“He Will Surely Do It” (20th Anniversary Service)
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
Churches are imperfect because they’re full of imperfect people. It’s really no surprise that churches have so many problems then! Many people have been burned, betrayed and hurt by the church and others have been apart of doing those exact things. It’s easy in these circumstances and with these experiences to give up on the church. But there’s a reason we shouldn’t. It’s because God doesn’t. The Bible likens the church to Christ’s bride and Jesus does not believe in divorce. He will never leave his bride nor forsake his people. God remains committed to his church not because of something in the church but because of something in him: his faithfulness.
The church in Thessalonica was a church that Apostle Paul planted. He wrote some of his most generous and gracious word to these Christians. We read in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” And yet Paul is not writing naively. He knew the church had its fair share of problems and issues. The rest of the letter unpacks and addresses those things. But still as he closes his letter he writes, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He prays for God to sanctify them because they are far from being a perfect church. They were under repair and still in draft form.
Learning about the Thessalonian church is encouraging because if a church this praiseworthy still has so many problems, it’s likely that every other church will have them too. Every church is a work in progress, with God still needing to sanctify it. But this is a work that won’t be done until Christ returns. Knowing this promise helps us be confident that what turns us off, disgusts us and frustrates us about the church now, will one day be taken care of. Until then, we can be realistic and humble with all the warts and wrinkles we see in the church. So we hopefully wait until God does what he promises and lest we doubt it Paul writes, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
A church like Cornerstone is able to celebrate twenty years only because of God’s faithfulness. And when we look back at what God has already done, it helps us look forward in expectation to see what God will continually do. But our ultimate hope requires us to look further back than twenty years. When we look back two thousand years we see God’s faithfulness displayed in the sending of Jesus into the world to die for unfaithful sinners like us. But rather than break faith with us, he doubled down on his promise and sealed it anew with his blood. What Christ suffered on his fateful day for his church is what guarantees what Christ will do on the final day to his church. He took on Golgotha so that he can take us into glory. This is how the gospel gives us the hope that God is not yet done with the church and will one day sanctify her completely.
*Another passage to consider: Ephesians 5:25-27
Suggested Group Discussion Questions
- If you had experience growing up in the church, what was it like? Did you tend to see more unity/peace or division/hostility? What impressions about the church did you develop? If you didn’t grow up in the church, what were the impressions that were formed from what you saw and heard about the church?
- Was/is there ever a moment you didn’t want to associate with the Church in general or one particular church? Would you mind sharing the reasons? Were you able to get over it and if so, how? If not, what are some enduring questions or points of conflict?
- How does it make you feel that Paul acknowledges both the need for the church’s continuing sanctification but also the hope that God will complete what he started in the church? Please elaborate.
- Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this message?
- Everybody should formulate a one sentence prayer response and request to everything heard and discussed. Have a few people share what they came up with.