(20 verses, 2:30 to read)
What I am about to READ
- This chapter speaks of Paul’s apostolic work in among the Thessalonian Christians and the life of the Church there.
- vv. 1-12 St. Paul’s work among the Thessalonian Christians
- vv. 13-16 The life of the Thessalonian Christians, which included suffering
- vv. 17-20 Paul’s desire to see the Thessalonian Christians
- Paul here testifies that suffering goes hand in hand with the proclamation of the Gospel. The Thessalonian Christians could well attest to this as well (cf. Acts 17:1-9). What would motivate anyone to endure such suffering willingly? St. Paul says it was not to deceive or please man, but Paul’s desire to preach the Gospel among the Thessalonians came from his own conversion to Christianity and to please God. Just as the Gospel and suffering go together, so do regeneration and a desire to please God and serve our neighbors. On our own, we desire nothing more than to serve our own flesh, but those in whom God has created a new heart (cf. Psalm 51) bear good fruit in keeping with repentance. This is why we pray, after the Lord’s Supper, that God would “strengthen us in faith toward [Him] and in fervent love toward one another.” In this way, Paul became as a father to the Thessalonians (note that this is how Luther speaks in his treatment of the 4th commandment in the Large Catechism).
- This resulted in the Thessalonians’ steadfastness in the faith. Having heard the Word of Christ, they came to a confident faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This strengthened them in the face of those who persecuted them. Again, suffering goes along with the Gospel. Jesus Himself reminds us that disciples are not above their masters; if they persecuted Him, we can expect the same. Jesus says these things not to scare us, but to prepare us for what is to come. We can also be confident that through suffering, we are being conformed to the image of our suffering Lord. This is the baptismal life: to die with Christ and be raised with Him, knowing that God’s wrath will come upon all the enemies of the Church.
- St. Paul’s desire to see the Thessalonians reminds us of how human the apostles were. The separation was almost unbearable for the apostle, because he was like a father to this family of believers. His words near the end of the chapter, however, might be confusing if read out of context. He says, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” Out of context, it may seem as if St. Paul is arguing for a sort of works righteousness, as if the Christians there earned merit for him before God. Although St. Paul was God’s man on the ground that brought these people to faith, he was still God’s man. St. Paul was the instrument by which God brought these people into His family, through baptism, preaching, and the blessed Supper.
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for our fathers in the faith who have taught us Your Word and brought us to receive Your promised salvation through the blessed Sacraments. We pray that You would cause Your Church to continue to grow through these same means and that You would strengthen us by them for the suffering that we face in this life. Bring us at last to the joy of Your eternal presence among Your people. Amen.
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-Rev. Jordan McKinley, pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, Vallonia, IN
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