“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 38: AUGUST 29
1 THESSALONIANS 1 – HEBREWS 13:25
Today we read the last of Paul’s letters. As I mentioned yesterday, I like Paul. He comes across as almost ferocious at times in his epistles, but we know that everything he wrote and said and did was toward the betterment of those who looked to him for guidance. He didn’t mince his words, and he chose to be plain-spoken rather than to use a bed-side manner. His goal was to set a real-life example of what it means to be a believer, using Jesus as his example. Jesus hasn’t been with us in physical form for nearly 2000 years, so his followers have to set real-life examples to guide others. This is our job as Christians.
The example doesn’t change, the message doesn’t change; the only things that change are the words we use and how we deliver the message. We may use different words than Jesus and Paul, but our words have the same meaning as theirs. We may use a different delivery method than Jesus and Paul, but there’s no reason why it can’t be just as effective as theirs. If God’s Spirit is truly with us in our labours for the Kingdom, the message will get through loud and clear, regardless of our language or method of delivery.
- Throughout the letters we read today, Paul reminds the church that serving God is not without trials and tribulations, and that some of the tribulations will come from within the ranks of the church itself. False apostles, false prophets, and general all-round deceivers and inhibitors of the Word are not a phenomenon of the 20th and 21st centuries; they were a problem even in Paul’s day.
- A two-step approach is recommended to deal with people who misrepresent the Word. First, take them aside and explain to them where they’re going wrong. Don’t do this publicly and don’t try to humiliate them in front of others. Do it privately. If they don’t heed your advice and continue to preach “another gospel”, steer clear of them, warn other believers about them, and leave them for God to sort out. Pray for them, but let them be.
- Paul also advises us to live our lives always in anticipation of Jesus’ return. He reminds us that Jesus will come like a thief in the night, that is, while we’re asleep and most vulnerable. It will be too late at that point for us to prepare our souls. The time for doing what needs to be done is now.
- As well, Paul mentions the falling away that must occur before Jesus returns, along with the rise of the “son of perdition” who will demand to be worshiped as God. These events are moveable in their dates, but will definitely occur. We already see a very great falling away that is getting progressively worse with each generation. For every person who’s born-again, tens of thousands or more fall away. Even so, God’s Spirit remains as strong as it ever was. The Kingdom doesn’t diminish with the falling away of people. On the contrary, those who remain faithful to God become even stronger. A larger portion of God’s Spirit is given to them, according to the measure God deems appropriate.
- The description of the people who will live in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-7) is hauntingly close to the people we see today in the world. I see myself in the description, that is, the me I was before I was born-again. Paul calls the age that will have such people “perilous times”. It’s hard to disagree. Soon we won’t even be able to buy food without showing proof we’ve been injected with serpent’s venom. How did things get so bad? People turned from God, one by one by one by one. You turn from serving God, the only option is to serve the devil. He will come in and make his home with those people, and they will do his work. That is the world today.
- Paul’s letters to Timothy are quite touching. You can tell he’s trying not to fuss over him, but he doesn’t want Timothy to fall prey to the same snares that Paul himself might previously have fallen prey to. Paul’s like a mother and a father and an aunt and an uncle all rolled into one. That’s what happens when you start to groom those to take over your role. You want to protect them from making the same mistakes as you, but at the same time you need to let them make their own mistakes, as we learn best that way (through mistakes).
- Paul’s instruction for women to remain silent in the church was problematic for me today. So I asked God how I’m supposed to receive this instruction, and he said: “But you are silent; you don’t use audio on your blog.” 😀
- The authorship of Hebrews is still unsettled. It could have been written by Paul, or it could have been written by Luke or someone else close to Paul. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who wrote it; God speaks through it. That’s all that matters.
- The gist of Hebrews is the primacy of Jesus’ sacrifice over the dead works of the law, the primacy of faith over the dead works of the law, the replacement of the old covenant (what eventually became the Old Testament) with the new, and the importance of following Jesus as our example of how to live. The author also reminds us that following Jesus is going to bring us hardship in this world, but that whatever we suffer here is worth it for the reward of Heaven.
- Just a final note today on how people in Old Testament times used to get sprinkled by priests with the blood of sacrificial animals. This was done as a form of blessing and protection. They would even sprinkle blood on the scrolls containing God’s Word. So I’m sitting here thinking what those scrolls must have looked like (and smelled like) after being sprinkled with blood countless times. I’m really glad we don’t do that anymore! And I’m guessing that this ritual is the origin of the sprinkling of people with “holy water” that is done today by priests during masses and other events in the Catholic church. Here again is something that doesn’t need to be done (Catholicism is full of things that don’t need to be done). Jesus put an end to the need to be sprinkled by priests, whether with blood or alleged holy water. Catholic leaders seriously need to crack open a Bible and read it, rather than just holding it up like a trophy during their processions.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.