In Galatians 2:11–21, the apostle Paul presents us with one of the most significant passages in the New Testament for those concerned with the faith and history of the early church. Paul recounts the dramatic conflict that occurred in Antioch when “some people from James” in Jerusalem (cf. Gal. 1:18–19; 2:7–9; Acts 12:17; 15:13–21; 21:18–25) came to visit the mixed church of Jews and Gentiles in Antioch, and “Cephas” (Aramaic for “Peter”) reacted by leading his fellow Jewish Christians in a withdrawal from meals with Gentile Christians. Almost certainly these meals included the Lord’s Supper, which in these early years was observed in connection with a full supper shared by the congregation (as suggested by 1 Cor. 11:20–22).
When I was in grad school, I preached Sundays at a little church in Truby, Texas. One of my predecessors was one of my professors (i.e., my present teacher John Willis used to preach there) whom a member from those days quoted: “To work, to have, to give.”
In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul addresses a problem about working—members were acting irresponsibly, failing to work. In his prior letter, Paul had urged the young Christians “to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands, as we charged you; so that you may command the respect of outsiders, and be dependent on no one” (1 Thess. 4:11-12).
David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times, recently went on the Charlie Rose Show to promote his new book that deals with character and sin. After the show, he received an email from an editor in New York who wrote, “I loved the way you were talking about your book, but I didn’t like the way you used that word sin. It’s a downer. Use the word insensitive instead.” Sadly, this is the world we live in today. We have gone from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to “Your Best Life Now.” Sin and judgment are dirty words.
Paul tells the Thessalonians to "always rejoice" (I Thess. 5:16). How could they always rejoice? How can we?
There’s an old trade secret among preachers. The word is that there are three topics any of which will ensure an audience. If you want to draw a crowd, you can preach on sex, on the end times, and on will there be sex in the end times?
The religious mania over imagining and predicting the future is well known today. We even have TV series that turn on popular conceptions. Evidently, some in Paul’s churches would have understood the attraction – they might have even tuned in. But this impulse isn’t unique either to religious groups or to one particular age. It’s a human thing.