“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 6 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.”
As we recall, this church in Thessalonica was founded in just a few weeks on one of Paul’s earlier journeys. Yet, this church was thriving and growing. Grace and peace from our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Greeks here lead us to understand that the grace we receive is one source; this was clear to the early church and should be clear to us still today (verse 2).
Paul then goes on to say that he is thanking God for them. Paul was one to always be in the thankful mode. Here he was thanking these lovely people for their growing faith and their love towards one another. What an awesome thing to have in a local church! Oh, that more of our churches had this today—faith in the Lord and love for each other! In verse 4, Paul let them know that he boasted of them to other churches.
Just a step back to verse 3: do you and I thank God for each other? Paul thanked God for these people and this church all the time. He was actively thanking God for them. Do we do that? When is the last time that you thanked God for someone in your church, or your home, for that matter?
I can think of many people in the 2 churches I pastor that I thank God for a lot. They are faithful and loving, they love me and His kingdom, they endure great hardships and lots of tough times with grace, and they smile even in the hardest of times. I thank the Lord for them. I thank the Lord for the young man who was saved earlier this year; he was baptized and is faithful. When we came to help this church over 2 years ago, I could not envision him being saved, furthermore attending regularly. But God; He is awesome and wonderful, and He calls all who will accept His love and His salvation His sons. I thank God for an 84-year-old pastor who lives in pain every day, but he attends whenever he can muster the strength. I thank God for his wife who cares for him 24/7; she is in her late 70s, and she is joyful and faithful.
Thank God for the people in your life that love the Lord, boast about them to others, and give God the glory.
- Growth in Persecution, verses 3-5
I have said this many times, and I have heard it many times; the Lord’s churches grow in persecution. Now, our numbers may dwindle in persecution, but the true believers grow in the midst of troubled times. As far as I can recall, other than the two times we are given numbers in Acts, we do not know the size of any of the NT churches that we read about. We know that they had enough people to form a group, and they grew from there.
We love numbers here in our North American churches, and I can understand the need for numbers. We want to know that we are seeing progress. Missionaries send back reports of every salvation, every baptism, and every Bible and tract they hand out. Once again, there is nothing wrong with that. But we should be just as excited if the man is obeying God and it seems that nothing is happening — say, like Noah. He ended with the same 8 people he started with, but he was obedient. Jesus at one time fed a hillside of thousands, but only very few were in attendance that first resurrection night.
Over the past 2 years, we have seen an attack on the local church in ways that are very subtle. We have had pastors arrested in Alberta, Canada, for holding services; we have had churches fined thousands of dollars for not bowing to the rules of COVID. Here in Canada, one could go to a local Costco or Walmart with hundreds of other people but not attend church with a few for a long time. Over time many got accustomed to sitting on the couch and not actually going to church, and they are not going to return.
Now, at the same time, some churches found a way to actively get to the shut-ins that were ignored for a long time, and there has been a lot of good Bible expository loaded up to various online resources. But actual church attendance is down in many places, and it would seem that we have had a weeding out of the weak or maybe the lost, and the faithful have grown and are growing.
Many can see the framework of the reign of the Anti-Christ being set up right before our eyes, and we can see how easily people, even church people, can be manipulated into doing things to preserve peace and safety. There are some places in the world that are using the vaccine passports as a way to deny even the most basic of rights like buying groceries. The idea that one has to have a mark to buy and sell is being built right before our eyes. The idea that we are to report our neighbors to the authorities for non-compliance is happening right before our eyes. The division of society and the civil unrest that is happening reminds us that hard times are here to stay and that we in the Lord’s churches should brace ourselves for some difficult times.
But, as we see here in this church at Thessalonica, our faith and love should grow as we endure these hardships. We should see our dependence on the Lord grow, our compassion and need for each other should grow, and we should help each other through the difficult times that confront us. These times should bolster our trust that God knows what He is doing and is in complete control.
- The Righteous Judgment of God, verse 5
We will just introduce ourselves to this today; we will not explore it. God’s judgment was seen clearly in the Thessalonian church as they were purified in these troubled times. As we see their love and faith growing in the midst of trials, it was a testimony that God was at work. The same things that destroy the godless purify the godly. Just as God was working on the godly, He would execute judgment on the godless. He would be faithful to the negative with the same tenacity that He was faithful to the positive.
All too often, we see the evil prosper, and we wonder if God is asleep at the wheel, but He is not. He is moving in us His children, but He will come back to judge this world as well. These defiant and rebellious people will not escape the wrath of God.
Hold on; Jesus is coming to settle things up. And make no mistake, He will. He will come as the conquering King the next time, not as a lowly baby. He will be seen by all, not just a few shepherds. He will rule with a rod of iron, and He will not tolerate evil. These people that we see on TV every day defying God to His face will one day bow down and call Him ‘Lord.’ They will not be able to deny Him.
Hold on, hold fast your faith, and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Trust His Word and His promises; they will get us through. And, as the world around us becomes more bitter, corrupt, and cynical, we in the Lord’s churches should grow in faith in Him and love towards each other.
Next week we will explore more about God’s judgment and wrath. In the meantime, love each other and be actively thankful for each other; Jesus is coming back soon.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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