Paul Prays to See the Thessalonians
“May our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”- 1 Thessalonians 3:11–13
Faith as a concept taught in Scripture has both a subjective and an objective aspect. Subjectively, faith can refer to the trust that people exercise in God and His promises. Abraham, for example, believed God’s promise to give him a son (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:13–25). Similarly, the Thessalonians had such faith in God that it was known everywhere—their trust in Christ was so evident that all people in Macedonia could identify them as Christians (1 Thess. 1:8). But faith also appears as an objective concept in God’s Word, referring to the body of content that is believed. Thus, it is possible to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, to fight for the compendium of truth taught by the Apostles and prophets (Jude 3). Objectively, it is possible to be “lacking” in faith, to not have a complete understanding of what is included in divine revelation. In that respect, all of us are lacking in faith, for we can always go deeper in our grasp of what God has revealed to His people.
Paul refers to faith in this objective sense in 1 Thessalonians 3:10, telling the Thessalonians that he prays continually to see them face-to-face in order to supply what they lack in faith. In today’s passage, he continues on the theme of prayer, not describing his practice but recording a prayer for the Thessalonians. Paul notes that he expresses his prayer not only to God the Father but to the Lord Jesus as well. This is noteworthy because as a faithful Jew, Paul would only pray to Jesus if he considered Jesus to be fully and equally God with the Father.
The Apostle prays for the Thessalonians to grow in their love so that they will be established blameless in holiness at the return of Christ (vv. 11–13). Here we see the close connection between love and holiness in Christian practice. There can be no true love without holiness, and there can be no true holiness without love for God and neighbor (see also 1 Peter 1:13–25). Love and holiness coexist perfectly in our Creator, for “God is holy” and “God is love” (Ps. 99:9; 1 John 4:8), so they must coexist in believers, who are being renewed after the image of God in Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). These attributes will not coexist perfectly in us until we are glorified, but we will grow in them both over the course of our Christian lives so that others can say that we are truly, though not perfectly, loving and holy servants of God (2 Peter 1:3–11).
Our love and holiness are not the basis of our salvation. Only the perfection of Christ can make us stand before God unafraid. Yet, neither will we be saved without growing in love and holiness, for sanctification—growth in grace—is the inevitable fruit of our justification—being declared righteous in Christ. Those who have been saved will certainly pursue love and holiness. Let us strive to do so today.
Passages for Further Study