‘Lord, help me as I read your Word today. Guide me to a clearer understanding of who you are.’
1 Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and prayer
3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: he will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this 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.
In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul continues to encourage the church. He reassures them that it is obvious their faith and love are increasing (v 3), despite their trials (v 4). He then focuses on the justice of God. Judgement here is not unnecessary vengeful punishment, but true justice from a gracious God (v 6). When reading this passage, it may be helpful to remember Paul’s own conversion experience (Acts 9:1–31) as reassurance that God’s grace can be at work even in those who seem most hardened.
Living in the 21st century, we live in tension between this ancient Christian teaching from around ad 51 and an unspecified moment in the future when we know Jesus will return. The promise is that one day Jesus will be fully revealed in power (vs 7,10), but we don’t know how or when or what it will be like. Additionally, the challenge is to work out how this fits in with daily life: with the beautifully ordinary, the boringly mundane and the occasionally glorious moments in life. The call here is to see the world – and God’s justice – through a different, eternal lens.
Do you ever find it hard to match up your private prayer life and your public faith? Do you ever feel hypocritical? Pray that as you grasp the fullness of the gospel message you would be able to share it with integrity, urgency and love.
Deeper Bible study
‘Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time … to bring salvation to those who are waiting.’1
Paul’s thanksgiving and boasting (vs 3,4) should not seem strange to us. He had previously prayed for his readers’ love to increase2 and urged them to put on ‘faith and love as a breastplate’.3 Now he recognises that they are growing in God. Their faith was increasing like a tropical tree, thriving in the light and heat, and their love was expanding like a river irrigating huge tracts of land. How are your faith and love doing? Where there is life there should also be growth. Paul’s boasting is based on what God is doing among the Thessalonians as they suffer for their faith. Their endurance is a sign of their hope. That hope is not going to be disappointed.
God’s justice and vindication of his suffering people is on the way. It will have two sides. On one, there will be judgement and trouble for those who have opposed the gospel. On the other, relief for the people of God. The phrase ‘God is just’ (v 6) is a vital revelation. Abraham had faith that the judge of all the earth will do right;4 we need that confidence too. God knows all that we are going through, however unfair or unjust. Persecution is a very real part of the lives of believers today, too, and when Christ returns there will be justice and relief for us all.
Paul looks forward to the future glorification of Christ at his return, but prays that it might start happening even before then. Jesus intends that his people should see his glory5 and that the world should see it too, reflected in them. With the second coming of Christ in mind, Paul prays that they might live lives worthy of their calling, planning and acting in faith. This is the right way to be ready.
Are faith and love growing in your experience too? Pray that the name of Jesus Christ may be glorified in you today.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Deuteronomy 21,22; Psalm 35
Pray for Scripture Union
Pray that relationships with staff and students established by local mission partner Reach (working in Reading) will be protected and that lives will be transformed, especially now as pupils are unable to meet up at school groups.