Our Only Hope
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16
March 25, 2018
Pastor Ben Marshall (Holland); Karl Shumate (Hamilton)
Early in the history of the church, when Roman persecution was bad and worsening, the bishop of the church in Smyrna, Polycarp, was arrested. He lived in the second century and was instrumental in proclaiming the authority of the Scriptures. He quoted them in his writings and testified to the Truth of the Word that God inspired through writers like Paul and the Apostles who came just shortly before Polycarp.
Many Christians had been persecuted and were being fed to wild animals in the stadiums of Rome. It is in this context that Polycarp is taken captive. He knew the soldiers would come and did not run away. In fact, when he saw the soldiers approaching, he met them outside and talked with them.
As he talked with them, they were amazed by his age, his faithfulness to God, and they wondered amongst themselves why they were sent so quickly to arrest this old man. Polycarp had a table set out and food prepared for the soldiers who were there to arrest him. While they ate, he requested that he be allowed to pray without interruption for an hour. They allowed him to, and while they ate, Polycarp prayed for two hours within earshot of the soldiers.
Polycarp ended up being burned at the stake, but that is not how he died. When he was tied to the stake and the fire lit, the fire did not burn him. The governor of the province was so angry that he ordered the executioner to go up and stab Polycarp to death with a dagger. That is the martyrdom of Polycarp.
Why? Jesus Christ changes everything. Jesus Christ is our only hope.
The Thessalonians experienced dissenting voices in their hometown and society as well. It wasn’t popular, it was acceptable, to be a Christian and to follow the Word of God. But when they heard the Word of God, they understand that there was something more to this than debatable human wisdom. There was something about the Word of God that, when it came, it was somehow different. Paul writes in 1:5 the Word of God, the Gospel, came to them not just in word, but in also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.
They heard the word of God, the Good News about Jesus Christ, and they accepted it not as the word of men but as it really is, the word of God.
The message of the Gospel is offensive. But it is the only hope for all humankind, and that is why we proclaim it. When we proclaim the, capital “T,” Truth, it is all too likely that persecution and suffering will come.
If we are going to live as the church, there are a few things we must do:
1. Put a high value on the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16)
2. Understand persecution is an expectation (2 Timothy 3:12)
3. Live like our only hope is in Jesus Christ & share it with others (John 3:16; Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 1:3; Romans 3:21-25)