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Why Does Paul Say PEOPLE Are His Glory And Joy?

People2Not What We’d Expect

In 1 Thessalonians 2:19 Paul asks this question —

What is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at His coming?

In other words, when Jesus comes back and Paul stands before Him, what will be the focus of Paul’s hope, joy, and boast?

We would expect the answer to be Jesus Christ, because Paul says he waits for the hope of Christ’s glory (Titus 2:13), his joy is in Christ (Phil 3:1), and his boast is the Cross of our Lord Jesus (Gal 6:14).

So Paul’s hope, joy, and boast is Jesus Christ.  But that’s not his answer in 1 Thessalonians 2.  Here’s the whole passage —

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

So which is it?  At the Second Coming, will Paul’s hope, joy, and boast be Jesus Christ?  Or will it be the Thessalonian believers?

I believe the answer is both — in different ways.

Jesus Is Our Glory And Joy

At the Second Coming, when Paul is face to face with Jesus Christ, Paul will be filled with joy.

Imagine that moment — personally standing before the One who —

  • created the universe
  • so loved us that he became a man so he could be punished in our place
  • humbled himself to be born as a baby
  • said to the paralytic “your sins are forgiven”
  • cast the money-changers out of the temple
  • set his face to go to Jerusalem knowing the horror that awaited him
  • cried out “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
  • emerged from the tomb victorious over sin, Satan, and death

When we see the glory of Christ we will be filled with joy.  Fall on our faces.  Dance with joy.  Shout with praise.

Jesus Christ will be our glory and joy.  Forever.

Believers Will Be Our Glory And Joy

But Paul also says the Thessalonians will be his glory and joy.  How does that work?

Have you ever worshiped with other believers, and during a song opened your eyes and seen another believer with their hands raised in adoration of Christ, or kneeling in humble worship of Christ, or whose face was radiant with love for Christ?

What happened as you did that?  You felt even more joy and glory in worship.

But why?  Were you worshiping that person?  No.  But that person’s worship showed you even more of Jesus’ glory — which gave you even more joy in worshiping Christ.

That’s how believers will be your glory and joy.  Their raised hands, tears of joy, humble kneeling, and dancing with delight will show you more of Jesus’ glory so you have even more joy in Him.

To some degree this will be true of all believers we see in heaven.  But this is especially true of believers whom we have helped grow in trusting Christ.

Especially Believers We Have Helped

Note the connection in Paul’s mind between his longing to strengthen their faith, and them being his glory and joy —

We endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face … FOR you are our glory and joy.  THEREFORE … I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.  (1 Thessalonians 2:17 – 3:5)

So it’s especially those Paul has led to Christ and strengthened in faith who will be Paul’s glory and joy when Christ returns.

Here’s how this works.  Think of someone you led to Christ, or strengthened in trusting Christ.  The day is coming when you will see them in heaven worshiping Christ.  Their worship will display even more of Jesus’ glory, which will fill you with joy.

But the fact that, by God’s grace, you helped bring them to heaven to praise Jesus’ glory, will give you even more joy in their worship.

Not because your efforts display your glory.  But because your efforts display Christ’s glory.  By God’s grace, your life has brought more glory to Jesus Christ.

You will remember how you —

  • boldly shared the Gospel with them.
  • studied God’s Word with them.
  • devoted your energy, money, and time to them.
  • taught them about living by faith.
  • were patient when they failed.
  • pursued them when they drifted.
  • brought them to the Cross when they sinned.
  • confessed to them when you failed.
  • prayed with them.
  • worshiped with them.

And there they are, standing before Jesus Christ, shining with His glory.

They will be your glory and joy.

Let This Motivate You

There are lots of reasons we lead people to faith and build people in faith.

But one reason is because in them we will see more of Jesus’ glory, and so have more joy in Jesus’ glory, forever.

In that sense, they will be our glory and joy.

Some of you have been laboring and seen much fruit.  See it all as a gift from nail-pierced hands, and press on for more.

Others have been laboring and seen little fruit.  Be assured that God has many ways to give us joy in Jesus’ glory.

But others have not been laboring.  So let this stir your heart.

Forever you will have the joy of beholding Jesus’ glory.  And the more you lead people to faith, and strengthen people in faith, the more joy in Christ you will have forever.

Who is your glory and joy?

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4 Responses

  1. Paul Walton says:

    Hey Steve,

    This post got me to thinking what is Jesus’ highest glory and joy? As we were going over the text you preached on last Sunday at Wednesday’s night in home group in Hebrews 12:1-2 it stuck me looking at verse 2 “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the “joy” that was set before him endured the cross…” His joy was redeeming those whom God had chosen.

    But I believe His highest purpose was to glorify God. “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,” John 17:1

    So the believer’s greatest joy is seeing Christ being glorified by those who were once His enemies, because ultimately it glorifies the Father and His eternal plan.

    Lucifer’s lie from the start was that God created heavenly beings for selfish purposes, but God created them so that they would enjoy His glory.

    And our highest joy as humans is knowing and experiencing God’s glory, but again Satan lied to mankind and told us that we could be like God, that we could glory in ourselves. (and we know were that lead)

    Christ’s whole purpose and greatest joy is to display the glory of God, and to expose the cosmic lies of the enemy, and He did it by dying on a cross as a lamb.

    Satan’s roams around spouting lies like a roaring lion flashing his teeth and claws, but he was subdued by a lamb, a silent obedient lamb.

    God is amazing! And He is glorious!

  2. Caz says:

    Thank you Steve. Via your posts, you are teaching me and countless others to grow in our faith. It delights me to know that in us you will get to see more of Jesus’ glory which in turn will fill you with greater joy!

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