Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
1 and 2 Thessalonians
Lesson 6: "Friends Forever (1 Thess. 2:13-3:13)"
It is always amazing to do some travels and tours of Turkey and Greece in tracing the footsteps of the Apostle Paul of many years ago. This journey opened my eyes to appreciate what great labor of love that Paul harbored in his life in spreading the Good News to all the various places he traveled by foot and across the sea.
Our study of 1 Thessalonians 2:13-3:13 will takes us into a place where Paul had developed friends in Christ. Let us zoom in where Paul spent a month or two in Thessalonica (present day Thessaloniki, Greece), which was the capital of Roman Macedonia. The Egnatian Road, which connected the East with Rome, became an important commercial trade route of Thessalonica. Paul addressed this young church in Thessalonica for three Sabbaths, as indicated in Acts 17:1-5, preaching in the synagogue, and he was invited to fellowship in the home of Jason, Acts 17:7. This was an intensive Bible study to these new believers in Christ, and in nurturing them to be strongly grounded in the Gospel.
The church in Thessalonica comprised a majority of Gentiles, Greeks, and some Scripture-loving Jews. Major opposition arose which necessitated the Apostle Paul be sent to Athens. In his place, he had his young co-worker, Timothy, carry on with the ministry of the Good News. The follow up report from Timothy to Paul, was that the church in Thessalonica rejoiced over the Gospel and longed to see Paul again. This intensive Bible study that the Apostle Paul delivered for weeks and months had created a special bonding of friendship with the new believers in Thessalonica. This is the action of agape, the power of God's love generating in the heart joy and spreading outward!
This Good News of God's agape-love is the foundation of the message brought to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1888. There is a recommended reading of The Good News is Better Than You Think that you don't want to miss. Read chapter 3, where you see that God's love is active, not passive, which ties in to what Paul was emphasizing in his ministry wherever he went.* Also read all the way through John 3 to see how Jesus' explanation of the new birth is also very Good News. Agape is what "turns the world upside down" (Acts 17:6).
The Greek term agape means love, the same love you see in 1 John 4:8, "God is love." There is a distinction between God's love, agape, compared to human love (eros, in the Greek is the word from which we get our word erotic). When one experiences a new, converted life in Christ, it is a deep, longing fellowship with God which constrains us to lay down our old selfish nature, "I". Christ took the steps to identify with our humanity. By this God has shown His love to man. He expresses His deep love for us. You don't see this in any other god that can lay down his life for our salvation. What a friend we have in Jesus! We can sing this hymn each day to uplift God's influential love.
"True, heaven-born love is not selfish and changeable. It is not dependent on human praise. The heart of him who receives the grace of God overflows with love for God and for those for whom Christ died. Self is not struggling for recognition. He does not love others because they love and please him, because they appreciate his merits, but because they are Christ's purchased possession" (Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 101,102).
"It is not the fear of punishment or the hope of everlasting reward that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour's matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary's cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow him" (The Desire of Ages, p. 480).
"Supreme love for God and unselfish love for one another--this is the best gift that our heavenly Father can bestow. This love is not an impulse, but a divine principle, a permanent power. The unconsecrated heart cannot originate or produce it. Only in the heart where Jesus reigns is it found. 'We love Him, because He first loved us.' In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the ruling principle of action. It modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the soul, sweetens the life and sheds a refining influence on all around" (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 551).
May you constantly experience a new heart transplant in Him daily and be energized by His compelling love. I am speaking to you as a cardiac nurse. Don't let all those diseases of "I-itis" weigh you down. Live as His new creation, rejoicing in Him, in His grace. Many prayers to you my dearest friends in Christ!
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