Monday, January 26, 2009

Do you get along with others? 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

The central truth of the lesson, “Do you get along with others?,” can be illustrated using the proverb Ecclesiastes 4:12 , which says “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

How do personal relationships affect the strength of a local church? Take a spool of thread to class, and roll out a single strand. Show how it easily breaks when placed under stress. Next, roll out two strands and twist them together. Have the class guess whether or not this pair can be broken using the same stress as before. Go ahead and break the strands.

Take out of your pocket a cord made of many threads (prepared in advance). Ask the class if this cord will break under the same stress? Demonstrate that applying the same stress does not break the cord. Ask members to identify what is it about the individual strands that allows the cord not to be broken (ans. their relationship with other strands).

Liken this chord to a church that has strong relationships between its members. Indicate that the point of the lesson is to learn ways Christians can relate to each other to create strong churches.
P.S. Even simple binding combs as pictured could be used to introduce the many ways individuals can relate to each other to create a single unit.

1 comment:

PTT said...

Study of 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Our abundant life group at Bridgepointe Church in Taylors continues to study about the New Testament Bible Book of 1st Thessalonians. This week we are studying chapter 5. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16 Paul wrote that believers of the Thesselonian church must “Rejoice always!”

Does this mean that individual believers may never grieve or express sorrow?

If so, what are we supposed to do when a loved one passes away, or he or she is suffering with a serious health problem, or someone loses a job?

Chapter 12 of Paul's letter to the Roman church shows that a strict interpretation of that verse is incorrect. In Romans 12:15, Paul instructed believers to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.”

The Bible represents the revelation of God's truth to man. Therefore, one of the primary rules when interpreting the Bible is understanding that no part of the Bible may be interpreted so as to contradict another part. (See, The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy ; and N. Geisler, Explaining Hermeneutics: A Commentary on The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics Articles of Affirmation and Denial) Therefore, considering scriptural inerrancy, this post looks at how we must harmonize Paul's instruction in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 with what he wrote in verse 15 of Chapter 12 of Romans.

First, the instructions Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5, were directed at the group more so than at individual members of the church body. Bible hermaneutics demands that Bible scripture must be read in context. (See A. S. Kulikovsky, A Short Guide to Biblical Interpretation). The context of the entire paragraph above verse 16 shows the instruction to "rejoice always" was given to the group. (See verse 10, 11 and 13). Therefore, Paul is directing the command at church body as a whole.

The wisdom Paul is conveying here is that a church itself must never let itself sink into an atmosphere of gloom, despondency, and pessimism. Even when fire destroys our building, or our friends, brothers, and sisters are struck down by cancer, or they are laid off from their jobs, we must still remain joyful as a group. Paul is saying to us that no matter how bad things get, we still have hope in the Lord, our salvation. At the same time we may be mourning individually over such human losses, as a group we are to “Rejoice in hope.” Romans 12:12.

We place our trust in God rather than in our bank accounts, our health, or our personal and national security. We understand that Christ suffered, and sometimes we must also suffer. We understand that no matter how much suffering, persecution, and death smites us, we will always have joy in the knowledge of Christ, which means eternal life, faith, hope, and love. Therefore, as a group, we (by the power of the Holy Spirit and grace of the Lord) will ever be joyful and optimistic always . . . even in the worst of situations.

On the other hand, it is obvious Paul is not teaching that believers are supposed to run around laughing and smiling, while our friends, brothers, and sisters suffer. Nor are we supposed to advise them to buck up and be happy because that is God's will. Clearly, the Bible explains people who behave that way would not only be acting inappropriately on a cultural level, but also against God's will.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4, the Bible says:

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven: . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance . . . .
Thus, Paul's Letter and instructions set forth in Romans 12 is more in the context of how individual members of a congregation ought to behave toward one another. As, for example, Paul writes in Romans 12:10b, “Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Clearly, it would be inaccurate to interpret 1 Thessalonians 5:16 as a command to behave with false joy when such an emotions would be inappropriate. Instead, as individuals we should “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15. This means that we as individual believers must empathize with those who are suffering and reflect that sorrow as we comfort them in their trouble.

At the same time, as a group, we can never forget that when our time here passes we will be in a place with our Lord, a place of unimaginable love and rejoicing. It is that hope that should make believers "rejoice always!"