Monday, October 13, 2008

In Search Of Truth: 2 Thessalonians, 1:1-5


Not long after his first letter to the Thessalonians (possibly as little as six months), Paul writes a second letter to the same group of people.

In verse 2 we see an example of a "wish-prayer". (See the IVP Bible Background Commentary:New Testament) Although we may casually use phrases like "God bless you" today, in Judaism, these prayers were considered to be said and heard in the presence of God. They were nothing like the nice-sounding but somewhat empty well-wishes we often say today.

Although it was common at this time to start letters by wishing peace on the recipient, Paul adds "grace"(God's undeserved favor toward us) to the "wish-prayer" and also identifies the source of grace and peace: God the Father and Jesus Christ.

It would appear that the Thessalonians have been growing in their capacity for love toward each other. This would have been encouraging for Paul to hear about, since he had made an effort to motivate this growth in his last letter to them. (1 Thess. 3:12)

The Thessalonians continued to trust in God even though they were experiencing persecution from their surrounding community. Times were very tough for this small group of Christians. But Paul says that their continued commitment to God during this time demostrates their worthiness for God's kingdom. We should take a minute to pick this apart just a little.

Someone might look at verse 5 and conclude that we have to prove ourselves worthy of going to heaven, but that's not what this verse is talking about. First of all, the "kingdom of God" or "kingdom of heaven" does not refer only to eternity with God. Jesus used this phrase often and it refers to an invisible kingdom(invisible for now anyway), made up of those who put their trust in Jesus Christ. In a sense, the Kingdom of God is like an "underground" movement, led by God.

We might still ask, do we have to prove ourselves "worthy" to be a part of this movement? No. God makes us worthy. That process is called "sanctification". To be "sanctified" means "to be set apart for the purposes of God." And God does the sanctifying. (John 17:19, 1 Thess. 5:23) A phrase used by Michael E. Bryce (the voice of Isaiah in "Spirit Blade") that I like is, "God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called." All the strength or peace we have or demonstrate in times of pain or crisis, is a gift from God. It's grace: undeserved favor.

So when the Thessalonians are said to be "considered worthy of the kingdom of God", any worth or merit they display that makes them worthy to be a part of God's kingdom is a gift from God. By leading us through a time of suffering, God can demonstrate to his angels, to people and to Satan and his demons, that he can give people strength, peace and courage. He can build into people the perfect qualities of Jesus Christ. Those qualities won't be perfected until after this life, but the journey begins now, and God likes to call attention to those who are journeying well.

Even a guy like Paul, an amazing believer and a dedicated servant of God, clearly stated that the strong points in his character were not of his own creation, but came from God. (1 Cor. 15:10, 2 Cor. 1:12, 2 Cor. 12:9) And God can do the same thing in your life! (2 Cor. 9:8)

In God's cosmic plan, he uses those who trust in him to paint a picture and display an incredible message. God's message might read something like this: "I can take something broken and ruined, that no one else can fix, and transform it into something perfect and beautiful."

Ephesians 2:6-10

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We were made to "show off" how awesome God is! God gives us opportunities for "good works" in this life, to demonstrate how God is changing us, gradually making us more and more like him.

So God uses suffering to demonstrate his goodness and fairness. We've just touched on how God can show his approval through his judgment. Next time, as we look at the rest of this chapter, we'll see the "condemning" side that inevitably comes with true justice.

Coffee House Question-

When was the last time you can think of that God must have given you some "grace" in a difficult situation? What did that look like?

Next Week-

Fire and Retribution!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Tim. That's an amazing story.
    So many people are content to "follow their heart", but I read with admiration as you went a different route, listening to counsel from your parents and making every effort to keep your head clear. Sounds like God extended his favor to you in a very tangible way!
    Thanks so much for taking the time to share that.