In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, we’re given the reason why God “chose us to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit,” and why he “called us through the gospel.” The reason given is “that we might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It was Jesus’ expressed wish too that we “see (and share) his glory,” John 17:24. But not just see his glory, it’s also his wish in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we “reflect” his glory too, as we ourselves are “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” by that “sanctifying work of the Spirit.”
We also see in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that the purpose of the “god of the age” is to “blind the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” But in the church, verse 6, God “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
So Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory, enabling us to see it, and we in the church are the reflection of that same glory as the Spirit transforms us into Jesus’ likeness, so that others can see it.
The obvious question then becomes, “But how does the Spirit enable the church to reflect God’s glory so that others can see it?” And that takes us back to 2 Thessalonians 2 and verse 15, that by the sanctifying work of the Spirit we in the church “stand firm and hold fast to the teachings that Jesus’ apostles passed on to us.” So we reflect God’s glory by the Spirit enabling us to stick like glue to the teachings of Jesus passed on to us through his apostles. We also have the “Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,” verse 16, “encouraging our hearts and strengthening us in every good deed and word,” verse 17.
So not only are we sticking like glue to Jesus’ teachings, thanks to the Spirit, we are also displaying clear fruits of Jesus’ teachings in our every word and deed, thanks to Jesus and our Father keeping us encouraged and strengthened – which clearly we in the church need, because, verse 7, “the secret power of lawlessness is already at work,” whose aim is to “oppose and exalt himself over everything that is called God” (verse 4).
So there’s also a power at work that wants to hide and mess up “everything that is called God,” and replace God’s glory with his own. And the means by which he does it is to “unsettle and alarm” and “deceive” the church into “refusing to love the truth” and “not believing the truth” through counterfeit lies (verses 2 and 9-12).
Is it any surprise, then, that there are times when the church does not reflect the glory of God very well? But at least we know the clear cause of it. Somehow our focus has been taken off the teachings of Jesus by other things that seem more important, or more exciting, like “all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” (2:9), or worse, verse 10, “every sort of evil” being pushed by the culture that creeps into the church too, like sexual abuse of children. The result of drifting away from Jesus’ teachings will be very visible too, therefore, but visibly reflecting Satan and his likeness (verse 9), not Jesus.
But just as visible is the result of sticking like glue to Jesus’ teachings, and being transformed by that by the Holy Spirit into Jesus’ likeness. The result is stated clearly in Chapter One, verse 3, when Paul writes: “We thank God for you, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.” These are the “miracles, signs and wonders” that visibly display the Holy Spirit at work in the church. They are trusting in Jesus and what he taught, and our love for each other is increasing.
They’re the total opposite to feeling unsettled and alarmed caused by “refusing to love the truth” of Jesus’ teachings and ”not believing” in them, that the spirit of lawlessness creates. And we see that in churches today that are divided and splintered into opposing factions, where Jesus’ teachings don’t even enter the picture, and their love for each other is visibly decreasing, not increasing.
“With this in mind,” then, Paul continues in verse 11, “we constantly pray for you, “that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.”
Faith in Jesus’ teachings releases God’s power in us so that every word and deed of ours fits those teachings, which is what God called us for in this age to properly reflect his glory. It’s also what Paul prayed for in verse 12, “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him.”
It’s clear, then, where we see the glory of God in the church today. It’s in churches, or individuals in churches, who are being transformed by the Holy Spirit into Jesus’ likeness through having their noses thoroughly buried in Scripture – the clear, visible fruits of which will be trust in Jesus and his teachings and trust in him and the Father strengthening and encouraging us when we’re unsettled and alarmed. Our love for each other in the church is really growing too.
And that’s what makes God’s glory visible to others as well.