Devotional # 178. 2/22/16. 1 Thessalonians 2:10-20.
Intro. As we’ve walked through the second chapter of Thessalonians we’ve seen the theme of Paul reminding us what God had done directly and indirectly. In vv. 1-3 (Devotional # 176) we saw that although there are difficulties in encouragement it isn’t from “error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit” but was completely worth it. In vv. 4-9 (Devotional # 177) Paul taught us we have been tested and been approved to grow in patience and affection for Christians and non-believers. In these verses we’ll see again how God has taken care of us through persecution and taught us that the Church should be a joy to other Christians as much as it is to God the Father.
vv. 10-12. Here Paul is restating how he, Timothy and Silas encouraged and exhorted their brothers and sisters in Thessalonica. It was “devoutly and justly and blamelessly.” Last week Paul used the analogy of a mother, this week he uses another parental analogy, this time about a father. He explains that he “exhorted, and comforted, and charged everyone of you, as a father does his own children.” Before, when he used the analogy of a mother it was about being “gentle” and “affectionate” but now he’s talking about “exhorting and comforting and charging“. It’s not that these are so widely different and the point isn’t that these are the exact types of traits that mothers have to follow and separately fathers have to follow; instead it is what is natural to a mother and what is natural to a father. I know from experience that mothers nurture, that doesn’t mean that they don’t discipline but their primary trait is one of nurturing. I also know personally, as a father and as a son who has been fathered, that dads can do a great job of encouraging and charging their children. We talked a bit about “motherly” traits last week in Devotional # 177 , so let’s talk a bit about the fatherly role here. If my kids have done something that they’re a little bit unsure about, say at painting, and I playfully make fun of it even just a little bit it basically destroys them. But if I encourage them about it they’ll get even more excited and tell me more details and even more importantly they’ll want to do it again. In the same way when we are encouraging other believers, when we take on the fatherly role, sometimes we have to give them the hard answer or be blunt with them. The key, as always, is love. And that’s where Paul is saying he came from whether in motherly traits are fatherly traits he loves the Thessalonians and has given them a role model to follow when they disciple others.
Did you notice that he said “every one of you“? He didn’t pick out just one special person but he labored and gave each one the time that was needed. And the reason he has taken the time to love and encourage them is that they “would walk worthy of God” who called them “into His own kingdom and glory” (v. 12). So if we “have been approved by God” and “entrusted with the gospel” (v. 4) then God has called us and we must “walk worthy“. We talked about walking worthy in Ephesians 4:1 (Devotional # 103) and Colossians 1:10 (Devotional # 145). Last week we talked about how we are called to do something very difficult but here we see the end goal: we get to go to “His own kingdom and glory.” We will get to go to heaven and be with Him!
v. 13. Paul starts the section off with saying “for this reason“, for what reason? I believe it’s twofold: starting with the reason of going to heaven (v. 12) but also because when they received the word they welcomed it (v. 13). He says for that reason “we also thank God without ceasing.” Do you think someone can really thank God for something without stopping? The short answer is “yes!” Paul was so thankful that the Thessalonians had accepted Jesus as their Savior and were following after Him, that his mind was always thanking God. (We’ll cover Paul’s “pray without ceasing” prayer life mentality more when we get to 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Devotional # 183). So Paul thanks God constantly that when the Thessalonians “receive the word of God” they welcomed it for what it really was: “the word of God.” We too can be thankful and confident that this isn’t “the word of men” but truly is the “truth“! One of the proofs of this is that it “effectively works in you who believe.” So it’s not just some dull archaic letters on a page but it is the living breathing word of God and it doesn’t just work sometimes it works “effectively“. But does it work for everyone? Yes, everyone who “believes.” We must understand this “believe” if we are to understand verses 14-16, Paul is essentially talking about Romans 10:9–10 which says, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness’s and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” So if we have heard the truth and we confess it and we believe in our heart then we are made righteous. Of course this is not our righteousness, which just means “right-ness” before God, only He can give us that.
vv. 14-16. With that in mind, that once you hear the truth you have to believe it, we get a glimpse into what the Thessalonians were dealing with. The persecution from their “own countrymen” was exactly what the church in Judea had also gone through. Read about the church in Judea in Acts 4:1-4, Devotional # 45. So the church in Judea had gone through (and continued to go through) a difficult time and they couldn’t possibly know that they were the fore-runners of how to handle persecution but they were able to look at the persecution Jesus had gone through for encouragement. And now the church in Judea was acting as a model for the Thessalonians. And no doubt thousands of churches who have endured persecution over the last two millennia have looked to Thessalonica as a model of how to get through persecution. God is always faithful to provide for us exactly what we need!
vv. 17-20. Even though Paul and Silas and Timothy have been away from the church in Thessalonica they can rest assured that Paul and the others have been with them in heart. And not just that – Paul and the others really want to see them again and have wanted to see them except Satan keeps spoiling their plans to go to Thessalonica.
There are two things in this next part that are really important for us to recognize: 1. Paul looks at the Thessalonians (and all Christians that he’s had a hand in bringing to the Lord) as a “hope, joy and crown of rejoicing“; 2. Paul is looking forward to the end of all the things that have to happen Revelation in order to be “in the presence of Jesus“.
Regarding the first one, Paul does not have disdain towards other Christians although I’m sure there were some that he was annoyed with sometimes but he views them as brothers and sisters, as children of the Lord. If we can develop the same outlook that God the Father has for others we would be very loving! Paul mentions that they are a “hope” which means that he receives courage and optimism from knowing that they are weathering the battles and following the Lord. He also says they are his “joy” which is pretty obvious that they bring him a happiness that can only come from when children are obedient. Lastly, he mentions the “crown of rejoicing” which is also known as the “Soul Winner’s Crown.” This is a literal crown that Jesus will give the people who have worked hard loving others to Christ. We need to be more mindful of who we are praying for and “working on” to be saved and also those we’re discipling. What a great thing to be able to present people to Christ some day!! For more on the Six Crowns in the Bible see Devotional #136. He finishes off the chapter with this thought also: that the church is their “glory and joy.” Now I have to ask you, if you’re not attending church on a regular basis and making those relationships with other believers how can you ever hope to say something like this?
The second thing is that Paul is looking forward to when Jesus comes back (“His coming”). Now this could be one of two things: when Jesus comes back at the Rapture (Revelation 4:15) or at His Second Coming (Matthew 24:37; Revelation 19:11-20:6). I agree with MacArthur, who feels that by context, Paul probably means the Rapture (Source 1). This makes sense since we have no reason to think that Paul saw the same things John did (which is now the book of Revelation) and Paul’s words are that his joy and crown of rejoicing will be them “in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ as His coming.” If Paul is looking forward to presenting them when Jesus comes back then it must be the Rapture since that is next on God’s timeline. Since this has not happened yet we too can be looking forward to this time and we also should have a list of people that are our joy, that we are looking forward to presenting to the Lord and ushering into His presence for eternity!
Source 1: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1846.