During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.
Wednesday, 2 December 2020 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
13. And for this we ourselves give thanks continually to God, that you welcomed what you heard from us not as human words, but as it truly is – the word of God – that is active among you who are believing.
14. Brothers and sisters, you became mimics of the churches in Messiah Jesus in Judea, because of the things you suffered from your people, just as they did from the Jews.
15. And these people, the ones who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out, are not trying to please God. They are against humanity.
16. They hindered us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they might be saved. The fullness of their sins always comes, which will be wrath to them at the end.
17. But we were orphaned from you, our brothers and sisters, for a little while, physically but not emotionally. We eagerly desired to see your face more than ever.
18. We wanted to come to you, I, Paul, tried one and twice, but was blocked by Satan.
19. For what is our hope, joy, or crown of boasting if not you, and you before our Lord Jesus at his coming?
20. You are our glory and joy.
The theme of mimicry emerges again, a holdover from 1:6. The difference is who is imitating whom. The church in Thessalonica is imitating, not by choice or pleasure but by necessity, the mother church in Jerusalem. Just as that church was persecuted by Jews, by their very people, so too the Thessalonians were persecuted by their own people. I wonder if this stung Paul to write, because he was the Jew of Jews who took such zeal in persecuting the primitive church? Was there a similar Paul-figure who ferociously persecuted the Thessalonians but then, saw the light, and turned, and became a Christ-follower? That would be some serious mimicry.
Paul describes these persecutors as being against humanity. The text is literally “all people” or “all human beings” with the word ‘anthropos’. I almost translated it as “against everyone” but decided humanity had a nice ring to it, for they are not just opposite of an idea, they are against human beings.
Paul wants to visit them, but Satan has blocked him. Satan has blocked Paul. That sounds incredibly personal. There is a school of thought out there that teaches evil is not a personification, that it is a great power but it is impersonal, like gravity or friction. But Paul did not see the universe that way. He understood there was an adversary who had lined up against him to stop him from doing certain things. I agree with Paul. I know there is an enemy out there and he is in stark opposition to me.
Questions For Application
- Is the word of God active in your life? Serious — does it have verbal powers to move and to change you, or is it just a noun that lies there?
- If you could imitate any church you’ve ever seen, which one would it be? Why? Now that you’ve done that exercise, how much persecution and pain has that church gone through? Are you wiling to go through that, to suffer, and to sacrifice?
- Is Satan blocking you right now? What are you going to do about it? (Note: Paul wrote this letter as a solution)
- Who is your glory and joy?