The significance of v 1 is only just dawning on me.
Sometime in March Peter Cosgrove will turn up at his new job and collect his mail for the first time. He will stare at the title on the envelope, ‘His Excellency, the Honourable Peter Cosgrove AC, MC, Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia’. “Who me? the kid who was sacked as an alter boy in Paddo… Really? Is this who I am now?”.
Perhaps only a few months before 1 Thess was written, the Thessalonians were idol worshippers, unclean, excluded from God’s promises, outlaws. Now a letter has arrived using the title reserved for the highest spiritual order in the universe—’church’!
“to the CHURCH of the Thessalonians, IN GOD the Father and the LORD Jesus Christ”.
Could a group of human beings be known by a name more significant than ‘church’. Chances are if you ask the man in the street what church means he’ll probably tell you it means religious building. But that is not what it means.
‘Church’ means that communion of saints baptised into Jesus’ death and resurrection, who gather locally every Sunday to express the eternal, gathering in heaven taking place around Christ.
‘Church’ means those who are indwelled by the Spirit of God and gifted by Him to live together as the body of Christ.
‘Church’ means those who are called to call God Abba father together, adopted and called sons and daughters of the living God.
‘Church’ means the bride of the Lord of all creation.
‘Church’ means God’s elect purified and atoned for by the blood of Christ.
Perhaps the Thessalonians didn’t have a clue what was meant by that title. Perhaps they just received it as a simple collective noun for a bunch of Christians (gaggle of geese, murder of crows, fleet of ships, church of Christians…). Whether they understood what ‘Church’ meant or not, it was clear they were living out this high calling.
Paul understood exactly how he was addressing them. He may even had goosebumps as he scribed it. “am I really calling these Thessalonian Christians ‘church’ ?”. Paul offered them the royal salutation that not even the angels receive, ‘Grace and Peace’ (for only Christians have tasted grace and know what it is now like to have peace with God rather than enmity)
And of course, in v 2 he is saying “yes YOU! Really I give thanks for you all the time. You are God’s amazing miracle”.
Meanwhile in Luke 9 Jesus graphically describes the high cost of faithfulness that comes with such a great title.
Have great day Figtree Anglican Church