Saturday, 16 September 2017
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, 2 Thessalonians 1:3
After his introductory thoughts, Paul now begins the main portion of his epistle. In this, he states, “We are bound to thank God always for you.” The word translated as “bound” is opheiló. It means “indebted.” It “originally belonged to the legal sphere; it expressed initially one’s legal and economic, and then later one’s moral, duties and responsibilities to the gods and to men, or to their sacrosanct regulations. . . . opheílō expresses human and ethical responsibility in the NT” (HELPS Word Studies).
Paul is noting that he and his associates are actually indebted to God for those at Thessalonica. The reason for this will be explained in a moment. But first he calls them “brethren.” As always, Paul makes note of the inclusive nature of the Christian faith for those who are the redeemed of the Lord. It is only to them that he writes, but his words are also intended to lead others to that same faith where they too will, hopefully, be included in the term “brethren.”
Following this, he explains the reason for the debt of thanks which they owe to God, by stating that “it is fitting” that they give this thanks. What he will say concerning them demonstrates that thanks is not just something which is haphazardly offered to God without purpose and intent, but rather it is something which is right and good to offer because it is a response to something most positive and wonderful which has come about within the church. This special occurrence is, as he says, “because your faith grows exceedingly.”
The believers at Thessalonica didn’t just profess faith in Christ and then stagnate as so commonly happens in churches, even since the beginning. Instead, they had faith, and their faith increased. They desired to know more and more about this marvelous God who would step out of eternity’s realm in order to redeem fallen man unto Himself. What a marvelous thing for the hearts of Paul and his companions to know that their labors were not only not in vain, but that they were magnified! But even further, he continues that “the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other.”
This is something which must have truly enlightened their hearts. The faith of the church had grown exceedingly, but it wasn’t a faith which was found in individuals who independently grew in holiness. Instead, it was a faith which was shared between all at the church as they grew in love. This would mean that each had the best intent for the others in mind, and they would be there to build one another up in times of weakness, trial, sadness, and so on. They would remain strong, and also Christ-directed, because of this common bond of love which was both strong and strengthening among one another.
What is even more wonderful for Paul and his friends was that this is exactly what they had admonished the church in the first letter to them –
“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you…” 1 Thessalonians 3:12
Those words, along with Paul’s other exhortations in his first letter, were acted upon and they had taken root. Increased faith, and abounding love had become a hallmark trait of his beloved church in Thessalonica.
Life application: What is the state of your church? Is there great faith among the congregants? Do you even know? Could you rely on them if things were to go sour in your life? Could they rely on you? Do you have a shared love which is growing with each passing week? Or do you just show up, spend your time as if a chore is being completed, and then follow it up with a quick exit and without a care what transpires in the lives of the others in the week ahead? Think on this, and then set your mind to be a more active part in your church. It is only a “fellowship” if you are there to fellowship.
Lord God, are we doing enough in our respective churches to help others in their times of crisis. When their faith is tried, will we be there to help them through it? Do we even know the state of the others in our churches? Do we even care? Precious Lord, give us the desire to make our “fellowship” a place which is based on fellowship. Help us to be a part of the solution to the difficulties which others face in our home church. This we pray to Your glory, Amen.