Wednesday 09 December 2020

Bible Book:
1 Thessalonians

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (v. 11)

1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11 Wednesday 9 December 2020

Psalm 37:1-11


Today we continue to read Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica as he tells them to watch for the return of Jesus. In the previous chapter of this letter, Paul reminded the Thessalonians not to be worried about those who have died, as all the faithful will encounter Jesus when he returns (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

For the early Christians, and for many millions since, the image of Jesus returning to put the world to rights and establish the Kingdom of God was a source of hope. The world needs to live in harmony with its Creator, in fellowship with its Lord, at peace with one another – and the troubles that stem from constant enmity, selfishness and resistance to God’s will are plain to see. We need the reconciliation of earth and heaven that was begun on the Cross, enacted in the Resurrection and Ascension, and imagined in Revelation 21 and 22. How or when it will occur, however, Jesus and the rest of the New Testament tells us is unknown, and it is pointless to try to pinpoint it. All we know is that it will come unexpectedly, like “a thief in the night” (v. 2).

Nevertheless, the promise is there and has been a beacon of hope to many through times of famine, war, disease and persecution. For many people this year whose lives have been turned upside down by Covid-19 and lockdown, the hope of the return of Christ may be needed more than ever before. The early Christians expected Jesus’ return imminently, yet he did not come – but then the point of Jesus’ teachings is that we should all live as if we expect it imminently. Indeed, none of us know when our time will be up and we will be transported through death to meet the Lord ourselves.

So, read this passage again slowly. Hear Paul’s loving instructions to keep awake, to stay alert, to live as children of the light; to surround our hearts with faith and love (the breastplate), to keep the hope of salvation at the forefront of our minds (the helmet), and to endure the labour pains because new life and joy will emerge.

Finally, as a Church, Paul urges the Thessalonians (and ourselves) to keep on encouraging one another and to build each other up. Whether or not you find the apocalyptic imagery of Christ returning helpful, this is something we all need to do. Our salvation is not an individual pursuit. If we cannot help one another along the way, then we have a long way to go before we are ready for the kingdom to come!

To Ponder:

  • How do you encourage your fellow Christians and how do they build you up?
  • What further instructions are helpful for us today? In the weeks to come you might like to meditate on today’s reading and on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 – as ways of living as ‘Advent People’.
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