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Gospel Family Bonds

1 Thessalonians 2:17-20
But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul, did, again and again – but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. (NIVUK)

This is a heart-warming passage which reminds us that the gospel creates close family bonds. As people receive Christ, they are born again – becoming children of God (John 1:12) and brothers and sisters to each other (1 Thessalonians 1:4). These are real relationships with genuine desires to see God's blessing come to each other, to support each other in difficulty and a deep longing to be with each other. Paul considered that his sudden departure from the new believers in Thessalonica, because of persecution, was a personal bereavement.
Paul's intense longing to see them promoted plans to return. But each effort was frustrated. Paul described that as satanic obstruction; and interestingly the Lord did not overrule the Evil One. It was part of the Lord's plan for them to move on to Corinth. Even though Paul initially did not want to stay there, the Lord kept him there for one and a half years (Acts 18:9-11). It was quite some time before Paul could return to Thessalonica.
Although the church there was founded by Paul and his team, it was also evidence of the powerful grace of God. People had been transformed through the gospel and Paul was as excited about them as any parent with a new-born or growing child. If Paul ever wondered whether his ministry was effective, the church in Thessalonica proved that it was. And he delighted in the new family bonds: the church and apostolic team were all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
It is right to form family bonds in Christ. That is what should mark out a true church from a religious congregation. It is especially true of believers and those who first led them to the Lord, and discipled them. It is a true affection which should lead to a desire to encourage and support each other. Wherever they may relocate, that affection will long for reunion, correspondence and a deep desire to pray for each other with the conviction that the Lord will hear and answer. In moments of spiritual weakness, the family bonds remind us that we are united together because we are united to Him.

Father God. Thank You for bringing me into Your family and giving me brothers and sisters. Forgive me for the times when I have not valued the preciousness of those family bonds in Christ, or for being so dependent on them that I refuse to serve You elsewhere. Please help me to invest well in these relationships, learning to support and encourage one another; and praying for my spiritual family wherever they may be found. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams