By Chuck Griffin
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 (NLT)
Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.
And then, dear brothers and sisters, you suffered persecution from your own countrymen. In this way, you imitated the believers in God’s churches in Judea who, because of their belief in Christ Jesus, suffered from their own people, the Jews. For some of the Jews killed the prophets, and some even killed the Lord Jesus. Now they have persecuted us, too. They fail to please God and work against all humanity as they try to keep us from preaching the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles. By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins. But the anger of God has caught up with them at last.
Is it from God?
Whenever we hear a pronouncement from another human being regarding what we should believe or do, “Is it from God?” is the obvious question any Christian needs to answer.
All sorts of people claim to speak truth, supposedly looking out for the best interests of their audiences. These people can be quite eloquent at times. Hearing them, we can find ourselves moved intellectually or emotionally.
The Christians of Thessalonica came to their beliefs while living in a politically important trade center, a place where ideas would have flowed as easily as goods. There was much to be heard, and there were many ways to live.
Paul commended them because in the midst of all of that, they had recognized the declaration of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to be a message from God, changing their lives accordingly despite the ongoing persecution they experienced.
Paul and his colleagues obviously had help from the Holy Spirit, whom we believe goes ahead of us as we spread the Good News. With their hearts readied by God’s constant-if-subtle grace, some of the people of Thessalonica were able to perceive Paul’s words about Jesus Christ to be from God. They heard the Christian message despite the general buzz around them.
If a miracle is God intervening in the normal course of events, then it’s a miracle any time such conversion happens. Non-Christians encountering the message of Jesus Christ as Lord have a tough time stepping toward belief. They have to decide first of all if the existence of a loving God makes sense to them.
They then must figure out if they can trust that God loves them despite their sins and accompanying sense of unworthiness. None of us can reach such a state of belief without a little prodding and guidance from the Holy Spirit, and help from Spirit-inspired people.
Having accepted Christ as Savior, we should have an easier path, assuming our discipleship has gone well. “Is it from God?” can be answered using sources we have learned to trust, in particular God’s word as revealed in the Holy Bible.
Once we have established a broad understanding of the Bible’s message, and especially after working our way through the nuances of some of the finer details of Scripture, we have a kind of touchstone, a way to test the purity of what we encounter in the world.
Let’s just remember to use it, particularly in these trying times.
Lord, we thank you that you love us so much that you have revealed yourself repeatedly through the centuries. We recommit ourselves today to the idea that all truth is rooted in action, the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Amen.