want to look at three key texts from the letters of Paul first to the church in Ephesus, then Thessaloniki and finally Corinth. These places we know are in turkey and Greece. paul writing to them, whilst facing his own challenges, as newly formed church’s they are in need of encouragement.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The word Paul uses for those saints (sanctified ones) are described as faithful in Christ
His comment on them means that they are believing, faithful, sure, true.
Pick up what it means to be faithful, staying in the course and Being true and consistent. Steadfast.
Those early church believers, for so many reason, faced challenges and difficulties whilst staying true to their convictions in a culture that was more used to worshiping other gods,
As new believers this would have meant their lifestyle would have been so different to their culture and they would have had to establish their community that remained true to the teachings of the apostles. In the case of Ephesus, in addition to Paul looking out for them, they had John the beloved of Christ, possibly even Mary so they had many good examples and good teaching.
Ephesus was a centre of cultural worship and the home of the temple of the Roman goddess Diana. Piety they called it and they saw these Christians as anti Roman and superstitious and atheistic.
Paul reminds them often how they are in Christ, they are part of a new humanity, and commends them for their faithful living.
It may have been these challenges that bought them together. United in their struggles, faithful and true to Christ and to each other.
These believers had something amazing and lived by this faith, that they were in called by Christ and as the letter continues he talks about how they walk out this life and encouraged to stand in the face of spiritual battles.
This calling meant they were living for a higher purpose, the way they saw the whole world had changed. They were not to follow idol worship, they were to be different.
I believe for the church today there is a Divine call to salvation by the one who is faithful, faithful to keep us from stumbling and present us to himself, a spotless bride.
We have a calling, a calling into his service, a calling into right standing, calling to live in a way that pleases him.
Calling us to live his life on earth and to eagerly know Christ’s plan for us and the completeness of our salvation when Christ's return .
In the meantime the ‘Christ follower’ is a saint, not as in the dead kind but one who is faithful to watch and wait, to work and walk through the dark times and bring the light.
The rock on which we build this faith is God's faithfulness means that we play our part in this relationship. As the psalmist wrote:
Love and truth belong to God’s people;
goodness and peace will be theirs.
On earth people will be loyal to God, and
God’s goodness will shine down from heaven.
When we as Christ followers begin to understand what God loyalty towards us means and when he promises to us his goodness, we can be sure that God stands by his word to us.
Often words we read in the Hebrew bible about Gods character, it revolves around a Hebrew word Hesed that we can best translate as loving kindness or even better steadfast love.
From reading Exodus recently and how God shows who he is, it states that he has an abundance of Hesed towards us.
Paul writing to another church this one in Greece
The Lord is faithful and will give you strength and will protect you from the Evil One. The Lord makes us feel sure that you are already doing and will continue to do the things we told you. May the Lord lead your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s patience.
2 Thessalonians 3:2-5
He writes to challenge this church to deal with those in their number who refuse to walk by the Lord’s commands, 3:6-12.
This is a church in crisis, and the true believers in Thessaloniki needed a solid word of encouragement. In the verses that form our text today, the very word they needed is given to them.
In verse 3 of our text, Paul says, “…the Lord is faithful…”
That was what the people in Thessalonica needed to hear, and it is the what you and I need to hear today.
The Faithful God. Who keeps his word. When we believe in God, we also trust in his promises and it’s the activation of this trust that brings to a place of divine encouragement. It also takes our eyes from our own circumstances and gives us the focus we need. If some live without an aim a direction, then bad news and what’s going on around us becomes overwhelming.
Paul redirects the churches attention to a faithful loving God who does not change and is not swayed and doesn’t lie.
Since “God is faithful,” He can be counted on the stand by His Word. Paul reminds the people in Thessalonica that God
“will establish you and keep you from evil.”
The word “establish” has the idea of “making stable, placing firmly, setting fast.” It means that God will “strengthen them and cause them to become constant in their lives and confirmed in their mind.”
The word “keep” means “to guard.” It carries the idea of “protection.” It is God’s promise that He will protect them from every enemy whether they are inside or outside the church.
Because “God is faithful,” He can be trusted to do what He says He will do. That is the testimony to the faithfulness of God.
• “For all the promises of God in him are yes, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us,” 2 Cor. 1:20.
• “And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform,” Rom 4:21.
God will stand by His Word! And it’s this that we direct our praise and worship, we worship that which has our attention. It’s what we choose to devote ourselves too that has the most influence in our lives.
I will worship toward your holy temple, and praise your name for your lovingkindness and for your truth: for you have magnified your word above all your name,” Psa. 138:2.
Back to our church in Ephesus Paul is so encouraging saying how these believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing. Pick up in verse 15.
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,
A revelation is needed, as the church responds to God’s faithfulness they understand and are enlightened they turn their hearts towards God and respond with faithfulness.
This idea of enlightenment is not strange to us today, it’s the revelation that something perhaps we know somewhere in the back of our minds becomes of utmost importance, this shifts our realities and causes us to change direction if we are heading off the wrong path. The purpose of this enlightenment is
This begins by believing in God then by staying in the course and Being true and consistent.
The third church letter I’m talking about is the church in Corinth. Paul writes
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (I Corinthians 15:58 NKJV)
Our focus for this coming year is to walk with God and not being moved from what he has for us but Holding our ground, so we don't loose what we have gained and press into all that God has for you.
We have to hold on to the victory we have in Christ. Steadfast in the work that Christ has given us.
Even if we feel like giving up, we don’t knowing that our hard work in not in vein.
Like Jesus prayed for his disciples we too are in need for Christ to pray for us at times. So then in turn we can use that kind of strength to help others.