The Ministry of Writing

Paul did a lot of writing. He must have believed a lot in reading.

Introduction to 1 and 2 Thessalonians (5)

Pray Psalm 19.14.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

Read 1 Thessalonians 1.1.

1. Why did Paul write letters? What was he hoping to accomplish?

2. Why has God chosen to use writing as a means of helping us know Him? 

Before we begin our study of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, I want us to contemplate the role of writing in Paul’s ministry, and, in a larger sense, the role of writing in God’s plan for redeeming the world. 

While Timothy and Silas remained in Berea, Paul went for a brief stay at Athens (Acts 17.14-33), before moving on to Corinth, where Timothy (from Thessalonica) and Silas (from Berea) rejoined him (Acts 18.5; cf. 1 Thess. 3.6). Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians in response to Timothy’s report of the situation there. We’ll consider Paul’s purposes in writing 1 and 2 Thessalonians in our next two installments.

But let’s think about writing as a form of ministry. These days, when people are increasingly unwilling to read, we might wonder whether writing still has the kind of potential with which Paul invested it. Many Christians do not consider that reading the Bible daily, completely, and continuously – much less reading anything else – is important for their walk with the Lord. They may read snippets from Scripture, or follow along as the pastor preaches. They might do some reading to prepare for their Bible study group. But as for daily reading, reading again and again through the entire Bible, and reading reflectively, with a view to learning and obedience – this discipline is neglected by many who believe in Jesus.

Paul believed in writing, which means that Paul also believed in reading. Words convey ideas, stimulate and reinforce affections, help to established settled priorities, lead us to consider our daily path, enable us to identify areas of needed growth, fill our souls with hope, supply the content of our witness, and much more. One of the great achievements of the devil, in these days of his dying gasps, is to sow distraction into the Church. He is happy for us to profess belief in Jesus, go to church, have a great time with our Christian friends, and even pray, as long as we do not devote ourselves to serious reading and study. TV, video games, social media, and other diversions can quickly fill up our time and numb us to the importance of reading. The Word of God cannot take deep root in our souls, cannot bring us into the presence of God’s glory, cannot transform us into the image of Jesus Christ, and cannot equip us for every good work if we neglect reading and study of what Paul and the others have written.

Paul believed we should read. God believes we should read. When we embrace reading with the same fervor that Paul and God embraced writing, we will be in a position to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and to work our Personal Mission Field fruitfully.

1. What is your practice of reading the Word of God? Are you as committed to reading the Bible as Paul and God are in having written it?

2. What can you do to make more time for reading the Word of God? Meditate on Jeremiah 15.16. Is this your view of God’s Word?

3. Why do you suppose the Spirit of God has preserved 1 and 2 Thessalonians for us? What should we expect to gain from a close reading of these two epistles? 

It is evident from this, that the Apostle had not given over reading, though he was already preparing for death. Where are those who think that they have made so great progress that they do not need any more exercise? Which of them will dare to compare himself with Paul? Still more does this expression refute the madness of those men who ― despising books, and condemning all reading ― boast of nothing but their own ἐνθουσιασμοὺς divine inspirations. But let us know that this passage gives to all believers a recommendation of constant reading, that they may profit by it.  John Calvin (1509-1564), comment on 2 Timothy 4.13

Make me a better reader of Your Word, O Lord! Help me as I try to improve my time in Your Word by…

Pray Psalm 19.7-14.

Give God praise and thanks for all the many ways His Word (Law, testimony, commandment, statutes, etc.) can benefit you.

Sing to the Lord.
Psalm 19.7-14 (St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The Law of God is perfect, His testimony sure; 
The simple man God’s wisdom learns, the soul receives its cure. 
God’s Word is right, and His command is pure, and truth imparts; 
He makes our eyes to understand; with joy He fills our hearts. 

The fear of God is cleansing, forever shall it last. 
His judgments all are true and just, by righteousness held fast. 
O seek them more than gold most fine, than honey find them sweet; 
Be warned by every word and line; be blessed with joy complete. 

Who, Lord, can know his errors? O keep sin far from me! 
Let evil rule not in my soul that I may blameless be. 
O let my thoughts, let all my words, before Your glorious sight 
Be pleasing to You, gracious Lord, acceptable and right!

T. M. Moore

Where do 1 and 2 Thessalonians fit in the unfolding of God’s covenant? Our course, Introduction to Biblical Theology, can help you understand the setting of all the books of the Bible, and how they fit into God’s unfolding plan of redemption. Watch this brief video introducing this course at The Ailbe Seminary (click here), then plan to register after January 1 in our Certificate in Kingdom Studies program, featuring Introduction to Biblical Theology.

Forward today’s study to some friends, and challenge them to study with you through this series on 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Each week’s lessons will be available as a free PDF download at the end of the week. Get a copy for yourself and send the link to the download to your friends. Plan to meet weekly to study Paul’s ministry and prepare for your own.

If you value Scriptorium as a free resource for your walk with the Lord, please consider supporting our work with your gifts and offerings. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button  at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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