Paul cannot see his audience. He cannot read the look in their eye nor understand their body language. His spirit however, tells him they have remained steadfast despite their sufferings. He also knows they do things in order. We know why this is important when we look to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 14 we read that God is not a God of confusion but rather, of peace, in the churches of all the saints. Order is a sign of a work of God. Paul rejoices on these points, but still struggles. Similar to being a parent with adult children, he has done his best to give them a good start in their spiritual life. Here, however, when he cannot see them, he struggles. He needs to know they are okay. Sometimes all his letter writing doesn’t cut it. He longs to see the whites of their eyes. Paul as a spiritual father experiences this phenomena. He knows how they started their faith journey, reveals the desire of his heart for them, and communicates his concerns for their well-being.
How They Started
Paul writes of how they received Jesus Christ the Lord. As the apostles took the message throughout Asia, many heard the word and accepted it by faith. Then, the Holy Spirit confirmed it in their hearts. They received the word in faith and acted upon it, following the direction of the apostles on how to walk and please God.
The Desire of His Heart
The faith journey is a walk. Paul wants them to be encouraged in their faith. He also desires that their hearts be knit together, beyond mere common experience, in love. As well, he wants them to be totally confident in their understanding and knowledge of the mystery of God, both as Father and as Christ. Anything they could fathom to learn about God is in Christ and revealed by the Spirit. When they were born into the family of God, like a new baby, they came complete and perfect in His sight. He wants to see them grow to be the body of Christ.
Their Well Being
Paul knows the enemy like a roaring lion hates God’s children and attempts many ways to thwart their effectiveness. He is concerned for their growth. Putting down roots, being built up in the faith as they were taught, and abounding with thanksgiving are necessary. However he says, “Beware! Don’t let anyone cheat you.” Deceivers abound. Smooth, buttery speech, words that sound intelligent, from people who seem to be trustworthy and well meaning can easily deceive and again enslave God’s children. In Paul’s day there were those who said they had to follow certain Jewish customs and traditions. These were things built on man and not Christ. Things which would enslave them again to another master, not Christ. There is only one Lord and Master over all. Our completeness, our perfection lies only in Him. As 2 Peter 1 tells us, there are things we must do to grow and be fruitful. These however, do not enslave us to another.
Paul knows how they started their faith journey, reveals the desire of his heart for them, and communicates his concerns for their well-being.