And so it ends.
The journey Paul started with the Thessalonians ended, as far as we know, with these words. We have no recorded evidence of his return. Since Paul himself said that he constantly went to regions where the Gospel was not preached, we can presume that once he taught them the things in these letters he left them in God's hands.
As always, it was enough:
- Peace at all times and in every way from the hand of the God of peace.
- Assurance of the authenticity of the message.
- The grace of Christ.
Paul, never one to simply spiritualize a message, ends with some deeply practical realities. We so often think of peace as something intangible, something deep within while chaos surrounds us. And it is definitely that. But it's also so much more. Steeped in the understanding of the Hebrew shalom (the Greek eirene used here reflects the same concepts) Paul writes of peace that comes at ALL times and in EVERY way.
- Peace in relationships
- Peace at work
- Peace in finances
- Peace between ethnic or cultural groups
The list goes on. "All times" and "every way" includes all this and more. Shalom means not just the absence of conflict, but wholeness. Something tangibly different because of the source of the peace. When the God of peace steps in, everything changes.
Paul has made his love for them evident through these two books. We know he longed to be with them. But the calling kept him moving forward, so he gave them something more than a visit. The blessings of peace and grace. And sandwiched between the blessings, another assurance that they can depend on the Word of God - very important as he pens some of the earliest writings that extended what they knew in the Old Testament into what would become the new. He gave them something to hold on to that would last far after he was with the Lord.
I have the tiniest glimpse of how Paul must have felt writing this benediction. I don't want to let this series go. I love what God taught me through these eight chapters. This study came to me during a season where God unfolded a profound ministry, a long-time dream come true. I pray that I never forget what I've learned.
Any writer becomes intimately connected with his or her work. Coming to the end and hitting the final submit button is a leap of faith. It's no different for me at the end of this series of blogs. For 9 months now I've journeyed through these books, studying them, memorizing them, processing them through miles and miles of walks with our dog, and writing about them. Some of you I know, some of you I won't meet until heaven, but I feel that you've been on this journey with me - even as I realize that most of the reason I write is for my own benefit, because I have so much to learn and this is one way God teaches me.
And yet He calls me forward, already planting in my heart the seeds of my next writing assignment. I hope to see some of you along that journey, but if not I know that I'll see you in heaven. Let's plan a long chat with the Apostle himself and find out what happened to this church long after the ink dried on Paul's quill. Let's get a glimpse of the text and see what his distinguishing mark looked like. More than anything, let's plant our feet in the river flowing from the throne and worship the One who overthrows evil incarnate by the very breath of his mouth and whose coming with be so resplendent that evil is destroyed.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. May you experience peace at all times and in every way, and a life marked by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.