Day 326 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in First Thessalonians.
1 Thessalonians 3 – Paul and his companions proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus to the Thessalonians, and when the Holy Spirit plants the Gospel in the hearts of His people, Gospel fruit always abounds. Timothy’s report of the Thessalonians’ faith and love was good news that confirmed their authentic reception of the Good News of Jesus. Their steadfastness in Jesus is life-giving encouragement to Paul, who finds joy over the fact that the Thessalonians are standing fast in the Lord, knowing that if they were not to stand fast amid persecution, there would be no evidence that they actually believed the Gospel.
The Thessalonians’ true reception of the Gospel, however, was evident in their vibrant faith in Jesus, expressing itself in love for Jesus and all that He loves (Galatians 5:6). Such love is reciprocal love, which not only receives but also extends Jesus’ love, manifesting itself before the world as the love of Jesus’ true disciples (John 13:35). This beautiful love has been evident among the Thessalonians, and Paul rejoices in it, responding to their kind remembrance and their longing to see the apostles. Paul expresses his longing to see the Thessalonians face to face and to supply what is lacking in their faith. Not that the Thessalonians lack what is necessary for saving faith, but due to the brevity of Paul’s initial ministry among them (Acts 17), they still have much to learn about the implications of the Gospel for Christian living.
Here we see Paul’s heart as a church-planting, disciple-making pastor of God’s people. Throughout Paul’s letters, we observe that his concern is to see sinners not only converted to Jesus but growing in Jesus and eagerly awaiting His return. So it is that whenever we study the Word of God or hear it preached, we are seeking to be more fully supplied with what we need to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). This is Paul’s earnest desire for the Thessalonians, as it is for all the churches he planted. Paul thus reminds them that just as God establishes our holy status by declaring us righteous (right with God), he also increasingly enables us to live more righteously (reflecting Jesus to others) (2 Thessalonians 2:17).
Therefore, Paul gives the Thessalonians a word of encouragement and a prayer of blessing before concluding with his final instructions in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5. In light of the imminent return of Jesus, Paul’s desire is that the Thessalonians remain steadfast in Jesus, not merely living out their days but growing as they increase and abound in love for one another and for all. The beauty of the Gospel promise is that the Lord is the One ultimately responsible not only for our increase in love but also for establishing us in holiness before God the Father. Our entire salvation is of grace. We all will stand before God at the coming of our Lord Jesus, who is coming with all those he has declared and established in His holiness, namely, His saints (“holy ones”).
How does your right standing with God reveal the Gospel to those around you (how is God loving them through you)?
1 Thessalonians 4 – Having referred to the Thessalonians as “saints” at the end of chapter , Paul urges them to walk as saints in chapter . This is the apostle’s common theme in discipling Believers: reminding them of who they are in Christ and urging them to walk accordingly (Galatians ; Ephesians ; ; Colossians ). Paul’s doctrine of Christian living is established on, and motivated by, the very Gospel through which we become Believers in the first place. The imperatives of the Christian life (what we should do) are built upon the indicatives of the Gospel (who we are by virtue of Jesus work on our behalf). The inversion of this order is antithetical to the Gospel, even if it promotes good behavior. And that is no Gospel at all.
Paul’s constant encouragement to Believers is to live in accordance with our new, grace-given identity—to be what we are in Jesus. This is why Paul in his instructions to the Thessalonians is careful to reiterate that all of his asking and urging and instructing is established on the fact that we have been taught by God, in and through Jesus, who gives His Holy Spirit. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each take part in our justification (enabling us to be declared righteous) and in our sanctification (enabling us to live righteously). In other words, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Simply put, God finishes what He starts. He begins His good work in us by the power of the Gospel of Jesus through the regenerating (life giving) work of the Holy Spirit. That same power creates in us the faith by which we are declared righteous (right with God) and by which He enables us to live more consistently with our righteous status by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:16–17; 5:1–5).
This sanctification (living out more and more our true identity), Paul says to the Thessalonian church, is the will of God. When we struggle to know the will of God in our lives, we can always rest assured in the glorious truth that His will is that we remember our true identity in Jesus and live in that truth. As Believers, we cannot help but want to be more like our Lord and Savior, for He has given us new hearts and is renewing our minds so that we might have the mind of Christ (Romans 12:1–2; Philippians 2:1–11).
The gospel has all-of-life-encompassing implications. Therefore, Paul urges the Thessalonians not to grow weary but to continue to walk with God and seek to glorify Him more and more, to abstain from sexual immorality, to know how to control one’s body in holiness and honor, to walk well before outsiders, and not to transgress and wrong one’s brother in this matter of sexual immorality, which was as common a sin in the first century as it is in the twenty-first.
The motivating reason Paul gives the Thessalonians for their holiness is God’s gracious calling (Ephesians 1:4). God’s own great love for us teaches us to love one another, thereby showing the world that we are followers of Jesus (John 13:35; Ephesians 5:1–2). His great grace toward us creates in us a compulsion to want to glorify Him, honor Him, and share His love with others.
Having mentioned the second coming of Jesus only a few times up to this point (1:10; 2:19; 3:13), Paul now gives the Thessalonian Believers a more full explanation of the promise and practical implications of Jesus’ return. In providing them with some details surrounding Jesus’ return, Paul aims to comfort, encourage, and exhort the Thessalonians with words of hope. He encourages current faithfulness with the promises of Jesus’ eternal provisions—provisions that stimulate hope, endurance, and joy in the face of present trials and tragedies.
Paul does not want his readers to be uninformed about those who are asleep (fellow Believers who have died), but to give the Thessalonians hope as they mourn these Believer’s’ deaths. For though we grieve in this life, we do not grieve “as others do who have no hope.” We have real hope that is rooted in Jesus’ bodily death and resurrection in the past, and in the promise of Jesus’ bodily return in the future. The heavenly promise Paul gives to the church is so certain that he is able to provide not simply a vague notion of the future but a concrete picture of what will come to pass: The day of the Lord will come “like a thief in the night,” and “the dead in Christ will rise first,” and then we “who are left” (5:2; 4:16, 17). So we who are alive in Christ along with our deceased loved ones in Christ “will always be with the Lord” (4:17).
How does this chapter encourage you about your future and the future of all the Believers who have gone on before you?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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