The Lord Jesus is coming again. This is the basic theme of Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian believers. The Lord Himself shall come down from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and we shall meet the Lord in the air and so be with him forever. And all the people said: Amen! Whether we are asleep in the Lord or alive at his coming, we shall be gathered up when He comes to redeem His Church from the world.
Paul had answered the question of the hour put to him by the believers at Thessalonica. But Paul, always believing that theology should have a practical side to it, shifts the emphasis from the theology of the 2nd Coming to the nitty-gritty of daily living in light of the 2nd Coming. Paul is concerned that these believers know that the Lord is returning for them. He is also concerned about how they live while they wait for this glorious event to take place.
In vv. 12-22 of chapter five, Paul gives the Thessalonian Christians some final instructions on living while they wait for the Lord's return. It’s solid advise for the church even today!
My first inclination was to expound ever so briefly upon all seven directives. But you don’t want to listen to a three-hour sermon, any more than I want to preach one, so let me direct your attention to vv. 12-15, which teach us how we are to relate to other specific groups of people in the Body of Christ.
The two greatest commands, on which, according to Jesus, everything else in church life depends, are concerned with relationships—with God first, and one another second. It is because God is so concerned with the creating of the church as his community, that so much of the New Testament deals with relationships. Jesus spent about three years seeking to build a small group of followers into a true community. Virtually 45% of the letters of the New Testament are about how we should get along with one another.
With this in mind, let me outline for you tonight, three specific groups of people within the Body of Christ, and how we are to relate to them.
When will Jesus come again? No one knows. Our responsibility is not to know the time of His coming. Our responsibility is to live faithfully while we wait for that great event. Faithful living involves many different relationships. It involves relationships with church leaders, and with fellow believers— some of whom have some real needs in their lives. We need to strive to mature in all of these relationships.
I like the definition of the church given by theologian Andrew Kirk:
"What the New Testament means by the Church is not an institution which owns property, performs rites and organises meetings, or even one that plans strategies to evangelise unreached people. Rather, it is a group of ordinary people who, because they are experiencing the immense grace of a compassionate God, are learning how to overcome hostility between people, forgive and trust one another, share what they have and encourage one another in wholesome and joyous relationships."