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January 10, 2024
July 16, 2024

1-2 Thessalonians: The Good Wait

Waiting is one of the most inevitable yet difficult things we do in life. How do we know what’s worth waiting for? How can we wait “well”? There are no easy answers to these questions, but we’re not alone in asking them. In 1 & 2 Thessalonians, we find a breadth of truth and reminders we still need today as it instructs us to wait. It’s both eternal and timely.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy wrote these two letters to the young church at Thessalonica, hoping to encourage them and strengthen their faith. The authors understood—and wanted their Thessalonians brothers and sisters to understand—that the church actively awaits Christ’s return with faith and hope. 

They begin the first letter by recognizing the church’s relationship with the gospel, claiming that they can be assured by this. This young community of believers—loved and chosen by God—is distinguished by their faith, hope, and love, giving reason for Paul to celebrate. The gospel came to the Thessalonians, they welcomed it, and it rang out from them. Amid trial and suffering, the gospel moved in word and power—transforming the Thessalonians as they turned from idols and lived out their faith as a model to other believers.

Humans have been forgetful since the beginning, constantly needing reminders of who God is and what He’s done. Relationships remind the church of this truth, so the authors use their relationship with the Thessalonians as evidence. First, Paul shares a personal example of his ministry in Thessalonica. Then, he reminds them of their response to him—that when they preached the gospel to the Thessalonians, they understood it was not a human message but rather “as it truly is, the word of God” (1:13). 

On his previous visit, Paul left Thessalonica abruptly and as he explains his absence, he also illustrates how the church is mutually encouraged in affliction. He had repeatedly attempted to return but was hindered. So Paul encouraged the church to stand firm while sending Timothy, and when Timothy returned, he brought Paul good news about the Thessalonians’ faith and love. Thus, Paul is encouraged by the church’s faith.

The authors now move from words of encouragement to those of instruction, in holiness and hope. The authors urge the church to please God, control themselves, and love one another because God’s will for them is holiness. Then, the authors offer a solution to a misunderstanding the church had about believers who have passed. They give them hope through God’s promise—that in life and death, all the saints will always be with the Lord—and they encourage the Thessalonians to reassure one another with these words.

After addressing this issue, the authors then address the lives of believers. They remind them that the gospel gives assurance as they wait for Christ’s return. The day of the Lord is coming, and the saints are children of the day. They encourage the Thessalonians to remain watchful and self-controlled, armed with faith, hope, and love. The authors pray for them to be sanctified and remind them that God is the one who sanctifies: He is faithful to keep the saints—and “he will do it” (5:24)!

The second letter to the Thessalonians has the same goal as the first—to encourage the young church and strengthen believers in their faith by reminding them that the church actively awaits Christ’s return with faith and hope.

After a short greeting, the authors focus on how God will bring righteous judgment. They affirm and encourage the Thessalonians in their faith amidst persecution and affliction. Though their persecutors may triumph for a time, the saints will be counted worthy and all their afflictions will one day cease. Jesus will return and take vengeance on those who do not know Him or live out the gospel. When that day comes, God’s justice will bring glory—through the relief of the saints and the repayment of the afflicters.

During this time, the Thessalonians were also experiencing false teaching. So, the authors instruct them to believe and remember the truth. Paul urges the church to regain composure as there had been some prophecies, messages, and letters—supposedly from Paul—that alleged Jesus had already returned. To keep the Thessalonians from being deceived, Paul describes what must happen before Christ’s return. The man of lawlessness will wield lies and wicked deception, and some will “not accept the love of the truth and so be saved” (2:10). The Lord will destroy the man of lawlessness, and the deceived will perish.

The authors then instruct the young church to stand firm in the truth because God has chosen and called them. The authors pray for this, asking God to “direct [their] hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance” (3:5). But standing firm doesn’t mean standing still; the saints are not to be idle and should avoid those who are. Rather, the church is called to faithful obedience and diligence.

As the letter draws to a close, the authors instruct the saints to not grow weary, lose heart, or become discouraged from doing good, as we are tempted to do while we wait.

But the wait is a good one. It’s not easy, but it’s overseen by a good God for our flourishing. Let this be an encouragement to you today, tomorrow, and all the days of waiting.

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Lindsey Lundin
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