May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
The Church of Thessalonica was likely a rather new church, with Paul’s first letter to them written not longer after the Church was established, and his second letter written not long after the first. The Church of Thessalonica faced strong persecution, but they largely remained strong in their faith, although there were many misconceptions regarding the second coming of Christ The Lord. In three short chapters, Paul’s letter clearly encouraged them to remain steadfast in their faith even as they await the second coming of The Lord, while at the same time clearing up the misconceptions that they had. In today’s study, we will examine the nature how is it that we ask Christians can remain steadfast even in the face of strong persecution.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself – this verse reads like a prayer of closing, as Paul ends off his instructions and encouragement to then with regards to the second coming of The Lord, the essence of which can be found in the preceding verse – So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter [2 Thes 2:15]. Having encouraged and instructed his breathen in the church of Thessalonica, Paul proceeds to make a strong prayer for them, so that they may be built up and encouraged in their faith. While it is a prayer of blessing, meant to bless and encourage, there is also a strong reminder hidden in it. Note Paul’s triple emphasis here: ‘our Lord‘, ‘Jesus Christ‘, ‘himself‘. Jesus Christ is our Lord of all [Acts 10:36], and our prayer is made unto him. He is our saviour and our redeemer, and we should have great confidence and assurance in him when we pray.
God our Father, who loved us – perhaps this is the fourth emphasis? As if a prayer to our Lord and saviour isn’t assuring enough, Paul reminds us that the prayer is, at the same time, made unto God our Father. God who loves us and protects us and disciplines us like a father would to his child, who loves us so much that he sent Christ to die on the cross for us [John 3:16]. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved [Eph 2:4-5]. Due to this love, we see grace manifested. And this grace from God promises us many things:
And by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope – what is eternal encouragement? Some versions render the word as ‘comfort’, some render it as ‘consolation’. In spite of our suffering and difficulties, our Lord is an eternal source of comfort for us, consoling us in our grief and encouraging us when we are down. Do we deserve it? No, but our Lord will always be our comfort, and that is grace – that is mercy. Some may choose to interpret eternal encouragement as our salvation. Because there is eternal life, we have reason to be encouraged, as it is not the end. There is hope – not just hope, but good hope. What’s the difference? When will hope ever be bad? Why is there a need to emphasize that this hope is good?
Really, it is good because it comes from God, who gives all good things [James 1:17]. This hope is blessed, it is certain and assured, and because we have this good hope, we can be eternally encouraged in our difficulties, eternally consoled in our miseries, eternally comforted in our suffering.
How do we remain steadfast in our faith, even as we wait for the coming of The Lord? Even when we are facing persecution? Paul says, we can have hope, because of God’s grace. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect [1 Cor 15:10]. Without the grace of God, we wouldn’t have been able to survived through the trials to live to today. Without really realising it, day by day, we have been depending on the grace of the Lord. Since it has led us through our lives so far, let us be renewed in our faith and keep hoping in this good hope, for God’s grace promises us eternal comfort.
Even if it seems easier to give up and surrender our faith, let’s cling on to the grace of God and refine our perspective to look at the cross instead. Then, perhaps, we can be encouraged to keep living the faith.