We are in need of being a genuine family in these difficult days. We need one another and that need will only increase over time. Let me make a simple suggestion. I don’t need to help you love those you already love, but what about those who are like the Thessalonians, those less noble. How can I help you with them? Let me urge you to pray a specific request. Pray that your love would abound toward the ignoble brother or sister in your life (Phil. 1:9). And if you are willing, your heart will enlarge for them and others.
What is your impression of the church? When you think about the church what comes to mind? Think about the Old Testament church, the church underage and specifically that time after the Exodus but before the Conquest of the Promised Land. By all accounts, she was not in good shape. In fact, on one occasion God had punished the Israelites by sending serpents throughout the camp. On another occasion a plague ravaged the people. And the hardships were the result of Israel’s disobedience. But God kept His promise.
And that obviously was a cause for consternation to the surrounding nations. It also explains why Balak, king of Moab, got scared and sent for Balaam. He wanted him to conjure a spell or curse the people of God. Balaam agreed to come. But instead of cursing Israel he couldn’t help but bless them! That may be the humorous side of the story but it’s not the most surprising element.
Notice what comes out of Balaam’s mouth by way of description. He doesn’t speak of Israel’s disobedience; he says that they are like a lion. As he looks down on them, he says, “How fair are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Isreal! Like valleys that stretch out, like gardens beside the river, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters. Is that the description you would have given?
God’s perspective of the church is coming out of this unfaithful prophet and the words challenge us. How do we think of the church? How do we speak of the church? Perhaps you don’t think very well about the church, but you are repentant. The first chapter of the letter to the Thessalonians might be a good letter to reflect on. You might start by remembering something vital.
The Church has her foundation in God.
I am quite sure that this doesn’t come as a surprise to you. Notice verse 4. Paul is speaking to the Thessalonians and this is what he says, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.” The first thing that hits us is that Paul is speaking about a local church. Notice that Paul doesn’t say to this local body, “For we know, brothers loved by God, your credible profession.” No, he roots their existence as a church in the electing love of God.
Now, this leads us to a second point. God is said to have loved these people. Paul describes them as “loved by God.” Loved when they were yet sinners. In fact, the word translated “loved” or “whom God loves” is a verb form indicating that this love was initiated in the past. Now, think of that in light of Romans 5:8. Though God loved these people in eternity His love was demonstrated for them on a Roman cross.
However, this raises a third point. God chose us. Verse 4 of first Thessalonians parallels Ephesians 1:4, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. In love He predestined us…” He chose us out of death. We were dead in our sins and transgressions, and He made us alive in Christ.
God set His love upon the undeserving Thessalonians in His eternal counsel and he displayed that love in Christ when they were unlovable. But there is a fourth and final thing I want you to notice. This love and choice of God did not lead to abstraction. It led to a local church in Thessalonica.
It is impossible to speak of loving the church in the abstract.