“Now our Lord Jessu Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”
The main thrust of Paul’s prayer here is that the Thessalonians may be consoled.
And well he might, for they were in awful straits. He speaks of “all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure”; verse 4 of chapter 1. Also in verse 5 “for which ye also suffer,” and in verse 6 “that trouble you.” And in chapter 2 “that ye be not soon shaken in mind and troubled.”
Hence, Paul supplicates Christ and God our Father that the Thessalonians may be consoled in their hearts and set firm on the only foundation unto all good words and work.
Let is look at the word order first. That is lost in our translation where we read simply: Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, etc. However, here is the order of words as the Holy Ghost expressed it: Himself now our Lord Jesus Christ, etc. That is important, because in many languages the emphasis falls on either the first or the last word in the sentence, mostly the first. Stresses the fact in this instance that Jesus Christ our Lord is, in fact, the Lord .and Ruler of the Christian Church. And that thought is in complete harmony with Scripture. See, f.i., Ephesians 1:20-23: “Which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places. Far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named not only in this world but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.”
That Lord now, Paul addresses first of all. He is the first and the high tribunal.
That raises a question: why Christ first in this petition and then God? The petition reads: Now our Lord Jesus Christ and God even our Father! Is that not strange? Should not God come first?
And the answer: no, that is not strange. Christ comes first, not because He is greater than the Triune God: the thought is blasphemy. But that is the established order: “No one cometh to the Father but by Me!”
See II Cor. 13:13: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all, Amen! Note the same order as in my text.
And so Paul addresses the Mediator between God and man in behalf of these poor and yet so rich Thessalonians that He may console their troubled hearts and minds.
And what is the ground of that petition?
This: “which hath loved us.”
Refers first of all to the Thessalonians. God had shown that love clearly. He had sent Paul to them and they were called from darkness to light. And through the power of both Word and Spirit they had been formed unto the church that was at Thessalonica.
Second, God had shown that love to them by the sending of His Son into the world for them. Certainly a proof that God loved us. For he came and went to the Cross of Golgotha, there to pay for all our sins and guilt and to merit eternal salvation for us.
Third, it refers to all Christ’s and God’s word and work from the very beginning of time. Listen to this: God who at sundry times and diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets . . .” All that revelation was a token of His eternal love for us.
But, finally, it refers to the depths of love of god from everlasting to everlasting. Attend to this: “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee!” Jeremiah 31:3
And here is the second ground for Paul’s prayer. “Hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace.”
Everlasting consolation, what is it?
The word consolation means to call someone alongside one’s self in order to dry his tears and to fold such a one into one’s bosom.
And not that this consolation is called everlasting.
From all eternity, as old as God is, before this world was created, God’s thoughts were all for your and my consolation. From all eternity it was God’s plan to call you alongside Him in order to speak to you His comfortable words of consolation. You can see that clearly when Jesus came to earth. Remember His comfortable words: Be of good courage, my son, all your sins are forgiven you? That is the expression in time of that which is in God from everlasting.
That consolation for God’s own is further shown in the incarnation of the Son of God. Still further in the gift of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost. Then further in our own regeneration, and finally it will be shown to angels and devils, to the good and to the wicked in the day of Christ. Then the whole universe will see how God always planned to call the poor church alongside Him in order to dry their tears and to speak eternal words of comfort to them, words that will make heaven musical forever.
And this also is given to the Thessalonians: good hope in grace. Yes, your English Bible says through grace, but that is not correct. The original has it: in grace.
Hope, and good hope, what is it?
Ah, but there is a beautiful story.
Hope is the yearning love of God which is spread abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost that is given unto us.
Hope is essentially longing for God! Oh, I can understand that Jesus calls heaven the simple seeing of God! Attend to the beatitudes: Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God!
And God gives that to us: He gives us good hope. Ah yes, that hope of the Christian is good hope indeed.
And that good hope you experience in grace!
You know, grace, the grace of God is the very fountain of all salvation with all its blessings. Everything lovely and beautiful and attractive in the entire economy of salvation springs from that grace as from a fountain.
Grace is the lovely Godhead Himself. And out of the depth of that Godhead comes the Water of the river of Life, and that is Christ Jesus our Lord.
Grace is that atmosphere of salvation.
When you have read your Bible with a believing heart and you close its covers, then the grace of the good hope steals into your heart. Then you look towards the heavens and meditate on the coming of the Savior from heaven. Then the good hope in the atmosphere of God Himself causes you to whisper: Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Now then, what is the content of this petition?
Comfort your hearts!
That is the same word as consolation, that is, the calling alongside one’s self in order to whisper good words of encouragement and comfort.
Paul means to say: O Thessalonians! that Christ himself and our Father in heaven may call you alongside of Himself in order to comfort your hearts that are now so troubled because of afflictions and tribulations you endure for His name’s sake!
That is important. The heart is you in the very depth of your being. When you are troubled in your heart you are at a complete loss what to think or to do.
And it is the fervent prayer of Paul that these troubled hearts may be enwrapped in the bosom of Christ and of God our Father!
And that is good!
I can imagine that your fathers and my fathers so went to the stake and the scaffolds of the persecutors, and died singing the Psalms of David!
When you rest in the bosom of God you are not afraid of anything or anyone. Then your tears are dried and you experience heaven in principle.
And that is what Paul wants for them.
And for us all.
But he prays for more than that.
Stablish you in every good word and work.
Stablish you means that you are founded, that your feet are set on a rock, and the Rock is Christ Himself.
If that happens you are able to stand, and to stand firmly against all the onslaughts of the devil and of the world and the flesh. Then nothing can unsettle you or trouble you. Then you stand and say with the prophets: I shall not be moved even though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.
In every good word and work. That’s next. And that is beautiful.
I can imagine that Stephen was so stablished.
While they aimed the rocks and the stones at his poor head, he stood on the Rock that is Christ. And all we see and hear are good works and words.
While he bleeds and while he is mortally bruised by the stones of the cruel persecutors, he speaks his good words, and what wonderful words they were: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!”
When you rest in the bosom of God and stand on the Rock, which is Christ, you can pray for your persecutors, then you can reward good for evil.
Then you are worthy followers of Jesus who did not scold again when He was scolded.
Then you are worthy followers of God.
Then your life is an echo of Him who said through the prophets: They have given Me hatred for My love!
Then you have good works too. Then you echo Christ’s good works: “Then I restored that which I did not take away!”
Then God is pleased with you, for He saw His own image! Amen.