Study Notes

1Thessalonians 3:1-13


Paul had spent about three weeks preaching the gospel and establishing the church in Thessalonica before he and Silas were run out of town. Now, less than a year later, he, Silas, and Timothy are writing to them. In chapter 2, Paul was telling the Thessalonians how much he had desired to see them again, saying,

1Ths. 2:18 For we wanted to come to you - I, Paul, more than once - and {yet} Satan thwarted us.

Now, as we pick up in chapter three, Paul writes,

3:1-2 We Sent Timothy

Paul and Silas were not allowed to return to Thessalonica - presumably because of the pledge that Jason and the brethren had made to the city authorities. But that pledge hadn't bound Timothy. So Timothy was sent to Thessalonica to minister to the Christians and find out how the church was doing.

3:3-4 Destined For Afflictions

When Timothy came back, he told Paul and Silas about how the Thessalonian church was suffering persecution at the hands of their own countrymen. Paul reassured them that this was not unusual or unexpected. The Judean churches were suffering persecution from the Jews, and Paul himself had suffered at the hands of many.

He tells them, "Don't be disturbed by these afflictions. After all, when I was there for those three weeks, I was telling you that this would happen to us and to you. We've been destined for this."

Destined for afflictions? Absolutely. Remember Jesus said,

John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

Affliction, persecution, and suffering are part of the game plan for each of us. 2Timothy 3 says,

2Tim. 3:12 And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

For some reason, we get all bent out of shape when we go through trials and tribulations. It happens to us and we freak out, thinking that something's wrong, that God has abandoned us, that it's not supposed to be happening this way. But Peter tells us,

1Pet. 4:12-14 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Being reviled, persecuted, afflicted, going through trials and tribulations, none of this is strange or out of the ordinary in the Christian life. These things are tests. The grade of the test is determined by our reaction. If we freak out, we get an F. But if we rejoice and give thanks to God, acknowledging that He is in control, then we get an A. That's why Paul told the Corinthians,

2Cor. 4:17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,

In view of eternity, these things are momentary, light afflictions.

Rom. 8:18 ...The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Stand firm in your sufferings, knowing that eternity is on its way.

3:5 The Tempter

No news isn't always good news. Before sending Timothy, Paul hadn't heard how the Thessalonians were doing. He didn't know where their faith had progressed.

Remember Jesus described the three progressions to the Word of God that are possible in someone's heart after they've heard and received it (Matt. 13, Mark 4, Luke 8). Some receive it with great joy, but if they don't get a firm foundation, persecution kills their faith. Others begin to grow, but worldly concerns, desire for pleasure, riches, and other things, choke them out and make them unfruitful. But the third group grows correctly, bearing fruit and multiplying.

Paul knew they had received the Word, but didn't know what would happen in the long-term as they encountered temptation and persecution.

3:6-8 Stand Firm

Paul tells them how comforted he is to get such a good report from Timothy, saying,

1Ths. 3:8 for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.

Whether you are a parent, pastor, teacher, or evangelist, there is nothing that makes you happier than knowing that your children - spiritual or biological - are standing firm in the faith.

Now in our study of Joshua Thursday night, we saw the Israelites defeated because there was sin in the camp. Because of that sin, God told Joshua,

Josh. 7:12 "Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies..."

We are not standing firm when there is willful, habitual, unconfessed, unrepentant sin in our lives. Our enemy the devil will take advantage of our sin and manipulate us with it. He'll knock you down with unconfessed, unrepentant sin every time. That's why the book of Ephesians tells us that to stand, we must have the full armor of God on.

Eph. 6:11-17 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual {forces} of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

If you're going to stand before your enemies, you need the armor of God on. You need to be walking rightly before God. That means living in truth instead of lies and misleadings. That means righteousness, not living in sin. That means being prepared to share the gospel, and protecting yourself with faith and salvation, because the devil wants to kill you. If you're living in this manner, you will be able to stand before your enemies.

And if you're standing firm, I guarantee you that your father in the faith - whoever led you to Christ - can live in joy.

3:9-10 Complete What Is Lacking

You can see Paul's joyful heart so thankful to God for their faith's firm standing. No amount of thanks to God could express how thrilled he was to get this report from Timothy.

His desire of course was still to somehow get back to Thessalonica and finish teaching them the important things of the Christian faith. He had, you remember, spent only three weeks with them.

3:11-13 Abound In Love

You may recall from chapter one that one of the things which marked the Thessalonian church was their labor of love. They loved God so much for His sacrifice on the cross that they were serving Him diligently.

When Jesus was asked,

Matt. 22:36-40 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

Always remember that though the greatest commandment is to love God, the second greatest commandment is to love people. And not just Christian people. Paul encourages them to

1Ths. 3:12 ...increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men...

But wait! It's hard enough to love these folks in the church! How can I possibly love those jerks at work? How can I love those awful people at school? How can I love those gossips in my neighborhood? Jesus said,

Luke 6:32 "And if you love those who love you, what credit is {that} to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

Love is an emotion of action. If you act, your heart will follow. Jesus said,

Luke 12:34 "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

If you begin to invest your prayers in those jerks at work, you'll find that you love them. If you begin to invest your effort in blessing those awful people at school, you'll find that you love them. If you begin to reach out to those gossips in your neighborhood, you'll find that you love them. That's why Jesus taught us,

Luke 6:27-28 "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

If you love God, the church, and everyone else, you will be unblamable in holiness before God. Love fulfills the entire Law of God.

Coming With All His Saints

Interestingly, the chapter ends with this little tidbit...

1Ths. 3:13 so that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.

The Lord Jesus is coming back with all His saints. So far, chapter one ended with,

1Ths. 1:10 ...Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Chapter two ended with,

1Ths. 2:19 the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming

And now chapter three ends with

1Ths. 3:13 ...the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.

Jesus will deliver us from the wrath to come. When Jesus returns, we will be in His presence, returning with Him. Of course these things refer to two great future events: the Rapture of the Church, and the Second Coming of Christ. In chapters four and five of 1Thessalonians, Paul will give us instruction about these two events, and give us opportunity to look at them in depth.

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