Before Paul wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians, he wrote a letter to the Galatians. The church there had “astonished” the apostle by “turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all.” False teachers had arrived, perverted the truth, and thrown the Galatians into confusion. Paul’s response was clear and forceful: “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal. 1:6–9).
Paul didn’t want the Thessalonians to make the same mistake. In the face of false teaching and rumors, they should remember his teaching: “stand firm and hold fast” (v. 15). After his dramatic narrative of how those who reject the gospel will be deceived by the man of lawlessness during the Day of the Lord, Paul returned to his present time to give thanks that the Thessalonians were not like that (vv. 13–14). They had received the gospel with joy. Their lives had been transformed by the loving choice and call of God and the ongoing sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. They were “firstfruits” in the sense that there would be more believers to come. Their destiny would not be judgment but rather sharing in Christ’s glory (v. 14; Rom. 8:17).
Paul was so thankful that he once again burst into a word of prayer, blessing, and benediction (vv. 16–17). His prayer was that their hearts would be strengthened and encouraged to persevere and to do good works, even as they experienced suffering. The Trinity features clearly in today’s reading. All three Persons are mentioned in verse 13. Both Father and Son are mentioned again in verse 14 and invoked in verse 16. Paul’s blessing is thus not a feel-good, therapeutic thing—it’s a rock-solid biblical truth with God’s sovereign power to back it up!
>> What person or group in your life needs the blessing of verses 16–17? If you’re not sure, ask God to bring someone to mind. Then pray these words of Paul for them!
We each know people who need prayer right now. Lord God, we echo Paul and ask that you encourage their hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.