For Their Continued Growth: Page 2 of 2 (series: Lessons on 1 Thess.)
by John Lowe
13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
Paul prays to God for the ultimate safety. At this time his mind was full of thoughts of the Second Coming of Christ when men would stand before the judgment seat of God. It was his prayer that God would preserve His people in righteousness so that on that day they would not be ashamed. The only way to prepare to meet God is to live daily with Him. The shock of that day will not fall on those who have lived their life as God’s friend but on those who meet him as a terrible stranger, for they will hear Him say, “I never knew you!”
This is a prayer for justification in a state of unbelievable personal purity (of holiness).
1. There is no stability in Christian graces apart from love. “May he strengthen your hearts?” If it were possible to possess every other grace but love, it would be like a diverse summer landscape, very beautiful but transient, having in it no element of permanency. Above all other graces we are exhorted to “put on charity which is the bond of perfectness”—a strap which adorns and binds together all the rest. Love is the fulfilling of the law, the infallible test and evidence of stability.
2. Unblameable holiness is the legitimate and necessary outcome of love—“May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy.” The apostle prays for an increase of love in order to attain a higher personal purity. All defects in obedience come from a defect in love. Our love of God makes us anxious to know and obey Him and fearful to offend Him. Our love of man makes us careful to preserve his honor, life, and possessions, and in no way to impair his happiness. The whole of the law is love. There is no duty to God or man except what love is inclined to do, and no sin which it does not curtail. To be Unblameable in holiness, stockpile the soul with love. When love fails, obedience and all holy duties fail.
3. Holiness shields the soul from divine censure at the second advent of Christ—“Unblameable in holiness before God, our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” Christ will come in glorious pomp attended by His holy ones—saints that have departed this life, and angels3. He who remains steadfast in holiness shall be held blameless then. Our outer life may be censured by men; but if God, our Father, who establishes our hearts in holiness, absolves and approves, it will be enough. That holiness alone is genuine which will bear the searching scrutiny of Omnificence.
Referring to Jesus as our High Priest, the author of Hebrews wrote, “Such a high priest truly meets our need―one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (7:26). The Holy Spirit’s work in us is to make us more and more like our Lord: “blameless and holy in the presence of our God.” This will result in our hearts being strengthened “so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” This is more than blameless outward behavior. Rather, it is blameless inner personal character, made pure by the Holy Spirit and made possible by God’s love in us.
“So that you will be blameless and holy”―the desired outcome of their love for one another is that they would develop a character of holiness. Dear friend, if you were tried in court for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? We are going to appear before Him someday, and He is going to judge our works. This may terrify you, but He also is going to judge our character as believers and determine the reward we will receive. My Christian friends, what kind of a life are you living today?
So the question arises; “When is He going to presents us “blameless and holy in the presence of our God”? Is it when He takes the church out of the world? Or, will it be at the time He comes to the earth to establish His kingdom? The answer depends upon our understanding of this phrase―“when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” “When our Lord Jesus comes” refers to the fact that believers are going to be present with the Lord Jesus at the very moment that we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. He will take us home to glory, to the place that He has prepared for us. So, this “coming” does not refer to the return of the Lord with His saints to establish His kingdom, but to our coming to heaven into the presence of the Father. We have the same thought in 1 Thessalonians 2:19: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?” We will come into the presence of the Lord Jesus and at that time will be presented “blameless and holy in the presence of our God.”
Someone said, “Holiness is a love-mastered life. Inner purity energizes maturity and growth in Christ likeness. God’s love perfects us, clearing away the “unlovely and unholy.” Then spiritual growth makes us more mature in Christ.
Each one of us should begin to have an unmistakable family resemblance to Jesus. Let God do His work to give you a Christlike heart, and let Him “strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy.” That’s it! That’s the purpose of this prayer for love—that Christ may so strengthen their hearts (their inward purposes and desires) that at the judgment-seat of God (Romans 14:1013-2) these hearts may be found in a blameless state of holiness. And though this is ultimately the work of the Lord, yet it is a work which demands the active cooperation of the believer―“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.”(Philippians 2:12). “The point appears to be that without the strong foundation of love the will might exploit itself in conduct not becoming to the saints, that is, specifically, as 4:3-8 suggests, in impurity.” For selfless love is the opposite of the selfish lusts that satisfies itself at another’s expense―”not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God” 4:5).
If your Christian walk has bogged down, let God’s love fill you and stimulate you to make progress with an expanding faith, an overflowing love, and a Christlike heart.
Note 13-1: It is clear from the New Testament that both angels and the departed saints will be associated with the Lord when He returns.
Note 13-2: “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.” (Romans 14:10)