“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15, 18)
If the New Testament had to have been compiled according to the order in which the books were written, scholars tell us that the book of Thessalonians would have been the first book of the New Testament. In the coming weeks we will be looking at selected passages through this epistle and see how we can apply the message that Paul had for the early church to our live today.
At the time that this epistle was written, Thessalonica had been under Roman rule for over two centuries. It was the capital city of the province called Macedonia and was therefore the seat of Roman administration for the province. Located on a major Roman road, the Via Egnatia, Thessalonica’s residents were exposed to a wide variety of social and cultural influences. Religiously the Thessalonians honoured many deities. Apart from following the Roman imperial cult, they honoured gods from a variety of countries – the Greek god Dionysus, the Egyptian gods Isis, Osiris and Serapis, and the Phrygian god Cabirus being the most prominent.
Very little is known of how the Gospel grew in the city other than that Paul and Silas visited there in Acts 17. Their visit was short, but was seemingly successful in that some became believers, a church was established and that their testimony was known throughout Macedonia, Achaia and the surrounding areas (cf. 1:8).
The verse quoted above is one that tends to be skipped over as it simply seems to be telling us who the letter was from – Paul, Silvanus and Timothy – and who it was for – the church in Thessalonica – however it is a verse that has raised much debate and contains a lesson for us today.
What is also interesting to note is how the writers conclude their salutation. Typically in those days one would end simply with the words “Greetings”, however, this is not the case here. Instead they use the phrase “Grace to you and peace”. This shows that the letter was not just a general letter between friends, but was expressing a deep connection with, and concern for, the recipients that is rooted in the promises of God that include the grace and peace that only He can give.
God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ
This is the phrase that has stirred the debate: is this a reference to the church being located in God Himself, or does it describe the authors as being in Christ? In terms of the Father relationship: is it a reference to Him being the Father of Jesus Christ or the Father of all creatures? The tricky thing is that in the Greek it can be taken either way. However, focussing on these kinds of questions can cause us to miss the true meaning of this verse.
The meaning here is that the Father and Jesus Christ are the primary agents in the Thessalonian church and in the ministries of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy. Irrespective of what any of them accomplished, God is the one who is to be thanked as He is the one who builds and directs the church and He is the one who will remain faithful when man does not.
And the same is true for the church today. It doesn’t matter what person’s name is attached to a church/ministry, at the end of the day, it is God who has done all the work and has built any particular church or ministry. It is all about Him and not the man whose name is in the title.
Therefore, whether you are a leader or just a participant in a church/ministry, give God all the praise and glory for what He has built and allowed you to be a part of. Because to think that the almighty God would choose me, a sinner to be a part of His work is truly amazing.
Just a Thought! © 2016