Commentary by Walter Albritton

May 2


Growing Christians Reflect Christ’s Glory in Daily Living


2 Thessalonians 1 – 3


Key Verse: But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. – 2 Thessalonians 2:13


            Saint Paul was an encourager. As he traveled extensively, he praised new converts for the way they were practicing the faith. Then he followed up his visits with letters of instruction and encouragement. He understood the value of affirmation. His applause surely stimulated the Thessalonian believers to do even more to honor Christ in their daily lives.

            We may learn from Paul. Observe, for example, what was important to Paul. He did not commend the little church for increased attendance. He did not salute them for building new buildings, raising money at yard sales and fish fries, or selling camp stew.

He praised them for loving one another! He praised them for growing in faith, despite persecution. He praised them for their patience and faith as they endured hardship without giving up.

            The new Christians had problems. They were not perfect, far from it. Paul addressed their problems, offering them godly counsel that is still worth its weight in gold in our own time. Paul understood that God strengthens his people when they trust him during difficult times. God uses trouble to help believers grow stronger in their faith.

            In China, thousands are coming to Christ daily despite persecution from the Communist government. In most places Christians must meet in secret to study the Bible and to worship. When they are caught in such meetings, they are frequently beaten by police.  Pastors are sometimes imprisoned for teaching the Bible. Persecution is causing the church to grow. Such love for Christ shames me. I am awed by such faith. I wonder how I would react to such persecution if we were forced to endure it here in America. How would you?

            No wonder Paul said that he and his team were “bound to thank God” for the witness of these brothers and sisters in Christ. No wonder he promises to pray always for them, asking God to complete what he had begun in them. Paul reminds them that God called them to be faithful, and he is praying that God will make them worthy of their calling, no matter what trouble they may endure.

            Paul recognizes that Christ is being honored, or glorified, in the transformed lives of the Thessalonian Christians. He prays for that to continue. He knows that unbelievers are attracted to Christ when they see him in the lives of believers. His desire is “that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you.” That is a beautiful prayer to pray for someone. When, by the grace of God, the name of Jesus is glorified in you or me, then despite our unworthiness, we are able to reflect his glory before others. Such lives

God is able to use mightily to bring others to saving faith!

            Paul urges his friends to stand fast and remain faithful to the teachings about Christ they had received. The word “traditions” has a different meaning for us today. We understand that the “traditions of men” may lead us astray. By traditions, Paul means the teachings about Christ that he and other faithful teachers have shared with them. Most of these teachings have been preserved for us in the New Testament, and mainly Paul’s letters.

            We must be cautious about false teaching that occurs sometimes in our churches today. Paul warns against false teachers more than once in his letters. In the recent television special narrated by Peter Jennings of ABC, it was clear that Jennings thought the opinions of certain modern scholars are more important than what the Bible teaches. Some scholars point out “errors” in the Bible, as though they need to clarify what the Bible really meant to say. This should be a red flag to us, warning us not to go down that slippery slope. It is dangerous and unwise to listen to a teacher who prefers his own understanding to the plain teaching of the Scriptures.

            As United Methodists, we have a good heritage in John Wesley. His source of authority was  the Holy Scriptures, not the opinions of learned men or the wisdom of a godless culture. If the Bible teaches it, then we should take it seriously. If the Bible does not teach it, then it is of no more significance to us than Peter Jennings’ opinion of oatmeal.

            Paul prayed faithfully for his Thessalonian friends. He admits that he needs and desires their prayers for him. “Pray for us,” Paul says, not that they be spared from hardship, but that “the word of the Lord” might prosper and be glorified “even as it is with you.” Paul wants them to pray constantly, that they might be delivered from “wicked men,” and be able to proclaim the gospel boldly without fear.

            Surely the little band of believers must have felt needed by Paul. They knew he loved them, that he was thankful for the witness of their lives, and that he depended on their prayers. I can imagine them gathering together to read Paul’s letters, and to pray together for Paul’s ministry. Like Paul, they had confidence in God. They believed that God was up to something in their world, and that by honoring Christ daily, they could bring glory to his name.

            What is exciting is that we can do that too. God still needs people who will honor Christ by reflecting his glory in what they say and do. If we are willing, we can live so that others can see Christ in us, at least some of the time, if not all the time. We can begin by loving one another like the Thessalonians did, and by praying for each other to remain faithful despite our hardships. When we do, I imagine somewhere in heaven, Saint Paul will be saying, “Way to go, guys!” + + +  (Contact Walter at