Paul's Desire to Visit Believers at Thessalonica

Read 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

This is a continuation from 1 Thessalonians 2:18. "Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us."

VERSE 1-3: "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."

Paul wanted to visit the Thessalonian churches and he couldn't stand to be waiting any longer. Satan had frustrated Paul’s plans twice so if Paul couldn't go to Thessalonica personally, then he would send Timothy.

Verse 1 gives the reason he would send Timothy. First, the pain of separation (2:17: "But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.") Second, the persecution these young believers were undergoing (3:2-3: "And sent Timotheus --- to comfort you concerning your faith: 3: That no man should be moved by these afflictions:" --). Third, he wanted to know about the condition of their faith. (3:5: For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith ---).

It wasn't easy for Paul to be left alone in Athens. He couldn't stand the longing and anxiety for the spiritual welfare of the Thessalonians any longer, so he sent Timothy, even if that left him alone in Athens. Loneliness is one of the hardships one faces when they take the gospel to those who don't believe. Timothy could go there because he hadn't been chased out of Thessalonica like Paul and Silas were.

Verse 2 explains what Paul wanted Timothy to do there. Timothy had proven himself worthy of the name "brother" in the family of God. He was a minister of the gospel and was approved by Christ as such. Timothy was a good choice to carry out the two positive aims of his mission. He was to establish the Thessalonians firmly in their doctrine and also to urge them to exercise their faith under all conditions. It would benefit them to have their faith strengthened this way so that they would display their faith to others.

The Christian life being what it is, and the godless world being what it is, makes certain that afflictions and persecutions will confront the faithful believer and await him at every turn.

VERSES 4-5. "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."

Paul warned them, while he was still with them, that their faith and testimony would be a source of irritation to the Pagans and they would persecute the Believers for that reason.

They were feeling this persecution and he wanted to send Timothy to bolster their faith and to encourage them in general. He also wanted to make sure no false teaching had come into their churches or their lives.

It would be very easy for them to go back to some of the things their society accepted, things that were morally wrong and not Christ-like. This would destroy their testimony and give Satan a victory. Paul didn't want any discredit to come to God.

He knew there was the ever present danger that the Thessalonians would be tempted by the prospect of the easier life afforded by compromise or reverting to paganism. No doubt there were plenty there who encouraged them to make such a move.

God makes no bones about the fact that the Believer today, as then, will be persecuted. It's the "dislike of the unlike." The unsaved know they are different spiritually, just as they knew in the days of Christ, and they didn't like Him for that reason, and they don't like us for that reason.

The fact that you can't evade such persecutions is clearly seen in the common lot of the apostles along with the Thessalonians. The Believer faces this today in our schools, politics, and the news reporting. In parts of the world today, Believers also face terrible physical persecutions.

Paul couldn't stand the suspense any longer so he sent Timothy to get a firsthand report about the condition of their faith. He wanted to know for sure that the tempter hadn't, by some means, won them over by evil enticements and that all his strenuous labors hadn't been in vain.

VERSES 6-8: "But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and 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."

Obviously, Timothy took back a good report to Paul and he immediately wrote this letter. According to Timothy, the Thessalonians were enjoying excellent spiritual health in faith and love, strong in doctrine and disposition. Their high regard for Paul hadn't diminished a bit, they kept on remembering him in the kindest and warmest way possible. They felt the forced separation just as much as he did and had an intense longing to see him.

In verse 7 Paul says that he was comforted by their testimony, even in the face of persecution.

The sound condition of the faith of the Thessalonians made all the difference in the world to Paul. It was encouraging to him just when things were not working out right for him at the present time in Athens where the people there were working against him.

Verse 8 indicates how this encouraged Paul. "For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord."

In view of the good news, Paul could go on living a life that really meant something since the Thessalonians stood firm in the practical Lordship of Christ. He had every expectation that they would continue to do so.

VERSES 9-10. "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?"

Paul couldn't find words to express his gratitude for the refreshing boost in his own spiritual life, so he poses this rhetorical question, "How can I find the words to thank God for all this?" What expression of thanksgiving could he give that would adequately repay God for the joy he got from their obedience to God?

Paul recognized that every bit of the credit for the Thessalonians’ phenomenal faith went directly to God. Like the psalmist, he could exclaim, “This is Jehovah’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23).

He felt incapable of thanking God in a manner that would do justice to the way God had blessed him in the first place.

He didn't let this keep him from asking God for further blessing like he had already been granted. His one request for himself was that he might see his beloved converts face to face for the opportunity of supplying that which was lacking in their faith. Paul’s sole concern from the beginning to the end was their faith in God.

Paul’s desire to visit the Thessalonians was granted some years later (Acts 20:1, 2), so the perfecting of their faith wasn't going to be through his personal ministry. It would be through his letters to them instead.

VERSES 11-13. "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 wanted God to show him what he should communicate to them ["direct our way unto you."] In verses 12-13, his prayer is for God to guide them. They were to be perfected in their love one toward another and toward all men (verse 12). They were to be perfected morally when God established their hearts unblamable in holiness (verse 13), and to be perfected doctrinally when their hearts were drawn to the coming of the Lord Jesus with all His saints (verse 13).

In this, as in all his life after his conversion, he would consider that anything he was able to do was by the power of God working through him. He would take no credit for any human ability that he might have. He knew that only an all-powerful Creator could remove the roadblocks of Satan and shelter Paul and the Thessalonians from the Devil’s malice.

Paul realized that the spiritual state of the Thessalonians was not dependent on his personal presence but upon the Lord. First Thessalonians is one of the earliest Christian writings. These believers recognized the deity of Christ without the slightest reservation.

Regardless of whether he was able to get to Thessalonica or not, Paul wanted the Lord to make their love overflowing. He wanted them to have more than enough love to go around, so that they would love not only one another as they ought to but also all men, even the unsaved, who didn’t seem to deserve it. If this seemed hard, Paul set the example, adding, “even as we also do toward you.”

Paul had this wonderful end in view. He asked that the Lord might establish their hearts in holiness so they would be blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus.

This refers to the Rapture when the Lord Jesus will snatch up the living Believers from the earth as well as the Church Age saints who have already died. They, as well as the living Believers, will receive new perfect bodies, good for all eternity. We will all meet at the Judgment Seat of Christ and our works for Christ will be reviewed and rewarded there.

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Trust Jesus today!