Sunday, February 28, 2010

Setting the Record Straight – 2 Thessalonians

TEACHERS HAVE A DIVINELY APPOINTED FUNCTION. Their purpose is to patiently but firmly instruct their pupils—fully expecting that they’ll necessarily have to repeat themselves, often, in the course of their duties.

So just why do some teachers get cranky with their students? I guess it’s a character test we will at times fail. Combine the circumstance of students who won’t listen, with a poor start to the teacher’s day and that is often a recipe for a calamitous collision!

But this is not the mood we find Paul in as he writes his second letter to the Thessalonians. He writes from a “fiercely protective pastoral”[1] perspective, noting with grave concern the sharpening divide between the afflicted—who receive his letter—and those persecuting them.

And perhaps this is his chief motivation; doubly attending with ardour, the focus and explanation of the Parousia[2] in both the light of doctrinal confusion (see 1 Thessalonians as context) and in the mix of the Thessalonians’ then present dire circumstances. Paul was hoping to achieve both ends—the Thessalonians’ proper understanding, by using as a living illustration, the suffering the Thessalonians were then experiencing, personally, as a means of showering them with God’s hope.

Paul and his fellow travelling companions, of course, knew what stern opposition they had in the bustling port city of Thessalonica almost as soon as they arrived from Philippi.

In preaching there—for three consecutive Sabbaths, as was his tradition (Acts 17:2), in trying to convince the Jews that Jesus was in fact the long sought after Messiah—he raised a huge ruckus with the Parousia the endemic catalyst. It was ruse really for the trouble-making Jews so they could dispose of Paul for ‘such a direct challenge to the Emperor.’[3] Jesus was a threat to Roman control and the Jews played this card continually.

This is the context for the Thessalonians—it was an aggressive opposition this infantile church faced. Despite their promise and the broad faithfulness they were displaying, there were chinks in their armour and this is addressed by Paul again in the second letter.

As teacher, confidant and spiritual guide (and so much more!), Paul was loving with the Thessalonians as a mother or father would be with their kids (1 Thessalonians 2). As teachers we too have much to learn in his gently chiding and patient style.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Philip Greenslade, 1 & 2 Thessalonians – The Coming that Completes the Story (Surrey, England: Crusade for World Revival, 2004), p. 13.

[2] Parousia means: coming of Jesus, second arrival, advent; also: personal presence.

[3] In the original context, it was high treason to put another ruler’s coming against Caesar’s.

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