Jan 4, 2019 · Courtney Jacob
Does the Gospel speak to the issues we encounter in our world and lives today?
According to a recent Gallup poll most Americans would say no. When asked, “Do you believe that religion can answer all or most of today’s problems, or that religion is largely old-fashioned and out of date?” 46%, less than half, of Americans believe religion can answer today’s problems, a record low.
It’s true that much has changed since Jesus walked on earth. Our technology is drastically more advanced, our science and medicine more sophisticated, and our news and culture more international in reach. And our problems, issues, and discussions about morality reflect these advances and changes.
Yet the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians addresses moral and theological questions quite similar to issues we’re discussing today. In our Groundwork series “1 Thessalonians” we examine Paul’s first letter written to the Thessalonians and recognize the gospel’s continued relevance to the issues in our lives and society today.
The Gospel in Thessalonica
The Apostle Paul brought the good news of Jesus Christ to the port city of Thessalonica during his second missionary journey, which scholars agree took place between A.D. 49-52. He started by reasoning and preaching in the Jewish synagogue. Some Jews and many “God-fearing Greeks” were convinced by his message that Christ had to suffer and die, but was raised from the dead. But his teaching left some of the Jews disgruntled and the believers of Thessalonica thought it best to send Paul away (for a more detailed account of his visit to Thessalonica, read Acts 17:1-15).
The church Paul began in Thessalonica was young and many of its Christians lacked a history and familiarity with the Jewish scriptures. So it’s not too surprising that he felt compelled to write to them; being rushed out of Thessalonica prematurely meant the roots of faith were still forming and Paul felt it necessary to continue instructing the new believers even though he was not with them in person. In his first letter we find instruction on both doctrine and faithful living.
1 Thessalonians and Today’s Problems
What problems do you experience as a Christian today? How you answer might depend on whether you’re thinking about your own efforts to understand and live out your faith or if you’re thinking about culture and society at large. In a few short chapters, Paul instructs the Thessalonians on both.
Paul opens his letter to the Thessalonians focused on the gospel message: all you need is Jesus Christ. Once he’s sure they’ve heard his consistent message once again, he goes on. Like us, the Thessalonians needed to know who they could trust and who had the authority to share God’s word. They needed help balancing the letter of the law and the heart of the law; Paul addresses sexual morality because he can see they need guidance regarding how to live in a culture at odds with their faith. Sound familiar?
He speaks into the confusion about death and Christ’s return, a topic that we still find mysterious today. He knows the Thessalonians will be challenged for their faith and beliefs, and while he does not give them black-and-white, clearly defined answers, he equips and challenges them to practice discernment. Consequently, we can take the heart of his teaching and easily apply it to how we live out our faith in our own present-day circumstances.
The Gospel’s Impact on Our Faith
Year after year, decade after decade, and century after century, the good news of the gospel has remained consistent. I invite you to create space for gospel transformation and study the tools Paul provides for navigating the ethics of our faith through our Groundwork series “1 Thessalonians”
- All You Need - 1 Thessalonians 1
- Pleasing God Not People - 1 Thessalonians 2
- Genuine Faith Influences Behavior - 1 Thessalonians 3:1-4:12
- Understanding Death and Christ’s Return - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
- Advice for the Christian Life - 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
...and together we’ll grow in the always relevant faith, hope, and love of the gospel.