Scriptures

1 Thessalonians 3

Introduction

1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 “So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labours might have been in vain.” NIV

As we enter chapter 3 we need to remember that the Bible was never divided into chapter and verses originally and although these divisions can be useful at times, in this case it’s not so useful. We should read 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 as a continuation of 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20.

There is no doubt the apostles were genuinely concerned for the saints at Thessalonica, they needed to know how the saints were doing and they realised that just knowing this was better than the help that Paul would have gained from those he was sending. And so they sent Timothy to them, he is described as their brother and co-worker, working for God in spreading the Gospel.

But notice why they sent him, to strengthen and encourage them in their faith. The apostles sent Timothy with the purpose of helping this young church to be a people of faith both in their personal lives and their service to God, especially in light of the trials they were facing as Christians.

And as verse 4 tells us, these trials shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the church in Thessalonica because when Paul was originally with them he forewarned them that this was going to happen and if you remember Acts 17:5-10 they had already as a church personally experienced some persecution.

Make no mistake about it the apostles knew exactly what these dear brethren were facing, they knew the challenges and temptations they were going through and going to go through and because of that they were greatly concerned for their brethren. And notice also that it wasn’t so much their physical well-being they were so concerned about but their faith, their spiritual well-being.

As Christians, we can survive all sorts of things physically but we need to understand if we lose our faith we cannot survive anything. 3 John 2. Just as a side note, if the doctrine of ‘once saved, always saved’ was true then why would the apostles be so concerned for these brethren?

The apostles needed to know how they were doing because they realised that all Christians are involved in spiritual warfare. And notice who were at war with, verse 5 calls him the tempter. Just as Jesus was tempted in Matthew 4 by the devil we too as Christians can be sure that he is always busy tempting us today. When the apostles use the word ‘tempted’ πειράζω ‘peirazo’, in Greek it means simply to test, they are using it in two ways.

1. In terms of hardships and afflictions.

2. In terms of enticement. In other words the devil is busy trying to lead people away from their faith Christ and this is why the apostles are so concerned, because they have invested so much into each of them spiritually. 1 Thessalonians 2:18-20.

Let’s pause for a moment and reflect upon these questions, are Christians promised a pain free life when they submit to Christ? Does the Bible teach us, become a Christian and your life will be free from trials and difficulties? A little assignment might be useful here.

1 Thessalonians 3:6-10 “But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.” NIV

1 Thessalonians 3:6 begins a new section with the word ‘But’, this is used in contrast to what has just been said, the apostles were really worried about the saints in Thessalonica ‘But’, they were really concerned that the tempter was really tempting them away from the faith ‘But’. They are basically saying they could have gave in to the temptations and the trails they were going through and fell away ‘But’ they didn’t. The enemy could have won ‘But’ he didn’t.

The reality was when Timothy returned to Corinth with the good news concerning their faith and love, Paul there and then sat down and wrote this letter to them. Acts 18:1-2. This was great news and as the writer in Proverbs says in Proverbs 25:25,

“Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.”

Timothy’s report basically said, their faith is great and their faith is in seen by all through their love for all and they have fond memories of Paul and they long to see them all again. The apostles wrote in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 that they desired for the Thessalonian church to be encouraged but here in verse 7 because of that great report the apostles were the ones being greatly encouraged by the saints in Thessalonica.

Leon Morris (The Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, p. 14) writes this about this passage,

“Up to this point Paul had had little to encourage him. In four successive centres, there had been discouragement. A promising beginning had been followed by forcible disruption in Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea, and in Athens he had had little success. Small wonder that he began his preaching at Corinth ‘in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling’ (1 Corinthians 2:3).

But when the messengers came from Thessalonica they brought such a report of the continuing steadfastness of the converts that Paul saw that the blessing of God had after all rested upon his work there, and this so caused his spirits to rise that he was able to give himself much more energetically to the work he was doing.

This appears to be the meaning of

‘Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ’. Acts 18:5

Out of this sense of relief and reassurance Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians, and it is clear that he wrote with a full heart.

You can almost feel the excitement the apostles must have had in verse 8 when they write

“For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.”

The good news that Timothy brought back not only gave them encouragement but also joy.

It’s not that they never received any encouragement or had any joy but because this was a congregation they invested so much time and effort in, they were greatly encouraged and filled with joy because they were hearing about the fruit of their labours, this young congregation was standing firm in the Lord in the midst of persecution. 1 Thessalonians 3:5.

In fact, the apostles were so excited they just couldn’t help but look for ways to thank God for them. But notice the apostles especially Paul could have taken all the credit for planting this young church, but he didn’t, he gave credit and thanks to the One and only person he knew was behind it all, God Himself. They did boast about this church as we saw in 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10 but they always knew that it was God who was working in and through them for His purpose.

The apostles were excited about the saints in Thessalonica and were moved to pray for them constantly as they are going to encourage them to do later in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. The apostle’s prayers were twofold,

1. To see them again and

2. So they could supply what was lacking in their faith.

They wanted to see them again is so evident in everything we’ve read in the text but they also wanted to see them not just for a social visit but to help meet their spiritual needs.

It’s interesting when you think about it, the saints in Thessalonica were doing great in so many areas of their faith but there was obviously more spiritually growing to do. If we as Christians ever think we ‘know it all’ or there is ‘no more room’ for spiritual growth we’ve sadly missed the point.

1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 “Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” NIV

After looking for ways to give thanks to God and telling the saints in Thessalonica that they are praying for them night and day, they now get more specific with their prayers for them. It’s important to notice in verse 11 how

‘our Lord Jesus’

is linked with

‘our God and Father.’

The apostles are stressing Jesus’ Lordship and oneness with the Father, John 17:21 / Zechariah 13:7. They also recognise Who is in control by telling us that they want Jesus and the Father to make it possible for them to see the saints again.

There is something else the apostles recognise in verse 12, they recognise where all our spiritual blessings come from. Let me give you a few examples, our spiritual growth comes from the Father and should be seen in our lives, Galatians 5:22-23, our desire for meatier spiritual food comes the Father, 2 Peter 2:2 / 2 Peter 3:18. The things we should be thinking about comes from the Father, Philippians 4:8 / 2 Peter 1:5-10. In fact all our spiritual blessings come from the Father, Ephesians 1:3.

We are so blessed in so many ways and we must recognise where these blessings come from. The apostles wanted the Lord to bless these saints with more love for themselves and everyone they come into contact with, to the same level that the apostles loved them.

The motivation and goal of the apostle’s prayers is very clearly seen in verse 13, they wanted them to be strengthened in their hearts, in order for them to be blameless and holy when Jesus returns. We need to remember that ‘blameless’ doesn’t mean ‘sinless’ but means we need to make sure our sins are properly dealt with.

In Philippians 3:6 when the apostle Paul talks about what he was like when he was a fully devoted Jew, he says that he was ‘blameless’ in his righteousness, but that doesn’t mean he never sinned, it means that he did everything the law required of him to deal with his sin, i.e. sacrifice an animal in the temple.

Now thankfully if a person has been immersed into Christ according to Acts 2:38 they receive forgiveness of sins (the 1st law of forgiveness) and the gift of the Holy Spirit, but what happens after that moment? This only deals with our past sins, what about our future sins?

Well thankfully the Lord has provided what we might call the 2nd law of forgiveness which is found in 1 John 1:10-2:2. In other words a faithful walk with God along confessing our sins will keep us ‘blameless’ and holy as long as we continue to do so.

Again notice how the apostles close this section with another reminder that the Lord will indeed one day come back with the holy ones. But who are these ‘holy ones’?

2 Thessalonians 1:7 tells us that Jesus is coming back with His mighty angels. Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew 25:31 that when He returns He will come with his holy angels. 1 Thessalonians 4:10 tells us that Jesus is coming back with dead saints. So who are the ‘holy ones’? It may well be both, since the angels are holy and those who died in Christ are holy too.

It’s a very sobering thought to know that the Lord will come again one day and we really need to be found ‘blameless and holy in His sight.’ Some people believe He won’t return and others believe He will, but the real question is this, how will He find you if He returns today?

Go To 1 Thessalonians 4

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

Hebrews 12:1

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