Summary: Just as there twins in people, there are also twin truths in the Bible.
This morning I’m beginning a new series from Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians. Some people think an epistle is the wife of an apostle, but it’s just a letter. When I finish 1 Thessalonians we’re going to go right into 2 Thessalonians, and then 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus. God did us a favor by placing all the books in the Bible that start with “t” together for us.
Not every city in the New Testament is still in existence. Corinth and Ephesus are nothing but ruins. But Thessalonica is still a busy port city in Greece. When Paul visited the city it had about 200,000 residents. Today it is the second largest city in Greece with over one million living in the metro area.
According to Acts 17 Paul, Silas, and Timothy visited Thessalonica and stayed for three weeks. Each Saturday Paul preached in the synagogue that Jesus was the Messiah. Many Jews and Gentiles became believers, but some of the Jews were angry and incited a mob that led a riot against Paul. He had to sneak out of town at night and head to Berea. He was chased out of town there as well and ended up in Athens.
The theme of 1 Thessalonians is: Be prepared for the return of Christ! The second coming of Christ is mentioned in all four chapters. The key verse that best summarizes this theme says, “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” (1 Thessalonians 3:13)
During this study we’re going to be talking about Finding HOPE in a Hopeless World. I love to talk about hope. Many of you have read my latest book was entitled, “HOPE When you Need it Most.” I’ve received letters and emails reporting that this book is being passed around in many prisons around our country. But inmates aren’t the only ones who need hope, we all need it!
Remember, the letters HOPE can stand for Having Only Positive Expectations. And we’re going to see in Titus that we are “looking for our blessed hope and the return of our great God, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
With that introduction, let’s begin our journey through this wonderful letter. With email and texts, we’ve lost the art of writing letters. But when we used to write a letter, we’d sign our name at the end. Have you ever gotten a long letter without a return address, and you didn’t know who sent it? You had to go to the end of the letter who find who wrote it. But during the time of Paul, it was customary to begin a letter with the name of the person who wrote it.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3: “Paul, Silas, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In this introduction to his letter, Paul mentions four sets of twins. Most of us know people who are twins. Jacob and Esau were the most famous twins of the Old Testament. In fact, one of the disciples of Jesus was a twin—Thomas was called Didymus, which means twin. You may be a twin, or you may be the parent of twins.
I’ve read that twins have a special connection. My son-in-law, Jason, has a twin brother, and he has told me he and Robert have a special bond. My favorite twin story is about Brielle and Kyrie Jackson. In 1995, these twins were born 12 weeks prematurely. They were placed in separate incubators in the NICU. After a few days, Brielle, who weighed just two pounds, was struggling. Her heart rate was low and she was blue-faced from crying. Kyrie was larger and was growing. The NICU nurse did something not often done in the US at the time. She asked the parents if she could place the twins together in the same incubator. They agreed, so the nurse put them together.
When she checked back a few minutes later she was surprised to see Kyrie had actually placed her arm around her younger sister as if to give her strength. Brielle had stopped crying and her oxygen level had increased. The nurse called the other staff of the NICU and they took a picture that has often been called the “rescuing hug.”
Today Brielle and Kyrie are happy 17 year-olds. They are identical, except one of them is left-handed and the other right-handed. They’re best friends and share a bedroom, but not an incubator.