Translations: Chinese GB Big5

1Thessalonians 3 (web)

Established in the Faith

3:1 Therefore, when we couldn't stand it any longer,
we thought it good to be left behind at Athens alone,
3:2 and sent Timothy, our brother and God's servant in the gospel of Christ,
to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith;
3:3 that no one be moved by these afflictions.
For you know that we are appointed to this task.
3:4 For most assuredly, when we were with you,
we told you beforehand that we are to suffer affliction,
even as it happened, and you know.

3:5 For this cause I also, when I couldn't stand it any longer, sent that I might know your faith,
for fear that by any means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor would have been in vain.

3:6 But when Timothy came just now to us from you,
and brought us glad news of your faith and love,
and that you have good memories of us always, longing to see us,
even as we also long to see you;

3:7 for this cause, brothers, we were comforted over you
in all our distress and affliction through your faith.
3:8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.

3:9 For what thanksgiving can we render again to God for you,
for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sakes before our God;

3:10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face,
and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

3:11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you;

3:12 and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another,
and toward all men, even as we also do toward you,

3:13 to the end he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father,
at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Discussion Questions

vs 4 Is suffering persecution inevitable for Christians?
vs 5 How did Paul measure the usefulness of his work?
vs 6 What old Christian friend do you long to see and why?
vs 8 What does Paul mean by "now we are really living"?
vs 10 What do you suppose was lacking in their faith?
vs 13 What will prepare Christians to be blameless in the day of Christ?

Destined for Trials

1Thess 3:1-4 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens.  We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.

Who is "we"? Paul had been traveling with Silas and Timothy. And it is apparent from the phrase "left by ourselves" that Paul sees Timothy as essential to his ministry. Interesting that Paul was the one who was called. It was Paul who was the apostle. Yet he treats others involved in his ministry as essential. They are not treated like just another faceless member of his team, but rather co-workers on God's team. This shows Paul's sense of humility in spite of his leadership position.

Christians are destined for trials. Paul preached, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" Acts 14:22 and to Timothy he said, "everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" 2Tim 3:12 This is to be expected of the Christian life. But Christians also should expect encouragement from their leadership.

Individuals can strengthen the faith of others. And Christians are in need of encouragement to endure in their faith. There is enough discouragement in the world to hinder belief. But encouragement should not be based on false promises and lies, but upon truth. In particular it was their example of endurance in the face of persecution through which Paul wanted to encourage the Thessalonians in their own struggle. Embracing trials with meekness encourages others who face trials.

Uncertain Conversions

1Thess 3:5  For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.

When he left them to go to Athens Paul was not sure of the salvation status of the Thessalonians. At the time, they "believed" and would have been called Christians. But the quality of faith that saves should reveal itself by a person's performance. It should endure through such persecutions that they faced. Else, they believed in vain, and the quality of their faith would have been deficient to qualify them for salvation. Thus Paul's work among them would have been useless. Thus Paul likewise tells the Corinthians, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2Cor 13:5

Interesting that Paul measured the usefulness of his work by the results. It was not simply the communication of the gospel that was the objective, though this was his commission. He could have simply carried out his commission as Jonah and tell the message and not care about the response. But Paul identified with Christ's purpose in sending him. Christ's purpose was not just to communicate the message, but to save people. Paul didn't measure the results by the number of people who responded to the message. Rather Paul looked at the quality of the faith of those who claimed to believe.

Encourage Evangelists

1Thess 3:6-9 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?

What convinced Paul that his work had not been useless among them was their faith and love. John writes, "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:10 and "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands." 1John 2:3 It was their love of the brethren, both among themselves and towards Paul and his men, that gave Paul confidence that they had received the message appropriately.

Their love and endurance were applications of their faith. Not a faith that simply understands the message, but a faith that receives it.Paul developed a symbiotic relationship with his disciples, which is not surprising. It appears that Paul, despite being an apostle and having Christ living in him, would not have felt really alive if those he preached to did not positively respond to the message with saving faith. This is describing Paul's emotional state and not his action. For I'm sure he would have continued to preach if they hadn't responded, although he would have been somewhat depressed. Evangelists need encouragement. For they deal much with unbelievers only few of whom will have a positive response to the message. And few of them will go on to demonstrate saving faith.

The joy Paul refers to is not one born of a blind faith, nor is it even the joy of his position in Christ, but rather it is a joy based on things which are seen - a joy based on their response to his message. Such joy can only be understood by those who have experienced it, though it is like the joy of a parent seeing their child go on to live a godly life. It is a sense of satisfaction that one's life meant something essential to someone else. While onlooking Christians welcome new converts into the kingdom with joy, the one who actually communicated the gospel to them and was central to their receiving of the message experiences the greater joy. Likewise to the Corinthians Paul writes, "I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds." 2Cor 7:4  Why was Paul telling the Thessalonians this?  In order to make them feel special, which they were. Just as they encouraged him by their works, so he encouraged them by words expressing his feelings. This mutual encouragement is part of what constitutes Christian fellowship.

Intercede in Prayer

1Thess 3:10-13  Night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith.  Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

Pray for opportunities to minister in some capacity so that others may mature in their faith.

Pray for Christian's love to increase If a person's love increases so will their holiness. The more one loves, the more one will achieve a blameless life. For love affects the desires of the heart and the desires of the heart affect one's choices and behavior. Trying to achieve holiness without love ends up in legalism and the kind of hypocritical behavior characteristic of the Jewish religious elite of Jesus' day. Consequently Paul doesn't pray that they be blameless, but rather that their love increases so that they will be blameless.

In speaking of the return of Christ Paul wants to enhance their HOPE in such an event by giving them the assurance that they will be blameless on that day based on their evidence of their LOVE which is a product of their FAITH. When Christ's returns, those Christians who have been exercising love to others - especially to other Christians - will have confidence on that day that they are blameless. Not that they have been sinless, but that they have exercised the quality of faith that God requires for Christ's atoning work to be applied to them for their sins to be forgiven and they have been born of God as has been revealed by their behavior.

1John 4:16b,17 Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Jul 29,2015