1Thessalonians: Chapter 3
Paul, Silas, and Timothy were very concerned over the state of the church since they were forcefully removed from Thessalonica by the city authorities a few weeks after their arrival, Acts 17:1-10. Because of the bond posted by Jason, Paul could not immediately return to Thessalonica. Instead, Paul may have sent both Timothy and Silas back to the young church, with Timothy as the head of delegation. Sometime later, they returned to meet Paul at Corinth, Acts 18:1-15. Considering all that Paul went through for the name of Jesus Christ, it was noteworthy that he would mention his being left alone from his fellow faithful workers in Christ while at Athens. This second missionary journey was fraught with persecution.
|1-5||Determining the state of their faith|
|6-10||The assurance of Timothy's report|
|11-13||Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians|
In 1Thessalonians 3:1-4, Paul expresses his concern for the well-being of the young converts to the Lord Jesus Christ, which was the purpose for sending Timothy and possibly Silas back to them. Their presence was meant to strengthen the church in their faith, encourage the church in their faith, and to keep them from becoming unsettled in their trials. Christians are destined for trials, as Paul indicted to Timothy in another epistle, 2Timothy 3:12-17. The Apostle Peter encouraged the faithful in his epistle, 1Peter 4:12-19, and in writing to the Romans, Paul wrote of the positive results of testing, Romans 5:1-5.
In 1Thessalonians 3:5, Paul indicates that he desired to hear any news from Thessalonica, so he sent is co-workers in Christ to determine how the new church was fairing since his departure. Paul may have been aware of the parable that Jesus spoke concerning the planting of the seed, Mark 4:14-20, where some seed falls along the path and Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Some seed falls on rocky ground where the word is received in joy, but they have no root. As a result, when persecution comes they quickly fall away (this is what Paul feared since he could not remain long with the Thessalonians). Continuing with the parable of the seed, some fell among thorns, and the worries, deceitfulness of wealth, and desires for other things choked the word. However, some fell on good ground resulting in a bountiful harvest, which was the case in the Thessalonian church.
In 1Thessalonians 3:6, Paul's relief came with the return of Timothy brought back the news his aching heart was seeking. Their faith and love in Christ were confirmed, as well as their great love for Paul. They had a longing to see Paul and his team as he did for them.
In 1Thessalonians 3:7-8, the effect of the news was encouragement to Paul and his team. Their faith in Christ was central to the news sought despite the distress and persecution which was severely afflicted upon Paul and his team. The news was a breath of fresh air, and a joy was expressed as in the previous chapter where the Thessalonians were the crown of joy for Paul and his team, when the church at Thessalonica and Paul's team appear together in the presence of the Lord.
1Thessalonians 3:9-10 shows the response of Paul to the news, giving thanks and the glory to God for the salvation that was brought to this congregation in Thessalonica. What greater joy can we receive as we appear before the Lord in the presence of all the saints to see those whom we have helped to lead to Christ, whether directly or indirectly. It’s a wonderful experience reserved to the time of appearing before the judgment seat of Christ where our works for the Lord will be fully exposed, 2Corinthians 5:6-12. Every one of us will give an account of himself to God at that time, Romans 14:7-13, and the value of everyone’s work will be revealed by fire, 1Corinthians 3:10-15. There was an deep and abiding love that developed between Paul and this young church, so he sought to return and continue teaching this church. The prayer life of Paul and his companions was not casual nor of convenience, but disciplined, frequent, and with purpose.
In 1Thessalonians 3:11-12, Paul responds in great praise and thankfulness to the Lord in response to the great news of the church to whom he introduced the gospel. He could not teach as much as he wanted having been forced to leave the city abruptly. There are two very important points to be observed from these verses. First, the affirmation of Christ’s deity is declared in these passages. The prayer is directed to both the Father and Son, treating both as equal, John 17:20-23. Second, the request to God to clear the way for the return of Paul and his team to Thessalonica, which was hindered by Satan, 1Thessalonians 2:18. Paul is asking God to intervene and remove the obstacle placed by Satan. Paul also asks the Lord to make the love of the believers at Thessalonica to increase and to overflow for each other and everyone else. In this passage, Paul used the highest form of love in the Greek language, "agape". The definition and usage of this Greek word is found in the blueletterbible.org web site (Blue Letter Bible. "1 Thessalonians 3 - King James Version." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008), which means brother love, affection and good will. Paul encourages them to express this same love that was demonstrated by Paul and his team to the church at Thessalonica.
In 1Thessalonians 3:11-12, Paul asks the Lord to establish or strengthen the church at Thessalonica. The Greek word he used for establish in this verse is "sterizo", which is also found in the blueletterbible.org web site (Blue Letter Bible. "1 Thessalonians 3 - King James Version." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008), which means to make stable, place firmly. This is the same word used elsewhere in scripture, such as in Luke 9:51, when Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem to complete the Father’s work, and also when the Lord told Peter before the Lord’s crucifixion, that the He had prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail, and when he was converted, that Peter was to strengthen the other disciples, Luke 22:32. Paul had also used this word in his epistle to the Romans, in which he asked the Lord to establish the church in Rome in the gospel, and in the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery shown unto Paul, Romans 16:25. James also used this word in his epistle to encourage believers to be patient and be established for the coming of the Lord draws near, James 5:7-9. We are sanctified toward the end of always doing the work of the Lord, to extend love toward one another, and to patiently wait on the Lord’s return for His church.
As Paul’s prayer continues in 1Thessalonians 3:13, he spoke of their sanctification; that they be blameless and holy in the presence of the Lord. This does not imply any ineffectiveness of the Lord’s work for our salvation, nor is there any sin question to address before the judgment seat of Christ, Romans 8:1-4, Hebrews 10:12-21. Rather, it is intended that our works while alive in our physical bodies, has brought glory to God, Matthew 5:16. For we will appear before the Lord in a form as He is, 1John 3:1-3.
Further with Paul’s prayer, he shows the completeness of being in the presence of the Lord with all of the saints. The Greek for word "comes" in this verse is "parousia", as found in the blueletterbible.org web site (Blue Letter Bible. "1 Thessalonians 3 - King James Version." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008). This word means presence, arrival or advent. This passage may refer to the actual coming of Christ to this earth to establish His millennial reign, Matthew 24:26-27, Revelation 19:11-16. The connection of the church relative to Christ's second coming, is evident in the first three chapters in Thessalonians:
- The rapture of the church is to save us (the church) from the coming wrath, 1Thessalonians 1:10
- Following the rapture, while we are in His presence at His coming (parousia) in which we receive our hope, joy, and crowns and glory in His presence, 1Thessalonians 2:19-20
- The return of Christ at His second coming, or second advent, with all His saints, or holy ones, 1Thessalonians 3:13