Meditation on 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20

Kevin J Youngblood

“For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.”

Paul’s words to his beloved brothers and sisters in 1 Thess 2:19-20 are striking. Elsewhere Paul suggests that nothing other than Christ is his hope, his glory, his cause for boasting (Col 1:27; Gal 6:14). Yet here Paul dares to suggest that he boasts in those whom he converted to Christ in Thessalonica. They, he asserts, are his glory and joy. How can both be true? Is Paul here stooping to counting heads, to tallying up the number of baptisms under his belt? This seems unlikely given his apparent lack of concern for such matters, a lack of concern underscored by his apparent forgetfulness of whom or how many he baptized in Corinth (1 Cor 1:14).

No, I think the reason why Paul feels comfortable referring to the Thessalonian Christians in such glowing terms is because of his remarkable ecclesiology. For Paul, there is really no difference in glorying and boasting in these Gentile Christians and glorying and boasting in Christ for the simple reason that these believers are in Christ. The glory and joy of Christ express themselves in and through the members of Christ’s body. Even when Paul speaks in Colossians 1:27 of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” it is precisely Christ as he manifests himself by the Spirit in the church that is the visible glory of God on earth. Unfortunately, precious few people these days, even among Christians, share Paul’s exalted view of the church. The COVID pandemic did not cause this “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude toward the church but it certainly exposed it. Rarely today do we hear people speak of their brothers and sisters in Christ as an expression of their hope, a source of their joy, or their crown of boasting. Perhaps the main difference is that Paul did not base his assessment of the church on its performance, on what they did for him, or how they met his needs. Rather, Paul based his assessment of the church, first of all, on the sheer fact of its divine ordination as the center and primary instrument of divine activity in the world, and, secondly, on the individual members’ growth in that venerable vocation. How might our estimation of the church change if we shared Paul’s understanding and assumptions?


Forgive me for underestimating the significance of the church. Remind me that the church is the Spirit’s temple, Christ’s bride, and Christ’s body. What a mystical union you have affected by your Spirit of every believer with your risen and reigning Son! What a privilege to be a part of the one and only institution on this earth that you have so lavishly filled with your Spirit and through which you are manifesting your glory! Lord Jesus, thank you for being our head. Thank you that your mind, your attitude and disposition can be ours through our connection with you in the sacraments of baptism and holy communion that you gave to us. Why would anyone who identifies with you deprive himself of these gifts? Holy Spirit, fill us afresh, reanimate the church with your refreshing wind, your living water, and your purifying fire. Start with me. Purge me of the resentment, the selfishness, and the pride that have blinded me to the beauty of Christ’s bride, to the perfection and coordination of Christ’s body, to the majesty and sanctity of your temple.