As we begin a series of lessons at Legacy Sunday on Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, it’s important to consider the purpose and the impact of the very first line. The richness of the imagery and the depth of the meaning is so much more than we notice at first glance.
Paul writes to “the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Greek preposition “en,” translated “in,” indicates means rather than position. So it designates the church as brought into being or assembled by or created by God and Jesus. By this, we recognize that the church has no life apart from God and his saving work in Christ — work that’s rooted in his divine love and grace for us, his people. Paul is emphasizing from the very beginning of the letter the centrality and importance of God for the life of the church. The church is from God and about God. It’s only secondarily for and about us.
There’s also a profound purpose behind Paul’s deliberate identification of God’s son as the “Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s an apostolic formula that describes in detail everything we profess as Christians. The name “Jesus” stresses his humanness and his death, the title “Christ” emphasizes his resurrection and eternal reign, and “Lord” expresses the believers’ profession of faith and total submission to his divine power and will.
In this one part of one sentence, Paul claims that the church is so much more than just another social organization. It’s nothing less than the people of God, called together by him for his purposes. It’s God who calls people to follow, worship, and serve him; not vice-versa. God does not exist for the sake of the church; the church exists for the praise and glory of God.
And if we can grasp this foundational point, it’ll fundamentally change the way we think about church. We’ll think of our worship less in terms of what it does for us, and more of an opportunity for us to glorify and praise our Father. We’ll consider the ministries of the church less as a means of meeting our needs, and more as opportunities to serve others in Christ. And we’ll never view gathering together with other believers as an inconvenience or an intrusion into our weekends, but more as an opportunity to declare our allegiance to the one true and living God.
There are 27 more days until football season. But I’m going to wait until Monday to update the list of all-time jersey numbers in the countdown. In the meantime, you can help me. I can’t find a picture of Wilbert Montgomery in his ACU #28 from 1973-76. He wore #31 while he was running through and around and over the Cowboys in the NFL. But he was #28 as an All-America back at ACU. And I can’t find a picture. Somebody please find it for me!!!!
Schlitterbahn is in the books and we’re heading to Austin. Have a great weekend!