This first chapter of 2 Thessalonians gives us ideas on how we are to grow in the Lord. From the very first verse we see patterns of instruction on how God will help us to reach our Christian potential in him. As we examine this passage, we will learn how to grow in Gods grace.
Paul, Silva'nus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalo'nians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This first verse contains the starting point for our journey of growth in Christ. Notice that verse 1 is addressed to the church. Weekly worship and the support of other believers is essential to our spiritual well-being. This is not a church in name only. It was a church of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Healthy churches are those that allow God to be in charge of the services. Our purpose when we gather together must be to worship him, to sing praises from our heart to him, to pray to him, to learn from his word, and to live our life for him. A church that does these things will nurture us in our spiritual journey.
But the church must also be one that acknowledges the lordship of Jesus Christ. It must encourage its people to commit their lives to Christ and to have a personal relationship with him. Jesus came to save the world, but this does us no good until we accept him as our personal Savior. We must have a living, everyday relationship with Christ.
Verse 1 tells us from whom this letter was sent. It came from Paul and Silvanus (or Silas) and Timothy. Who were these three men? Paul and Silas were the ones who started the church in Acts 17:4, "And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women." And we know that Timothy was sent to Thessalonica from 1 Thessalonians 3:2 which tells us, "And we sent Timothy, our brother and God's servant in the gospel of Christ, to establish you in your faith and to exhort you." So why is this important? If we want to grow in Gods grace, we must be willing to be taught from godly teachers. Paul was the older man here. He was the one who led the way in establishing the church. No doubt he gave instructions based on his experience in the faith. Silas and Timothy were younger ministers. God also used them to establish the believers in sound teaching from the scriptures. Spiritual growth does not occur in a vacuum. We can learn a lot from our own personal study of the Bible, and we will grow immensely from personal times of prayer and meditation spent alone with God. But we need the instruction and wisdom of godly teachers. All three of these men were different. Paul was the fiery and dynamic founder of the gentile churches the elder statesman. We learn from Acts 15:32 that Silas was a capable preacher. From 2 Timothy 1:7 it seems Timothy may have been the quieter minister. But God used all three of these ministers to help strengthen the church at Thessalonica.
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In this verse Paul gives his standard Christian greeting, "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." If we want to grow in the Lord, we need to realize that God is with us to help us. He gives us his grace and his peace his grace to overcome the struggles with sin and the times of despair, and his peace to calm us in those times of turmoil and trouble. As we walk the Christian walk, we are not left alone to fend for ourselves. Gods grace and peace are extended to us.
We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, as is fitting, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
How Paul gives us two signs of a healthy church growing faith and love to one another. A healthy church must exhibit both. Our faith should not stay at the same level year after year. We must allow the Holy Spirit to teach us to trust in God more. And as our faith grows, we will want to reach out to others in love. A healthy faith is not one that we just keep to ourselves. We must be willing to share it with others, and we must be willing to live it by loving others.
We need to allow our faith to grow abundantly. 1 John 5:4 tells us, "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith." And Hebrews 11:6 explains, "And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."
Next, we must be willing to allow our love for others to increase. As Jesus said in John 15:12, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." And again in John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." We need to be a loving church. Fickett wrote, "The Christians who made up the membership of that church literally flooded one another with their love. Visitors coming into their services could sense it; it was warm and magnetic; it drew them to Jesus Christ."
Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring.
Here is another step in our growth in the Lord that we may not want to think about. Even though we have faith and follow the Lords commands, we will have persecutions and have to endure tribulations. Times of persecutions and afflictions will cause us to learn to trust in Christ more. It will also help us to gain a proper perspective on whats really important and what is not. When we are going through times of upheaval in our life, we learn the importance of prayer, we learn the nearness of God, and we appreciate the love and support from others.
Notice this verse emphasizes the Thessalonians steadfastness and faith in their persecutions. This is a secret to growing in Gods grace. We must be steadfast. We cannot waver in our commitment to the Lord or in our faith that all things will work out according to his plan. Steadfastness is an important trait in our spiritual journey. Let us stand fast and never give up.
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
Here Paul is saying persecutions and afflictions are a good thing because they are "evidence of the righteous judgment of God." Do we really believe this? Paul says that we suffer so we may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God! So if you are suffering, look at it as an assurance that you are part of Gods family.
The New Bible Commentary tells us, "...their affliction is a proof of the genuineness of their faith, and that their steadfast endurance of it marks them as worthy to inherit the divine kingdom...."
Now perhaps you dont think you can find any good thing from troubles. But here Paul points out the positive in a very negative situation. We see this throughout Pauls writings. He always sees the bright side of things. He never allows himself to become discouraged. He trusts in God so no matter what happens he will rejoice. This needs to be our attitude as we progress in our spiritual walk. There are no bad things that happen to Christians, only opportunities for growth.
Since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you.
God promises judgement on the oppressors. We dont need to become upset and miserable because we are being mistreated. But we can patiently endure any persecution that comes our way because God has promised that he will right the wrongs. Psalm 103:6 promises, "The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed." And Ecclesiastes 3:17 tells us, "...God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work."
If we truly believe this, then we will be able to endure whatever difficulties may come our way. Learning to patiently endure even the most trying of circumstances is an important step in our growth.
And to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire.
Do you feel troubled? The Lord has promised rest. Jesus said in Matthew 11:29, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." And the psalmist declared in Psalm 116:7, "Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you."
In verse 7 Paul prays that God should "grant rest with us." How can he say this? He was constantly in trouble, in prison, beaten, shipwrecked, accosted. But Paul had learned true rest. As he wrote in Philippians 4:11, "Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content."
Learning to be content and being able to rest in the Lord is an important part of our growth. As long as we are upset, angry, or bemoaning our condition, we cannot rest in the Lord. We will be too upset to find peace in our souls. We need to learn to rest in the Lord and trust in his ways.
Inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
There is only one way to God: obey the gospel of Jesus. Many claim to know God, but Jesus as a flaming fire will reveal their unrighteousness. We can say we have faith, but this verse tells us that we need to be obedient. Do you obey the gospel message? Do you spend time discovering what the Bible is teaching? Are you listening for the words of God speaking to your heart? We need to be more than professing Christians, we need to be more than affirming Christians, we need to be obedient Christians. As we learn to obey God, we will grow in our spirit.
They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
This verse tells us about the everlasting punishment for the unbeliever. But by contrast, it also tells us the believer will experience the everlasting presence of the Lord and the glory of his might. One secret of spiritual growth is to keep our focus on eternity. It is so easy to become distracted by the things of our everyday life and lose our focus on God. Those things that we do to feed and clothe ourselves today arent nearly as important as those things we do for the eternal kingdom of God.
As we were preparing for our Bible study in our home last Tuesday, my wife Lorna was getting ready for the childrens program that we hold at the same time in our garage. We were running late, and she was frantically trying to get everything done in time. Abruptly she stopped, and she told me, "Twenty years from now, no one is going to notice if I swept the kitchen floor, but if Im so frazzled that I say an unkind word to one of the children, that child may be affected by it for years." So she stopped her cleaning and went out in the garage to quietly prepare for the things that were really important the eternal souls of those little children.
When he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
This verse tells us that Jesus will be glorified in us. How does this occur? Paul ends this verse with the words, "because our testimony to you was believed." This is another step in our Christian growth. We must share our testimony that others may believe. We must be telling others the good news of the gospel. We need to be sharing Christs love with our family, our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, and our community.
A body of water that is flowing is constantly being replenished. But if it becomes stopped up, it becomes stagnant. If we are constantly sharing Christ with others, we will be constantly replenished and we will feel refreshed and alive. But if we keep our faith to ourselves, we will become stagnant and feel dead and lifeless. Let us not be afraid to tell others about Christ by our words, our actions, and our life.
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, 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.
Paul prays for the Thessalonians and concludes this chapter with seven things we need to observe in order to grow in Gods grace.
1. God makes us worthy of his calling. We may feel inadequate and unimportant, but God makes us worthy.
2. God will fulfill every good resolve. As we resolve to obey God, he will help us to fulfill our commitment to him.
3. God will fulfill the work of faith. We are not left alone to struggle in our work of faith. God will help us along the way.
4. He helps us by his power. Our strength may not be sufficient, but his certainly is.
5. The reason why the Lord does all these good things for us is so that Jesus may be glorified in us. The pot is a reflection of its creator, the Christian a reflection of its Savior.
6. Not only is Jesus glorified in us, but we are glorified in him. What a privilege that God allows us to be part of his heavenly plan.
7. Fortunately, none of these promises are based on our good works, but "according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." Ultimately, growing in grace depends not on our own attempts at working things out in our life, but in Gods grace helping us along the way.
As we serve God, let us learn to follow the outline for our life that Paul has given us here in this chapter. May we become steadfast, obedient, patient believers full of faith in God and love for others. As we do, we will find ourselves growing in Gods grace.
This study on 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 and the poem "Growing" ©
1997 by David Humpal. All Rights Reserved
Fickett: Lets Keep Growing, Encouragement from 1st and 2nd Thessalonians pg. 100 © 1987, Regal Books
The New Bible Commentary pg. 1162, 1954 edition, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company