people are starting to doubt their faith. Another issue that troubled people whose faith may have been weakened by the delay in Jesus’ return was the many traveling preachers who were out for personal gain.
Paul feels the need to distinguish between self-serving ministers and a true apostle. The word apostle helps us understand the distinction. It means “one who is sent out with a mission and a message.” Through many examples, Paul reassures the Thessalonians that he is a genuine apostle. He has not personally profited by his preaching. In fact, it has caused him considerable harm. Leading a committed Christian life is not necessarily easy. Often it involves sacrifice and suffering. Paul’s lifestyle and experience certainly bear witness to that fact. He mentions three characteristics of the true apostle: (1) courage to proclaim the gospel of God; (2) integrity, acting without “deceit or impure motives or trickery” (including greed); (3) the distinctive relationship of apostle to convert: “like a nurse caring for her own children.” This deep care leads to a vulnerability between Paul and those to whom he has proclaimed the gospel of God.
For Paul, the costs are well worth the effort. He and his companions have shared “our own selves.” He does not chronicle the results of their efforts, but he notes that ”our coming to you was not in vain.” Paul cares deeply for this young congregation, even though they are a far distance apart and can only hope to see one another rarely: “You have become very dear to us.”
Loving God, help us to recognize the true path to discipleship and to maintain the relationships that strengthen our faith. Amen.
Deuteronomy 34 narrates Moses’ death and Joshua’s succession, both the end of Moses’ life and the continuation of his influence. Psalm 90 is ascribed to Moses, and the tone suits the setting portrayed in Deuteronomy 34. In First Thessalonians Paul continues his recollection of the relationship between himself and the Thessalonians. Paul and his coworkers acted out their love of neighbor, a love that is possible only because of their prior love of God. The Gospel places Jesus in a setting of controversy with the religious leaders of the day. The exchange about the greatest commandment demonstrates that the religious authorities in fact observe none of the commandments because of their inability to understand properly what Jesus calls the “ rst” and “second” commandments.
• Read Deuteronomy 34:1-12. How is God speaking to you about your life? What endings seem imminent? What new beginning is God forming you for?
• Read Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17. Notice all the references to time. How do you experience time when you perceive God’s work in your life? How do you measure time when God seems absent?
• Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8. What relationship is God using to form you spiritually? Who are you tenderly sharing the gospel and yourself with so that God is using you in someone else’s life?
• Read Matthew 22:34-46. The writer states, “It is impossible to love God without also loving those created in God’s image.” What are the implications of this statement on your life? the life of your church?
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