Summary: Of the many blessings we enjoy through our relationship with Christ, I am especially thankful for the fellowship with those of like faith. I am blessed to be part of the church, the body of Christ.
Thankful for the Church
1 Thessalonians 1: 1-4
Over the past few weeks, we have been discussing particular blessings received through our relationship with Christ, and the thankfulness we should possess for those blessings. As I pondered all I have received in Christ, one of the greatest blessings associated with being in Christ is the fellowship that comes with salvation. Those saved by grace are placed within the body of Christ, and become part of the church. I am thankful for the church!
Our text comes from the greeting Paul wrote as he penned a letter to the Thessalonian church. Paul was led of the Spirit from Macedonia to Philippi, and from there into Thessalonica. It is estimated there were around 200,000 people in the city at that time. There was a large Jewish population, as well as many Greeks who had grown weary of Greek paganism that promoted immorality and indulgence. Thessalonica was ripe for the Gospel, and although Paul faced much opposition, he developed a love and devotion for the church there.
As we examine the details of Paul’s greeting to Thessalonica, I want to consider the thought: Thankful for the Church. As we move through this passage, I hope it will enhance our appreciation for, and commitment to the church. Paul spoke of:
I. A Lasting Relationship (1) – Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul mentioned various relationships associated with the church. Notice:
A. The Servants – This letter was written by Paul, but he also sent regards from Silas and Timothy as well. The church was familiar with these men. They too had labored alongside Paul, establishing the church. Paul was thankful for their support and fellowship; and he knew the church would be as well.
There is something special about those with whom we labor. Serving the Lord together, particularly in times of adversity, creates a bond between those who work together. We ought to rejoice for those of like faith and thank the Lord for them. It would be a lonely and difficult task without those whom the Lord has placed alongside us!
B. The Saints – Paul was certainly thankful for Silas and Timothy, but he was also thankful for the beloved, the church. Without them, there would be no ministry, no effort for them to labor together for. In this greeting, Paul reminds them of the nature of their relationship with him and with God. Notice, he spoke of:
1. Their Position (1a) – Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ. They were reminded of the position they held. This is simple and yet profound. Paul speaks of a physical location as well as a spiritual location. First, he reminded them of where they were. They were the church of the Thessalonians, called to minister in that great city. This was in reference to the opportunities and obligations associated with Thessalonica.
Next, he reminded them who they were. They were set apart, servants of the living God. They were in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ. This reminded them of their obligation to serve the Lord, and the great power and potential that they possessed in Him. (We too need to be reminded of our physical and spiritual location. We are positioned where we are with purpose and obligation!)
2. The Petition (1b) – Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul offered a prayer of blessing for grace and peace unto them. He desired the Lord’s grace in their lives. This speaks of “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, and charm. It deals with God’s unmerited favor; the extension of His holy influence upon their lives.”
He also desired peace for them. This was essential considering the opposition they faced. Paul wanted them to enjoy “harmony, security, prosperity, and an absolute assurance of their faith.” These elements are essential if we are to lead productive, spiritual lives. We will accomplish little for the Lord if we lack grace and peace. God’s grace sustains us while His peace secures us.
II. A Loving Request (2) – We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers. Paul encouraged them with the fact that he was praying for them. (Isn’t it encouraging when a known prayer warrior lets you know he/she is praying for you?) So, let’s consider the particulars of Paul’s request. Notice:
A. The Premise – He revealed that he gave thanks unto God for them. He was actively praying for the believers at Thessalonica and the work in which they were engaged. They were the focus, the heart of his prayer. He knew they needed the help of God and he sought the Lord on their behalf.