422 on “Praising God For His Ministry In People.” 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12. A Reading for Sunday 30 October 2022.

In this passage, Paul goes on to share with his readers how he saw them as a church community which he was able to commend to other churches for their faith and love. His praise for them included praise for their past faithfulness, and for their present steadfastness in spite of many difficulties. Finally, he tells them what he is praying for them for their future.

Thanksgiving For Their Past. For their Growth In Faith And Love. v.3.

3 “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right because your faith is growing abundantly and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” This was an answer to the prayer he told them in his previous epistle, he was praying for them, “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12.

The word for “growing abundantly” is the only occurrence of the word in the New Testament and refers to their obvious increase in faith. 

“Increasing” has the meaning to super-abound. Their love had not just increased, but it had increased abundantly. The word is [pleonazō; πλεονάζω] to make to increase, to superabound, [Note 1].

Praise For Their Present. For Their Steadfastness and Faith. v.4.

4 “Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.” [Note 2].

It’s always encouraging when someone mentions you favourably to other people especially when it is a hard-fought virtue they are mentioning. St Paul recognised the faithfulness of the Thessalonian believers evidenced in their steadfastness and faith in the difficulties they were facing.  They were certainly being persecuted but we are not told what difficulties they were facing. However, it seems that the Jews in Thessalonica were very antagonistic to the Christian believers and would have made life difficult for them. [See 1 Thessalonians 2:14 and Acts 17:5-9.] Paul tells the Thessalonian believers that he was boasting about their steadfastness and faith to the other churches he was in contact with, as a means of encouraging the latter. 

Paul saw the positive benefit of steadfastness [or endurance] as he expressed it in his letter to the church in Rome, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5. That had certainly been a feature in the church in Thessalonica. They had suffered a great deal but their endurance had led to a great increase in Christian character and an outpouring of Christian love!

Prayer For The Future. For Their Right Response To God’s Calling To Them. v.11

11 “To this end, we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfil every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.“ 

Paul told his readers what he was praying for them. He was praying that God would do 2 things for them, though obviously with their cooperation. Firstly that He would make them worthy of His calling. He had called them to belong to Him and they had responded in faith. In that sense, they were already worthy. But theirs would be a difficult road ahead and they would need God’s sustaining grace to keep on living lives worthy of their calling. That was Paul’s prayer for them.

Secondly, he prayed that God would “fulfil every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.“  The believers in Thessalonica had been renowned for their “work of faith.” [See verse 3]. They already had the resolve to work for God and that was due to God’s work in them by His Holy Spirit. As Paul described in Philippians 2:12-13,” Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  It is God Himself by His Spirit who works in His people to motivate them to resolve to work for Him. Then He works in them to give them the willingness and the ability to do so. [Note 3].

What Paul Prayed To Be The Result Of Their Faithfulness. Glory to God. v.12

What would be the result of these prayers for the Thessalonians? Paul tells us, “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.“ 1:12.

Their lives touched by the love, mercy, grace and power of God would bring glory to Jesus’ name. That was the desire of the believers in Thessalonica, to glorify God and the name of Jesus by living lives that would bring glory to His name. It was already happening and Paul’s prayer was that it would continue to do so.

COMMENT

What a faith-filled church was that in Thessalonica. No wonder Paul used their example to encourage the saints in all the churches. They had grown in faith and increased in love and had remained steadfast in the midst of persecution and difficulties. 

What a contrast that is to so many Christian churches and groups in today’s world. They appear to have lost their desire to remain committed to Him and allow the world to set the agenda for their corporate life. Their love has but all disappeared as they criticise one another instead of loving one another. 

Yet in so many parts of the world are those churches or Christian groups that resemble this church in Thessalonica. Their faithfulness to God in the midst of persecution and other difficulties sets an example for today’s believers to repent of their lack of faith and love and to once again become totally committed to God for the remainder of their lives. In this way, the name of Jesus Christ will be exalted and glorified through their Christian witness and life.

NOTES

{Note 1}. Growing abundantly,” [hyperauxanō; ὑπεραυξάνω] to grow exceedingly.

The normal word for growth is [auxanō; αὐξάνω] meaning to increase or grow.  However, with the [hyper] added to the front of the verb it means a great growth in faith. 

“Love” is [agapē; ἀγάπη] the word for God’s love given to humans. It is part of the fruit of the Spirit, [Galatians 5:22] and is poured into human hearts by the Holy Spirit when they become open to Him. [Romans 5:5.] The Thessalonians were loving each other, with God’s love being poured through them to one another.

“Increasing” is from [pleonazō; πλεονάζω] to make to increase, to superabound. It is the word used in Paul’s encouragement to them in the previous epistle to them, “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12. 

[Note 2]. “Steadfastness” is from [hypomonē; ὑπομονή] meaning patient endurance or constancy.  

[Note 3]. “Resolve” is from [eudokia; εὐδοκία] delight, or good pleasure. Any human resolve to live for God comes ultimately from Him by His work in us by His Holy Spirit. As we saw in Philippians 2:12-13, He works within believers to give them the willingness and the ability to live for His pleasure. They work out in practice what He is working inwardly in them by His Holy Spirit.

Blog No.422. Posted on Friday 02 September 2022.

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
This entry was posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Holy Spirit, Judgement, Justification, Lectionary Readings Year C 2019, New Covenant, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Second coming of Jesus, spiritual warfare, Temptations and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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