“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
What a great compliment Paul paid the Thessalonian Christians! Here’s the full essence of what he was saying: “It’s incredible to see how much you’ve grown, both in your faith in Christ and in your love for one another. Everywhere I go, I brag to others about your spiritual growth. How I thank God for you!”
In this short passage, Paul gives us an amazing picture of a body of believers who were growing in unity and love. The Greek phrase Paul uses for “groweth exceedingly” means “grows over, above and beyond that of others.” Both individually and corporately, the Thessalonians’ faith and love outshone that of all other churches.
Obviously, these Thessalonian Christians weren’t just trying to hang on to their faith till Jesus returned. They were learning, moving, growing—and their lives offered evidence to that fact. According to Paul, they were the talk of every church in Asia.
Apparently, the preaching these people heard was provoking them into an ever-deeper walk with Christ. It was melting their fleshly ambitions and convicting them of un-Christlike habits. And the Holy Ghost in them was tearing down all ethnic barriers and color lines. They were discovering how to embrace any person, whether rich or poor, educated or not. And they offered great care to each other, preferring one another in love.
If you’re being watered and fed by God’s Word, you should have continual spiritual growth in your life. It should be happening automatically.
I don’t know if everyone in our congregation is “growing exceedingly,” as Paul knew about the church at Thessalonica. Yet, I believe it is true for many of our people. Why? The anointed preaching of the pure Word of God always produces growth. And the apostle Peter says that all who desire the pure milk of the Word will grow.
Paul describes our spiritual growth as a work of the Holy Ghost. He says the Spirit is ever at work, changing us from glory to glory. He’s constantly renewing our minds, mortifying our flesh and bringing forth purity in our inner man. He works in our hearts to put off anger, bitterness, resentment and evil of all kinds. And he produces in us kindness, tenderness and forgiveness toward one another. He’s growing us up in Christ—teaching us that everything we say and do has to be worthy of our Lord!
Paul further urges us, “Let a man examine himself…” (1 Corinthians 11:28). The Greek word for examine here means “scrutinize, test.” The apostle is saying, “Test yourself—see if you’re walking according to God’s Word.” We’re to constantly ask ourselves, “Am I changing? Am I becoming more loving and tenderhearted? Am I treating my family and friends with godly respect? Is my conversation becoming more righteous?”