A NEW BEGINNING
There is an important reason why Paul opened the Epistle of 1 Thessalonians the way he did. In Paul’s time, the Greeks for the most part were proud and evil. They had a complex mythology, and they proudly worshipped false gods. They were extremely superstitious. Thus, they were ruined and corrupted by their mythology, superstition, and philosophy. Like Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian philosophy, Greek philosophy was not pure. On the contrary, it contained defiling elements. In a sense their philosophy promoted immorality and fornication.
When Paul speaks of the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ, he was saying, “Dear saints in Thessalonica, you are still Thessalonians. But you must realize that now that you have believed in Jesus Christ, you are different. No longer are you in mythology or philosophy. Instead, you are in God the Father, for you have been regenerated, born of God, and have had a new beginning. You are also in the Lord Jesus Christ, since in Him you have been terminated on the cross. Therefore, you are no longer Greeks, and you are no longer immoral people. You should not be in philosophy or mythology any longer, but should be absolutely in God the Father. Do you know how it is possible for you to be in the Father? You can be in Him because you have been born of Him. Thus, now you are in the begetting God, the One who has become your Father. Furthermore, instead of being in your philosophy, you are in the Lord Jesus Christ. Being in the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, you are now a holy people, a separated people. From now on, you should live a life that is absolutely separated from Thessalonica, from Greece, from immorality, and from Greek mythology and philosophy. This holy life, this separated life, is for the church life, because the church is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is important for us all to see that the church is in the Triune God. Because I have been naturalized to be an American citizen, in a good sense I have been somewhat Americanized. Actually, however, I do not regard myself as an American or a Chinese, but as someone in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever our status is in regard to earthly citizenship, we all need to realize that our real position is that we are in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Being in the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ implies that we have had a new birth, a new beginning. We have a new source—God the Father. All the old things, the negative things—sin, the flesh, the self, the old man, the natural life, Satan, death—have been terminated. Our being in the Lord Jesus Christ involves a termination of all these things. This means that in the Lord Jesus Christ there is no sin, death, or Satan. In Him there is no world, flesh, self, or old creation. In God the Father we have been born again, regenerated. In Him we have a new source and a new beginning. In the Lord Jesus Christ we have the termination of everything of the old creation. This is the implication of being in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Here in the Triune God is where the church is today.
A CONTROLLING VISION
It is basic to living a holy life for the church life to see that the church is in the Triune God. If we see this, we shall not care for teachings about improving our behavior or becoming more ethical. As long as we see that the church is an entity in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall realize that we have been absolutely separated by God Himself and are now encompassed by the Lord Jesus Christ. This makes us a holy people living a holy, separated life. This life is for the church. When we see this, we can understand what is written in the book of 1 Thessalonians.
I have the full assurance that if you see what is covered in these messages on the church in the Triune God, you will be different both in your concept and in your activity. These messages convey a vision, a vision that will control our thinking, our activities, and our entire life. If we see the revelation that the church is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall spontaneously realize that we should not hold to certain concepts or do certain things, for they are worldly, profane, unholy, not separated unto God. We shall realize that such things are not for the church which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I can testify that I love Paul’s expression in 1:1—“the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” How marvelous that the church is of certain people in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Both in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and in 2 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2, Paul mentions grace and peace after speaking of the church in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is the Triune God to be our enjoyment. When we are in the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, we are in the place to enjoy all the things of God.
CONTACTING THE SPIRIT
We have pointed out that the Father is the One who plans and originates. He is the initiator and the originator. God the Son accomplishes everything that God the Father has purposed, planned, initiated, and originated. But what is the function of God the Spirit? The Spirit is neither the originator nor the accomplisher—He is the executor. The Spirit does not do anything for Himself or by Himself. Rather, He executes, carries out, what the Father has planned and originated and what the Son has accomplished. We all must see that everything the Father has planned and everything the Son has accomplished is now in the Spirit and with the Spirit. In our experience the One we contact is the Spirit. This Spirit is the Son, and in the Son we have the Father. For this reason we may say that the Father is in the Son and that the Son is now the life-giving Spirit dwelling in us. What we need to do is stay in the Spirit and walk according to the Spirit. When we walk according to the Spirit, we are actually walking according to the Triune God.
The Spirit is the ultimate consummation of the processed Triune God. The Spirit is the application, the reaching to us, of the Triune God. How does the processed Triune God reach us and contact us? He does this as the Spirit. How can the processed Triune God be applied to us in our experience? He is applied as the life-giving Spirit. The Spirit is not only the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ; He is the Spirit as God and as Christ. In our experience today, the Triune God is the very life-giving Spirit. Therefore, when we are in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, we are in the Spirit. Because the Spirit is implied and understood in 1:1, we speak of the church being in the Triune God.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)