So, just what did the early, New Testament Church really look like? In the day-to-day. In the highways and byways. In flesh and blood. What did it look like? We tend to treat the Bible, the early church, and the Apostles with much-to-much a fantastical whimsy. Like it was the fairy tale heyday for the Church and will really never be attainable again for us down the line, in the future.
Well…I don’t believe any of that.
These were people, see, and they were people like you and me. With real-life problems and pains and issues and persecutions and sufferings and trials. Now, let’s look at them in this Thessalonian Checklist as if we could be just like them—bunged up, but beautiful in the Holy Spirit.
1:2—The Apostles, apostles (there’s a difference) and the early Christians prayed all the time and every day. It was vital. It was connection. You should really consider praying more.
1:5-6—The New Testament Church was Spirit-filled, end of story. They were directed by, led, comforted, and helped by the Spirit. If you don’t have the baptism of the power of the Holy Ghost, you may want to look into that.
And they suffered. Not, “I broke my cell phone” suffering, but scary, hard trials that caused them to seek God and need each other.
1:7-9—Our faith and growth and perseverance causes us to be good examples to other believers. Our walks, our ministries, our families…all that we do…should cause others to want to be like us. We are His witnesses.
1:10—It is an airtight doctrine of the first Followers of the Way: they were looking for the soon and eminent return of Jesus Christ. Not as a Lamb, but as a Lion. If we lose our gift of Eminency, we grow lax and slack. Let’s NOT do this.
2:1-6—the Apostles would also like to remind us that, guess what kids, ministry is hard. There is difficulty. There is strain. Hours are long. Pay is nil. And there is opposition to boot. You mean, it’s not all cool websites, eating out, and hipster clothes? Sign me up! However you slice it, this WILL be hard and we MUST press on.
2:7—these were apostolic folk, y’all. Or “apostolos” in Greek. Simply put, we still have these type today: messengers, sent ones, missionaries, church-planters, you get the idea. And, oh yeah, we need more to recognize there apostolic callings…’till the whole world knows.
2:9—The Early Church knew many a hard-working minister of the Gospel. Paul, Timothy, and Silas seemed to slave day and night for the ministry and still found a little time for “tent-making” so they could pay for the most basic necessities. I think we all could learn a lot from staying hard-working in and out of the ministry.
2:14—Oh look…sheesh…more suffering and difficulty. And let us not forget, Jesus told us that some of the worst persecution would come from those closest to home. Family, friends, and “countrymen” can bring the cruelest accusations and mockery. Yes, young padawan, this is the ugly side of Christianity. “If you do not HATE…you cannot be My disciple.” Whoa.
2:17-20—Just a basic reminder to us, from our First-Century counterparts, there will be Satanic interference in our lives, but there will also be great spiritual rewards. Mostly because Satan is real, but so is heaven. Thank you.
3:1-5—these folks kept track of one another. They were accountable, teachable, and went to great lengths to bring encouragement to each new church or believer. We definitely need more “needing one another” in the church today. Away with the lone ranger Christian.
3:6-8—Even though, in this chapter, suffering and trials are again mentioned…in this light, we see the need for keeping track of one another. How much of a blessing is it, to the local church body, when you hear of the Lord’s exploits far and wide and the furthering of the Gospel in many directions.
3:9-10—A note for ministry students and those already ministering: get in God’s Presence regularly, like more than you think you should. This says that they sought the Lord, interceded for the churches, the believers…day and night. This was serious. This was a big deal. Shut off the TV. Get off the Internet. Seek the Lord more.
3:11—And just to be sure you get the point, verse 11 offers a real-life, simple but profound, prayer. A great example prayer just in case we can’t figure out how to do it. It seems to flow effortlessly and ceaselessly from the lips and hearts of the apostles.
Next time, we will finish chapter four and five looking at the Divine Checklist.