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While Paul laments his inability to visit the Thessalonians, he rejoices over their faithful response to the gospel. Paul claims his crowning joy is seeing people like them respond to the gospel.
The young Thessalonian church faced the same hostility that drove Paul out of town. Paul wrote to encourage them to continue in the faith. He’s made three points so far:
- Their response to the gospel is evidence of their genuine faith, and Paul is grateful for that response.
- Paul conducted himself in a trustworthy manner when he was with them.
- Their perseverance through persecution is also evidence of their genuine response to the gospel.
17But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20For you are our glory and joy. -1Thessalonians 2:17-20
- Paul laments the fact that he can’t visit the Thessalonians.
- Paul finds great joy in their faithful response to the gospel.
- Paul tells us other people coming to faith is his great crown, his ultimate reward.
- Considering Paul wrote Romans and most of the New Testament, it’s striking that he sees investing in individual people as his greatest achievement.
1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. -1Thessalonians 3:1-4
- Paul uses the first person plural pronoun here to mean himself.
- Wherever he goes, Paul knows people will to kill him. Paul doesn’t want to bring further affliction to the young Thessalonian church, so he sends Timothy instead.
5For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. 6But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? -1Thessalonians 3:5-10
- Paul describes his response when Timothy returned with good news about the Thessalonians.
- Their standing firm in the faith will be the crowning joy of Paul’s life.
- Ultimately our most important job now is to persevere in the faith and encourage others to do the same.
- The gospel is focused on our future hope of life in the kingdom of God (e.g. 1Th 1:9-10; 1Th 2:12; 1Th 2:19; 1Th 3:13).
- This future hope allows Paul and the Thessalonians to endure the sufferings and presecurtion now.
11Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. -1Thessalonians 3:11-13
- Paul closes with a prayer that God might make it possible for him to visit Thessalonica again.
- Paul prays that they would continue to grow in faith.
- Almost every book the New Testament directly or indirectly talks about trials testing our faith and our need to stand firm and be strong.
- The Thessalonians were facing persecution and affliction, but trials come in many shapes and sizes.
- Perseverance through the trial is not the same thing as perfect obedience. Nor is it being tough.
- God has not promised an easy, healthy, smooth and prosperous life. But God has promised to make us mature, strong believers. He has promised to answer prayer’s like Paul’s that we increase and abound in faith.
Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.
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Series: 1&2Thessalonians: Between Times
Study: 1Thessalonians Resources
Scripture references are from the English Standard version.
Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash
Season 22, episode 4