“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up….” || 1 Thess. 5.9-11
There is a remarkable “Therefore” in this text. It communicates to us the truth that all true fellowship within the context of the Church must be grounded upon “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” that is, it must be based upon Gospel faith and hope. There is no other foundation for church or ministry, and in truth, one which seeks to build on any other foundation will be building in vain. However much he might be able to accomplish noble things of one kind or another, he will not be building the church nor carrying out the Great Commission. Let us look into this.
That “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us” is the great hallmark of the Church’s foundation. This is the Gospel, that we who were “dead” in sin have been justified by the Atoning work of the Mediator, through His death, burial, and resurrection. The wrath which is already upon the world, the wrath which is coming, that wrath which we ourselves deserved— it has all been lifted from us, and placed upon the shoulders of the Lamb of God, “who loved us.”
Therefore, our justification, sanctification, and glorification have been purchased by Him, for the glory of the Father and the good of those whom He has chosen. This establishes the promised reality, that we have been destined in Christ to “obtain salvation.” This is the glorious word of the Gospel. In Christ we have been saved from the wrath to come, saved from the stranglehold of Satan, saved from our iniquity and the deadness it constitutes. In Christ also we are being saved from ourselves and from the affects of the Fall, as He does the good work of conforming us to the image of His Son. And one day, we shall be saved utterly from the very presence of sin, from the Adamic residue which remains in us so long as we abide in these perishing tents of flesh.
Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another…”
We are “members” of that justified, yet being sanctified, and yet to be glorified family. See one another in that way, the apostle would say, and encourage one another because of it.
The capstone to the Gospel promise is that “whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him.” That is to say, whether we are alive in this age, “absent from the Body” and “present with the Lord,” or enjoying the fulfillment of the promise in new bodies at the end of the age, we now “live with Him” because of the fact that He has not destined us for wrath, but rather for salvation.
The goal of justification is not merely that we should be clean in His sight, and have the God-established right to stand before Him in His Son, though that alone is glorious beyond description and compare. The goal is that we “might live with Him,” which is to say, that we might “know Him in the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings,” and one day, “look full in His wonderful face” with “everlasting joy upon our heads.”
Put another way, the goal in Christ of our not being “destined for wrath” is that we would become the servants, friends, and children of God. We may live with the One who is faithful and true. We may have real knowledge of Him, real communion with Him, and real life with Him, from the moment of our new birth, all the way into eternity future. This is an ineffably wonderful truth, and it ought to change the way that we see and treat one another.
Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…”
In light of this Gospel and all of its glorious implications, upon the one true foundation of Jesus Himself, the apostle charges us to engage in a vital kind of life together, by which we are literally and existentially to be encouraged and built up in Him. It is no mere hobby, no conveniently compartmentalized religion. It is a reality to be experienced and enjoyed increasingly, “all the more as we see the Day approaching.”
This means that the saints in our local assembly cannot grow up into Christ without us, and we cannot grow up into Christ without them. We need the life, wisdom, accountability, encouragement, and familial consistency which can only be provided in the life of the local church, when all the parts supply what they ought to supply.
Think not that you are dispensable- that the Church doesn’t need you. Think not that other saints are dispensable- that you don’t need them. Rather, “encourage one another and build one another up…”
Simply put, our faith must be encouraged and built up by the saints with whom we’re in fellowship, and their faith must be encouraged and built up by us. Is your life resting firmly upon the one foundation of the Gospel? If so, how are you being encouraged along by your brothers and sisters? And to what degree are you encouraging and building them up yourself? This is at the heart of what it means to be the “church, which is His Body.”
Think upon these things, and pray for the grace and wisdom to obey the Scriptures by responding accordingly. This may require a fresh return to the ancient foundation of the faith, and it is likely to restructure your schedule, your priorities, and your affections. And it will be worth it in every regard.
“A tree which stands by itself, is most exposed and liable to the strongest blasts.” || George Whitefield
On the other hand:
Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. || Matthew 7.24-25