Imagine for a moment that you would have been one of the non-Jewish people in Thessalonica in the days before Paul arrives with Silas. You mind your own business and life revolves around the worries and pleasures of this world. So far so unusual.
But then the weekend hits and one way or the other (you don’t quite know how) you end up hearing the message Paul is preaching. An utterly foreign message about a man called Jesus (of whom you had heard some news but then forgot about it) who was crucified and died. So far so ordinary in the Roman empire at the time.
Yet then this Paul also says that this same man was also resurrected from the dead! (‘Incredible’, you think). And Paul goes on: He claims that this Jesus also was God’s son (you need a moment to figure out which god Paul is referring to), and that He died so you could get right with God – no matter what bad things you had done in your life. (Somehow a long list of things come to your mind).
Paul says that you therefore could live, not just now but beyond death. Eternally, in the presence of God. And all this because this Jesus is the Christ, who has taken these bad things (which Paul calls sin) onto Himself, and through His death satisfied the wrath of God, which otherwise you’d have to face. – You listen to all this and wonder, how this can be. Why would this God – or Son of God – bother to leave heaven and die for the things you have done wrong? – And Paul delivers the answer by saying that Jesus did all this because He loves you! You, individually and very personally!
At this point your head is spinning, because any concept you have had about any god has just been turned upside down. A god who isn’t just after his own agenda? A god who isn’t just sitting there waiting to be served and worshipped? A god who actually cares about who I am? A god who would even go as far as sacrificing his own son so I could have a relationship with him? – You’ve never heard anything like it. Yet, somehow your heart is strangely warmed.
Over the course of the following three weeks, you come back to hear more. You learn more about God, about living a pure life, about ‘the spirit’, about the return of Jesus – this time as a conquering king. And that – if you believe in Him – you will be raised from the dead yourself, in case that Jesus doesn’t come back while you are still alive.
You are drawn to this message and you follow the arguments that are exchanged between Paul and certain Jews, who are becoming increasingly hostile whenever Paul speaks – especially to people like yourself – ‘gentile’ they call you.
By the third weekend, after having thought and discussed a lot, you finally give your life to Christ. Yet also by the third weekend, some Jews have managed to stir up trouble. A lot of trouble! So much so, that the whole city is in uproar. And no small charges are brought against Paul and Silas: ‘Acting against the decrees of Caesar and saying that there is another king, Jesus’.
The next morning you hear that Paul and Silas have left the city over night. – ‘And now?’, you wonder. At first, you feel lost and think, ‘I can’t and don’t want to go back to my old life, but how can I go on from here…?’ – But then you realize that while Paul and Silas have left, God is still with you, in you. You’ve changed, as God’s Word has come into your heart. And you know that whatever will happen next, you have found a new identity in Christ, a new family of believers, and a truly fulfilling purpose: To live a life in a manner worthy of God.
On Sunday, God willing, we will consider 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20. Under the series theme of, “Being a Healthy Church”, we look at how this young church was trusting and persevering despite very difficult circumstances.
Please, join us at 10 am for the Church Prayer Meeting and 10:30 am for the worship service. Following the service, we will have a time of fellowship and refreshments.
Oliver Herrmann, Elder