THE ORGANIC UNION
First Thessalonians 1:1 says, “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.” This Epistle and the second were both addressed to the local church in Thessalonica, composed of all the believers in Christ in that city. Such a local church is of the believers and is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This indicates that such a local church is born of God the Father with His life and nature and is united with the Lord Jesus Christ organically in all He is and has done. Hence, it is of men (such as the Thessalonians), yet in God and in the Lord organically. Such an organic union in the divine life and nature is the vital base for the believers to live a holy life for the church life, which is the theme of the two Epistles.
In his opening word to the Thessalonians Paul speaks in a plain manner. He does not say, as in Romans 1:1, that he is “a slave of Christ Jesus, a called apostle, separated to the gospel of God”; neither does he say, as in Ephesians 1:1, that he is an “apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God.” The opening of Romans and Ephesians is more complicated than that of 1 Thessalonians. Because this Epistle was written to young believers, in 1:1 Paul simply says, “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians.”
It is a particular characteristic of Paul’s writing to emphasize the organic union of the believers with the Triune God. In fact, the emphasis on the organic union with Christ is an outstanding feature of Paul’s writings. In his Epistles Paul again and again speaks of being in Christ, in the Triune God. Although 1:1 is written in a simple way, it nevertheless includes Paul’s characteristic reference to the organic union. In this verse Paul speaks of the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The preposition “in” here is very important; it indicates that the church is in the Triune God. The church is composed of human beings, but they, the believers, are in the Triune God. On the one hand, the church in Thessalonica was of the Thessalonians; on the other hand, this church was in God the Father.
A LIFE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THE FATHER
Paul does not merely say that the church is in God; he says that the church is in God the Father. Unless God is our Father, we cannot be in Him. We were not created in God; however, we were regenerated, born again, in Him. We were created outside of God. This means that in creation we did not have any organic union with God or any life relationship with Him. Instead, there was only the relationship between the creature and the Creator. As a result of creation, we are God’s creatures, and He is our Creator. Hence, there is a relationship of creation, but no relationship in life. God’s life was not created into our natural being. As God’s creatures, we did not have the life of God. We had only our created life, our natural human life.
When we were regenerated, born of God, our life relationship with God began. This rebirth brought us into the organic union with the Triune God. At the time of our regeneration, our rebirth, we obtained God’s life. Now God is not merely our Creator, our God; He is our Father, the One who has begotten us. God is no longer merely our Creator—He is also our Begetter, for He has begotten us with His life. Therefore, He is God our Father.
Through regeneration the Thessalonian believers had become sons of God. According to the book of Romans, the church is a composition of sons of God. It is impossible for sinners to be components of the church. Sinners can be members of a secular organization, but they cannot be components of the church of the living God. Such a church is composed only of sons of God.
We have been predestinated by the Father to be His sons. As Ephesians 1:5 says, we have been predestinated unto sonship. At a certain time, God called us and moved us inwardly. Then we repented, believed in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and received Him. By receiving Christ, we were reborn and became sons of God. Now that we are sons of God, we are the components of the church, the Body of Christ. Because we, as sons of God, are the members of Christ, 1:1 says not only that the church is in God the Father, but also that the church is in the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)