“For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord” (v. 8).
Romans 12:15 features this command from the Apostle Paul: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” With these words, Paul exhorts us not to regard ourselves as mere individuals with respect to our relationship to Christ. That is, we must not view ourselves as connected to Jesus but disconnected from others who likewise trust in the Savior. We must understand ourselves as so closely related to other believers that what saddens them saddens us and what fills them with joy fills us with joy also.
We are to understand ourselves in this way because we are in fact connected to other Christians in this way. Today’s passage provides evidence of this truth. Paul reports on the update Timothy gave him regarding the spiritual state of the Thessalonians, explaining how news of their perseverance in the faith comforted him, even bringing the Apostle and his companions life (1 Thess. 3:6–8). This is possible only because of the union Christians have with one another as one body in Christ. We are “members one of another” (Rom. 12:5), and our welfare is in some mysterious way inseparable from the welfare of our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Timothy brought news of the faith and love of the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 3:6). This refers to their continuing trust in Christ and the fruit of this trust in their love for God and for one another. Timothy’s update assured Paul that the gospel was bearing fruit among the Thessalonians, for faith and love are of the essence of salvation—faith because it alone connects us to Jesus, and love because it is proof of that faith and thus of our connection to the Lord (Rom. 4:5; James 2:14–26). John Calvin comments: “In these two words [Paul] comprehends briefly the entire sum of true piety. Hence all that aim at this twofold mark during their whole life are beyond all risk of erring.” As we seek to deepen our faith and grow in our love for God and for each other, we are in no danger of falling away finally.
Yet, our effort is not what ultimately enables our perseverance in faith, since perseverance is encouraged and sustained by the Lord. Paul notes in 1 Thessalonians 3:8 that the Thessalonians were standing fast “in the Lord.” Christ was sustaining their faith; He will allow nothing to snatch His people out of His Father’s hand (John 10:28–29). Their standing fast gave life to Paul in his trials, for it encouraged him that God preserves His people and because it confirmed the Spirit’s work in his ministry to the Thessalonians.
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
It is easy to forget that we are so closely related to other believers that their joy and their faith sustain our own. Consequently, our joy and faith help sustain the joy and faith of other believers. In seeking to grow in faith and joy for our own sakes, we are at the same time growing in these things for the sake of other Christians. As we grow in the Lord, we are used to sustain other believers.