I did not study Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians for the first fifteen years of my Christian life. Of course I used some of the classic proof text passages like 4:17, to prove the rapture of the church; 5:23, to prove that man is made of three parts; and the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians to try and figure out the identity of the Man of lawlessness. Oh, if I knew then what I know now, I would have devoured the contents of this book and spent the rest of my years marveling at how the Holy Spirit used the contents to establish my faith upon the Rock of Christ!
The apostle Paul came to the city of Thessalonica after he was beaten at Philippi. He taught for three Sabbaths and then started preaching to the Gentiles. It was recorded that he was there for at least three weeks and then the leaders of that city ran him out of town. Paul left some brand new believers in Thessalonica. These believers were newly born – infants in the faith. So what did Paul teach them? Did he expound on man being a tri-part being? Did he spend a huge amount of text on the man of lawlessness? No. Paul began his letter with the doctrine of election (v. 4). These new believers were suffering persecution, and Paul wanted to reassure them that suffering was an essential part of the Christian life. He informed them that though they were still infants in the faith, God had used their suffering as an example of true faith. They had received the Holy Spirit and proof of that gift was perseverance in the midst of suffering. He referred to the theme of comfort at least twelve times in these two short letters. He wanted those infants to know that God called them for salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14) and they could find comfort in the hope of Christ’s return.
Though they were doing well, these infants could have gotten discouraged by all that suffering, so Paul admonishes them not to grow weary of doing good (2 T 3:14).
If I would have focused the first fifteen years of my Christian walk on understanding these truths, instead of trying to avoid negative confessions, claiming God’s promises so that I could get rich and healthy, and attempting to convince everyone that the Bible teaches divine health, my faith would have been firmly planted on the solid rock of Christ. Now I spend my time meditating on the truth that God called me for salvation and the sufferings of this present age cannot be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. I was under-nourished, now I am getting the spiritual vitamins and essential nutrients from the milk of the Word so that I may grow up into full maturity. Come join me. Taste and see that the Lord is good!
Brian L. Spivey