1Thessalonians 3 - Outline of 1Thessalonians (Book Notes menu page)
1. Wherefore when we could no longer forbear,
we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;
2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God,
and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ,
to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions:
for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.
4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before
that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.
5 For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith,
lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.
...at Athens alone...- Because Paul was the chief spokesman, enemies of the Gospel sought to kill him.
Therefore, friends had taken him to Athens, and away from danger (Acts 17:13-15). Apparently, Timothy had been sent back to Thessalonica very shortly after he had rejoined Paul in Athens.
...when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith.
When the weight of concern, for these new believers, became unbearable, Paul sent Timothy to check on their spiritual condition. The intensity of Paul's burden (which he had previously expressed, in 1The 2:17-20) is reflected in the duplication of the phrase "when [we / I] could no longer forbear..." (v.1,5). Timothy shared Paul's burden for the church of Christ (eg., Php 2:19-22).
Paul lists Timothy's qualifications...
  • our brother - a child of God through faith in Christ.
  • a minister {GK=diakonos, a servant} of God.
  • our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ. - His sphere of service was in the proclamation of the Gospel, and the making of disciples for Christ (according to the Lord's commission, Mat 28:18-20). While many, today, devote their energies to correcting social ills, Timothy had his priorities in the proper order. The hearts of men must first be transformed by the Gospel, before the lives of men can change for the better (Mat 15:19,20; 1Cor 6:9-11).
Paul identified the purpose of Timothy's visit...
  • to establish you...- {GK=sterizo, to make stable, to strengthen, to make steadfast}
    It is God who establishes His children.
    He does so, through His Word. Rom 16:25,26; 2Pet 1:12
    Therefore, Timothy would minister the Word of God to them...
  • to comfort you...- {GK=parakaleo, call to one's side, beseech, encourage}
    This word is translated 'exhorted,' in 1The 2:11.
  • that no man should be moved {ie., unsettled, disturbed} by these afflictions...-
    ...for ye know... for we told you.. as it came to pass... ye know.-
    The new believers were experiencing the 'tribulation' (ie., trouble, affliction, persecution), which they had been taught to expect, as the Christian's lot in this life. cp. Joh 15:18-21; Php 1:29,30; 2Tim 3:12; 1Pet 4:12-19
  • lest the tempter have tempted you, and our labor be in vain.
    Like a concerned mother or father, Paul could not rest, until he knew that his spiritual children were standing firm in the faith, in the face of the trials that had come upon them. Paul, being aware of Satan's wiles, feared that persecution or false teaching might turn the new believers away from the truth. eg., 2Cor 11:2,3; Eph 6:11,12
6. But now when Timotheus came from you unto us,
and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity
{GK=agape, love},
and that ye have good remembrance of us always,
desiring greatly to see us, as we also [to see] you:
7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you
in all our affliction and distress by your faith:
8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.
Timothy had returned with good news...
The Thessalonian believers were strong in faith and love, and they also longed to see their spiritual parents.
Therefore... we were comforted {GK=parakaleo, to call near}... in all our distress by your faith.-
The missionaries were encouraged, by their brothers' nearness of heart, despite the physical distance between them.
for now we live, since you stand fast in the Lord.
The lives of the missionaries were wrapped up in the lives of their spiritual children. The good report relieved their fears, and brought joy, in knowing that their brothers were standing firm in the faith (cp. Php 1:27,28; 4:1). The new believers had proven their spiritual armor (Eph 6:13-18; 1Pet 4:12,13).
9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you,
for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;
10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face,
and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
The prayer, which closes this chapter, begins with Thanksgiving to God.
Paul and his co-workers had prayed fervently for these brothers. The Lord's favorable answer had filled them with intense joy. Their joy overflowed as they 'rejoiced with rejoicing,' for the ones for whom they had prayed, and before the One who had graciously answered their prayer. God, Himself, was the source and object of their joy (cp. Psa 43:4,5).
...that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith.
Persecution had caused their separation, and had prevented the missionaries from completing the process of discipling the new believers. But God, who is able to keep His own, had caused them to grow strong, even in the absence of human teachers. Realizing this, Paul commits their continued care to the Lord, in the remainder of his prayer.
11. Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,
direct our way unto you.
12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another,
and toward all [men], even as we [do] toward you:
13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable
in holiness before God, even our Father,
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
Paul's prayer continues...
  1. addressed to "God... our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
    In v.11, the GK verb ('direct') is singular. God, the Father and the Son, act as One (cp. Joh 10:30). cp. 2The 2:16,17, where the GK verbs ('comfort' and 'stablish') are also singular.
  2. asking that...
    1. the Lord would open the way for the missionaries to gather again with these new believers.
      He prayed that the Lord would 'direct' {GK=kateuthuno, lit., 'fully straighten', guide} the way {lit., road} to that future meeting. cp. Prov 3:5,6
         Paul greatly desired further opportunity to teach the Word of God to them. However, he would not force the door open. The Lord would make the way straight, and remove the hindrances, if and when it was His will for him to minister again among the Thessalonians. Apparently, Paul's next visit to Thessalonica was about eight years later, following persecution at Ephesus, and as he prepared for his final trip to Jerusalem (Acts 20:1-4).
    2. the Lord would continue to cause the new believers to grow in love.
      In v.12, "increase and abound" is literally "super-abound exceedingly abundantly."
      The word 'love' {GK=agape, the selfless love that willingly sacrifices for the sake of the one loved} identifies the type of love that the Lord demonstrated when He gave Himself for sinners. It is this type of love which the missionaries had demonstrated when they came with the Gospel, at their own expense and without regard for personal danger (1The 2:8).
         This love is to be shown (super-abundantly) toward the brotherhood of believers, and also toward all men (which would include their ungodly persecutors). eg., 1The 4:9,10; Rom 13:8; 1Cor 13:1-13; 1Joh 3:11-19; 4:7-16
    3. the Lord would establish {GK=sterizo, strengthen, stiffen, enable to stand} the hearts {innermost beings} of these maturing brothers...
      In v.2,3, Paul's purpose, when he sent Timothy, was to 'establish' these new believers, so that they would be able to stand against persecution.
      Here, Paul's desire is that the Lord Jesus Christ would prepare them to be able to stand in His presence, at His 'coming' {GK=parousia} (v.13; 1The 2:19):
      • unblameable {GK=amemptos, faultless, irreproachable}
        ie., Pure in heart and life (not merely in external appearance).
      • in holiness {GK=hagiosune, set apart, dedicated} before {ie., in the presence of} God.
        ie., Wholly set apart for the service and glory of God.
    Notice that Paul does not specifically ask for 'point 3.' Rather, he asks that the new believers would "increase and abound in love... to the end that..." their hearts would be established 'unblameable in holiness.' The heart, which the Holy Spirit causes to abound with love, will also abound with other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-25).
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