Lectionary Year A
November 3, 2002
I Thessalonians 2:9-13

Step IV: Context

A. Primitive Christianity

(JFC) Work, labor, toil, the first subject mentioned in this lection, was frequently on the minds of those early Christians. I Corinthians 4:12 Paul puts "the work of our hands" in a most unfavorable and unfortunate light. He feels put upon by his efforts as a minority witnessing to the faith. Evidently, Paul was a workaholic, "working night and day" more than once, see Acts 20:31. Then, in I Corinthians 4:14, he refers to addressees as "my beloved children", alluding again to the image of a "father dealing with his own children". "The Gospel brings swthri,a (Eph. 1:13, cf. I Cor. 15:2 . . .) It is du,namij eivj swthri,an (Rom. 1:16). In its proclamation is revealed the dikaios,vnh tou/ qeou/. The judgment exercised on men in the Gospel brings deliverance and justifies the sinner. Hence, to. euvagge,lion is the divine act of salvation. Judgment and grace are combined. Judgment is joy, for it destroys sin. In Rom. 1:16f. faith is the condition of the efficacy of the Gospel and yet the Gospel also effects faith. So in Phil. 1:27 faith arises through the Gospel and is again directed toward it. Faith is present with the Gospel," there, according to TDNT, II, p. 732. Also, Ephesians 4:1 repeats "leading a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called." Philippians 1:27 and Colossians 1:10 read alike. And, I Peter 5:10 refers to God's calling faithful believers "to glory in Christ . . ."

B. Old Testament and Judaism

(JFC) Genesis 3:17 God poetically makes the sinful man toil to eat (food) from the ground, although the Septuagint has ergon, instead of kopoj, as in I Thessalonians 2:9's first mention of Paul's labors there, while the second mention is by a verb from the noun ergon. And, the mortal laments in Psalm 90:10 that our days are full of much "toil and trouble", in the Septuagint, kopoj kai ponoj. The holy, righteous and blameless in the Old Testament are pictured as close to God, in God's presence and seen by God, which is a favorable viewing of those who do God's will faithfully. The good news (NT Gospel) gets brought and/or announced in Isaiah 40:9f, 41:27, 52:7 and 61:1. And, Jeremiah 9:20 commends the hearing/receiving God's Word from God, as our text's 13th verse does. Of course the Word of God is emphasized throughout the Old Testament, notably in Genesis 15:1 and 4, at least, Psalm 33:6f, where God's Word is said to have created the heavens and the waters, indicating figuratively, surely, the entirety of the created order. God's Word heals in Psalm 107:20 and it enlightens feet and paths in Psalm 199:105 and it proves true in Proverbs 30:5 and it will stand forever Isaiah 40:8 says, just to name a few.

C. Hellenistic World

(JFC) If these philosophers continued to emphasize the first syllable (eu) of the Greek word for Gospel (euaggelion), meaning "good", this term could capture their imagination and might focus their attention on what Paul writes at least long enough for them to discuss it and evaluate it favorably. Paul believed the Gospel could solve all the Hellenists' problems, Goppelt says somewhere. Behavior called holy, righteous, just, blameless, etc., also speaks their ethical language and might interest them to discern some of what Paul means here. Would these thinkers appreciate a lesser emphasis on rules and regulations in favor of a charge to leading a life that is appropriate for God's will and the Gospel's inspiration? They probably would resonate with any attempts, let alone, any encouragements to live lives worthy of God, too. The notion of God's Word coming less than from men alone might give them cause to object, if not, at least, feel awkward.

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