27 November 20141 Thessalonians 3:6-13
“For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?” (vv. 8-9)
Psalm: Psalm 68:1-20
Between yesterday's passage and today's, there are 13 verses which are often considered to be a later addition to the letter, in which the Thessalonians were affirmed for their faithfulness through persecution and the writer expressed his personal sorrow in not being able to visit them again himself. Instead Timothy had been sent and returned bringing good news of the believers' faith and love (no mention here of hope). Verse 6 speaks of kind remembrances - the relationship between Paul and his churches includes great affection on both sides. The good news brought by Timothy has done much to cheer Paul and his companions in a time of distress and persecution, so closely are they bound up with this congregation. The phrase in verse 7 "for we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord" expresses a deep sense of inter-connectedness between believers in different places.
Paul had not given up the idea of a visit and continued to pray (verse 10) that this might take place so that he may "restore whatever is lacking". Is this, perhaps, a reference to the third part of Paul's triad of faith, hope and love from 1 Thessalonians 1:3, the hope which is not mentioned in verse 6?
Whilst the Thessalonians are characterised by love (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3:6), there is always room for improvement; Paul's exhortation to further love took the form of a blessing (verses 11-13). This self-giving, agape love (rather than philadelphia "brotherly love") is not just to be demonstrated within the Christian community, but is to blossom into love for all. So the close, united family of believers is not to become inward looking, but, in a counter-cultural way, to express and offer that love widely. Paul reminded his readers that there is a goal and an endpoint to this mixture of persecution, family love and witness; the Lord Jesus Christ will come with all his saints and he wants the Thessalonians to be blameless on that day when "The invisible appears in sight and God is seen by mortal eye".
- If you have time today, look at some of the letters from Methodist mission partners serving in many countries of the world (on the World Church pages of this website) and be encouraged as Paul was encouraged to know that the Thessalonians were thriving.
- Think about faith, hope and love in your life and how they inter-relate. How is your discipleship affected if one or more of these 'badges of belonging' is missing at times?
- The 'Reign of Christ' will be revealed fully when he comes with all his saints. In what ways does Psalm 68:1-20 prefigure that event?