Sunday, March 7, 2010

Because I said so

According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
1 Thessalonians 4:15 (NIV)

I placed my groceries on the checkout conveyor belt and couldn't help but smile as I overheard the energetic dialogue between a young teenage girl and her mother who stood in line behind me. Determined, the girl pushed, "But, Mom! Why can't I go to Ashley's party?" "Because I said so," her mother replied.

How many times I wondered had I insisted upon my children's obedience based on the integrity of "because I said so." That's at the heart of what Paul says to the New Testament believers of Thessalonica when he wrote "according to the Lord's own word, we tell you..."

First century Thessalonica was a free city, as well as the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia (northern Greece). A bustling seaport metropolis with a population numbering about 200,000, it was an important communication and trade center located at the junction of the great Egnatian Way and the road leading north to the Danube.

Along with Silas and Timothy, Paul found the Thessalonian church about AD 50 on his second missionary trip. According to the account in Acts 17:1-9, the men left Thessalonica abruptly after a rather brief stay. The Jews, along with others, stirred up trouble because Paul was winning converts from those interested in Judaism. The newly-formed church sent the missionaries away for safety's sake.

Later Paul learned from Timothy that the young church was undergoing a problem. Thessalonian believers were experiencing anxiety over their believing loved ones who had died. They feared they were gone forever and would miss out on the second coming of Christ. With words of comfort and to soften their fears, Paul responded to the believers with a threefold message that contrasted sorrow and hope.

First he removed the new believers' ignorance of the issue by providing the right information. "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13) Through this biblical insight, Paul then accomplished his second objective. He gave the believers hope. Most significantly, the hope he shared was not empty optimism but anchored in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (v.14). Thirdly, Paul didn't deny that the people experienced grief. But that wasn't the point here. Paul's message is that hope in Christ gives comfort and removes grief.

As to the authority of his message, notice what the Apostle writes in verse 15, "According to the Lord's own word." The promise and explanation of Paul's message weren't figments of his imagination or wishful thinking. They were based on the fact that Jesus said so.

The hope that we have in Christ is the key to dealing with our sorrows in life. It's a hope that the unbelieving world doesn't have. You can believe it, my friend, because Jesus said so.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

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