Saturday 17th October 2020 – 1 Thessalonians – Closing Prayer and Farewell
1 Thessalonians 5: 23 – 28
May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. Beloved, pray for us. Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Paul’s warm tone shows how much he loves and appreciates the Thessalonian Christians. He prays that God will help them remain holy until Christ returns again. ‘Observe the affection of the teacher’ says St John Chrysostom of Paul’s benediction to this letter.
The blessing might well remind folk of Paul’s leading the church’s worship in person: for words such as these seem characteristic of Paul’s farewell greetings. However this is not an ‘all purpose’ blessing. We find it is directed specifically to the needs of the church. ‘The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ troubled church members in Thessaly. At least some were agonizing about their state of readiness to be judged by Christ, with this anxiety colouring their whole lives. Paul took time to reassure the church; and here we find Paul’s calming words echoing in his benediction. It is the God of peace to whom they have already dedicated themselves, who will complete their sanctification. Their being made holy is both a gift and a goal. God’s promises to them in Christ remain true. It is a reassurance that echoes down the centuries to all who are worried about the future.
When Paul urges the church to pray for him, we get a glimpse of his need for support. He is aware of the great responsibility laid upon him in bringing the Gospel to many people. I wonder how many in the church regularly pray for their leaders in all aspects of our church life? Such support is needed more than ever in these days of affliction by a global pandemic. The ‘holy kiss’, one to the other, enjoined by Paul, must perforce be a virtual one these days, but no less valued.
To this very day we commend each other to Christ’s favour and kindness.
‘Count your blessings name them one by one…’ How much we need blessing, gracious God, and how quickly we forget your generosity. May your Spirit’s reassuring presence today gather us together in praise of your goodness. In the life of faith in Jesus Christ may our lives flourish as you have promised. Never forget us, and walk life’s way with us, for that is blessing indeed. Amen
The Rev’d John A Young, retired minister National Synod of Scotland, Member Giffnock URC