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When Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica he wrote to assure them that Jesus had not yet returned to the earth. He wrote to assure them they had not missed out on Jesus’ coming which was still in the future, but they would have to go through trials and persecution until that time.
In the letter he recognised that their faith was growing and their love for one other was increasing. In fact he told them he boasted about them in God’s churches about their perseverance in faith in all the persecutions they were enduring.
As he encouraged them to stand firm in their faith, he reminded them of what God had already done in bringing them to Himself.
A Thanksgiving To God For His Work In Them. 13-14.
13. But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
- God loved them, “brothers and sisters loved by the Lord”. They were growing in love for one another but that was motivated by the incredible truth that God’s love had touched their lives and that they were all recipients of God’s undeserved love and grace.
- He had chosen them to belong to Himself, “because God chose you.” As Paul reminded the Ephesian believers, Eph1:4, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Chosen by God to belong to Him before the world was even made! That’s grace!
- They were chosen to be “first fruits to be saved.” The believers in Thessalonica had been among the first to respond to Paul’s preaching of the gospel and had been saved as they responded to the message in faith.
God’s Method In Calling Them To Himself. 13
Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14. He called you to this through our gospel.
- They were to remember that God had taken the initiative in calling them to belong to Him. That call came to them as they heard the preaching of the good news of the gospel. They had realised that God was offering them forgiveness and a new life if they believed in the truth of the gospel message about Jesus. They had believed.
- But the love and grace of God was also to be seen in their acceptance of the gospel message. It had been the ministry of the Holy Spirit in opening their eyes to the truth about Jesus. He had “sanctified” them. The word “sanctify” from hagiasmos, ἁγιασμός means the process of making holy but it also refers to the fact that God by His Spirit had “set them apart” from the unbelieving world, to be saved as they believed in the gospel message. What amazing grace they had experienced in the whole process as they responded to the gospel.
God’s Purpose In Calling Them To Himself.
“that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- God’s grace was not only to get them saved but something much deeper. They were to share in the glory of the Lord Jesus. The word here for “share” is peripoiēsis, περιποίησις from peri meaning around and poieo to make or do. That is, “to make around oneself” or to “purchase” or “preserve.” They had obtained for themselves Christ’s glory. As Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18. That glory they had received could increase as they were more and more transformed by the Holy Spirit.
The Exhortation To Stand Firm. Vs 15.
15. “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”
- “Stand firm” is from stēkō; στήκω and is in the perfect tense of the verb. That is, you are already standing firm, but keep on standing firm!
- “hold fast to the teachings.” “Hold fast” is from krateō; κρατέω meaning to seize, take hold of, retain and is present tense, “keep on holding fast.”
- “Teachings” here is from paradosis; παράδοσις meaning that which is handed over, such as tradition or a body of teaching.
- “Passed on” is from didaskō; διδάσκω to teach.
- Paul is commending the Thessalonian believers for their firm stand for the Lord but encouraging them to continue on in the teaching they had brought to them by word or by epistle.
- He then turns to prayer as he prays that the Lord would encourage and strengthen them in their faith.
The prayer for encouragement. 16-17.
Paul describes God as “God our Father who loved us.“ Not only that but he again refers to God’s grace in giving them eternal encouragement and good hope. 16. “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope” God’s grace is not just His unmerited favour towards us but is also His enabling us to do the things we want to do. He is able to do it eternally and because of that we have a good and sure hope.
The prayer concludes with Paul writing, 17. [May our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father] –“encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
He is praying that God would continue to do what He had already done in bringing them encouragement and strength in everything they said and did.
It is a shame that a magnificent passage such as this one is often overlooked as we read the Bible. But it reminds us of so much of our Christian faith. For in it we see the wonderful love that God has for His children and the effort He made in Christ to bring them to Himself in His mercy and grace.
How great it is to realise that God had an eternal purpose for us before we were born, that we should be saved and come to share in the glory of Christ.
How humbling to know that our hearing and responding to the gospel message was only made possible through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in setting us apart from the unbelieving world in order that we might believe and enter into the Christian family.
How blessed we are to know that God will not leave us alone as we seek to live for Him but will keep on strengthening us in His eternal grace and love in our every good deed and word.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
Blog No.392. Posted on Wednesday 01 December 2021