This is the final message in the 1 Thessalonians series, and is called “God is faithful.” It was the final message sent out exclusively online. The following Sunday, our church was going to reopen for services, although online messages would continue to be recorded.
God has shown His faithfulness to His people by bringing us through the four-month lock down, and He remains faithful to bring His people to stand blameless before Him on the day of Christ’s return.
Christ is coming. The last one and a half chapters speak of Christ’s return and our response to it. We are to be:
- Working for His glory
- Worshipping Him.
But, with all the battles that we face, can we be sure that we will make it? Can we be sure that we will stay the course? Can we be sure that we will be accepted on that day?
This passage gives an emphatic “Yes,” because God is faithful.
This is a word for us today in the midst of all that we are facing at the moment. Yes, it is difficult, but God is faithful.
Paul ends his letter with a prayer, a request for prayer, a greeting, a command and a blessing. In the middle of these is this wonderful statement – “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”
Do what? Answer Paul’s prayer that He would keep them until Jesus returns.
We are going to end the message by looking at the faithfulness of God. Before that, let’s look at each of the other elements.
I) Prayer (v23, 25)
“God is faithful” isn’t an excuse for doing nothing. He uses means and one of those means is prayer.
Who does He pray to (v23):
- The God of peace. The God who has brought us peace with Himself through His Son so that we are in a relationship with Him.
- He is the God of peace also in the sense that He has given us peace – we have that shalom, that wholeness because we are in relationship with Him.
What does he pray for (v23):
- Sanctification – set apart for the Lord. There is a sense in which this is already our position, because we are already set apart for the Lord, but it is also something that Paul desires to be seen in their lives more and more. It is not so much an intercession, as if Paul is worried that it isn’t going to happen, but a prayerful expression of confidence in what the Lord is going to do.
- “Completely” – Paul wants their sanctification to be seen in growing holiness.
We are responsible, but the source of holiness is the Lord. That is why we pray. If you remember back to chapter 3:11-13, Paul’s prayer there was about being “blameless in holiness.”
The intervening teaching is essentially about how. He is praying that things he has taught would be seen in their lives – seeking to please the Lord, sexual purity, brotherly love, grief that is not without hope, eagerly waiting for Christ’s return, respecting the church leaders, being at peace with each other, not being lazy, encouraging and strengthening each other, rejoicing, praying, giving thanks, not quenching the Spirit, receiving the word, testing the preaching and prophecy against scripture, clinging to the truth and avoiding evil.
- “Whole” – in all our being. There is no area of life that we should want outside of the Lord’s rule:
- spirit – the human spirit – the eternal part of us.
- soul – the soul in the sense of the inner immaterial life. The thoughts, emotions and personality.
- body – our physical being.
- “kept” – guarded. The Lord, by His Spirit, guards us from falling away. So that we may be…
- “Blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So we stand before Him accepted/blameless/preserved at the second coming complete. In other words, that we would be in glory and not under judgement.
He is praying for their perseverance. Again, this is something that God has promised to every true believer. He will keep them. Yet Paul prays, because prayer is one of the means God uses to keep us.
The fact that it is God’s purpose is good news and encouragement to pray because we know that we are praying in accordance with His will.
Prayer is mutual (v25). Although he doesn’t ask for any specific things, like he does in other letters, his request reminds us of how vital it is to pray for the preaching of the gospel and for preachers of the word.
II) Fellowship (v26)
The holy kiss (v26) was a cultural greeting in those days. It is something that is still an expression of fellowship and greeting in some cultures. It is something that we have to be careful of, that it is done appropriately. In British culture, the shaking of hands is more culturally appropriate.
Of course, we need a holy wave or nod of the head in the current situation where we need to maintain social distancing.
However the point isn’t the nature of the greeting, but who the greeting is for – “all the brothers.” The greeting is a sign of acceptance. Paul is calling the church to accept one another – all of God’s people, not just those that we like.
Despite our differences, do we truly accept each other – and show it through our greeting, our love and our service?
III) Read the word (v27)
It is so important that this letter is read. It is the word of God.
Today, the same command might be said of all the scripture – read it, declare it, preach it so that we know the will of God.
IV) Blessing (v28)
Paul is praying for God’s manifest favour for them and reminding them that all that they have flows from the Lord’s grace. It shows them their dependence – they are and remain Christians by grace alone. Christ is the source. It is His death and resurrection that has brought them into the favour of God.
V) Faithfulness (v24)
God’s faithfulness gives us the assurance that our prayers will be answered and that we will be purified and stand blameless before Him.
“He who calls you.” This is important. He is faithful as we will see in a moment, but He is also the One who calls us. We are saved not because of our goodness or openness to the gospel, but because of His call. God’s choice of His people is mentioned in 1:4. Jesus Himself said, “You didn’t choose me but I chose you.”
God’s choice in 1:4 is His sovereign plan. Eph 1:4 -“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.”
God’s call is what happens when we hear the gospel and respond. We don’t just hear the gospel with our ears but we hear God’s call within us. It is important for two reasons:
- You are a Christian by grace alone. To God be the glory not to me be the glory.
- You stay a Christian by grace alone. Since He has called us, He is not going to change His mind.
This is confirmed by the fact that the verb is present tense (“calls” not “called”). In the Christian life, the Spirit of God continually calls us, to draw us to seek the Lord and to obey Him.
So, He is faithful, and He is faithful to us personally (“He who calls you.”). If you are saved, it is because of His sovereign plan and His call to you through the gospel. And because He is faithful, He is committed to you – He has purposed to keep you. He is never going to let you go. He is not just good all the time, He is good all the time to you.
Whatever happens in life – the Lord remains faithful. Whatever He leads you through. Whatever trials and disappointments and joys.
Which means – “He will surely do it.” He will also, most definitely do what has been prayed – because He has called His people and He is faithful. Thus He who began a good work will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.
We have complete security. He is faithful and will surely present us to Himself blameless.
We also have complete motivation – all the things that we have looked at are part of God’s plan. As it is God’s plan, this is something for us to pray for ourselves and each other and also to passionately pursue.
Complete encouragement. There are times in our lives when we will fall, we will not feel blameless, our bodies yield to sin, our emotions yield to sin, our commitment to the Lord wavers. But nothing stops His purpose to save. The fountain of the grace of the Lord Jesus never runs dry.
Lockdown can’t stop Him keeping you. Sickness can’t stop Him keeping you. Redundancy can’t stop Him keeping you. Tiredness, worry, fears – whatever happens – He who calls you is faithful and He will keep you to stand complete, blameless before His glorious presence.
Whether or not you are able to come back to church does not stop His keeping power. However long it takes to return to “normal” – nothing defeats His keeping power. He keeps us by His amazing grace
And so (v28): “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”