Paul's Follow-up Letter
2 Thessalonians 1:1-2
As we journey through 2 Thessalonians, we will see some themes and ideas repeated and restated from 1 Thessalonians. We will continue to work through the text in “bite-size” pieces as Paul, like any good teacher, used the literary devices and conventions available to him in order to teach, remind, encourage, and challenge the Thessalonian believers.
Even as a Christian for several decades, I need to be continually reminded of so many things that I “know.” Therefore, when working through a book section by section, I rely on the Holy Spirit to teach me and remind me of that which is needed in my life at this moment. As this happens, my mind is renewed, and my heart is stirred. Then, I can live the vertical life!
1. Recognize the Context:
Paul needed to write a follow-up letter to the Thessalonian church to address a few issues.
Historical Context: Acts 17:1-10 presents the initial establishment of the Thessalonian church by Paul and his companions.
Literary Context: Like Paul's previous letter to the Thessalonian church, in 2 Thessalonians, Paul utilized the general letter-writing structure of the first century. In verses 1-2, he naturally included the senders, recipients, and a greeting. However, he didn't hesitate to adapt the contents as needed. Some of his changes included the identification of co-senders within the letter and an adjustment of the greeting, which was enough to grab the reader's attention with Christianized terminology.
2. Read the Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2
Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Reflect on the Scripture: The introductions of both letters are similar, but 2 Thessalonians has two noticeable differences.
1 Thessalonians Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
2 Thessalonians Paul, Silas and Timothy, 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.
1. In verse 1, Paul used the first-person plural pronoun “our.” This addition changed Paul’s emphasis from the relationship within the Triune God-head 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, from the Father and the Son.
Finally, notice the repetition as verses 1 and 2 conclude with similar phrases.
1 To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 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.
The words grace and peace are commonly used Christian words today. But for the first-century Greco-Roman audience, this greeting would have stood out as a modification of the traditional term for greetings, a cognate of grace. The addition of peace, probably from Paul's Jewish heritage, resulted in more than kind words or a pleasant salutation.
These words became two fundamental concepts that described vital elements of the Christian life. 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 with one another.
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.
People often unconsciously project their relationship with their earthly father onto their understanding of God as Father. This can be good, but it also can be harmful, depending on that human relationship, or lack thereof.
Today, prayerfully consider your relationship with your Heavenly Father anew. Has your relationship with your earthly father negatively impacted it?
Today, prayerfully reflect on the work of God and Christ in bringing salvation and sustaining your life of grace and peace. What impact does this have on your life today?
Is there someone you need to talk to about your fatherly imagery of God? Look for a trusted person you can talk to and pray with about this issue.
From your prayerful reflections above, identify one action step you can take today with the Holy Spirit’s help.
It can help to talk with other believers to share ideas and gain a different perspective. Are there others in your believing community with which you can discuss the concepts of church, grace, peace, Lord, and Father, in order to learn and grow from one another?
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)
Read and study these other passages on God as Father, which have the Aramaic word Abba for father.
Read and study the Lord’s prayer in Matt. 6:9-13, which begins with the address “Our Father.”
If you haven’t previously, consider using a website like biblegateway.com or a Bible app to search for other passages on church, grace, peace, Lord, and Father.