1 Thessalonians winds up being a somewhat-ordinary letter, which is where we trick ourselves into not listening to it very well. It’s “ordinary,” and what we want from our life of faith is a release from the ordinary – something that somehow lets us step up out of the ordinary into the extraordinary. I mean: we have faith in God, who is by definition extra-ordinary. We have confidence and faith in Jesus, whom we call “Christ” – a word which means he’s not just another fellow: he’s God’s chosen savior of the world. He’s not ordinary. And we have the promise of eternal life because somehow God has paid the price for our sins and changed us from children of wrath to children of promise – children in his own household rather than orphans in a world which doesn’t care about us. That’s extra-ordinary, and not ordinary.
But look: “ordinary” does not just mean “commonplace” or “uninteresting”. It also means “normal” or “customary”. It means, “the way things usually work.” This is a book about how things usually ought to work out in a local church, and in the lives of people who have heard the Gospel and received the Christian faith.
John MacArthur says it this in his Bible Handbook about this letter:
Both letters to Thessalonica have been referred to as “the escatological epistles,” perhaps because of their treatment of end-times issues. However, in light of their more extensive focus upon the church, they would better be categorized as “the church epistles.” Five major themes are woven together in 1 Thes: (1) History, as correlated to Acts, (2) Church life (3) Pastoral Concerns for the local church (4) end times as the church’s hope, and (5) the need for missions and the proclamation of the Gospel.This is a book about the way in which the local church usually ought to work out its life. It’s the way the church ought to live, and find correction to the way it ought to live, because while its cause and creation is not an ordinary thing, it is meant to be God’s ordinary means for delivering His gospel to every tribe, tongue and nation.
Our passage for this series is in 1 Thes 2:7-12.
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.It’s a beautiful picture of Paul’s care for these people, and the purpose of his care for them – But it is an ordinary picture: one which fits into everyday life because it is Paul’s intention that this faith these people have be a faith for everyday life.
So, according to this passage, what is the ordinary life of the church?