Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2 Thessalonians 1:1-5

V1-5 – 1Paul, Silas [or Silvanus] and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. 5All 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.

Paul begins with a nearly identical introduction as that of 1 Thessalonians. He still stresses the intimacy of Father and Son and adds that grace and peace extends to believers from both. This letter is so similar to 1 Thessalonians, and written so soon after the first letter, that we could call it a supplement or extension to Paul’s first correspondence with the Thessalonians. Paul thanks God for – and even boasts before other churches about – them, specifically because God is growing their faith, as seen worked out in their increasing love for one another, during ongoing, and perhaps increasing, “persecutions and trials” (v3-4). Calvin says, “When [Paul] gives thanks to God on this account, he declares that the enlargements, no less than the beginnings, of faith and love are from Him, for if they proceeded from the power of men, thanksgiving would be pretended, or at least worthless.” And we also infer that if the Thessalonians had fallen away as a result of persecution, then the persecution would have stopped (Galatians 5:11); but they have persevered and grown more faithful, evidence that “God’s judgment is right” and that they “will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God” (v5). We’ll look at God’s right judgment in a minute, but first consider worthiness.

As Paul speaks of being “counted worthy” of God’s kingdom here, we must consider where he speaks of worthiness elsewhere as well, being worthy of God Himself (1 Thessalonians 2:12), of God’s calling (2 Thessalonians 1:11; Ephesians 4:1), of the Lord (Colossians 1:10), and of the gospel (Philippians 1:27-28). A worthy life is, as the footnote of my Reformation Study Bible declares, one of “patient, joyful discipleship even in the face of life-threatening abuse from those hostile to the faith. Such lives are sure evidence that God’s judgment is right. Even while enjoying the benefits of citizenship in the heavenly kingdom, Christians still must suffer for its sake (Acts 14:22), since the kingdom will inevitably confront diabolical opposition.”

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