THE CHURCH PEOPLE IN GOD THE FATHER AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
Recently, as I was studying 1:1, I realized that to speak of the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ is to utter something very weighty and deep. I consulted the writings of Dean Alford on this verse, and I was helped by what he had to say. First, Alford points out that the preposition “in” here denotes communion and participation in. What Alford means by participation is equal to the expression “organic union.” Communion denotes a common union. The church is a group of people who have a common union with God and who are participating in Him.
Furthermore, Alford goes on to say that the expression “in God the Father” is a mark, an indication, that those in the church are no longer heathen, no longer of the Gentiles. Gentiles do not have God, but the church is composed of a group of people who are in God the Father. Those in the church, therefore, are no longer heathen.
Alford also says that “in the Lord Jesus Christ” indicates that those in the church are no longer Jewish. Jews do not believe in Jesus Christ, just as the heathen do not believe in the true God. Who are those who believe in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ? The church people are such believers. Today we are neither heathen, nor Jewish; we are the church people in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Those in the church life with a background in Judaism must realize that they are no longer Jewish. The church is composed of those who are no longer Gentiles or Jews, for we all now are in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Elsewhere in his Epistles, Paul speaks of the churches of Christ and of the church of God. Certain Christian groups have adopted these expressions as denominational titles. For example, today we have the Church of Christ, the Assembly of God, and the Church of God. But do you know of any Christian group with the title “The Church in God”? Surely there is no such group. Nevertheless, according to 1:1, it is a fact that the church is in God.
Which matter would you say is deeper, for the church to be of God, or for the church to be in God? For the church to be in God is deeper, more profound, than for the church to be merely of God. Hallelujah, the church is in God! The church is not only of God and of Christ; the church is also in God and in Christ. It is important for us to see that the church in our locality is of God and in God, of Christ and in Christ.
A RELATIONSHIP IN LIFE
I can testify that seeing the significance of the preposition “in” in 1:1 has caused the book of 1 Thessalonians to become very dear and lovable to me. In this book we have the revelation that the church is not only of God and of Christ, but also in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The church is not merely in God, but is in the Father. The word Father here indicates a relationship of life. God is no longer only our Creator; He is our Father. God is the Father of the church people, for we have all been born of Him. It is a wonderful fact that we have been born of God and that He is now our Father!
Suppose your father were the President of the United States. If such were the case, you could refer to him as “my father, the President.” This would be very different from merely speaking of the President. To refer to our President may indicate that you are a citizen. But if you could say, “my father, the President,” that would indicate that the President is your father and that you have a life relationship with him. In the same principle, we can speak of God as being our Father. No longer is God only our Creator. He has become our Father, for we have been born of Him. Furthermore, Jesus Christ is our Lord. Hallelujah, we have a Father and a Lord!
THE CHURCH IN THE TRIUNE GOD
To say that the church is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ is not the same as saying that the church is in two separate persons. No, the church is in the wonderful One who is the Father and the Son. Do you think that the church today on the one hand is in the Father and on the other hand in the Lord Jesus? In other words, do you think that the church, the unique church in a locality, is in two separate persons? We should not think of the church in this way. God is the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the church is in this One. Do not ask me to explain how the church can be in the One who is both the Father and the Son. It is beyond my ability to explain such a mystery. All the centuries of Christian history prove that no one can explain the Triune God adequately. But in 1:1 we have the revelation of the tremendous fact that the church is in the unique God and that this God is our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Hallelujah, we have such a wonderful God, and we are in Him!
When Paul speaks of the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, he actually means that the church of the Thessalonians is in the Triune God. Paul’s word concerning the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ indicates or implies that God is triune. If God were not triune, how could He be the Father and the Son? It would be impossible. Furthermore, Paul’s reference to the Father and Christ also implies the Holy Spirit. As we have pointed out, elsewhere in this chapter Paul explicitly speaks of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, 1 Thessalonians 1 clearly shows the Triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Both 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1 reveal that the church is composed of a group of sinners who have been saved and regenerated and who are now in the Triune God. How wonderful!
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)