About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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1 Thessalonians 3

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ch. 2:17 to 3:5     ch. 3:6-13

Paul’s Longing To See The Thessalonians (ch. 2:17 – 3:5)


In verses 17 Paul says that he and his fellow workers were “torn away” from the Thessalonians, yet this tearing away was in person, not in thought.  The word "torn" is a good word here because it shows the feelings of Paul.  He was only with these people three short weeks, but there was such a heart felt bond of emotion that when he left them, he felt totally torn in his heart.  


Notice also the words "intense longing to see you" in verse 17.  Again, we see the heart of Paul here.  He was one tough guy to be able to withstand all of the hardships that he went through but deep in his heart, he was sensitive, caring, and loving.       


In verse 18 He goes on to say that “out of intense longing” they tried to go back to Thessalonica, but “satan stopped us”.  Now this is interesting.  Here is the great apostle Paul being “stopped by satan”.  Paul believed the opposition that he experienced was directly from satan, and at this juncture he could not do what he wanted to do because satan was in the way.  It seemed that in this instance satan was stronger that Paul.  Or, it might possibly be that God was using satan in order for Paul not to go to Thessalonica at that particular moment.  This is conjecture only.  We really don’t know.   Suffice to say, satan stopped Paul, so if this is the case, he could most likely stop us from doing things as well, unless we are no threat to him and then he would have nothing to do with us, which is probably the case more times than not.  The one thing we learn here is that satan is a powerful enemy and we should take him seriously.  I've often thought concerning some Christian songs we sing, that we make light of satan.  I don't think we should.


Concerning God using satan; God does use him.  He will use the anti-Christ at the end of this age to bring this age to a conclusion.  


In verses 19 and 20 Paul asked the question, “what is our hope, our glory, our crown in the presence of our Lord Jesus?”   Paul answers his own question by saying the Thessalonians themselves were his hope, glory and crown.  Paul understood that on the day when Jesus judges the work done by His people, he will present all those he had responsibility for to Jesus.  This would be the crowning event in Paul’s ministry, to see his people accepted into the presence of the Lord.  This is the joy of his life that he lived for.  Paul would rather have this joy than any joy from earthly possessions.


The word "crown" is used in a number of ways in the Bible.  Here it is used as a congregation of the saints in reference to the return of Christ when Jesus will judge the work of the believers.  


In chapter 3 verse 1 Paul decided to stay where they were.  The Greek is a bit obscure here.  We're not sure if it was just Paul who stayed behind or Paul and others.  Most lean to just Paul being left behind.  In verse 2 when he could stand it no more, he sent Timothy” to Thessalonica.  For some reason Paul could not go himself.  Satan got in his way.  Whether this was because of persecution, an illness, a messenger from satan, thorn in his flesh, we really don’t know.  All that we know is that since Paul could not visit these people, Timothy could, so he sent him “to strengthen and encourage them in their faith.


Note that Paul calls Timothy a fellow worker in the Lord.  In one sense of the word, Paul viewed Timothy as a son, but here he viewed him as a co-worker, one who worked along side of him.  We need to understand that even though Paul considered Timothy as son, he was also a co-worker.  This says something about their relationship.   It was not a heavy handed father/son, submission and authority based relationship. 


In verse 3 Paul mentions the trials these people were going through.  He was deeply concerned about these people, and so he wanted to encourage them, thus the reason for sending Timothy.  Paul tells these people that both him, his co-workers, and the Thessalonians, "were destined" to these trials.  That means that trials were just par for the course as a Christian.  I would imagine that when Paul spoke the gospel to these people he told them that if they gave their lives to Jesus, they would experience troubles.  As a matter of fact, verse 4 tells us just this.  Paul told these people in the three short weeks he was with them, that they would suffer persecution.   They were destined to trouble in those days.  It was to be expected.  I wonder how we would do under such persecution today.     


Becoming a Christian in Paul's day was a real commitment to Jesus.  One had to really count the cost, as Jesus Himself said we should.  This tells me that a quick trip to the altar or a brief "repeat after me prayer" does not necessarily constitute one's salvation.  As a matter of fact, an emotional plea in this sense of the word should be out of the question.  We should think seriously about becoming a Christian.  No decision should be based on emotion, because if it is, once the emotion leaves, so does the commitment.  This does not mean that once you've made a serious commitment you might not be emotional, but you might.  It's just that emotion should not influence your decision.      


In verse 5 Paul says that "he could no longer stand it."  He couldn't bear not knowing how these people were doing. He was especially worried about how their faith was holding up.  Here we see how concerned he was for these people.  He had great love and compassion for those Jesus had led him to.  This is a mark of a great leader in the Lord. 


Paul was concerned about their faith, that is, their trust in Jesus.   Faith is fundamental in being a Christian.  We are saved by faith, that is to say, our trust in Jesus.  We live our lives by faith.  Once again that is our trust in Jesus.  Paul did not want them to give up on this trust they had in Jesus, because losing your faith means losing your salvation.


In verse 5 we see the great apostle Paul expressing a fear.  Yes, the great apostle Paul did have fears.  His fear was that “the tempter (satan) might have tempted them and that his efforts might have been useless”.  Paul was afraid that they would give into satan’s temptation to give up.  If this was the case, Paul’s ministry and all the effort he put into it, would be in vain, would be useless.  This would disturb Paul more than anything.  He being a driven man, hated to do anything for nothing, that is, do something and have someone else destroy what he has done.  


Over the last number of decades I've heard various Christians rebuking and binding satan.  It is interesting to me that Paul neither rebuked satan or bound him.  I don't believe it is our place to rebuke or especially bind satan.  Only Jesus will bind satan for one thousand years when He returns to earth.  We can cast demons out of people, but we can't bind satan. 


Timothy’s Encouraging Report (ch. 3:6 - 13)


In verse 6 Paul mentions that Timothy had just arrived with good news, which was most likely the occasion for writing this letter.  The good news that Timothy brought was concerning their “faith and love”.  Once again, Paul often puts faith and love together.  First comes faith, that is, trust in Jesus.  Then comes love, that is, selfless actions that are a result of true faith.  I think that if you really want to love others, then you need to trust Jesus more.  Love, as defined in Biblical terms does not come natural to us.  The better of a trusting relationship we have with Jesus, the more we will be able to love as Jesus wants us to love.  That's why Paul always puts "faith" before "love".


Part of what Timothy told Paul was that these people “always had pleasant memories” of Paul and his team, even though they were with each other for a short period of time.  Timothy also mentioned that “they longed to see” Paul again, which was reciprocal.  This just made Paul feel great, especially in the midst of all the trials he was going through.   


We see here Paul's feelings coming forth.  He was a man of great feelings.  I've said this before, but if you read his second letter to the Corinthians, you will see him wearing his feelings on his sleeve, so to speak.  You see a bit of it here.


Paul begins verse 7 with the word  “therefore", suggesting a conclusion to what he just said.  He continues to say that "in all of our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith”.  Once again, you see the importance of faith, or trusting Jesus in the thinking of Paul.  You also see that when people trusted Jesus if would sure lift Paul's spirits. 


Paul and his companions went through great distress and persecution.  In Acts 9 Jesus told Paul that he was called to suffer for His sake, and suffer he did. This man who suffered a lot, received a lot from the Lord.


In verse 8 we see a result of hearing such good news about the Thessalonians.   Paul says, "now we really live…”.  It is as though a great burden was lifted from Paul’s shoulders once he found out that they were “standing firm in the Lord”.  Paul, a man of great emotion would feel the feelings caused by fear for his people. Once knowing that they were okay, these feelings would revert to feelings of great relief and ecstasy. 


Every pastor or Christian leader should have the same fervor as Paul had concerning the faith of God's people.  Our faith is fundamental.  If our faith is in good shape we will grow in the Lord, but if our faith is in bad shape, we will not grow, and may even fall away from the Lord. 


Paul goes as far to say in verse 9, “how can we thank God enough for all of the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?”  Can you see Paul’s emotion coming through in these words?  He just can’t thank God enough for hearing such good news from Timothy, which produced overwhelming joy in Paul’s life. 


Note that Paul was thanking these people.  You might think it should be the other way around.  They should be thanking Paul for all that he did for them, for all the trials he went through on their behalf.  I'm sure these people were thankful, but seeing Paul being thankful of them is something.  When God's people do well in the Lord, the real servant of God is full of joy.


Paul goes on to say in verse 10 that “night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith”.  Again and again in Paul’s writings you see the intensity he has for his people.  Here you see it by him saying that he prays day and night for these people. 


Even though Timothy’s report concerning their faith was good, Paul wanted to visit them again “to supply what was lacking in their faith”.  Once again, you see Paul’s genuine concern about the faith of his people.  Yes, their faith was strong in the midst of trials, but Paul knew that even with the greatest of faith, there was still room for improvement.  Trust in Jesus is a growing virtue that never ends.


These words of Paul show us his love and compassion he has for those in his care.  This should be a text book for how Christian leaders should minister today.  I believe such conviction can only come from a serious relationship with Jesus Himself.  Too often ministry becomes pure routine.  This was not so with Paul. 


Verses 11 to 13 are a doxology, an ending to a letter which gives praise to God, even though this is not the end of the letter.  In verse 11 we see that it is Paul's prayer that God the Father and the Lord Jesus clear the way for him to visit these people again.  Note that Paul calls God his father.  Note also that Paul links Jesus to God, as he always does.  God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  That's the only God there is.


Notice that it is God and Jesus who Paul expected to clear the way for Paul and his brothers to come to these believers.  Note the words "clear the way".  This tells me that the way was blocked, and, from what we saw earlier, it was satan who blocked Paul's path.  Note that it was Jesus who unblocked this path, not Paul.  Paul's part in all of this was praying.     


In verse 12 Paul's hope and prayer is that the Thessalonians' love will overflow to each other and to other people as well.  The love the individual has must overflow to others. If it doesn't, it really isn't love.  Love must be in action, not just word.  If love isn't seen in actions, then love doesn't overflow. 


In verse 13 Paul's hope and prayer is that God will strengthen the hearts of these people so they will be blameless on the day Jesus returns to earth.  This is one reoccurring theme throughout Paul's writings.   The return of Jesus is always in the forefront of Paul's thinking.  Just meeting Jesus isn't all that Paul thinks about in connection with his return.  Paul wants to be ready to meet Jesus.  He wants his life to be as blameless as possible so Jesus will be proud of him.  Paul would be overjoyed and greatly humbled if Jesus smiles at him on the day he meets Him. 


Verse 13 ends with the words "come with all of his holy ones."  The words "holy ones" here either refers to angels or believers.  I believe it refers to the believers who return with Jesus when He comes back to earth. 



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