Starting out under the umbrella of the Lord. What could be more appropriate!
When one hears the epistles read as a Scripture reading or as part of a message, the initial greeting preamble is often somewhat quickly glossed over, in order to get to the real meat of things. But the preamble sets the tone, without which the meat does not rest of the correct base.
Glossing over the preamble as just “culturally conditioned” greetings misses or can downplay the overarching nuance that applies to all interaction between believers, that the authorship of all interaction of value stems from our sovereign God as the overseer. The source or lynch pin is then missed. This is no small thing in terms of our attitude thereafter. The underlying lesson for us can be lost.
Remember how the disciples were described in fellowship in Acts 2:42-46
“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common…continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship…Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple…together with gladness and sincerity of heart”
This was not just sometimes. It was a life model, carrying into everything. The focus on the Lord was not simply a small undercurrent, nor a bit of fluff which made up the greeting or signature. It was a continuous current energizing all interactions.
Paul starts the letter by placing the rest of the communication within the wrapper of being in God and in Christ (v1). This effectively commits the agenda to matters of the Lord and not the world. It is an echo of the fellowship just described from Acts.
If we were to rephrase the greeting, as one might hear in a more modern time, we might have “Greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour” or similar. Once that sets the tone, subsequent exchanges should in effect rejoice in matters of the Lord, and not primarily the world. And this is true even in tone when worldly matter are discussed, for the love of the Brethren expressed in their interaction is because of the overarching presence of the Lord in the conversation, irrespective of the content.
Further, Paul’s wish here for the Thessalonians is primarily for grace from the Lord. He continues by thanking the Lord for these Thessalonian believers, offering them support (in assurance of his continued prayer). The subsequent reminder of their faith, hope and love are again tied directly the Christ, with no accolade whatsoever implying any personal strength outside of His grace.
Why is that? It is summed up in verse 4, and stems from the fact that they are in the Beloved because they are elect. There is no mention of any other reason whatsoever – nothing to do with themselves. This echos the first chapter of Ephesians, where their origin is more directly spelled out. It is significant, however, that Paul uses this occasion of greeting to remind them of the source of all that they have, now and in eternity.
He expands this idea in verse 5 by pointing out the effect of this – that all of their belief and conviction stems not from themselves but from the Spirit. He also points out that this is the case for both themselves, and for himself and his traveling companions. So we have the cause in election and the application wholly through the active grace of God in the Spirit. It is all of Him alone!
What a wonderful starting point for what later becomes, in places, a fairly stern letter of admonition. It set the real tone for the letter. They are remembered as, placed into, holding steadfastly to, and cherished for being, brethren in Christ, and this entirely by the grace of the Lord.
Is not this the starting point of all of our interactions as believers? And one that should remain close to surface?