“What is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.”
At the time Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians, he had been hindered by Satan from coming to see the church at Thessalonica (1 Thess. 2:17–18). We know from Acts 20:1–5 that Paul finally did return to Macedonia, where the city of Thessalonica was located, and even to the city itself, for two Thessalonian believers, Aristarchus and Secundus, began traveling with him at the time.
Paul wanted to go back to Thessalonica and minister there, we have seen, because of his great love for the Thessalonian church (1 Thess. 2:17–18). But he also wanted to visit the Thessalonians again, according to today’s passage, because he viewed them as his “hope or joy or crown of boasting” at the coming of Christ and as his very own “glory and joy” (vv. 19–20). In the ancient Greco-Roman world, a crown was the award given to the victor in a race or to someone who was receiving honor in the community. This crown was a wreath made from the leaves of various plants, such as laurel, pine, or celery. In Macedonia, these crowns were made of oak leaves. So, Paul saw the Thessalonians as the award in which he would boast at the second advent of Jesus. His hope and joy was inseparable from the faith of the Thessalonians, so he wanted to visit them and encourage them in their perseverance. Paul wanted to check in with them because seeing their faith would increase his own confidence that he would persevere. Their faith in the present anticipated their faith in the future, which would be displayed before all people in the presence of Christ Jesus, just as one displays a crown before the spectators at an athletic event. And just as a crown proves that the runner has won the event, so the faith of the Thessalonians would prove that Paul had won the race of faith, that he would pass into glory.
To put it another way, the ongoing faith of the Thessalonians that Paul would see upon returning to Thessalonica would assure the Apostle that his mission and his trust in Christ were not in vain. Their faith, granted to them by the Holy Spirit through Paul’s ministry, would provide further evidence that Paul’s ministry was effective and thus that the Holy Spirit was working in him just as He was working in the Thessalonians. This would enable Paul to boast even more in the cross, for it was the cross and the preaching of the cross that saved both Paul and them (Gal. 6:14). Their faith was a fruit of the cross granted through the work of one whom the cross redeemed.
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
God will not overlook our faithfulness in sharing the gospel and building up others in the faith. On the day when Christ judges the earth, those whom we have influenced for good spiritually will be a testimony to our faith, and the Lord will reward us accordingly.