Before the beginning, the Trinity existed. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit dwelt as one being in three persons. All three members of the godhead enjoyed sacred communion. One might even say they existed as one holy family.
In the beginning, God did not intend for Adam to be alone. For him, a perfect spouse was created. Through them, a host of children were to come forth. God ordained that his beloved friends would live in an ever-growing community. They were to be a holy family.
In the process of salvation, God selects, purchases, gathers, guards, orders, and enjoys his ever-growing family. He instructs us to call him, “Our Father.” He tells us of his love, he has greater tenderness than any earthly mother. And he presents Jesus to us as our ultimate older brother. Consequently, all who are identified and united with him, we are to see one another as members of the household of faith. We are commanded to care, commune, and love like fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers.
While Jesus Christ enjoyed one universal household, the Apostle Paul enjoyed several connected but particular families. Yes, Paul had fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers in Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Galatia, Corinth, and many other places. He also had a spiritual family in Thessolonica.
In a special letter written to his Grecian family members, Paul ends in a special tone. Before giving them their benediction, he calls them “brothers” three times, and he ends with three very practical, beneficial, and gracious exhortations. Here is his conclusion:
Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 1 Thessalonians 5:25–28
Brothers, pray …
Paul greatly valued prayer, and He desperately needed the intercession of his friends. Therefore, by means of his inspired mind and pen, he encouraged, exhorted, and commanded his brothers to supplicate for him and others before the throne of God. Yes, Paul was convinced the Spirit prayed for him from within. He was also sure that Jesus was constantly interceding before the throne of God in heaven. However, the Apostle was not satisfied with divine communication alone. Paul needed and commanded his brothers to engage in persistent prayer. He constantly prayed for them. He did so without ceasing. He expected the same from them. After all, they were brothers.
Brothers, greet …
In Luke 7:38, Jesus was brazenly embraced by a worshiping woman. Boldly, she came into his presence, bowed before him, poured costly perfume upon his feet, washed them with her hair, and passionately kissed her Lord and Savior. The disciples did not approve of such “out of the box” emotion, but was not concerned. As a matter of fact, the Son of God cherished her worship. He loved the kisses of his redeemed sister.
In Matthew 26:49, Jesus was brazenly kissed by Judas Iscariot. In this episode, an act of communal tenderness was used to betray the Son of God. Judas’ kiss was a travesty. It was a betrayal. It was a cold act of sacramental sacrilege. Judas proclaimed incredible affection with his lips while he had nothing but devilish animosity in his heart. Judas kissed, but he was no brother.
Well, while the kiss of greeting had cultural and ceremonial meaning in the day of Jesus and Paul — even secular culture practiced such, the kiss of greeting appeared to take on special doxological import as well. It seems to have become a sacred custom in the family of God:
Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
1 Corinthians 16:20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
1 Peter 5:14 Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.
Therefore, at the end of his letter, Paul commanded his church family members to mutually encourage one another with the “Christian greeting” of their day. Those who were saved by Christ and brought into communion with one another, were to care for one another with their lips. For their sisters and brothers they were to pray. Upon their sisters and brothers they were to kiss. Paul commanded them to practice an outward display of the inward affection they enjoyed. Good worship was to include good fellowship.
Brothers, read …
Paul had written another fantastic letter. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, he had written another inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and canonical document. Therefore, gave a third charge to his family members. He put them under oath to “have this letter read to all the brothers.” You see, Paul was a “Means of Grace” fellow. He knew God’s ever-flowing grace normally came by means of prayer, church-fellowship, and sacred scripture. Therefore, Paul could not imagine having God’s instruction neglected. He could not imagine having family members who were spiritually famished or misfed. In Thessalonica, spiritual leaders were to read, teach, and preach the Bible to the flock. Spiritual parents were to do so their their children. Brothers and sisters were to edify one another by means of God’s Word. So important was this to Paul, that he put them under oath. He attempted, as if they were present, to make them swear to be faithful in this vital task. Paul knew how blessed those were who meditated on the Word of God day and night, and he wanted his family members to be so greatly blessed.
So what about you?
Believer in Jesus Christ, will you recommit to these three tasks?
Will you pray, personally and by name, for your fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers? Will you pray by yourself? Will you gather with them at the stated meetings? It is powerful and effective. Do not your friends and family members need such intercession? Would not you be improved by their persistent supplication?
Will you express — in some culturally acceptable way — your affection for your fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers? Who is lonely? Who is discouraged? Today, who can you kiss? Who do you know who needs a handshake, a pat on the back, a back rub, or a bro-hug? Can you write a card? How about a Facebook personal message? Phones still work, and you don’t have to text. Could you call someone and encourage them as a fellow member of Christ’s household.
Finally, will you gather together — in homes and in churches — and edify one another with the Word of God.
Oh friends and family members, let us not neglect these basics. The church that prays together, fellowships together, and reads together, they enjoy incredible blessings from above. They are the ones who most enjoy the final words of Paul:
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 1 Thessalonians 5:28
I am grateful to Peter Hubbard who ministers at North Hills Community Church in Taylors, South Carolina. He preached from this text on Sunday, June 17, 2017. His faithful communication of God’s Word encouraged me to share this text with you.