Today, I wanted to share some thoughts about a Bible passage I’ve been studying. I have been working through 1 Thessalonians in all its details and am nearing the end of Chapter 3 of 5. I might begin from the beginning at some point in the future, but today I’d like to start with sharing some thoughts on some doctrinal lessons in 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16. Today’s focus will be Bibliology, the doctrine of the Bible. I am going to briefly cover the context of this passage, work through the meaning of the passage in context, and draw some doctrinal lessons which can then be applied. Note this process as a (hopefully) good example of how to study the Bible.
Overview of 1 Thessalonians
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul writes to this church as a follow-up letter to his original visit. It is properly divided into two primary sections, the personal section (1:3-3:13) and the practical section (4:1-5:22). In the initial personal section, Paul expresses thankfulness for them (1:3-10), shares his own heart for them (2:1-22), and verbalizes his desire that they be fruitful spiritually (3:1-13). Timothy was sent to them to learn how they were doing, and he brought back good news of them. In 2:13-16, Paul gives thanks a second time for their response to his ministry.
The Passage: Paul’s Thanks for the Thessalonian Response to the Word and Resultant Persecution
Paul begins this section expressing his thanks to God for their acceptance of the Word of God. (v13) Paul elaborates on their thanksgiving by noting that they had received the word from Paul and that they had considered it as a Word of God. In verses 14-16, he then noted that the Thessalonians were made imitators of the Jewish Christians because they were suffering from their own countrymen. This would recall back to some of Paul’s experiences in Thessalonica, which involved some from the Greeks as well as Jews (see Acts 17:1-10 for the full account). Paul proceeds to elaborate the things that the Jewish Christians had experienced at the hand of the Jews and adds further comments about the Jewish people’s condition at this time. In these verses, Paul is expressing his own heart for the Thessalonians, but he adds some comments which include some valuable doctrinal content. On this post, let’s look at what v13 tells us about the Word of God and how it applies to our beliefs about the Bible.
Paul’s Word and God’s Word
In v13 Paul describes the Thessalonian response to the Word of God, and in the process he shows a vital connection between God’s word and man’s word. On the one hand, he describes the Thessalonians as “receiving the word from us [who are] of God.” (translation my own, and throughout this paragraph unless otherwise noted). The way the verse is structured lays the emphasis on that they received the word of Paul. This wasn’t just some audible voice of God, neither was it the written word of God. Paul goes on further and explains that as the Thessalonians accepted this word did “accepted [it] not [as] a word from man, but as it truly is a word of God.” It would not do for the Thessalonians to have accepted a word from man, because man is nothing and there are plenty of human voices out there. No, the Thessalonian response was that they “accepted [it]…as…a word of God.” The reason that it had significance for them, the thing that made Paul’s words special was that they were the words of God. Now, there is a point of emphasis in what Paul says when he says “as it truly is a word of God.” (emphsis mine) The point is that there was nothing deficient about Paul’s word that made it less than an actual word of God Himself. It is a word of God. In this discussion, Paul well explains the human and divine elements of prophetic revelation. This is what Peter speaks of when he wrote “no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Pet. 2:21 NASB).
The Word of God and Scripture
In conclusion, in this passage, we see that the Thessalonians received the message from a man of God, and that by doing so they had actually accepted a word from God himself. This demonstrates the human and divine aspect of the revelation Paul had given to them, and that thus this can be applied rightly to the Bible itself. The doctrine of Scripture must affirm both the human and divine elements of the original autographs in order for us to be faithful to the truth about the Bible. I hope this has been helpful. I know it was very fruitful for me personally to dig in to what this one verse had to say about the word of God. The next post, which will cover 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 will be regarding what this passage has to say about Israeology, the study of Israel. There are some interpretive questions in that section, but I will attempt to give some thoughts about it and what it tells us about the Jewish people and what it has to do with us today.