Grace and peace to you all!
We are embarking on a new journey studying the letters to the Thessalonian Church, working our way through 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. Why? Because they are amazingly encouraging letters to build us up in our faith. And, they have a lot to say about the end times – the rise of Antichrist, the return of Jesus and the perseverance of the saints. These letters combined speak to what is necessary to endure until the return of Jesus, which is always imminent, even more so as we see the time we are living in and the events unfolding before our eyes. I encourage you now to read through 1st Thessalonians, all 5 chapters, to get a sense of what the letter is saying, and the tone in which Paul writes. Also, read Acts 17:1-10, to see how the church was born.
Today, we want to focus on the first 4 verses. What immediately jumps out is the tone of the letter. Paul has just received a good report from Timothy on how the church is doing (3:6). Paul is extremely encouraged by the good news, so much so that scholars believe, due to the timing of the letter, and the planting of the church itself, that Paul almost immediately, upon hearing, picked up a pen to write this letter to his flock that he loved. It is probably the earliest, or second earliest letter written in the New Testament (only Galatians might be older). Now, let us stop right there and think about this: when we hear something good about someone, what is our response? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we just wrote a little note telling them how much we appreciate them, and give thanks for them, listing their qualities? With email and texting, it can happen in a snap.
Paul is so excited about this church, and his new brothers and sisters in Christ, that he doesn’t even use the familiar “Paul, an apostle”, to start his letter. He reserves that title, a symbol of his authority, for those churches he has to correct and rebuke. He recognizes that these fellow believers were “brothers and sisters”, loved by God, called and chosen by God (vs. 4). He loved them (2:8), and they were a cause of great joy (3:9). Paul’s attitude and view of these Christians is a real testimony to us! It is also very convicting, forcing us to ask ourselves how we view other believers, especially in our own church.
Here is Paul’s cause for celebration and thanksgiving:
- They were in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ – they had become believers by God’s choosing and placed in communion with the Godhead. There was a bond that united them in Spirit. Just as this body was joined together in Christ, so are we – we are part of each other, as we are all connected to Jesus.
- Work of faith – Their faith was a true and living faith because it was accompanied by works (James 2:18). And others were noticing their faith filled works (1:8-10).
- Labor of love – “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal. 5:6). Love for God and love for our neighbor is what motivates us to serve others with faith-filled works. Actually, the definition of “agape” love mentioned here, is a sacrificial, serving love. That is what characterizes any true church and any true Christian – it is a love that acts in service to others, modeled by Jesus Himself.
- Steadfastness of hope – Perseverance, patience, endurance; that determination to keep going no matter what the obstacles, because we are not focused on the trials, but the reward for sticking it through to the end. We hope for the return of Jesus, our being glorified with Him, our perfect union with Him in heaven, and sharing eternal life with Him. He is the source of our hope, and the goal of it. That is why we persevere.
Friends, this Thessalonian church was a model church. They seemed to be doing everything right. When we see that, we need to say something. We need to encourage and compliment each other when it is warranted. We need to be specific and tell each other what it is that we appreciate about each other. You know how you feel when you get complimented. When you compliment, there is a blessing for the giver and the receiver. Lord knows we all need encouragement these days. Let us take our example from Paul, and live a life of giving thanks for one another, building each other up in our most holy faith.
Have a great week!