Sometimes a verse grabs me because I think I get it. Whether it’s a light going on for the first time, or for a fresh time, I chew on it because I think I’m picking up what’s being laid down by the Spirit. Other times, not so much. This morning? One of those other times.
Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering — since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels.
(2Thessalonians 1:4-7 ESV)
What I get: Paul was over the moon at how the church in Thessalonica had thrived and flourished though it had been planted amidst intense persecutions and afflictions. Their faith was growing abundantly and their love for one another was increasing (v.3). In his first letter Paul gives thanks because their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ” (1Th. 1:3) was going viral, being “an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (1Th. 1:7-8).
I also get that all the wrongs of this world will be set right when Jesus comes again. That the wicked who seem to prosper while on earth, sometimes with apparent immunity, will one day be required to give an account for eternity. That God is not mocked and the law of the harvest will prevail. Those who sow to the sinful flesh will eventually reap corruption, and “the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:7-8).
But what’s Paul saying when He says that because these believers were steadfast in all their persecutions and afflictions that it was evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that they may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God?
Is the righteous judgment referring to the future judgment when Christ returns? If so, how does that play into being considered worthy of the kingdom now? Is it the fact that they won’t stand in judgment then?
And is that worthiness of the kingdom earned because of their steadfastness? Hmm. I don’t think so.
Or, is the righteous judgment of God His sovereign determination that those He saves are those who stand? That those who are worthy of the kingdom are worthy because the gospel of grace makes men and women fit for the kingdom as evidenced by how they’re able to weather suffering for the kingdom? That the gospel is kingdom power for kingdom people to thrive amidst counter-kingdom pressure. As such, it is evidence, it is testimony, to the righteous decision by God to separate, even now, the sheep from the goats through trials which manifest faithfulness to the Great Shepherd. A faithfulness not sourced in man’s ability but in the gospel’s power to save and to save to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25). I’m thinkin . . .
Not really sure all that this verse is saying. Don’t really find myself with the words to articulate the nuances I sense are contained within it. But confident that light will become increasingly light. And resting that God’s righteous judgments are indeed righteous judgments — that our worthiness for the kingdom is because we are in Him and, through Him we have the power to stand for Him. And anticipating that day when Jesus comes, justice prevails, and that which we see today “in a mirror dimly” will be fully known, even as we are fully known, when we behold Him face to face (1Cor. 13:12).
For now, content just to chew on this verse for a bit even as I seek, by His enabling, to stand steadfast for the Lord.
By His grace. For His glory.