Authentic Greeting And Grace
All Paul's letters begin and end in the same way we now send emails. The 'header' identified Paul as the author and sender – often reminding his readers that he was commissioned into the service of the Lord Jesus Christ and speaking with His authority. The signature in the 'footer' comes after personal greetings. The end of the original scroll would have been in Paul's own handwriting. All the rest of the letter was scribed by a colleague as Paul dictated, which is one reason why the epistles seem to be more personal as if he was speaking … because he was.
However, with the rise of false teachers, some wrote pretending to be Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). The apostle had anticipated this fraud by using his own handwriting at the end of the letter. In later letters he often added personal comments to individuals who would have been about to verify the authenticity of the letter (Ephesians 6:21-22), and about others who may well have carried the letter to the church. The Early Church was always living one step away from extinction. These textual hall-marks of genuineness validated the apostolic authorship at the time, and later helped the Church Fathers to identify which writings were God-inspired, as they assembled the New Testament Scriptures.
Paul's final word to the Thessalonian church was to declare the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. By that grace they had been saved (Ephesians 2:8-9), in that grace they continued to live for Jesus despite persecution and hardship (Titus 2:11-12), and through that grace they would be kept safe until they met Jesus (Titus 2:13-14). Unlike all the religions and philosophies in the world, access into a personal relationship with God through Jesus does not depend on our virtue or efforts, but by trusting in His grace alone and by allowing His grace to work in us, making us like Himself.
Like the Thessalonian church and the Church Fathers, we need the assurance that this letter, and the others, are authentic and have the authority of Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Although many voices pretend to speak for God, Jesus laid responsibility on the apostles and we must learn to trust that what they have written is from Him. Despite a myriad of cultural changes in the world, God's Word remains firm and we must hold onto those teachings by obeying them (2 Thessalonians 2:15). As we do, we too will find the grace of Christ enabling us to stand for Jesus in a confused and contrary world with the courage to tell the same gospel to people who are lost without the Lord Jesus Christ.
© Dr Paul Adams