Faith, Love, and Answered Prayer
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4
1. Recognize the Context:
The introduction of 2 Thessalonians has two distinct differences from 1 Thessalonians.
1. In verse 1, Paul used the first-person plural pronoun "our." This addition changed Paul's emphasis from the relationship between the Triune God in 1 Thessalonians to the relationship between God and the Thessalonian church. For Paul, the familial imagery of God as "our" Father, allowed him to speak of the believing communities as the children of God and to refer to Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. In verse 2, Paul added the prepositional phrase from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Here, Paul made explicit the source of a life of grace and peace.
Also, notice the repetition as both verses 1 and 2 end with similar phrases.
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
These phrases provided an emphasis on the Triune God that can’t be overstated. Both God and Christ had the primary roles in creating the Thessalonian community and sustaining these believers in a life of grace and peace.
Grace is God’s unconditional loving unmerited favor extended to humanity, as demonstrated in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Peace is the overall state of wholeness and well-being experienced by those who have received God’s reconciling grace. This includes peace with God, and peace is meant to govern one’s life with others.
2. Read the Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4
3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
3. Reflect on the Scripture: The thanksgiving portion of this letter is found in verses 3-12.
In verse 3, Paul used the words ought and rightly so, to characterize his thanksgiving. Here in 2 Thessalonians is the only letter of Paul where we find these words in the thanksgiving. For Paul, these qualifiers were not empty expressions of mere obligation. Rather, they identified the natural response of gratitude Paul had because the Thessalonian church continued to grow in faith and love for one another.
For Paul, this brought a heart of gratitude because it was an answer to his prayer for the Thessalonians.
Remember 1 Thessalonians 3:10-12.
“Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”
Their faith and love continued to increase even under significant hardships. Therefore, their faithful endurance in the midst of adversity compelled Paul to “brag” about them to the other believing communities.
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, prayerfully reflect on the faithfulness of God. He is trustworthy. Therefore, we can put our trust and confidence in him.
Today, prayerfully reflect on the love of God. He loves us. Therefore, we can love one another.
Today, remember, God, answers prayer! This passage is a reminder of that. Paul prayed their faith and love would increase, and it did. The Thessalonian’s external circumstances did not change, but God worked in them and through them. In doing so, God demonstrated his faithfulness to them and love for them.
To do: (with the Holy Spirit's help)
How is your faith and how is your love today? Are these qualities increasing in your life?
Are you experiencing hardships and adversity right now?
Ask God to help you find a trusted person in your believing community to talk to this week and speak to them.
Is there someone you need to encourage in faith and love today? Is there someone who is going through hardships right now? Make plans with the Spirit’s help to encourage them.
Do you have a prayer journal? If you don't, you may want to consider creating one. People use a prayer journal as a place to record people to pray for and how God answers those prayers, or as a place to write out prayers, as the Psalmists did.