9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.
In continuation of the talk on living a “questionable life,” Paul is showing what was actually worth questioning in Thessalonica. My study bible annotates that prior to the arrival of Paul and his entourage, the city was mainly pagan, not Jewish. This might be important in regards to things we will talk about later in his letter.
“They themselves” is referring back to the other cities in Greece that have witnessed the transformation of Thessalonica after they began to follow Christ. It was evident to them there was a complete change of heart in the community and individuals alike. They witnessed how everyone changed their ways, specifically to serve a living God, not a god identified by graven image. I believe this is a powerful aspect of not only that time, but of ours as well. Granted, we don’t see much “idol” worship as we saw back then…not many statues that people pray to or give offerings to, but rather there are still many things we worship more than we do our God. Money, for example, is more important to us that our living God. What is money? It’s printed paper, yet we do all we can to preserve it, to multiply it, to gather more of it, etc. Imagine if we put that much effort into something that could actually do something back? If we put that much effort into our relationship with God, how different would our lives be?
The second part of this passage describes the hope that followers of Christ possess that empowers us to look past the junk this world tries to distract us with. Our hope in Christ and a God that can raise anyone from the dead, our Savior, is one that surpasses all worldly motivation. The hope in Christ is inspiring. The “outsiders” that Thessalonians interacted with learned of this hope because of their changed lives and wondering “what do they have?”
Paul mentions at the end of the verse that Christ rescues us from the wrath to come. My study bible mentions this may indicate the pre-tribulation rapture. Personally, I think it can mean a couple things. Rapture aside, I believe this simply means that He saves us from the condemnation of our sins. THIS is the hope we stand on and try to spread across the globe. This is the Gospel, that we are rescued from sin through Christ Jesus.
We should be mindful, especially as Christians, who we “serve”. Do we live a life that reflects our service to God as our number one priority, or are there other things in our lives that people see as a higher priority? Here’s a “off the top of my head” list of things we serve other than God: sports teams, cars, money, jobs, recreational activities, our emotions, helping others to feel good about ourselves (that’s right, even in church!), tobacco, alcohol, games, pornography…
If we plan our day or even our entire lives around “taking care” of these things more than we do to nurture our relationship with God, it is taking precedence and we serve it instead of God.
What are you serving today?