Commentary on 2 Thess 1:1-5, 11-12
After eight weeks reading from the Old Testament prophets, we return today to the New Testament. For the next three days we will be reading from the Second Letter of Paul to the Christians at Thessalonika in northern Greece.
Today we begin the first of three readings from the Second Letter to the Thessalonians.
Although this letter is usually ascribed to Paul, there are serious doubts about him being its real author or that it was actually directed to the Christians of Thessalonika, a city in Macedonia, north of Greece. Nevertheless, it has always been a part of the recognised canon and we can read it with confidence as speaking God’s word to us.
The letter opens traditionally with the names of its claimed authors: Paul, with two of his helpers, Silvanus and Timothy, and its adressee, the Christian community, the church, in Thessalonika.
There follows a Christian prayer of grace, peace and thanksgiving to God the Father and the Lord Jesus.
The writers are full of gratitude to God because of the marvellous growth of faith and mutual love among the Thessalonian Christians, even though they are aware of some shortcomings also.
The Thessalonians are congratulated for standing out among the churches for their perseverance in spite of the persecutions and troubles they have had to face. This was a source of special pride for Paul and the other founders of this church and they were not ashamed to boast of it. Paul seems to imply that it was somewhat unusual for the founders of a church to boast about this, though others might do so. However, the Thessalonians were so outstanding in this regard that Paul departed from his normal practice.
It shows that God, in allowing them to go through these trials, was right. He gave them the resources they needed and they rose to the occasion and proved themselves “worthy of the kingdom of God”. He provided strength to endure and this in turn produced spiritual and moral character. Their sufferings are precisely for the promotion of the Kingdom as they give faithful witness to Jesus and the Gospel.
The passage ends with a lovely prayer that God will fulfil the Thessalonians’ “desires for goodness” and bring to completion all that they have been doing through faith in Christ. God initiates every good purpose and every act prompted by faith; Paul prays accordingly that he will bring these to fulfilment.
“We pray…that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you.” In ancient times one’s name was often more than a personal label; it summed up what a person was. Paul is praying that the name, that is, the person of the Lord Jesus will be given glory in them and they in him through the love of God and the Lord Jesus poured into their hearts.
As we read this passage we may reflect on a number of things:
a. Can it be said that our faith and mutual love, individually and collectively, are constantly growing?
b. How do we behave and respond when our Christian faith is challenged, attacked or rubbished? Do we stand up or do we go into hiding? Do we hit back or pray for those who attack us?
c. Can we see that the trials and setbacks of life are ways by which God is challenging the depth of our faith and calling for a deeper response of love and service?