1 Thessalonians 5.3

While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them.

I am not proposing that we give up looking at Paul as a theologian and read him simply as a covert politician… If there is indeed a reference to Caesar and his cult in Romans, Philippians, and elsewhere, it would be a mistake to universalize this and suppose that Paul is covertly opposing Caesar in all sorts of other places as well.

The critique of the powers which Paul has in mind depends precisely on a thoroughgoing and well worked out theology, not least a very high Christology and a strong doctrine of justification. — N.T. Wright

In his paper on Paul and Caesar, N.T. Wright highlights Paul’s confrontation of the Thessalonians when he quotes Roman the propaganda, “peace and security” — Caesar’s promise to all who would worship him. Paul wasn’t critiquing one political view over another, but reorienting the way Christians looked to government in its entirety.

As a member of the ruling global superpower of his day, Paul would have had access to fantastic privileges and faced enormous temptations — he saw both as detrimental to faith. Even the Roman government, the largest superpower at that point in history, was insufficient to deliver humanity’s greatest needs. Wright summarizes Paul’s challenge to the first century church:
Paul had abandoned his Jewish privileges to find Christ, so the Philippians should be prepared, at least, not to take advantage of their belonging to a Roman colony, with the same end in view (finding Christ).
It is impossible for genuine faith not to influence a person’s politics. Paul explains that Christian faith does not result in a doubling down on political ideology as a means toward “peace and security,” but in radical commitment to Christ. Wright concludes:
Paul’s underlying point is that the victory of the true God is not won by the normal means of revolution. Rome could cope with revolutions; she could not cope, as history demonstrated, with a community owing imitative allegiance to the crucified and risen Jesus.

Paul closes his letter the to Thessalonians by pointing them toward the one true source of peace and security; “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Today’s Reading
1 Kings 22 (Listen – 7:51)
1 Thessalonians 5 (Listen – 2:37)