Monday, September 15, 1 Thessalonians Chapter 2
The second word in the Greek is gar, for in English. Paul uses the word 454 times in his letters. The NIV only translates it about half the time, as here. It is a preposition and a busy one, even in the Greek. Actually, the Greek reads: Autoi gar iodate adelfoi…, yourselves for you know brothers, with yourselves also not translated because it would be confusing in English. The RSV does include for and the MSG translates it as so. When we read it after the end of chapter 1, the for fits right in.
Paul again contrasts himself (and those with his ministry) with the charlatans and Judaizers. They have impure and unclean motives. Their claims are filled with errors. They do not speak the words of God. We do because we were chosen by God and continue to be tested by God.
Paul does not seek wealth or glory, only the service of God to spread the Good News. Verse 7 has an interesting word generally translated as gentle. If we remove the last letter of that word in the Greek we get, babies. Paul seems to be using a common image in Thessalonica based on the worship of Dionysus, Tethys and Okeanos, Okeanos who took care of living things like a nurse.
Paul and his companions earned their living while they were in Thessalonica, unlike many of the Charlatans. As far as we know, the church at Philippi was the only one to give them financial support.
In verse 10 Paul list three characteristics they followed, but in the Greek he was able to write them as holily, rightesusly, and unblamably. Those adverbs do not work so well in English, as my spell-check is already warning me.
In verse 11, speaking of Greek, Paul fails to include a verb. NIV adds dealt with, CJB treated and MSG discreet. In the verse Paul compares himself to a father and in verse 17 he compares himself to an orphan.
Verse 12 is literally to walk worthily of God. Walking is a common theme for Paul, but the use of kingdom and glory are not common.
The word of God is meant to mean absolute, non-debatable. Our problem is that we do not always understand the Word so we have to discuss it with one another. Putting the Word of God into a human language gives us an imprecise translation of the language of Heaven. As an example, there are at least two dozen definitions of the word imprecise. Fortunately, God gave us Jesus to clarify some of the imprecision. If we do as Jesus did we will not be far off.
The word work NIV in verse 13 means supernatural work as it does nearly every time in the New Testament. In verse 14 Paul uses the phrase Christo Iesou (Christ Jesus), one of 73 times in his letters with another 18 times as Jesus Christ. Christo is the Greek for Messiah.
In verse 15 Paul speaks against his fellow Jews, even as he readily admits being one of the persecutors earlier. This is the only time in the New Testament Paul mentions being driven out of Judea. Paul strengthens this section at the end of 16 by writing it in the present tense.
In verse 17 the NIV reads when we were torn away. The Greek for torn away has the meaning of being orphaned and is often used that way.
In verse 18 Paul uses I, only 4 times altogether. But Satan stopped us. The Evil One is found all over the Bible acting in many different ways and forms. Satan can only stop Paul if God allows him to do so, meaning, God will use Satan to direct Paul to a better place. That is not to say that Satan cannot gain control of a person. If I allow Satan to direct me, then God loses control of me.
There are two Greek words to look at in verse 19. The first is stefanoz, a wreath as given to the winners of the games. Most translations make it crown. It is a crown of glory more than of royalty. The second word is kaucheseos, to boast, translated as glory in NIV. In verse 20 the word doxa, meaning glory, honor, praise, worship is used. This is generally the word chosen to speak of the glory associated with God.
Tuesday, September 16, 1 Thessalonians Chapter 3
Paul often used the royal we when he meant just himself; that is likely what he meant here in verse 1. Phillips seems to have captured the Greek. And so at length, when the separation became intolerable, we thought the best plan was for me to stay in Athens alone, while Timothy, our brother and fellow-worker in the Gospel of Christ, was sent to strengthen and encourage you in your faith. Paul often had many helpers traveling with him and he regularly sent them to surrounding towns or on extended trips like this one. As we know, Timothy was his most trusted fellow worker.
In verse 3 the NIV reads, so that no one would be unsettled. The Greek word for unsettled is interesting, it means shaken and literally means a dog shaking its tail.
Paul warned the Thessalonians that they would face persecution and tried to prepare them for it. Now he wants to know how they are standing up to it.
Verses 6-10 has you and your 12 times. We find that Timothy has returned with his report. It is likely that the letter up to verse 6 was written before Timothy arrived because the tone of the letter changes here; it is all good news, the only time Paul uses gospel in this sense.
Phillips has the better translation of verse 8: To know that you are standing fast in the Lord is indeed a breath of life to us. The literal Greek is, Because now we live if you stand firm in Lord. The message for us is that we need to show our fellow Christians that we stand with them in their troubles, next door or around the world.
Verse 11 begins a prayer to close the chapter, common for Paul.
Wednesday, September 17, 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4
Paul is pleased with the Thessalonians, but he exhorts them to increase their activities for God. We can always do more. Paul has no problem asking for more because he understands that being a slave does not involve having a choice. I cannot choose what I want to do for God. When God sends me directions, I must obey. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 has this: You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. NIV
Paul’s reminder to avoid sexual immorality was not given because Timothy had reported any problem, rather because they lived in Thessalonica where such activity was the norm. The god Dionysus was the leading object of worship in the city. He was the god of fertility as well as wine.
In verses 6-8 Paul gives three reasons to avoid sin.
Verse 11 puts pressure on the average American, work with your hands (physical labor). Paul was reminding them that in a culture were slaves did nearly all the physical work, they were to do their own work, give up slaves. Paul was not an abolitionist, but he did seem to understand that slavery was degrading to the slave owners.
In verse 13 the Greek word, koimomenon, means sleeping and is the basis for cemetery. Here it is fall asleep in NIV. We need not worry about those who have died before Christ’s return. 1 Corinthians 15:55: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? KJV Verse 15 quotes Jesus directly.
The idea of life after death was vague among Jews and non-existent among others. Some instruction was required. Jesus himself will come. He will come in majesty. The dead will rise first.
Jewish tradition names seven archangels: Gabriel, Michael, Raguel, Raphael, Remiel, Saraqael, and Uriel. Only Gabriel and Michael are named in the Bible, though Gabriel is simply listed as an angel in Luke 1:19. Notice that all angel names end with el, one of the many names of God. In fact, nearly any name in the Bible ending in el has a meaning in reference to God; for example, Israel means May God Prevail.
The closing verses are a clear statement of what we have come to call the Rapture.
Thursday, September 18, 1 Thessalonians Chapter 5
The opening of this chapter continues the description of the end times. Paul makes clear what Jesus also said, we cannot even guess when the time will come. There are two things we know: Jesus will come and we do not know when.
In verse 3 we read of destruction happening with no warning. It is the destruction of this world when Jesus comes to claim his faithful followers. The same Greek word is used in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 meaning to be banished from God.
As faithful followers we have nothing to fear because Jesus will take us to God. That is not to say that we will not suffer in this world. We will suffer as much as non-Christians, but we will receive the reward instead of the banishment to eternal punishment.
We are sons of the Light, not like those who are asleep. The word is not the usual word for sleep. It is closer to being morally careless. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. MSG
Verse 8 returns us to 1:3 with faith, hope, and love.
Notice in verse 9 that the promise is not that we avoid suffer, only that we avoid suffering the eternal wrath of God.
In verse 10 Paul uses asleep to mean dead, so he has changed the meaning of the image because he is speaking of all Christians.
Paul reminds us to respect our fellow Christians in what they do for God. We may not like the person but we respect the work. As in the military, you salute the rank, not the person.
In verse 14 Paul wants us to be encouragers, not complainers. Love is the key.
Be joyful always NIV, refers to the joy emanating from God. We cannot create joy, only a false imitation of God’s joy.
Verses 19:22 provides us a list of do nots. Verses 23-24 make up a prayer.
Friday, September 19, 2 Thessalonians Chapter 1
This second letter was written within a few weeks of the first letter, also in 50 AD. Silvanus (Silas) is mentioned for the last time. Verse 2 in the Greek makes it clear that both God and Jesus are of the same cloth.
Verses 3-10 are another long sentence. He mentions faith and love, two of the things he encouraged the Thessalonians to expand and now he congratulates them on doing so. Paul uses this church as an example to other churches. They face persecutions, but continue to live lives of faithfulness to God.
Unlike so much modern thinking in the church, Paul regards suffering as a mark of a Christian. If you have not suffered you must not be doing God’s work. As recorded in Mark 9:47-48, Jesus encouraged us to cut out those things in our lives that separate us from God. Sometimes that alone will cause suffering in a life.
In verse 8 punishment will be fairly handed out to those who refused to understand or accept the Word of God. Everyone receives the Word and all have an equal chance to respond. God will not punish someone who has never heard of Jesus. Such a person will be presented with the Word in a way we do not know and will have the same chance we have to accept.
Paul wants everyone to hear the Good News that God wants every human to join him in Heaven. God does not want anyone to suffer for their sins. All we have to do is accept his invitation.
No one is worthy to stand before God until he has been freed from sin. That can only be done by God who gave us Jesus for the task. Jesus makes us worthy to stand in Heaven. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians: As God’s prisoner, then, I beg you to live lives worthy of your high calling. Phillips
Be righteous and do good.