Lift Up Your Hearts
1:1-10 Paul and Silas and Timothy send this letter to the Church of the Thessalonians which is in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Brothers, we ought always to thank God for you, as it is fitting, because your faith is on the increase, and because the love of each one of you all for each other grows ever greater, so that we ourselves are telling proudly about you in the Churches of God, about your constancy and faith amidst all the persecutions and afflictions which you endure--which indeed is proof positive that the judgment of God was right that you should be deemed worthy of the Kingdom of God for the sake of which you are suffering. And just that judgment is, if indeed it is right in God's sight, as it is, to recompense affliction to those who afflict you and relief with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with the power of his angels in a flame of fire when he renders a just recompense to those who do not recognize God and who do not obey the good news of our Lord Jesus. These are such men that they will pay the penalty of eternal destruction which will banish them forever from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his strength, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints and admired in all those who believed--because our testimony to you was believed--on that day. To this end we also always pray for you, that our God may deem you worthy of the call that came to you and that he may by his power bring to completion every resolve after goodness and every work that faith inspires, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in it, according to the grace of our God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is all the wisdom of the wise leader in this opening passage. It seems that the Thessalonians had sent a message to Paul full of self-doubtings. They had been timorously afraid that their faith was not going to stand the test and that--in the expressive modern phrase--they were not going to make the grade. Paul's answer was not to push them further into the slough of despond by pessimistically agreeing with them but to pick out their virtues and achievements in such a way that these despondent, frightened Christians might square their shoulders and say, "Well, if Paul thinks that of us we'll make a fight of it yet."
"Blessed are those," said Mark Rutherford, "who heal us of our self-despisings," and Paul did just that for the Thessalonian Church. He knew that often judicious praise can do what indiscriminate criticism cannot do and that wise praise never makes a man rest upon his laurels but fills him with the desire to do still better.
There are three things which Paul picked out as being the marks of a vital Church.
(i) A faith which is strong. It is the mark of the advancing Christian that he grows surer of Jesus Christ every day. The faith which may begin as an hypothesis ends as a certainty. James Agate once said, "My mind is not like a bed which has to be made and remade. There are some things of which I am absolutely sure." The Christian comes to that stage when to the thrill of Christian experience he adds the discipline of Christian thought.
(ii) A love which is increasing. A growing Church is one which grows greater in service. A man may begin serving his fellowmen as a duty which his Christian faith lays upon him; he will end by doing it because in it he finds his greatest joy. The life of service opens up the great discovery that unselfishness and happiness go hand in hand.
(iii) A constancy which endures. The word Paul uses is a magnificent word. It is hupomone ( Greek #5281 ) which is usually translated endurance but does not mean the ability passively to bear anything that may descend upon us. It has been described as "a masculine constancy under trial" and describes the spirit which not only endures the circumstances in which it finds itself but masters them. It accepts the blows of life but in accepting them transforms them into stepping stones to new achievement.
Paul's uplifting message ends with the most uplifting vision of all. It ends with what we might call the reciprocal glory. When Christ comes he will be glorified in his saints and admired in those who have believed Here we have the breath-taking truth that our glory is Christ and Christ's glory is ourselves. The glory of Christ is in those who through him have learned to endure and to conquer, and so to shine like lights in a dark place. A teacher's glory lies in the scholars he produces; a parent's in the children he rears not only for living but for life; a master's in his disciples; and to us is given the tremendous privilege and responsibility that Christ's glory can lie in us. We may bring discredit or we may bring glory to the Master whose we are and whom we seek to serve. Can any privileged responsibility be greater than that?
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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