Malcolm Green wrote an introduction to 2nd Thessalonians. I wonder if, having just finished this letter from Paul, you remember enough about it to agree (or disagree!) with Malcolm’s overview. I found that very little of what Paul wrote had taken root in my conscious brain. And while there are other subtle, unconscious and Spirit-given benefits in reading God’s word, an important aim should always be to have God’s word consciously available to us, for our use and benefit.
The truth is that people remember stories more than anything else. It’s not hard to recall the stories of David and Goliath, or Moses and the burning bush. If we can picture something in our mind’s eye, we experience it, and we learn from it in a way that only experience can teach us. We should not neglect our imagination as we try to read scripture.
As we start reading the first letter to Timothy, (intro here) try to form a picture of both the author and the recipient of this pastoral epistle. Timothy, the young, gifted leader about whom prophecies were made, growing up in the faith of his mother and grandmother. Paul, the father-pastor, clinical of mind, but burning with passion for the truth of the gospel, and deeply concerned about the sanctification of his flock. Imagine the church, the culture, the landscape, the weather, the clothes, the food. Use the text to create a backdrop so that you can better remember the important lessons being taught.
A good imagination can help us ground these letters firmly in reality, even when they talk about complex, abstract doctrines and ideas. God has given us an imagination: let us harness it for his glory.