Views of Scripture have changed dramatically in our nation in recent decades. It used to be the case that many people, even those who attended church only sporadically or who didn’t consider themselves particularly religious, still had great respect for the Bible.
Today, the opposite is true. Only one third of Americans believe the Bible is the literal Word of God. One in five Americans (20.6 percent) say the Bible is a book of fables, a number up 41 percent since 1984. An American Bible Society survey revealed that 26 percent of adult Americans never read the Bible and 48 percent read it less than once or twice a year.
Our culture doesn’t share Christian values and has become increasingly antagonistic toward what we believe.
Without doubt, this month’s study of Paul’s letters to the church at Thessalonica is both timely and relevant. Paul was writing to encourage the Thessalonians to remain strong in their faith. Thessalonica was a large city with an estimated 200,000 citizens. The city contained the principal seaport of Macedonia, making it prosperous and influential in the Roman world. Thessalonica was also known as a center for pagan Greek religions; some have nicknamed it “Sin City.”
Paul and Timothy originally visited the church on their second missionary journey, as recorded in Acts 17. Thessalonica was the second place the gospel was preached in Europe. Many of the converts in Thessalonica were not Jewish—this was predominantly a church of Gentile converts.
When Paul was forced to leave, he sent Timothy back with letters to the Thessalonian believers. Despite persecution, the Thessalonian church was prospering. The letters contain words of encouragement, but also warnings about false teachers and advice for living in the face of persecution. Paul speaks specifically about the Day of the Lord and the return of Christ.
The Apostle encourages believers to live today in such a way that they are mindful of the future. The emphasis is not just on the events to come, however—our attention is fixed on Whom we serve. Our God is faithful: “Faithful is He who calls you ...” (1Thess. 5:24). Because we serve a faithful God, we can be prepared for persecution. We can remain strong. We can discern false teaching. We can avoid immorality and live holy lives today in light of our eternal future with Him.
We are called into God’s eternal kingdom. In 1 Thessalonians 2:12, Paul writes,“Walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” With this assurance, we can remain committed to holiness no matter how difficult the circumstances.