The great theologian Colin Buchanan said that the greatest treasure in the whole wide world is peace with God. It would seem that the world would mostly agree with him, just not about the God bit.
We have a very false sense of peace and security in our world.
Peace by definition is the absence of conflict. The problem our world will not acknowledge is that the conflict is not ‘out there’ against the physical enemy, it is in our very own hearts.
Paul was aware of this, and reminds the believers at Thessalonica about their need for a more lasting and secure peace than what the world offers.
Peace that lasts for eternity will not come on our terms. It’s God’s plan, and in His plan, peace comes through judgement. Both the first and second Advent of Christ prove this to be true.
Although the world will be caught completely off guard at His return, believers will not be surprised but ready.
1 – The World’s False Peace v 2,3
There are three metaphors Paul using in showing what the day of the Lord will be like for those who are not prepared for it:
like a thief in the night
All is well is the message we want to believe, and it’s the one we tell ourselves sometimes, despite epidemics, terrorist wars, and a constant fear of death.
If we are not careful, we will buy into this lie that the world offers – “Peace”.
Our sinful definition of peace is that we are at rest within ourselves, that we would be happy, that we would have all we need in this life, even if it is as the expense of others. Our peace is a cheap, flimsy notion that we can be our own saviors. We can be good enough, wise enough, and strong enough to overcome any obstacle set in our way. We will overcome, and we will create our own peace.
What would steal this false notion of world peace away? It would take a thief of greater wisdom and greater strength than us mere humans.
Christ’s return will come like a thief in the night. While the world is in darkness, asleep to it’s real predicament, He will come and steal away their sense of peace and bring the consequences that always come when we place our idea of peace above having peace with God.
like sudden destruction
Not only will this false peace and security be stolen away at Christ’s return, but He is coming as a conquering King.
It will be like military invasion that the world never saw coming, and it will be sudden and destructive. Shock and awe maybe a type of warfare we have seen in our generation, but it doesn’t compare with the pure holiness and righteous judgement that will be manifest when Christ Himself appears.
like birth pains
In the times Paul wrote, with such a high death rate in childbirth for both the woman and the child, the first contractions of a woman in labour were not always welcome, even though everyone knew it would have to come eventually. Sometimes the onset of contractions meant facing possible death.
Even without the fear of death, birth pains can ‘catch’ a woman off guard, leaving her helpless and dependent on others, not able to move, and weak.
Other places in Scripture use this same metaphor for the return of Christ – that it would be the beginning of birth pains ( Matthew 24:8, Mark 13:8).
For the unbeliever, Christ’s return will be like suddenly going into labour, not knowing you were even expecting!
The thing with all these metaphors that Paul uses is that none of them are things you can run away from! ( 5:3b)
There is no escape from a thief who comes in in darkness, a military invasion that destroys all in it’s path, and the pains of childbirth that leave you weak and helpless.
The predicament of the world is dire, there is no more other chances when this happens, and will happen quickly, without warning.All the more reason for the reminder that today is the day of salvation.
2 – The Peace The Children of God Can Have. v 1-2, 4-11
In contrast to what unbelievers are unprepared for, and won’t acknowledge, Christians have no excuses to be surprised.
V 1 tells us that they had heard teaching on this before, and didn’t really need Paul to say all that he was saying, not that that stopped him from saying it all again anyway!
Not only did they need reminding, so they could comfort one another and reach out the lost world, but so they could equip themselves for a battle they were facing while living in a world that has false peace. They could have peace in the midst of a misguided world by walking after the things they had been instructed in.
we are children of the light and of the day ( 5-8)
The ‘but’ in v4 gives us great cause for hope. We don’t have be surprised, we don’t have to face destruction and unbearable pain, because we are not in darkness. ( 1 Peter 2:9).
We are children of the light and day, not darkness and night.
There two applications here for us that Paul gives.
1 – those who are of the night are usually asleep – we need to be awake.
2- those who are of the night, if they are not sleeping, are most times up to no good, indulging in their passions and desires, and getting drunk – we need to be sober minded and ready to fight.
If unbelievers are only interested in sleeping and doing dark things at night, not only is there a lesson that there’s not much good happening in the darkness at night, but it also shows us just how different our calling to day and light is to make us. ( 1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
We must be sober and prepared, not have our mind filled with earthly things, and not under the influence of darkness.
we need to be ready for warfare ( 8)
When we are clear minded and sober about life and our responsibilities to God in our faith in Christ, we realize we are in a battle. It is a warfare we are in against the world, the flesh and the devil, and we must be equipped properly.
The breastplate of faith and love will protect our heart and life from false affections in this world that would steal away our attention. When our hearts and lives are covered and protected by the loving faithfulness of God, we are free to be faithful and pure in our own love towards others.
The helmet of salvation shows that our mind is fixed on heavenly and eternal things. We know that Christ has saved us, and will return to set all things right.
we need to know we are not destined for wrath because Christ died for us ( 8-11)
The hope of our salvation is in the fact that Christ died for us. We have been saved from the destruction to come by His death in our place.
This hope is meant to give us peace. When we have that kind of peace with God we can rest in Him, and be not only faithful and peaceful about our lives, but also at rest about our death also. We will be with Him, no matter whether we are awake or asleep in this life.
3 – The Peace of God in the Family of God Sanctifies v. 11-28
Battles and hope of victory may fill us with gusto to get out there and scalp some devils, beat up some fallen angels, and cure the world of hunger.
We would think that is what Paul would instruct us to do, ‘Therefore, take your peace with God that has been granted to you by faith in Christ, and go help Jesus build a new world with your own bare hands….’, that would almost be easier than the actual instructions he gives.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing,”
It seems an anticlimax after all the heavy theological and eschatological talk of the previous verses.
I’m supposed to help my fellow believers? This is the best way to prepare for the new heavens and new earth that Christ is returning to set up?
The best way to prepare for eternity is to prepare with those you are going to spend it with.
respect and esteem the leaders in the church ( 12, 13)
be peaceful with the rest of the church body ( 13b)
minister to and be patient with those in need ( 14)
This one is specific in it’s approach. You cannot have a blanket rule or formula in how you approach others. Not all can be treated the same. If you admonish the fainthearted or weak, they will become more fainthearted and weak. If you encourage and help the idle to be idle, you will create an idle monster. All have specific needs, and all need to be met where there are at. You can only do that by getting to know someone, moving towards them, asking them how you can help, and being patient with them.
do good to one another and to EVERYONE ( 15)
Doing good to everyone includes doing good to those who may be doing evil to you. Forgiveness and grace must be evident in the lives of believers.
rejoicing, prayer, giving thanks, following after the Spirit, testing what is good, holding fast to the good and abstaining from evil. ( 16-22)
All these instructions lead to our sanctification. ( 23).
The God of all peace will do a work in us that allows us to minister to others in these ways, and relate to Him with more devotion and faith. True and lasting peace will come when we rest in His faithfulness.He will do what He has said He will do.
Do you have peace with God, or do you have a peace the world offers, that is false and insecure, something that can be taken away the moment you face your real predicament? Peace doesn’t come when you deny your situation.
Peace came to earth once before, it was announced to shepherds on a hillside. “Peace on earth and goodwill to man”.
Peace came when Jesus came, and it came at a great price to Himself.
He gave Himself for our peace, and what we do with Jesus will determine whether or not we will have eternal peace with God.
He is returning, and He will bring peace, but again, it will come at a great cost, except this time, He will not bear the judgement and wrath as He did the first time, He will be bringing it with Him for all those who have not believed. Peace will reign on earth at Christ’s return, but will you be found ready, prepared?