Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Promise to the Persecuted

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
1 and 2 Thessalonians
Lesson 11: “Promise to the Persecuted (2 Thess. 1:1-12)”
We have a rich history in what will bring spiritual revival and empower evangelism in our church. We can learn from this history what will bring revival from today forward. This should be our mission statement: “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message [is] to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It present[s] justification through faith in the Surety; it invite[s] the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. ... All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.” [1] Paul knew this message both in his life and his ministry, and we study it again this week.
“Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess.1:1).* Paul makes a unique connection between the corporate church and their relation to God and Jesus. God as “our father,” whom we are “in” as a corporate church and as individuals, is nothing like our earthly fathers, as wonderful as they may be to some, are fathers of human limitations.
So to be “in the father and in Christ” is to realize your new status in God’s family, a member of the heavenly and divine family. This makes God our new parent with new spiritual and life experiences, which in God’s time, results in dramatic healing emotionally and spiritually. The verse that is most remarkable concerning our new standing in Him says, “He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7).
In the original language, to be in the Father and the Son implies that we are deeply connected with our God and His Son, which interestingly enough brings us into conflict with the way the world functions. Paul and John wrote of an intimate kinship with God and Christwhich results in both power and blessing. Jesus spoke openly about this: “But if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38; see also John 14:10).
When we receive our strength from the Father and Son through the ministry of the Holy Spirit we have embraced a greater understanding of who our Savior truly is. This magnifies and builds up our fellowship with God because we are being recreated and made new in God, and God is free to empower us and His church to do the works He prepared in advance for us. Notice where the power comes from! Jesus said; “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:21, emphasis added).
We have not yet fully understood this as a church. When it is embraced the result will be a greater experience, but we will expect to meet opposition, persecution, and rejection, not because of a set of behaviors, but because of a new heart and a mind full of God’s agenda and not our own. Unconditional love for God and our neighbor is not popular, but it is righteousness. When we embrace this gospel that is to go to the whole world, the world will take notice and put us on notice. Opposition will come from both directions, outside the body and inside the body of Christ.
Paul experienced that opposition: “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition” (1 Thess. 2:2). The opposition was not because of Paul’s Sabbath-keeping nor was it because he acted prejudicially toward the gentiles; it was because Paul wanted everyone to know the greatest news in the whole world. This clashed with the ways of the conservative and enlightened Jews, and the non-believing community itself. Paul introduced everyone to a new family in God and in Christ.
The persecution from within and without the church comes because of our complete surrender and belonging to this family that loves unconditionally, and extends the same grace freely to all the unlovely people of the world just as Christ Himself did! When we come to understand and personally experience being “in Christ” we will experience persecution. The world despises those who love others without conditions, who will speak of injustices, and will call the church to a greater experience in Christ, and will surrender their critical and judgmental spirit and walk as did ChristThe Bible says, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).
“Our greatest trials will come from those who profess godliness. It was so with the world’s Redeemer; it will be so with His followers. … Those who are in earnest to win the crown of eternal life need not be surprised or disheartened because at every step toward the heavenly Canaan they meet with obstacles and encounter trials. ... The Savior knows what is best. Faith grows by conflict with doubt and difficulty and trial. Virtue gathers strength by resistance to temptation.” [2] Also consider the following thought: “The apostle Paul warns us that ‘some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.’ This is what we may expect. Our greatest trials will come because of that class who have once advocated the truth, but who turn from it to the world, and trample it under their feet in hate and derision.” [3]
We must be willing to remember our early history. We went through an experience in the early days of the formation of our church when the message of righteousness by faith came to the forefront as the message we are to give to the world. There was immediate persecution of those who were willing to preach what Jesus preached and what Paul proclaimed to the world of his day.
The phrase, “To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” describes a corporate church life that will create persecution. It is a strange thing but the persecution will be generated by those who live by faith in their performance of God’s law.
The new church in Thessalonica was on the road to approaching the second coming of Jesus, just as we are today. But there is an “umbrella” over us: we are in God and in Christ to see us through the journey, by trusting in them in their fellowship with us, and in empowering us as a church and as individuals.
--Stephen McCandless
* Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.
Endnotes (Ellen G. White):
[1] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[2] Our High Calling, p. 361.
[3] Evangelism, pp. 624, 625.
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