Ready Day 5 Truth We See: Digging Deeper

Digging Deeper Days

Finding the original intent of Scripture and making good application to our everyday lives as we become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Today is 2-for-1 Friday!
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The Questions

1) Who were forced to leave, why? What does Paul’s writing of this reveal about the church? (verse 17)

2) Why would Satan care about hindering the missionaries’ return to Thessalonica? (verse 18)

3) Why is Paul boasting about the Thessalonian church and why would he write this? (verses 19-20)

1 Thessalonians 2:17-20

17 But as for us, brothers and sisters, after we were forced to leave you for a short time (in person, not in heart), we greatly desired and made every effort to return and see you face to face. 18 So we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 Indeed you are our glory and joy!

Original Intent

1) Who were forced to leave, why? What does Paul’s writing of this reveal about the church? (verse 17)
Paul, Silas, and Timothy were the missionary team visiting the Thessalonians and planting house churches in that city. In a western mindset, we tend to think of “church” as being a building we choose to visit for a “worship service” once a week. However, in the first century, “the church in Thessalonica” who received Paul’s letters, encompassed all believers in the entire area of Thessalonica. The believers gathered regularly for teaching of Scripture, for sharing of all needs as they came up among them, for praying together, singing together, and sharing meals. (Acts 2:42-47) Groups of believers gathered in different geographic locations across the city based on where they lived. Wherever they needed to travel within the area, they knew they would be welcomed and find a safe haven with fellow believers in Jesus. The “church” of Thessalonica shared a unity among themselves as they all faced persecution together, prayed and worshipped together, and cared for one another together. The Jews of the city hated what was happening around them. Gentiles, and a few believing Jews, were being bound together in this sweetly shared unity of Jesus, and those on the outside were deeply offended, while also blatantly rejecting Jesus. The Messiah was Jewish. The chosen people of God were Jews. Gentiles were “dogs”, a racially charged term of degradation and slander. This palpable tension was the reason Paul, Silas, and Timothy were forced to leave Thessalonica after only a short time together with Thessalonian believers. (verse 17, Acts 17:5-10) 

2) Why would Satan care about hindering the missionaries’ return to Thessalonica? (verse 18)
Despite the intense opposition happening around them, the church in Thessalonica was flourishing and their faith was growing at a remarkable rate. God was empowering them to preach the gospel for which He had approved and entrusted them to share with all boldness. (1 Thessalonians 2:2-4) The Lord blessed their faithful obedience to His call and the church grew and was strengthened, and their faith was made known throughout the whole region! (1 Thessalonians 1:7) The enemy, Satan, strategizes to steal, kill, and destroy those who are committed to following Jesus whole-heartedly; He works in opposition against everything good and holy, and all of God’s purposeful designs. Satan’s desire for death colors everything from plants in nature to our relationships with others and God. He is especially intent on destroying the effectiveness of Christ’s church. He targets unity and peace because this directly mirrors the relationship between Father and Son through the Spirit (John 17:20-23). His favorite tactics include deception (John 8:44), isolation (Proverbs 18:1), distrust (Genesis 3:1), instilling fear (1 John 4:18), and breaking unity (Genesis 3:4-5). Satan recognized Paul’s influence and the strong encouragement he provided to the believers in Thessalonica. Therefore, in attempt to thwart church growth, unity, and encouragement, he actively worked against Paul through his travel plans.

3) Why is Paul boasting about the Thessalonian church and why would he write this? (verses 19-20)
This phrase can admittedly feel out of place in Scripture where the theme of humility runs deep. However, the backdrop of Christ’s own humility as He gave Himself entirely for us (Philippians 2:8), and His call for us to also daily lay down ourselves in like fashion (Philippians 2:3) allows Paul’s phrase to shine brightly of a boasting that is entirely “other”. “For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and joy!” (verses 19-20) First, note how Paul’s boasting hinges on Jesus, His presence, and His coming return to judge and reign forever. Paul recognizes how the only actions we can do that will truly echo into eternity are those done in selfless love for an audience of One, God Himself. In his letter to the Corinthians church, Paul wrote, “Love never ends. (…) Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love – but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:8, 13) Paul’s boast wasn’t about himself, but about the work God had done, and would faithfully preserve, through Paul’s sacrifice of love and deep, genuine investment as He followed God’s leading to preach and teach God’s message of hope. Second, Paul’s words again highlighted the sweetness of unity within the Body of Christ. Yes, Paul and his fellow missionaries had deeply invested themselves and faced severe persecution so the Thessalonians could hear about Jesus and grow richly as a church, but Paul didn’t focus on his sacrifice. Instead, he excitedly pointed to the Thessalonians saying, “You! You are our crown and joy! We have this celebration of victory together because of Jesus!”

Everyday Application

1) Who were forced to leave, why? What does Paul’s writing of this reveal about the church? (verse 17)
How many churches are located within a 10 mile (16 km) radius of you? If you live in a well-populated area in the western hemisphere, that number likely ranges between 30-60 unique churches. On the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean, there are about 17 churches. In the city of Jos, Nigeria in Africa, there are nearly 20 individual churches of different backgrounds. It can feel easy for any believer today to become so narrowly focused on “their” own church, they forget to carry the mindset that was so familiar for the first-century Christians. Though they met in separate houses due to logistics, they were all knit together across a region, and even beyond their borders as Paul evidenced in his letter. Paul ached in his heart to return “in-person” with the believers in Thessalonica. While I know I’ve experienced a longing to return “in-person” with my local church body of Christians during the year+ of Covid-19, I confess I don’t think as often as I would want of my brothers and sisters across the globe, let alone in my own city. In Jesus, the reality is that we are all knit together in the beautiful masterpiece called “Christ’s Bride”, the global Church. Paul knew his fellow Christians in Thessalonica faced persecution regularly because of their faith, and his letter indicated how firmly he stood with them, even though he was absent in body. Let’s all commit to taking an intentional step towards this kind of unity across the global church! Let’s pray fervently for believers in other countries, remembering that we are all part of each other. Take time to pray right now for God to stir your heart towards a specific country or people group. Research this area, then put reminders around your house to pray specifically, and often, for the believers there!

2) Why would Satan care about hindering the missionaries’ return to Thessalonica? (verse 18)
We might think this small tidbit of information, inspired by the Spirit of God and written down by Paul, is trivial and meaningless. So Paul’s travel plans were disrupted, so what? This miniscule snippet invites each of us to look closer and view our own lives from a different perspective, one where spiritual forces are at work through our physical world. (Ephesians 6:12) Every single believer in Jesus is in the middle of a spiritual battle, whether we choose to be aware of this reality or not. Sometimes, we are lulled to spiritual sleep because we have fallen prey to one of Satan’s many strategies to throw us off a whole-life, sacrificial worship to God. In these cases, the idea of spiritual warfare seems laughable, but simply because we are ignoring the battle, doesn’t mean it has ceased to wage. Rather, it means we have allowed the enemy to deceive us into a dangerous state of status quo. Paul was fully aware he, the other missionaries, and all believers in Thessalonica and across Asia, were continually at risk of being attacked by Satan. Peter writes in his letter, “Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8) This single verse should sound a clarion call to all of us, pressing us to examine our lives and be “sober minded and alert”, (1 Peter 5:8) watching for the tell-tale tactics of our enemy to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10) We don’t need to be idle in this battle. We can resist the enemy’s cunning ways by drawing close to God in prayer, surrounding ourselves with truth, donning His spiritual armor, and reading His word over ourselves and our circumstances!

3) Why is Paul boasting about the Thessalonian church and why would he write this? (verses 19-20)
As we spend the minutes and hours and years of our lives, we should remember that “only what is done for Christ will last”, as poet C.T. Studd eloquently wrote. We only have one life, and only the Lord God knows the number of our days. (Psalm 90:12) Therefore, we should live in whole surrender to our Lord for only here, can Christ bring about the work in and through us that will last forever! Just as Paul exuberantly boasted of how the Thessalonians were vibrantly growing in their faith, so can we point to areas where we have surrendered fully to Jesus and He is doing a good work. Eternal work will never come as a result of our power or ability, but only by His Spirit. (Zechariah 4:6) This work done on earth in total surrender will still be evidenced in Christ’s presence for all eternity! When Paul was being hunted down and his life was threatened because he obeyed God and taught the Thessalonians about Jesus, he didn’t instantly know the church there would flourish. Living in total surrender to Christ means we must learn to trust Him while we wait for His work to be made known. Whether you’re in a difficult marriage, financial struggles, or are losing a dear loved one to the ravages of a disease, it is hard to hold tightly to hope, because we cannot see the coming flourishing. Nevertheless, if we are living with open-handed surrender and worship to the Lord Jesus, trusting Him for redemption, He will most certainly bring abundance by His Spirit, even if it isn’t what we were expecting!

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Digging Deeper is for Everyone!

1) Take this passage (or any other passage).
2) Read it, and the verses around it,
several times
3) Write down your questions
as you think of them.
4) Ask specific culture related questions and be ready to dig around for your answers. Google them, use www.studylight.org, or look them up in a study Bible and read the footnotes (click on the little letters next to a word and it will show you
other related verses!). (www.esvbible.org)
5) Check your applications with other trusted Christians that you are in community with and embrace the fullness of God
in your everyday!

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Why Dig Deeper?

Finding the original meaning is a huge deal when we study Scripture and can make all the difference in our understanding as we apply God’s truths to our everyday lives.

In our modern-day relationships, we want people to understand our original intention as we communicate; how much more so between God and humanity?!

Here’s a little bit more on why we take Digging Deeper so seriously.

Study Tools

We love getting help while we study and www.studylight.org is one of many excellent resources, providing the original Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament) with an English translation.

Want to know more about a specific word in a verse? Click on “Strong’s Interlinear Bible” then click the word you’d like to study. Discover “origin”, “definition” and hear the original pronunciation – That Is Awesome!

Want more background? Click “Study Tools”, then pick a few commentaries to read their scholarly approach, keeping in mind that just because a commentary says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. (just like the internet :-))

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