Job 1 Summary

Job 1 Summary

It might seem easy to trust God when your life is going well. But when life is relatively easy and everything is pleasant and there are no difficulties – is there really any trust required in that kind of situation?

When you find it easy to agree with everything that God is doing in your life, I think there’s not much opportunity to really trust – because everything makes sense in your finite mind.

It’s when trouble comes and pain is present and real in your life and when it looks like you’re loosing and when it seems that God even hates you because of what he’s allowed you to suffer – it’s situations like those that call for faith and trust in the Lord who sends those hard realities into your life.

So, this morning in the book of Job we’re going to witness this man named Job go from unmitigated blessings to constant painful misery in his personal life.

Is he going to trust – even when he doesn’t understand? Would you trust even when you don’t understand? Are you doing so – right now – in whatever difficulties the Lord has brought into your life?

Let’s consider that as we examine the first three chapters in the book of Job.

We start in the beginning in chapter 1 where in verses 1-5 we’re given an introduction to Job, all of his blessings, and his godliness…

Job 1 Summary Verse 1

Job’s Location, Name, and Character

In verse 1 we see Job’s locations, identification, and a summary of his own personal character…

KJV Job 1:1 ¶ There was a man in the land of Uz [ngutz],

whose name was Job;

and that man was [perfect/blameless/pure] and upright, and one that feared God, and [eschewed/turned away from] evil.

He lives in this place called Uz. What we need to take away from that is that he’s not in Israel. Job is not a Jew. He is a Gentile.

And his character is extremely important to take note of. He’s perfect and upright. He fears God. He turns from evil. There’s no secret sin in his life that is calling for God’s punishment.

Job 1 Summary Verses 2-3

Job’s Possessions and Reputation

Verses 2 and 3 go on to relate Job’s possessions and reputation…

KJV Job 1:2 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.

KJV Job 1:3 His [substance/possessions] also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred [she asses/female donkeys], and a very great household;

so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.

Not only was Job godly – he was also blessed with many material possessions. He had extraordinary wealth and children in abundance – which, if you’re thinking biblically is a great blessing.

The end result was that Job earned quite the reputation as being the greatest in his region of the world – in “the east”.

Job 1 Summary Verse 4-5

Job’s Family Dynamics & Care

Verses 4 and 5 go on to focus-in on his ten children just mentioned. We’ll see here Job’s family dynamics and his personal care for his children…

KJV Job 1:4 [And/Now] his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.

KJV Job 1:5 And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and [sanctified/consecrated] them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all:

for Job said,

It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.

Thus did Job continually.

Job’s children got along really well. There was warmth and love and harmony between all ten of them.

And Job cared for them deeply – and not just for their physical well-being. He – as a family priest before the Mosaic Law and outside of Israel – would offer sacrifices for his children.

Job was very concerned that his children would curse God – an action that both Satan and Job’s wife will later on tempt Job to do.

So, that’s the introduction to this book.

Now, the next major section describes to us two heavenly gatherings and the impact that each will have on the godly Job from chapter 1, verse 6 to chapter 2, verse 10.

The first heavenly gathering is found in Job 1:6 to the end of the chapter.

Job 1 Summary Verse 6

Heavenly Gathering 1 & Attendees

We begin by noting the attendees of this gathering in verse 6…

KJV Job 1:6 ¶ Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.

The “sons of God” is likely a reference to angelic beings. Satan himself is an angel – created as the highest angel. Also, by his own choice he’s a fallen one, as well.

Job 1 Summary Verse 7a

Heavenly Gathering 1 – God to Satan 1

Notice in verse 7 that God has the first word in his discussion with Satan (he’ll also have the last word as we’ll see later)…

KJV Job 1:7 And the LORD said unto Satan,

Whence comest thou?

God knows the answer to this question. He knows where Satan has been and what he’s been doing. When God asks questions he’s usually trying to teach – either the person he’s talking to or that person’s audience.

Job 1 Summary Verse 7b

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Satan to God 1

Here’s Satan’s response to God’ question of what he’s been up to…

Then Satan answered the LORD, and said,

From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

Satan has to answer God. He’s not given the option of remaining silent. He can’t plead the fifth. God is sovereign and Satan is still under his authority.

And God’s question has reminded Satan and everyone else that this fallen angel has been relegated mostly to earth. Heaven has not been his home since he chose to rebel against this God who is worthy of our trust.

Job 1 Summary of Verse 8

Heavenly Gathering 1 – God to Satan 2

Well, since Satan has been roaming the earth like a roaring lion – as Peter says, God asks Satan if he’s taken note of this man named Job in verse 8…

KJV Job 1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan,

Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

In contrast to the wicked rebellious Satan, Job is righteous.

Note that God brings Job to Satan’s attention. God is in control of all of this. He truly is sovereign in this world.

Job 1 Summary of Verses 9-11

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Satan to God 2

Well, Satan doesn’t believe that God is worthy to be worshipped for nothing. And so, he accuses the Lord in verses 9-11 of buying Job’s worship with all the blessings that he’s given Job…

KJV Job 1:9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said,

Doth Job fear God for nought?

KJV Job 1:10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.

KJV Job 1:11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

Satan uses the Hebrew word BARAK twice in this passage. In verse 10 he says that God “hast BARAK-ed the work of” Job’s hands and that’s the only reason why Job worships the Lord.

But if God takes those things from Job, Satan says “he will BARAK thee to” God’s face. And of course, Satan is twisting the meaning of that word to mean the exact opposite of what that word really means – which is just like Satan to do that.

Job 1 Summary of Verse 12a

Heavenly Gathering 1 – God to Satan 3

Well, just like God had the first word with Satan, he also has the last word in verse 12…

KJV Job 1:12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.

God sets the parameters. Satan can take everything Job has – except his body.

So, the stage is set. The issues at stake here involve: 1) the matter of whether God is bribing Job to worship him and 2) the question of whether God is even worthy of being worshipped apart from the blessings that he gives to those who worship him.

Job 1 Summary of Verse 12b-13

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Result – Introduction

We’re then introduced to the result of this first heavenly gathering at the end of verse 12 and into verse 13…

So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

KJV Job 1:13 ¶ And there was a day when [his/Job’s] sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:

And then in verses 14-19 we see in four iterations one disaster after another in Job’s life wherein every material blessing that was delineated for us back in verses 2 and 3 of this chapter are now taken away from the righteous Job.

We’ll see that Job’s things are taken away from him in approximately reverse order as they were described back in verses 2 and 3…

Job 1 Summary of Verses 14-15

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Result 1 – Oxen & Donkeys & Servants

We start with Job’s oxen, donkeys, and some of his servants in verses 14 and 15…

KJV Job 1:14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said,

The oxen were plowing, and the [asses/donkeys] feeding beside them:

KJV Job 1:15 And the [Sabeans/residents of Sheba in Arabia] fell upon them, and took them away;

yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword;

and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Job 1 Summary of Verse 16

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Result 2 – Sheep & Servants

Next, Job’s sheep and some of his servants are taken from him in verse 16…

KJV Job 1:16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said,

The [fire of God/lightning] is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them;

and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Job 1 Summary of Verse 17

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Result 3 – Camels & Servants

Next, in verse 17, Job’s camels and some of his servants are taken from him…

KJV Job 1:17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said,

The [Chaldeans/a group near the Persian Gulf] made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away,

yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword;

and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Job 1 Summary of Verses 18-19

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Result 4 – Children

And the bitterest pill of all comes in verses 18 and 19 where Job gets word that his ten dear children have perished…

KJV Job 1:18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said,

Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:

KJV Job 1:19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young [men/people], and they are dead;

and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

… All of Job’s material blessings are gone. His oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, and children have all been taken from him – in one day!

Can you identify with that depth of loss? Maybe none of us has suffered to that extent in that quick of a succession of events. But each of us does know what it is to loose something very precious to us.

How do you respond when God takes blessings from you that he previously graciously gave to you?

Job 1 Summary of Verses 20-21

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Job’s Response

Think about that – and then test your response to loss to Job’s response as recorded in verses 20 and 21…

KJV Job 1:20 ¶ Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and […] worshipped,

KJV Job 1:21 And said,

Naked came I out of my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I [return thither/return/depart]:

the LORD gave,
and the LORD hath taken away;

blessed be the name of the LORD.

… Job passed this test. He did “bless” the Lord – but not quite as Satan had predicted. Job recognized God’s right to give and to take. Job recognizes that he has nothing apart from God. He truly blesses the Lord’s name and character.

Job 1 Summary of Verse 22

Heavenly Gathering 1 – Conclusion

And the divine narrator tells us that Job did right in this – verse 22…

KJV Job 1:22 ¶ In all this Job sinned not, nor [charged God foolishly/did he blame God/did he charge God with moral impropriety].

Job is commended. He worships God even though God took all of his material blessings…

But God is going to take the test a step farther. Will Job worship God simply for being God without any incentives for doing so?

Book of Job Summary

Book of Job Summary

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, early in the morning, my friend – who is a believer and whom some of you know – was driving his young family to a wedding on a country road. He was momentarily distracted – which was enough to cause him to accidentally run a stop sign. It just so happened that at that very moment there was a van approaching that intersection at high speed. The van hit my friend’s minivan from the passenger side. And just like that, two of my friend’s dear young children – friends of my own children – were taken out of this world.

I know a godly woman whose husband – a pastor – left and then divorced her to pursue an immoral romantic relationship with his church secretary. He left to his wife the responsibility and burden of taking care of their two children for the rest of their childhood and teenage years with no support or input from a husband or father in their lives.

I remember several years ago when Brother Flegal over at Maranatha lost his wife so suddenly from a brain hemorrhage. Dr. Marriott was at the hospital with him when it all unfolded so quickly. I recall Dr. Marriott telling us faculty and staff over at Maranatha that Ben told him after losing his wife with so little warning – quote – “Now I know what Job felt like.”

Why We Turn to Job

And it’s that Old Testament book that we tend to turn to in times when we’re bewildered at our life circumstances that are so painful and so difficult to understand. And as we turn to that book I think that we expect to find comfort and explanation as to why things are happening to us and what God’s plan is in the whole scheme of things.

What We Initially Get from Job

But what do we get when we open our Bibles to the book of Job? (Why don’t you go ahead and do that, by the way.) We get a book of 42 chapters that begins and ends with a story – which is easy enough to read and understand. But after the second chapter and running through to the middle of the 42nd chapter of this book we have an extended section of poetry – of all things!

And we’re introduced to men with unusual names from places we’re not familiar with. They and Job go back and forth in spinning Hebrew poetry with one another for chapter after chapter. Then a young man steps forward and he gives us more Hebrew poetry. Then God shows up and points to all sorts of natural phenomena. Job repents. God restores his blessings to Job. And that’s how the book ends.

And you wouldn’t be blamed if you’re sitting there at the end of reading this book scratching your head. You came to this book because you were hoping to find some answers to your questions. You came to find out “why?” Why did this happen? Why am I – who am righteous by God’s grace – suffering? Why does a God who loves me put me through difficult things that involve real pain?

And the reality is that you don’t get those questions answered in this book. So, what good – then – is the book of Job? If it doesn’t help you understand what’s going on, why did God put it in the Bible in the first place?

Structure and Message of Job

So, for the rest of our time today we’re going to examine the structure of this book and dip in to some of the text in order to discover God’s overall message for you in this book. What does God have for you in this ancient book that we just naturally tend to turn to in our distresses?

Personal Righteousness

[s] Turn to Job 1:1 if you’re not already there. And there we read …

Job 1:1 AV 1873

1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

This verse from the outset settles in your mind Job’s personal character and holiness. He was perfect and upright. He feared God. He eschewed or turned away from evil. That’s critical to keep in mind as we go along here. He’s a genuinely righteous man.

Material Wealth

Then verses 2-5 speak of all the material blessings with which God blessed this righteous man. Ten children – who all had good relationships with one another – and an abundance of livestock – to the point that what’s said at the end of Job 1:3 was the case for him.

Job 1:3 (AV 1873)

3 … so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.

He was the greatest out of all of the men in his region. He was so incredibly blessed. He was godly. What could go wrong?

First Heavenly Gathering

Well, in Job 1:6 we have the first of two heavenly gatherings where all the angels appear before the Lord – and even Satan (who himself is an angel) shows up. God brings the righteous Job to Satan’s attention and Satan argues with God that Job would stop worshipping God if God were to take all of his material blessings away.

So, God allows Satan to take all that Job has. Starting in Job 1:13 we see everything that Job had taken from him – his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, and children are all taken from him in one day.

Job’s exemplary response in Job 1:20-21 is humble, sorrowful worship of the Lord who gave and took away – and whose name is to be blessed. Job doesn’t understand why any of this happened. But he still trusts the Lord.

Second Heavenly Meeting

Well, there’s another heavenly meeting in Job 2:1.  The Lord again brings Job to Satan’s attention and points to how Job continues to worship the Lord even though Satan moved the Lord to take all of Job’s material possessions from him.

Satan counters though that if God takes Job’s health, Job won’t worship him anymore. So, God allows Satan to touch Job’s body without taking his life.

So, in Job 2:7 we see Job miserable with boils all over his body, sitting in what would have been the area’s garbage dump, scraping his infected and itchy skin with broken pieces of pottery. His wife has even had enough in Job 2:9 and basically encourages Job to do what Satan said, he would do – to curse God and die. But Job remains steadfast in the face of all of this. He still doesn’t understand why this is happening. But he continues to trust God.

Three Friends Arrive & Sit Silent

Well, Job’s wife wasn’t so helpful to him. But just then he has three friends show up! And they’ve come with the express purpose of comforting him! Just what Job needs!

So, we see them in Job 2:13 sitting in the ash heap with Job for 7 days – none of them saying a word. And that’s the end of the prose section – or the story section – of this book.

Job Laments

Now we enter in chapter 3 into the poetry section.

And it’s not pretty. Even though Job is still a man of integrity and has not cursed God, Job is absolutely miserable.

In Job 3, this man curses the day of his birth. In fact, he makes it a point to curse both the day and the night of his first day of life (Job 3:3-9). Job then wishes he was never born (Job 3:10-12) but that instead he would have died before birth (Job 3:13-19). He laments being given life at all (Job 3:20-23) and he ends the chapter by reflecting on the fact that all of what he’s said in chapter 3 is because of his miserable circumstances (Job 3:24-26).

Eliphaz Speaks

In response to Job’s lament in chapter 3, his first friend – Eliphaz – speaks in chapters 4 and 5.

[s] And what’s important for the sake of what we’re trying to accomplish today is found in Job 4:7. Eliphaz says…

Job 4:7 (AV 1873)

7 Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent?

Or where were the righteous cut off?

In other words, Eliphaz reminds Job of this supposed truth that is accepted by all of Job’s friends – and even Job himself to some extent – that the righteous and the innocent never perish. They’re never cut off. That is what these men are all truly believing at this point.

[s] But in contrast, verses 8 and 9 are the case for those who are not righteous and not innocent…

Job 4:8–9 (AV 1873)

8 Even as I have seen,

they that plow iniquity,

And sow wickedness,

reap the same.

9 By the blast of God they perish,

And by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.

And it’s clear through the rest of these middle chapters of this book that this is the worldview of Job’s three friends. It’s called Retribution Theology.

It’s the belief that good people are always blessed and bad people are always punished – and both of these happen pretty-much immediately in this life.

It’s kind of like the mistaken notion of karma – do good, get good. Do bad, get bad. What goes around comes around.

Another modern day equivalent of how Job and his friends think that God works in this world is what we call the Prosperity Gospel – which is, as you know, no gospel at all.

But the “problem” with trying to explain Job’s situation using the Retribution principle is that we just saw in the first two chapters of this book that Job’s situation doesn’t fit with his friends’ theology. Job actually is righteous. We know that – without a doubt. And yet, he’s suffering.

So, from outward appearance – all that the human eye can see – it looks to Job’s friends through their lens of Retribution-thinking that Job is receiving the penalty of being personally wicked.

And it’s this way of thinking about how God works in this world that drives the rest of the middle chapters of this book.

Now, Eliphaz goes on to accuse Job of secretly being wicked. What other explanation could he have for someone suffering? They’ve got to be wicked! This is how God works in the world, isn’t it??

Eliphaz’s Solution

[s] But Eliphaz has an out for Job. Here’s what he advises Job to do in Job 5:8

Job 5:8 (AV 1873)

8 I would seek unto God,

And unto God would I commit my cause:

The remedy that Job’s three friends give over and over again to Job is twofold.

First, Job needs to stop his secret sinning, which is supposedly bringing down God’s judgement on him.

And second, Job needs to pray to God – which apparently the friends think he stopped doing.

But the problem with that approach is that Job wasn’t secretly sinning and he was praying to God. And because of that, the three friends are not able to fit Job and his situation into their theology. But they’re certainly not about to change their theology in order to match the reality of how God really works in this world.

Job Responds to Eliphaz

And so the cycle of talking continues with Job’s response to Eliphaz in chapters 6 and 7.

In those chapters, Job appeals to his friends to be kind to him. He says he wants reproof – but that what Eliphaz has said is no help to him because it was merely an attack against a suffering man who admits that he’s saying things that aren’t quite right. Job appeals his own righteousness to the friends and to God. He expresses deep distress over the fact that God is seeming to punish him for no cause and won’t leave him alone in that regard.

Bildad Speaks

But if Job is looking for compassion from his friends, then he’s sorely disappointed by what his second friend Bildad has to say in chapter 8 where he begins his salvo with this “compassionate” note in Job 8:2

Job 8:2 (AV 1873)

2 How long wilt thou speak these things?

And how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?

Bildad starts by insulting Job because he thinks that Job is impugning God’s character. Bildad goes on to speculate that Job’s children sinned and that’s why God killed them. Bildad’s simplistic solution for Job to get out of the suffering he’s in includes – of course – seeking God, praying to him, and becoming pure and upright – all of which Job had been doing. Bildad guarantees that if Job does these things, that God will turn to him again and bless him. He even pulls out the wisdom of the ancients to prove his point. Then he goes on to insinuate that Job is a godless hypocrite who has forgotten God. But if Job simply follows Bildad’s fool-proof plan to get out of this suffering by confessing sins – which he hasn’t committed – and by praying – which he already does, then his end will be gloriously bright!

Job Responds to Bildad

Job then responds to Bildad in Job 9:2 by basically conceding that what Bildad says is right. Job himself bought into the idea that good is always rewarded and evil is always punished usually immediately in this life. But then Job wonders how to be back in God’s good graces.

Here’s Job’s thought process: If God punishes evil and rewards good … and yet Job is seeming to be punished … therefore Job is wicked … but he’s not wicked … therefore Job ought to be blessed … but God isn’t blessing him anymore … then why is God not holding to his end of the bargain? Is something wrong with God? Is God ignorant? Is God … unrighteous?

That’s the dangerous territory that Job starts entering in chapter 9. This leads Job to wonder how he could get a hearing before God to plead his case that he’s not wicked and should thus stop being punished by God as though he were. It’s as if in Job’s mind God needs to be more perfectly informed of Job’s situation. Job acknowledges God’s awesome power but then despairs of ever getting a hearing from this all-powerful God – who seems to have hidden himself from Job. And not only hidden himself – but God in Job’s mind has become violently oppressive toward him.

At some point, Job starts to recognize the error of Retribution Theology – or at least the part that states that God always blesses the righteous – when in Job 9:22 he says …

Job 9:22 (AV 1873)

22 This is one thing, therefore I said it,

He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.

God destroys both the perfect and the wicked. But that contradicts what his three friends and even Job himself have been believing. Job continues to muse on the fact that God seems to keep punishing him though he has done nothing to deserve the punishment. So, Job actually starts entertaining the idea of meeting God in court and settling their dispute with a mediator between them to negotiate.

In chapter 10 Job even starts demanding that God answer him and tell him why he’s punishing Job. Job goes on to suggest something that even Job knows is ridiculous – namely, that God is somehow limited in his knowledge of Job’s situation like a mere mortal would be. But then Job verbally and emotionally walks back from the brink of cursing God and he recalls how God has been good in creating him and blessing him in his earlier days. But those sweet thoughts give way once more as Job laments God’s current treatment of him. Job actually ends chapter 10 with a desperate plea for God to just leave him alone.

Zophar Speaks

And of course, these provocative statements of the suffering Job further raise the ire of his friends. And so the last of these men – Zophar – speaks in chapter 11 where he begins with this accusation in Job 11:2

Job 11:2 (AV 1873)

2 Should not the multitude of words be answered?

And should a man full of talk be justified?

So, the contradictions to Retribution Theology that Job has uncovered are just dismissed as a “multitude of words” and mere “talk.” Zophar goes on to accuse Job of engaging in lying and mocking with his words to his friends and to God. Zophar rebukes Job and says that he wishes that God would speak – just like Job was wishing – but Zophar wants God to speak and to condemn Job for his supposed secret sins that are moving God to punish him. Zophar says that God is transcendent and immense and not to be called to account by anyone. And Zophar – like the other two so-called friends – offers Job a pat remedy to his predicament. Start praying and stop sinning. Then everything will be great. But Zophar ends with a final dire reminder that if Job doesn’t get with the Retribution Theology plan then he can expect only bad things.

So, at this point at the end of chapter 11, we’ve seen Job speak and lament his being alive. Eliphaz then spoke and Job responded. Then Bildad spoke and Job responded. Finally, Zophar spoke…

Job Responds to Zophar

And Job will respond in Job 12:1-2 with this sarcastic but understandable outburst after the worthless advice of all three friends …

Job 12:1-2 (AV 1873)

1 And Job answered and said,

2 No doubt but ye are the people,

And wisdom shall die with you.

And we’re not going to review any more of the conversation with Job and his friends today except to point out that this cycle of each friend speaking and Job then responding happens another two times for a total of three of these cycles in this book. Cycle 1 we saw in chapters 4-14. Cycle 2 we’ll see in chapters 15-21. And Cycle 3 occurs in chapters 22-31.

A total of 658 verses are taken up with this round-and-round dialogue. Which is a picture of the futility and frustration that accompanies trying to figure out the deep issues of life without having a word from God on the matter – but instead just relying on your own thoughts and the wisdom of the world around you.

Elihu Speaks

Well, at the end of Job 31 and into Job 32, we read the following …

Job 31:40–32:5 (AV 1873)

40 … The words of Job are ended.

1 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.

2 Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God. 3 Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job. 4 Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he. 5 When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, then his wrath was kindled.

Job stops talking. The friends stop talking. Job is righteous in his own eyes. And indeed Job was righteous – even in God’s eyes. But the friends just have nothing more to say – finally!

But that’s unfortunate because the friends could have had something to say that would have encouraged Job – not to confess sin he wasn’t committing or to start praying when he already was – but to instead trust God.

Since the friends couldn’t help Job trust God, this young man Elihu is going to give it a try. Out of deference to their age he waited to speak. But now that they’re silent he can move in.

And so, Elihu speaks uninterrupted from Job 32-37.

He says that he waited for the older men to speak first but is now realizing that age isn’t the real factor in how wise a person is. Rather the spirit of God is the one who gives real wisdom. And the rest of Job 32 is Elihu basically preparing Job, his three friends, and us for what he’s about to say.

Then in Job 33, Elihu says that Job should listen to him. He then proceeds to summarize what Job has said thus far – demonstrating that unlike the friends he was actually listening to Job. Elihu correctly points out that Job has maintained his innocence but in the process has impugned God’s character by claiming that God is making up false pretenses by which he’s then punishing Job. Elihu’s answer is threefold in chapter 33. First, he rightly states that we can’t fully understand God’s ways. Second, one of God’s prerogatives is to warn people of their ways which are contrary to him. And third, God sends suffering into people’s lives in the hope that sinners will repent. Elihu finishes that chapter by challenging Job to answer or – if he can’t answer – to keep listening to him.

In Job 34, Elihu again states what he heard Job say – namely, that God has denied the righteous Job the justice due him. In response to this flawed idea, Elihu defends God’s righteousness and the rightness of his ways.

In Job 35, Elihu takes Job to task for starting to think that it doesn’t matter what kind of life a person lives since whether a person is good or bad they are subject to God sending suffering into their life. Elihu replies that God is personally unaffected by a person’s righteousness or sin. Mankind is affected by those things, but God isn’t. Therefore, Elihu implies that God’s dealing with Job is not based on Job’s own personal sin or righteousness. Further, Elihu encourages Job to wait for God and not be impatient for what appears to be a delay in God hearing and answering him. And he ends the chapter by questioning and challenging the idea that what God is doing to Job is correctly interpreted as punishment.

Elihu in chapter 36 urges Job to stop comparing what he’s receiving to what he thinks the wicked ought to receive. He strongly advises Job not to question God’s execution of justice in the world. Elihu then finishes the 36th and 37th chapters of this book leading Job and us to consider that when we’re suffering and tempted to question God’s character and wisdom – we need to consider his work. We need to think about what God does. And when we do that, we can see that his work is ultimately beyond our understanding. And what we need to learn from that is that if his work – which we can see – is beyond our understanding… then what else of what he’s doing – in your life – might be beyond your understanding?

God Finally Speaks

Then starting in Job 38, God rather seamlessly takes over from Elihu and probes Job on something like 84 areas of his creation – including an extended treatment of two creatures that God created and manages – one a rather large and care-free land creature he calls Behemoth and the other a very fierce and dangerous sea creature he calls Leviathan.

Job Responds to God

Job responds in humility and repentance, realizing he really doesn’t understand how God works in this world. Job doesn’t understand how God started this creation. He doesn’t understand how God keeps this creation going. And more directly for Job, he doesn’t understand how or why God works in certain ways in his life – especially the ways that are unpleasant.

Job Restored

At the end of this book in Job 42 God rebukes Job’s three friends and restores all the blessings that Job originally had. Actually, he gives Job double what he formerly had.

Now understand – God doesn’t bless Job here because Job confessed sins he didn’t commit or because he started praying when he had been doing so all along – as the three friends kept urging Job to do. Rather, God was able to bless Job because Job had come to the point where though he still couldn’t understand, he came to trust.

The Message of the Book of Job

And that is the message of this book for us. When you can’t understand, trust. Job couldn’t understand why he was suffering. The three friends couldn’t understand either. But all four of these folks pretended to understand – but they were all quite wrong. God didn’t want them to understand. In fact, God never explains to Job why he was suffering.

What did God want from Job and his three friends? He wanted them to trust him – that he knew what he was doing; that he was good; that he was wise and in control of everything.

Applying the Book of Job

So, what in your life can you not understand? What has God done – and God has indeed done it – that you just can’t figure out? What are you struggling with? What causes you to question God’s goodness and love and power and wisdom in your life?

You are going to encounter situations in this life where you simply will not be able to understand. You might even go to your grave not understanding whywhy did God do this to you? Why did God allow that person to do that to you? Why did God put you in that painful situation? Why? Why? Why?

You won’t understand. And that’s OK. Because God’s not calling you to understand in this life. He’s calling you to trust. Trust him. Trust his character – that he’s good and loving. Trust his wisdom – that he knows the best path for you. That he has your best and eternal interests at heart.

When you can’t understand, trust. That’s the message of this book to you that we’ll take another 11 12 lessons really exploring in as much detail as time will allow.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary

Have you ever had a dream in which something really awful happened?

This past week as I was preparing this message I had a dream one night where I got shot by some random guy in the neck. I was lying there in my dream thinking that I was going to die. I thought of my wife and family, which was of course a sad thought that I was going to die and leave them. …

And then I woke up! Can you imagine how I felt? I felt a great sense of relief and gratitude. For all I knew – when I was actually in the dream – that dream could have been reality.

There’s a great sense of comfort associated with coming to terms with the worst reality possible and then becoming aware that you yourself are not going to experience that reality.

This is what the apostle Paul leads us through in this next passage in 1 Thessalonians. So, please turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 5. We’ll be studying verses 1-11.

It’s in this passage that we’re confronted with the reality of the Day of the Lord – a time period unparalleled in the history of mankind wherein God’s punishing wrath will be poured out on the world.

But the refreshing and wonderful reality that we’re going to see here is – because of the teaching from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 concerning the Rapture of believers before this event – you are not going to experience this wrath.

So, let’s behold the nightmare that is the Day of the Lord – and then be comforted by our guaranteed escape from this terrifying event as we read the passage and then examine the details.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary Text of Verses 1-11

1 Thessalonians 5:1–11 AV 1873

1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
4 But ye, brethren,are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.
9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 5:1 AV 1873

1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

5.1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ὑμῖν γράφεσθαι, 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “But of”

5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

5.1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ὑμῖν γράφεσθαι, 

Starting in verse 1, we see the fourth question or issue that Paul needed to address with the Thessalonians. He got word somehow – probably though Timothy – that the Thessalonian believers wanted or needed to know about this matter. Just like they wanted or needed to know about sexual purity, brotherly love, and those who died in Christ before his return.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “ye have no need that I write unto you”

ye have no need that I write unto you.

οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ὑμῖν γράφεσθαι, 

But Paul says that they actually don’t have any need for anyone to write anything to them about this matter – just like he said concerning brotherly love earlier in chapter 4.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “the times and the seasons”

the times and the seasons

τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν

The matter that they don’t need anyone to write to them about is this issue of “times and seasons”.

This phrase is used in Acts 1:7 where Jesus had just risen from the dead and had been with his disciples for about 40 days. They asked, “Is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel”? In other words, would Jesus be setting up his Millennial kingdom right there and then?

His response was that you and I aren’t permitted to know the “times” or the “seasons”. That’s the Father’s realm of knowledge, alone. Our job is to serve as witnesses to our fellow man concerning the truth about Jesus Christ.

So, these times and seasons have to do with Jesus’ coming to set up his kingdom on this earth.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “ye have no need that I write unto you”

ye have no need that I write unto you.

οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ὑμῖν γράφεσθαι, 

But again, Paul tells the Thessalonians that they have no need for anyone to write to them about this.

Why is that?

Well, I think first of all, because Jesus himself says that we shouldn’t be people who are concerned with setting dates for his return. It’s not for us to know the times and season as he said in Acts 1:7.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 5:2 AV 1873

2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

2 αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀκριβῶς οἴδατε ὅτι ἡμέρα κυρίου ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτὶ οὕτως ἔρχεται

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “For yourselves know perfectly”

2 For yourselves know perfectly

2 αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀκριβῶς οἴδατε

But second – and explicitly in this passage – is this matter of what the Thessalonians already knew about this situation…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “the day of the Lord”

the day of the Lord

ἡμέρα κυρίου

The Thessalonians had no need of anyone writing to them about the times and seasons – because they already knew something about this event known as the Day of the Lord.

The Day of the Lord is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. It’s a time of divine judgement. It’s when God moves to set things right in his creation. Because things are so wrong with this world, setting them right is going to take an extraordinary amount of judgement and punishment of wickedness. It’s an unprecedented time in this way. It’s described elsewhere as “great” and “terrible”. It’s described as “dark” and “gloomy” and dangerous – for evildoers.

Despite its title, it seems that this is not a one-day event. It’s a period of time in which the Lord moves in very definite ways in order to work back towards an equilibrium of righteousness in his creation.

Don’t you want to know the exact date and time in which this will happen? The Thessalonian believers did, apparently.

And others throughout the history of this world have wanted to know the precise date of this event and have even made claims to know what the date was going to be.

When I was in Israel in 2011, I saw signs on billboards declaring that May 21 was going to be “the end”. That was due to the fact that an American Christian radio host named Harold Camping was claiming that the Rapture and Judgment Day would take place on that very day, and that the end of the world would take place five months later on October 21, 2011. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_end_times_prediction)

That didn’t happen, as you know.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “so cometh as a thief in the night”

so cometh as a thief in the night.

ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτὶ οὕτως ἔρχεται

If only that man had listened in on this letter from Paul to the Thessalonians where these believers had already been taught by Paul and Silas that this eschatological event of the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

In other words, no one is expecting it. No one expects a thief in the night. You go to bed every night and I imagine that the vast majority of those nights you are not expecting a thief to show up.

Even if a thief does show up some night, there’s no way to predict that. If you live in a crime-ridden part of a city, maybe it’s likely that a thief will appear at some point. But still you can’t predict when it will happen.

So too, no mere mortal can predict the date of the Day of the Lord. We believers are convinced that it’s coming. We just don’t know when.

But for the lost world, they won’t suspect a thing…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 5:3 AV 1873

3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

3 ὅταν λέγωσιν· Εἰρήνη καὶ ἀσφάλεια, τότε αἰφνίδιος αὐτοῖς ἐφίσταται ὄλεθρος ὥσπερ ἡ ὠδὶν τῇ ἐν γαστρὶ ἐχούσῃ, καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐκφύγωσιν.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “For when they shall say”

3 For when they shall say

3 ὅταν λέγωσιν

This is what’s going to happen to lost humanity some day. “They” will say this. “They” will experience this. Not “us”. I’m jumping a little ahead of the passage but “we” will not experience this.

What will those apart from Christ experience that we won’t?

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “Peace and safety”

Peace and safety

Εἰρήνη καὶ ἀσφάλεια

Well, it starts off pretty pleasant for them. This world is going to come to the point where they can all together claim, “peace and safety!” At least, that will be the prevailing sentiment in the hearts of most of the residents of this world.

Can this be said of the world today? Are people throughout the world enjoying near-universal peace?

Not yet.

Even in our relatively peaceful nation, from within we’ve been torn by riots and bitter partisanship that’s starting to sound more and more like literal war talk. Externally, we have numerous nations that are actively attempting to destroy us. And it’s much less peaceful elsewhere, as you know.

How about safety? Is the world today experiencing a general sense of safety? To consume any of our mainstream media these days is to be bombarded by all of the supposed realities that cry out to you that you are not at all safe in any way.

But there’s coming a time when unregenerate humanity is going to be able to credibly cry out in unison, “peace and safety!” And it won’t be an empty boast.

This is not explicitly taught in this passage, but it’s likely that this peace and safety will be brought about by a character known in Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica as “the Man of Sin”. The apostle John refers to him as the Anti-Christ. He’ll come on the world scene promoting peace and safety. What he’ll demand in return is worship.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “then sudden destruction cometh upon them”

then sudden destruction cometh upon them

τότε αἰφνίδιος αὐτοῖς ἐφίσταται ὄλεθρος

But it’s at that very time – as the world comes to the point where it feels so safe and secure apart from Christ – that God will bring sudden destruction on them.

Jesus actually warned his Jewish audience concerning this time in Luke 21:34-36. He was speaking in the Temple to the Jews – some of whom were his disciples and the rest were not. He warned them about this day.

To a mixed group – spiritually-speaking – he urged them that they needed to be on their guard and not have their hearts weighed-down with drunkenness and unbridled indulgence and even the worries of this life. If they gave in to those things, this day that Paul’s speaking of in 1 Thessalonians 5 will close down on them like a trap! And Jesus says there in Luke 21 that this day is going to overtake all those who live on the earth.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape”

as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

ὥσπερ ἡ ὠδὶν τῇ ἐν γαστρὶ ἐχούσῃ, καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐκφύγωσιν.

There will be no escaping this sudden destruction from God – as Paul says back here in 1 Thessalonians 5.

It’s just like when an expecting mother begins to experience true labor pains. When they start in earnest, there’s no reversing that situation until the process has run its course.

So too, when this Day of the Lord begins, there’s no stopping it.

If I’m speaking to a group that has both lost people and saved individuals, I would warn every one like Jesus did – Be on your guard. Stay alert. Seek to escape this doom. It’s coming. And if your life is characterized by care-free sinning then what reason do you have to think that you’ll escape what’s coming on the world of care-free sinners?

What we’ve considered to this point has been pretty heavy. It’s terrifying, really, to consider lost loved ones and friends who – through their refusal to receive Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins – put themselves in the position where they’re going to bear the full brunt of this Day of the Lord.

But here’s the reality that ought to have all of us crying “glory!” from our hearts. You and I who know Jesus Christ personally – who have trusted him for the forgiveness of all of our sins – we are not going to experience this aspect of the Day of the Lord…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 5:4 AV 1873

4 But ye, brethren,are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

4 ὑμεῖς δέ, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σκότει, ἵνα ἡ ἡμέρα ὑμᾶς ὡς κλέπτης καταλάβῃ

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “But ye, brethren”

4 But ye, brethren,

4 ὑμεῖς δέ, ἀδελφοί,

Let’s do a little exercise. Look at verses 1 and 2 and spot the personal pronouns (I, you, s/he, it, we they/them). Which of those are used in verses 1-2? I count 3 “you’s” in those verses.

What about verse 3? I count 3 “they’s” or “them’s”.

And on to verses 4-6. I count 6 “ye’s” or “you’s” or “we’s” or “us’s”.

The point is that verse 3 here is not for believers. Verses 4-6 give an alternative for those of us who are trusting Christ.

Instead of experiencing this sudden destruction that’s to come upon the whole world, we’re not going to experience that.

How is it that we believers in Christ are somehow going be exempt from this inescapable sudden destruction?

That’s where our last message comes in. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 happens first. Then 1 Thessalonians 5:3 occurs.

Believers who have died will be raised to the clouds and we who are still alive at that time will be instantaneously changed and meet those believers and the Lord in the air and be with him forever. In other words, the Rapture will occur.

After that, the punitive destructive aspect of the Day of the Lord will begin for those who are left on the earth.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “… ye … are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief”

… ye … are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

ὑμεῖς … οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σκότει, ἵνα ἡ ἡμέρα ὑμᾶς ὡς κλέπτης καταλάβῃ

God gives us every reason to believe that those who are in Christ will not suffer through the Great Tribulation – which is another title given in Scripture to the Day of the Lord.

We are not in darkness. You used to be. You were pictured as just sitting in darkness (Matthew 4:16). It was so dark for you morally that you had no idea where to go. You couldn’t even stand and walk. So you just sat there, doing nothing for the Lord.

You actually loved darkness rather than the light (John 3:19).

But then Jesus graciously gave you light and guided your feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79). He did this when you believed in him (John 12:46).

Because of this light that you received from your Savior Jesus Christ, this Day of the Lord – which is going to come upon this earth like a thief – will not overtake you.

This is not saying that you won’t be surprised as God starts pouring out his wrath on this world. As if you’ll be just fine while God begins to punish this world and there you are right in the middle of it. But – hey – at least God’s going to preserve you through it and you’re not going to be surprised like you would be by the coming of a thief.

No. Taken together with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, this is telling you that you won’t even be present as the Day of the Lord commences in all of its full fury and power.

As this day sneaks in, you will already have sneaked out, so to speak.

So, negatively you are not in darkness anymore.

Positively, you are light…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 5:5 AV 1873

5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

5 πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς υἱοὶ φωτός ἐστε καὶ υἱοὶ ἡμέρας. οὐκ ἐσμὲν νυκτὸς οὐδὲ σκότους· 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day”

5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day

5 πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς υἱοὶ φωτός ἐστε καὶ υἱοὶ ἡμέρας

This is what you are, brothers and sisters. You are children of light and of the day. In other words, you are characterized by these things, morally speaking.

You are characterized morally as being in the light and in the bright day.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “we are not of the night, nor of darkness”

we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

οὐκ ἐσμὲν νυκτὸς οὐδὲ σκότους· 

Negatively once more, you are not characterized as being morally benighted or darkened.

The darkness and the night spiritually are things of the past for you.

Now, you might feel like you’re in the dark or that you’re stumbling through what seems to be a kind of night in your life. But listen to God. The reality is that you are not in the dark and that you are not in the night. Who’s correct on this matter? God or your feelings?

If you trust Jesus Christ and he’s forgiven your sins, you are bright and light and day. The light has been turned on for you. The darkness has been cast off.

This is really what is the case in your life and in your eternal soul.

This is all of us – every single believer is like this in actuality. It’s not that some of us are of light and of the day and the rest of us are still kind of in the dark. We’re all together in the light spiritually.

But oftentimes our outward physical existence needs to synchronize with our true inward spiritual condition. Which is what Paul exhorts these believers to in verse 6…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 5:6 AV 1873

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

6 ἄρα οὖν μὴ καθεύδωμεν ὡς οἱ λοιποί, ἀλλὰ γρηγορῶμεν καὶ νήφωμεν.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others”

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others

6 ἄρα οὖν μὴ καθεύδωμεν ὡς οἱ λοιποί

In chapter 4, Paul used this word sleep to describe the physical death of a believer. But that’s not what he’s saying here. He’s rather urging us to shun living your life as if you were asleep spiritually.

This can happen in the life of a believer. If it couldn’t, then Paul would have no need to warn against it.

It’s possible for any of us to get to the point where we’re just tired and lulled into a sense of sleepiness, spiritually. You’re just snoozing through your Christian life and wasting all sorts of opportunities to serve the Lord and others.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “but let us watch and be sober”

but let us watch and be sober.

ἀλλὰ γρηγορῶμεν καὶ νήφωμεν.

That’s no way to live, believers. We’re called out of our practical sleep – which is a potential for any believer – and into a life of watchfulness and sobriety.

•           Watch – like a man who has discovered that a thief is coming to his home at a certain time. And he’s ready with methods of self-defense.

•           Watch – like Noah did as he built his ark and waited for God to send the flood which he knew was coming.

•           Watch – like those ten unmarried ladies who were all waiting for the bridegroom to come. But some dozed off and showed themselves to be foolish and unprepared. They were not watchful.

•           Watch – like someone who knows of the presence of a lion walking around on the streets outside your home.

But if you hear these admonitions and still willfully choose to sleep morally and refuse to watch and be sober, then understand what that’s indicating about you…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 5:7 AV 1873

7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

7 οἱ γὰρ καθεύδοντες νυκτὸς καθεύδουσιν, καὶ οἱ μεθυσκόμενοι νυκτὸς μεθύουσιν· 

Paul is stating a physical reality that most of us are aware of.

Sleeping tends to happen at night. I know there are people who work third shift. But the normal average human sleeps at night.

And for those who get drunk – this tends to happen at night as well. Again, there are exceptions. I lived for several years in a secular college town and saw the shamefulness of people being drunk all sorts of times – and even in the day.  Yet, even there, the night was by far the preferred time for drunkenness for those people.

So, this is just how it is. This is the reality in this fallen world. Sleeping – which is amoral – and drunkenness – which is immoral – both tend to happen at night.

And if you – as a professing Christian – are not characterized by a life of watchfulness and sobriety (verse 6), then you are declaring without words your true spiritual condition as being benighted and in the dark – as asleep and drunk…

But as the author of Hebrews says, we are persuaded of better things concerning you and things which accompany salvation.

So, Paul once again contrasts the “they’s” of verse 7 with the “us” of verse 8…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 5:8 AV 1873

8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.

8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.

8 ἡμεῖς δὲ ἡμέρας ὄντες νήφωμεν, ἐνδυσάμενοι θώρακα πίστεως καὶ ἀγάπης καὶ περικεφαλαίαν ἐλπίδα σωτηρίας· 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “But let us, who are of the day, be sober”

8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober,

8 ἡμεῖς δὲ ἡμέρας ὄντες νήφωμεν,

We need to be sober because that’s just what goes along with being “of the day” – belonging to the day rather than the night, morally- and spiritually-speaking.

How are we to be sober?

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation”

putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.

ἐνδυσάμενοι θώρακα πίστεως καὶ ἀγάπης καὶ περικεφαλαίαν ἐλπίδα σωτηρίας· 

We need to put on some clothing, metaphorically. The clothing is described as a breastplate and a helmet – typical armor for the soldiers of Paul’s time.

The breastplate protects your heart and the helmet protects your head.

What’s portrayed as protecting your heart? It’s these two Christian virtues of faith and love.

And what protects your mind is the third Christian virtue of the confident expectation of salvation.

Faith, hope, and love are attributes in yourself that demonstrate that you are in fact living soberly.

Now, it’s evident that neither a breastplate nor a helmet are offensive weapons. The drowsiness and temptations toward spiritual inebriation are themselves on the attack. Our faith and love and hope are viewed defensively in this text.

One more issue to explore here is – in what way are we to hope for our salvation? Because, of course, once you trust Jesus, he saves you. What are we to be confidently expecting after that?

The answer that we’ll see in verses 9 and 10 is surprising. Paul is going to include the concept of the Rapture back from chapter 4 in with the total package that is our salvation. We might tend to think that the teaching on the Rapture of the Church and even what we’ve been hearing in this chapter concerning our absence from the earth during the Day of the Lord – that maybe these matters are secondary issues. Maybe their importance isn’t all that great. After all, so many good people disagree on these matters.

But we’re going to see Paul actually lump in with this concept of salvation – that we’re to be confidently expecting – his teaching on the Rapture of the Church so that we won’t have the Day of the Lord overtake us. We’ll see this in verses 9 and 10…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 5:9 AV 1873

9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

9 ὅτι οὐκ ἔθετο ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς εἰς ὀργὴν ἀλλὰ εἰς περιποίησιν σωτηρίας διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “For God hath not appointed us to wrath”

9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath,

9 ὅτι οὐκ ἔθετο ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς εἰς ὀργὴν

If there’s one verse in this whole section that clinches the idea that believers aren’t going to experience the punitive Day of the Lord, this would be it. God has not appointed you and me to wrath – neither eternally nor temporally. You – as a believer in Jesus Christ – right now are no longer under God’s wrath. Neither will you ever on this earth be subject to God’s wrath.

But that’s exactly what the Day of the Lord is all about. It’s God pouring out his wrath on this wicked world that resolutely and relentlessly rejects him.

You have not been appointed to receive that same treatment.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”

but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

ἀλλὰ εἰς περιποίησιν σωτηρίας διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 

Rather, God has appointed you to salvation – the very thing you were said to be confidently expecting in the last verse.

Salvation from our sin is multifaceted. One monumental aspect of our salvation is that we have been removed from the realm of God’s wrath. We are no longer in God’s cross-hairs. He has removed the noose from around our neck – granted a pardon just minutes before the execution was scheduled to occur.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “by our Lord Jesus Christ”

by our Lord Jesus Christ,

διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 

He has granted you eternal escape from his wrath through Jesus Christ. And if he’s done this in your life, then he has also granted you temporal escape from his wrath through that same Jesus Christ.

Are you confidently expectant of this reality in your life? God’s not angry at you any more. Nor will he ever again be- in eternity or here on earth.

And this has all been brought to pass through of our wonderful Savior Jesus Christ …

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 5:10 AV 1873

10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

10 τοῦ ἀποθανόντος περὶ ἡμῶν ἵνα εἴτε γρηγορῶμεν εἴτε καθεύδωμεν ἅμα σὺν αὐτῷ ζήσωμεν

Jesus’ death ensures that we will not be subjected to God’s wrath.

It guarantees – on the other hand – that we will be with him forever.

Paul ties together everything he’s said since chapter 4 and verse 13 in this verse.

The reference to being awake or asleep really doesn’t fit with what we’ve been studying in chapter 5. Because in this chapter, the wakefulness or the sleepiness under discussion has involved moral and spiritual aspects.

But this verse here is getting back to the way that Paul spoke of waking or sleeping back at the end of chapter 4 where the waking or sleeping was referring to physical death and life.

So, this verse – by capping off all that’s been said since chapter 4 verse 13 – gives us another reason to see this larger section as two sides of the same coin.

You have chapter 4 telling you about the Rapture of believers – dead and alive – to meet the Lord in the air and to forever be together with him.

Then you have the other side of that – which is right after the Rapture occurs, the Day of the Lord sets in and God starts pouring out his wrath on this world of unbelievers.

Of course, you as a believer wouldn’t be there because God hasn’t appointed you to wrath but to obtain salvation from that wrath.

But don’t forget – it was the death of the Son of God which procured all of this for you: Deliverance from wrath and eternal bliss in his presence with all of his saints.

Does that affect your heart at all? Does this teaching have any impact on your inner person?

God intends it to – as he closes this section in verse 11…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 5:11 AV 1873

11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

11 διὸ παρακαλεῖτε ἀλλήλους καὶ οἰκοδομεῖτε εἷς τὸν ἕνα, καθὼς καὶ ποιεῖτε.

This section from chapter 4 verse 13 to here in chapter 5 verse 11 is meant to comfort us – and to help us in comforting one another.

Unfortunately, I think this passage is used very seldom by Christians for this purpose. Instead, there’s just endless debate – on the one hand – or an apathy that leads to ignorance of what’s actually here for us – on the other.

But what can be more comforting than to realize and truly believe in your heart that you will never ever experience God’s wrath – although you deserve it? You will be caught away before God’s wrath is finally poured out during the Day of the Lord. And you’ll be with your fellow-believers and with the Lord Jesus who died for you – forever.

This is comforting. It will build you up – it will edify you… if you believe it. If you doubt, you miss out on the comfort and the edification that God gave his own Son for you to experience.

He wants you to be comforted and edified by this section of his word. Are you? Will you use this section of Scripture – and attempt to help others along as well?

[S] May the Lord help us to fully believe what he’s revealed and to apply this teaching to our lives and the lives of our fellow-believers.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

Peaceful Relations with Men and God

Recently the nation of Israel was celebrating Jerusalem Day. This holiday celebrates the annexation of the city of Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967.

The group from whom that land was taken are of course not happy about it. So, in the past week or so to commemorate in their own special way that fateful day from decades ago, the Palestinians resorted to launching rockets into Israel indiscriminately.

In response, Israel has targeted the folks behind the rocket launches with air strikes, killing a number of people.

The United Nations is currently in the process of drawing up terms of a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians. But until that happens or one of the sides is pounded into submission, war will continue.

… Many of God’s people in this nation haven’t had to experience real-life warfare like that, thankfully. But for too many believers, their experience in Church might bear unfortunate resemblance to the scenario I just described – though instead of literal bombs, the ammunition is words or looks or attitudes.

And so, as Paul the apostle and his helpers Silas and Timothy begin to conclude this letter to this young church in the ancient Macedonian city of Thessalonica, they are going to take 11 verses wherein they request and admonish those believers toward Peaceful Relations with Men and God.

Let’s read the passage and then study the details.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary Text of Verses 12-22

1 Thessalonians 5:12–22 AV 1873

12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

16 Rejoice evermore.

17 Pray without ceasing.

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

19 Quench not the Spirit.

20 Despise not prophesyings.

21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

From verses 12 through 22 of 1 Thessalonians 5 we have Paul likely addressing an assortment of other situations that he became aware of through Timothy’s visit to that church.

He had already addressed matters of their moral purity, brotherly love, what happens to departed believing loved ones when Jesus returns, and matters concerning the Day of the Lord.

Now, and lastly, he turns his attention to a smattering of various matters that make for peace in the local church. Paul’s going to talk about the believers’ relationship to those with pastoral gifts in their midst, to one another and outsiders, to God, and to prophetic utterances.

After addressing such lofty matters as the Day of the Lord and the Rapture of the Church, Paul turns back to the immediate and practical matters in verse 12…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 5:12 AV 1873

12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

12 Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, εἰδέναι τοὺς κοπιῶντας ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ προϊσταμένους ὑμῶν ἐν κυρίῳ καὶ νουθετοῦντας ὑμᾶς, 

Now, verses 12 and 13 are focused on one group on individuals who are identified as carrying-out three activities – and how believers are to act towards and think about them.

Who are these folks? And what do they do? We’ll answer the last question first…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “them which labour among you”

them which labour among you

τοὺς κοπιῶντας ἐν ὑμῖν

These individuals are said to labour among you. This word is used in the New Testament of work in both the physical and spiritual realms.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “them which … are over you in the Lord”

them which … are over you in the Lord

τοὺς … προϊσταμένους ὑμῶν ἐν κυρίῳ

These folks are also said to be over you in the Lord. This is speaking of exercising a position of leadership – in the church or in the home.

Like the bishops (or pastors) and deacons are required to rule their own houses well (1 Timothy 3:4,12). Even though all bishops (or pastors) are supposed to do this in the church, there are certain elders (or pastors) who are said to do this “well” and thus are worthy of double honor – especially those elders who labor (the word we just previously mentioned) in the word and doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17).

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “them which … admonish you”

them which … admonish you

τοὺς … νουθετοῦντας ὑμᾶς

Finally, this group in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 is said to admonish you. This is “to counsel about avoidance or cessation of an improper course of conduct” (BDAG).

Admonition is an activity that Paul engaged in frequently with the people to whom he ministered. It’s also an activity he expects every Christian to do with one another – as we’ll see later.

… So, the group in view here exerts physical and spiritual efforts among you. They exercise a position of leadership among God’s people. They counsel you about inappropriate conduct where necessary. Who is this group?

I think it’s obvious that this is your pastors – though that title isn’t used in this passage. In the New Testament this group can also be called bishops or elders or overseers. We tend to call them pastors. So, this is the group under discussion.

Well, what are we to do with these individuals?

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “to know them”

to know them

εἰδέναι τοὺς

We’re to know them.

Paul isn’t urging you to simply acknowledge their existence. He’s calling on you “to recognize [their] merit, [to] respect, [to] honor” them (BDAG).

It’s not their official position alone that should move to you honor your pastors. Instead – as we’ve seen Paul draw attention to their actions in this passage – it’s their work and character that should move you to recognize their merit and to respect and honor them.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “And we beseech you, brethren”

And we beseech you, brethren

Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί

Paul says that he and Silas and Timothy – in the KJV – beseech the Thessalonians to do this. Actually, in the Greek this is the rather more bland word – “to ask”. Paul and his co-workers are requesting that the Thessalonians honor those who are working in the role of pastor among them.

And yet, this polite request has apostolic weight and authority behind it. Paul took this more gentle polite approach back in chapter 4, verse 1. where he politely asked the Thessalonians to walk and please God more and more. This is in keeping with the way that Paul dealt with these relatively new believers – as we saw in the first three chapters of this letter.

… So, Paul and his company – and the Lord himself – wanted the Thessalonians to recognize the merit of those exercising pastoral gifts among them. By extension, the Lord wants you to be doing this with those among us who serve in this capacity.

I appreciated Brother MacDonald’s prayer on Sunday where he led the congregation in praying for our pastors. And he’s not alone – whether it’s our congregational prayer or prayer among the men on Saturday mornings – I’ve heard numerous times where our congregation is praying for our pastors. This is commendable. It’s apostolic practice.

So, you’re to recognize the merit of your pastors for their work’s sake.

Here’s what else a New Testament congregation is called to do for its pastors…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 5:13 AV 1873

13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

13 καὶ ἡγεῖσθαι αὐτοὺς ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ διὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτῶν. εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς. 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake”

13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.

13 καὶ ἡγεῖσθαι αὐτοὺς ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ διὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτῶν.

Again we’re to think of them in a certain way. That’s the concept behind that word esteem. It’s “to engage in an intellectual process, [to] think, [to] consider, [to] regard. (BDAG)”

But where some would indeed think about their pastors – but in ways that approach a despising attitude with a very low view of those men, Paul calls you to have high thoughts about your pastors. You’re to hold them very highly in your mind.

The reality that should motivate you to hold them in that position in your mind is – again – not their title of “pastor”. It’s rather this matter of their work. This is certainly referring at least to the three activities that we saw this group engaged in back in verse 12.

… Do you know that it’s God’s special gift to you that you have multiple gifted men who labor among you and who are over you and who admonish you to follow the Lord?

Maybe you tend to despise this gift. Maybe in your fleshly mind you tend to compare your pastors to others that you’ve had or that you’re somehow aware of. There might be a tendency in your heart – with the Corinthian church to say, “I am of Paul”, “I am of Apollos” – and to inappropriately identify with one gifted pastor over another.

If that’s the case, Paul reminds you that your thinking regarding your pastors needs to be both high – and loving. You are to esteem your pastors highly in love.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “And be at peace among yourselves”

And be at peace among yourselves.

εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς. 

When a church is able to achieve this kind of mindset about their pastors, there will be peace in the congregation. You will be at peace among yourselves.

Have you ever been in a congregation where the people are not on the same page as the pastor? Where the pastor is not being highly esteemed in love and where he’s not being respected by his people? It’s a virtual impossibility for there to be peace in a context like that.

God has called us to peace. Therefore, it’s no insignificant thing for you concerning how you think about and treat your pastors.

This is Paul’s message thus far in verses 12-13.

So, we’ve heard about the work of the pastors in the congregation so far and how you’re to relate to them.

Going forward in this passage to the end of it in verse 22 we’re going to hear about the work that’s expected of each one of us within the body of Christ and how we’re to relate to one another.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 14

1 Thessalonians 5:14 AV 1873

14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

14 παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, νουθετεῖτε τοὺς ἀτάκτους, παραμυθεῖσθε τοὺς ὀλιγοψύχους, ἀντέχεσθε τῶν ἀσθενῶν, μακροθυμεῖτε πρὸς πάντας. 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “Now we exhort you, brethren”

14 Now we exhort you, brethren

14 παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί

Our thoughts about our pastors had Paul requesting certain things of you in verses 12 and 13.

But now in verse 14 Paul and his company are going to exhort all of you to be engaged in four activities.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “warn them that are unruly”

warn them that are unruly

νουθετεῖτε τοὺς ἀτάκτους

Interestingly, the first item for us to be engaged in within our church is this matter of warning – which is the same word as was used of the activities of our pastors – “admonish” is how it’s translated at the end of verse 12.

Our pastors are tasked with warning and admonishing us. But we also – each one of us – has a duty to carry-out this ministry toward others in our assembly.

You’re to engage in this ministry with those within our congregation who are described as unruly. This is the label given to someone who could be characterized in any way as “… being out of step and going one’s own way, disorderly, insubordinate” (BDAG).

You can see how this can tie back to how Paul started this section back in verses 12 and 13 regarding our pastors. They admonish and warn. Most will listen and yield – especially if the admonition and warning are biblical. But some might not.

What should happen when a professing believer doesn’t heed the repeated patient admonition of his pastors concerning biblical instruction? The congregation is to step in and reiterate God’s desires for that person.

That’s uncomfortable! You might hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe they’ll disagree with you.

And yet, this is God’s will for you. It’s not just the pastors’ job. It’s the loving responsibility of each one of us who is a member of this church. And the fact that this is uncomfortable is why the apostle has to exhort us on to do this. It doesn’t feel good. But it’s a vital ministry when there really are those who are truly unruly within a congregation and not responding to the admonition of the leadership of that church.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “comfort the feebleminded”

comfort the feebleminded

παραμυθεῖσθε τοὺς ὀλιγοψύχους

But that’s not your only job! Kind of on the exact opposite side of the spectrum of interpersonal verbal dynamics as what you were just exhorted to – Paul commands that you additionally comfort. You’re called to “console” and to even “cheer up” (BDAG) certain people in this church.

The recipients of this comfort and consolation are also very different from the previous group of those characterized as being unruly. Those folks don’t get any comfort in their current state. Here’s the group that gets comfort and consolation – the feebleminded.

These are people who are “faint-hearted” or “discouraged” (BDAG). Do you know anyone like that? Have you considered ministering comfort to them? Maybe you’ve already done just that! That’s exactly what they need. And they don’t need a pastor to minister it to them, necessarily. You yourself can do this. Indeed, you are exhorted to do it.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “support the weak”

support the weak

ἀντέχεσθε

Further, you’re exhorted to support the weak.

Those experiencing some incapacity or limitation (BDAG) need this from you. Whether this weakness is physical or spiritual probably doesn’t matter all that much. Where there’s weakness in the body of Christ in any way, there needs to be support.

Consider the human body and what happens when you injure a part of it. If you were to injure your right foot, your whole body instinctively kicks in to support that injured member. So too, the body of Christ is to kick in to support it’s fellow-members who are injured or out of joint or wounded in some way.

… Now, whether you’re engaged in warning or comforting or supporting… and whether you’re finding yourself ministering in the body to the unruly or to the feebleminded or to the weak… it can be difficult work. People can be messy and problems troubling. Folks – even believers – can turn on you for trying to serve them for Christ’s sake.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “be patient toward all men”

be patient toward all men

μακροθυμεῖτε πρὸς πάντας

Your reaction to your fellow-believers can be irritation or even exasperation. That’s why Paul exhorts you to “be patient toward all.”

Be patient toward the weak, toward the feebleminded – yes, even toward the unruly and insubordinate! You are “to bear up under provocation without complaint, [to] be patient, [or] forbearing” (BDAG).

But you probably want to do just the opposite in your flesh! That’s why Paul continues the way he does in verse 15 where he has to tell you – don’t do that!

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 15

1 Thessalonians 5:15 AV 1873

15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

15 ὁρᾶτε μή τις κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ τινι ἀποδῷ, ἀλλὰ πάντοτε τὸ ἀγαθὸν διώκετε εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας. 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “See that none render evil for evil unto any man”

15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man

15 ὁρᾶτε μή τις κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ τινι ἀποδῷ

As you’re engaged in warning and comforting and supporting various people in this church, you might get your feelings hurt. You might have your best-intended ministry to others rebuffed and thrown back in your face.

Your tendency at that point can be to adopt the tactic of render[ing] evil for evil. They give you evil – they do wrong to you… Therefore, you’re going to do wrong to them. It’s payback. And in this world there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, the world might look at you as if there’s something wrong with you if you don’t render evil for evil.

But God wants you to take a different approach. When someone in the church slights you or despises your attempted ministry, do not pay them back in kind. You’ve been called to turn the other cheek – as your Lord Jesus Christ did to those who literally pulled the beard from his face. Even when professing believers do this to you, this is your calling.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men”

but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men

ἀλλὰ πάντοτε τὸ ἀγαθὸν διώκετε εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας

Instead of paying evil back for evil received, you are called to ever follow that which is good.

Pursue the good of others. Continue – even when rebuffed – to seek what is God’s absolute best for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Where you’re tempted to carry-out bad upon them – instead seek good for them.

This is certainly what God wants happening in the church. But it’s also what he wants you doing in society at-large. God wants you to pursue the good of others – both among yourselves [that is, amongst your fellow believers], and to all men.

Not only are Christians to be the recipients of your ministry – you’re called to do this to the lost world of people around you.

Maybe you have someone who’s very disagreeable toward you in your neighborhood. Maybe your neighbor or family doesn’t agree with your faith in Christ. And where that faith impacts your life in various ways, they express  disagreement. There might be some form of persecution that you’re facing because of stands you take on various issues because of your regard for the Lord.

When anything about the way that you’re living your life for Christ causes those outside the Church or even within the body of professing believers – to start mistreating you for it, remember this. God does not want you to take your own revenge. God does not want you repaying evil for the evil that you’ve received from others – whether they be in the Church or not.

Rather, he wants you to pursue their good – and thereby imitate your Savior who died for you when you were yet a sinner. You – who pursued Jesus Christ to death with all of your awful sins. He – with great love and patience – bore with you and bore all of your sins in his body on the tree.

… Now, verses 14 and 15 as we’ve seen have been very man-focused, by God’s design. You’ve had verses 12 and 13 which prompted you to respect and highly esteem your pastors. You then had verses 14 and 15 which directed you as to how you ought to treat your fellow-man, both inside and outside of the Church.

And now going forward into verses 16-18 we’re going to see three more commands for you – which all seem to have more of a view directly to God.

So, it’s been you and your pastors (vv 12-13). You and your fellow-believers / fellow-man (vv. 14-15). And now you and the Lord (vv 16-18).

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 16

1 Thessalonians 5:16 AV 1873

16 Rejoice evermore.

16 Rejoice evermore.

16 πάντοτε χαίρετε

You’ll notice the all-encompassing nature of each of these three commands in verses 16-18. “Evermore” – or “always” – in this verse. “Without ceasing” in verse 17. “In every thing” in verse 18.

There are no exceptions then. There’s never a time when it’s not God’s will for you to rejoice. You as a Christian can rejoice under any circumstance.

There are two times that Jesus commanded his disciples to rejoice. The first situation involves when we’re facing the trial of being persecuted. You can and ought to rejoice even then. Jesus said you should.

How’s that even possible? It’s because of the second cause of your rejoicing that Jesus mentioned – the reality that your name is written in heaven. What can you and I not face with a settled determined rejoicing in this life if we’re truly believing this – that your name is written in heaven? How can things on earth shake us so much as to hinder our rejoicing when in reality our names are solidly fixed in heaven?

Peter ties all of those thoughts together when he tells you to not think it some strange thing as you’re experiencing trials. Instead, rejoice because you are suffering in the same way that your Savior did. And when he returns, there will be no more suffering for you forever – but rather complete and total joy (1 Peter 4:12-13).

I don’t want to get ahead of the text in 1 Thessalonians 5, but this rejoicing in every circumstance – the good and the bad – is God’s will for you. We’ll address that more in verse 18.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 5:17 AV 1873

17 Pray without ceasing.

17 Pray without ceasing.

17 ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε

Not only is your joy to be unending. So is your communication to God. You’re to pray without ceasing.

Ceaseless constant prayer is what God wants from you. As you’re going throughout your day – no doubt – you find yourself doing this. If not with your lips verbally, then with your heart.

The reality that you’re rejoicing constantly does not mean that you can’t petition God about anything that’s a concern to you. God wants to hear from you – about anything, even things that threaten to hinder your rejoicing.

In fact, one reason that a Christian is able to rejoice always (v 16) is that we have this relief valve of prayer in our lives. As you cast all your cares on the one who cares for you – and as you’re anxious for nothing but instead praying about everything – there is that peace the Lord gives that passes all understanding and allows you to rejoice with an unburdened soul.

This also is God’s will for you (v 18) – to pray without ceasing.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 18

1 Thessalonians 5:18 AV 1873

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

18 ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε· τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς. 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “In every thing give thanks”

18 In every thing give thanks

18 ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε

And lastly, God’s will for you is to give thanks in everything.

You can find reasons to thank God in very unpleasant situations.

Personally, when I’m experiencing even anxiety-causing situations I am mindful to thank God for them – for the fact that those painful and uncomfortable situations in my life lead me to trust God more. And when you consider that the basic desire of God for mankind is that they would come to trust him – that’s a very good thing for me to learn over and over again in new and deeper ways.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς. 

This rejoicing and praying and giving thanks is all the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

It’s God’s will for you to be doing these things – as we heard that it was God’s will that we become more and more holy back in 4:3.

I think it’s safe to say that these three activities did not characterize your life before Christ. You weren’t joyful. You weren’t prayerful. You weren’t thankful. So then, this matter of you accepting God’s will to engage in these activities more and more constitutes a growth in holiness and sanctification for you.

These three activities in themselves are God’s will for you. And as you engage in them more and more you are growing in sanctification – which itself is also God’s will for you.

… Moving into our last sub-section within the broader section of material that we’ve been focused on this evening, Paul’s going to end this by focusing on the matter of prophesying or prophetic utterances – the very activity predominantly engaged in by those pastors back in verses 12 and 13.

We’re to respect and love those pastors in our lives for their work’s sake. And part of their work is taking what God has revealed and delivering it to us.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 19

1 Thessalonians 5:19 AV 1873

19 Quench not the Spirit.

19 Quench not the Spirit.

19 τὸ πνεῦμα μὴ σβέννυτε

Paul begins this consideration of your relationship to prophesying – not in terms of your actions toward the human agent who is proclaiming the message – but rather your approach to the Spirit of God.

You are commanded to not quench this third person of the Trinity. As if he were a fire acting within you and within the church – and you actually have the power to tamp him down in your life.

God – who is unlimited in power – yet allows his creatures and even his redeemed to resist him.

You don’t want this – do you? You don’t want to put out the fire of the Holy Spirit within your life and within the life of this church.

So, what can you do to avoid this result?

Here’s one thing…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 20

1 Thessalonians 5:20 AV 1873

20 Despise not prophesyings.

20 Despise not prophesyings.

20 προφητείας μὴ ἐξουθενεῖτε· 

We must not despise prophesyings or prophetic utterances. Because the Holy Spirit is doing his work through this very activity in the church.

Recall that this letter to the Thessalonians is probably the earliest letter of Paul’s. Probably most of the other epistles in our Bibles hadn’t been written by this time. Revelation wouldn’t be penned for several more decades. The materials in the gospels would certainly have been known in the church by the testimony of eye-witnesses but it probably hadn’t been inscribed on scrolls just yet. Paul himself was still actually living-out what ended up being recorded into the book of Acts.

The point is that the blessing that’s ours – in having the completed word of God in our hands in the form of the 66 books of the Bible – was not a privilege that could have been enjoyed by these Thessalonian believers. Instead, God was still revealing his word to his people through New Testament prophets.

Now, some of what those who had the gift of prophesy would engage in was foretelling the future. We’ve seen that even in this epistle where Paul is revealing information about the Rapture and Tribulation – both future events.

But a lot of what prophets did was to “forthtell”. It wasn’t all futuristic. A good deal of what prophets did was to reveal God’s will to God’s people – just like Paul is doing here in this section of his letter.

So, as Paul or as the men acting as pastors among the Thessalonian church would utter prophesies telling the believers what God’s will was and even what he’s going to do in the future, they were to not receive it in a certain way.

Prophesies are not to be despised. In other words, one temptation of God’s people – both ancient and modern – is to hear what the messenger is proclaiming and then to lightly dismiss it – to not consider it worthy of your attention.

And that can happen in this church. It can happen in a Christian educational environment. You can hear the message proclaimed by a man with the gift of prophesying – of proclaiming God’s word and God’s will to you – and you can disdain it.

Maybe you don’t like the speaker’s personality. Maybe you compare him to someone else and he doesn’t quite seem to match up. Maybe you simply are made uncomfortable by the message. You might be hung up on something so trivial as the way he looks.

But let me urge you to actively resist anything in your heart that moves this way. Because when you despise prophesyings you actually are not despising that simple man who’s up behind the pulpit or podium proclaiming his simple message. You are quenching the Holy Spirit of God in your life.

Do you want God’s Spirit to burn like a fire in your soul? Then take heed to the messages that he sends you week after week through the mouth of his modern-day prophets – who are themselves doing no more than simply unfolding for you what God’s ancient prophets were given by the Holy Spirit to speak to his church through all these centuries.

So, don’t despise prophesyings.

And yet, that doesn’t mean that we’re to accept everything that anyone says in God’s name uncritically and without any sort of evaluation…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 21

1 Thessalonians 5:21 AV 1873

21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

21 πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε, τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “Prove all things”

21 Prove all things

21 πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε

You’re to prove all things.

You’re to make a critical examination of prophetic utterances in order to determine the genuineness of it.

In Paul’s day – as the canon of Scripture wasn’t yet closed – as any self-proclaimed prophet would get up and give his message, the people would need to evaluate what he said based on what other truth from God that they knew.

In our day, now that the canon is closed and God has made clear the final form of his word in these 66 books, you can prove or test or examine whatever a man gets up and says based on the Scripture itself.

There are ways to come to the task of preaching with your own ideas and you just try to find some text from which you can launch into your own ideas. Much better to come to the text and explain and apply what’s actually there.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “hold fast that which is good”

hold fast that which is good.

τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε

The extent to which a congregation can see – that what a pastor or preacher or teacher is saying based upon the Scripture itself – determines whether that prophesying is good and therefore ought to be held fast.

In order to not quench the Spirit, you need to test and examine the Scriptural accuracy of any message you hear. Anything that passes the test you need to not be indifferent to – or despise. You rather need to firmly adhere to the truth communicated in those messages and act accordingly (BDAG) – if you want to avoid quenching the Holy Spirit.

But what about religious folks who have a message for you – but it doesn’t seem to line up with Scripture?

What if some nicely-dressed folks show up at your door and tell you that Jesus is a god but not the God? Or they tell you that you too can be a god some day and have your own universe to rule over? Or some religious person on TV or the internet tells you that it’s always God’s will to heal you of your diseases?

In those situations – and many more – you need to activate the command of verse 22…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 22

1 Thessalonians 5:22 AV 1873

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

22 ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ ἀπέχεσθε.

In the context, Paul isn’t now suddenly switching his train of thought to exhort us to stay away from some nebulous evil “out there”. Instead, following the flow of the text, Paul is commanding you to abstain from every appearance or manifestation or type or variety or sort of evil. And that evil is related – in the context – to prophetic utterances.

There are all sorts of evil messages given in the name of God. Your job as a discerning Spirit-filled Christian is to examine those messages and not just accept all of them without any sort of evaluation.

The messages that do pass the test of whether or not they align with Scripture – hold firmly to. Anything else ought to be avoided or kept at a distance from you.

Messages that are evil in terms of not passing the test of being Scriptural are not to be held firmly to (kateco in Greek) – but rather they’re to be abstained from (apeco in Greek).

[S]… So, if we want to avoid church settings that emotionally and spiritually resemble battlefields, we’d do well to be constantly pursuing Peaceful Relations with Men and God. May the Lord help us to do just that as a church in the days ahead.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

Have you ever considered what you might want your last words to your loved ones to be? What would you say? What would be the most important thing in your mind for them to be reminded of or to hold on to in your absence?

… The apostle Paul had a lot of “goodbyes” – both in person and via letter. Because he wrote numerous letters to various congregations of believers, he was likely often considering what he wanted to say to end his correspondences with them – what his last words to them should be.

This morning we’ll be considering the last words of his first written letter that we have record of in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28.

In this passage we see Paul offering Prayer and Encouragement Toward Peaceful Holiness.

Let’s read the text first.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary Verses 23-28 Text

1 Thessalonians 5:23–28 AV 1873

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

25 Brethren, pray for us.

26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 23

1 Thessalonians 5:23 AV 1873

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;

23 Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶς ὁλοτελεῖς,

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “And the very God”

23 And the very God

23 Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς

The phrase “And the very God” is found one other place in the New Testament. We saw it back in 1 Thessalonians 3:11.

You may recall that 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 was the conclusion of the first three chapters in this book where Paul ended his more personal portion of this letter with a prayer / wish / desire to God for these believers – just like we have here in chapter 5.

In that conclusion, Paul desired three main things of God concerning those believers. First, Paul desired that God would allow him and Silas and Timothy to see the Thessalonians once more. He also desired that God would cause the love of those believers for one another and for all people to grow more and more. Paul lastly desired that God would strengthen their hearts in holiness and cause them to be blameless when Jesus returns.

So, we saw even back there Paul’s emphasis on peace and holiness among the believers in that city.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “sanctify you”

sanctify you

ἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶς

But here at the end of the book, Paul has only two requests of God for these believers.

First is the sanctification or holiness of these folks.

What is sanctification?

Things that are said to be sanctified in the New Testament include: God’s name (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2), the gold and gifts brought to the temple (Matthew 23:17,19), Jesus Christ himself (John 10:36), believers in Jesus (John 17:17, 19; Acts 20:32; 26:18; Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc.), the members of your body as a believer (Romans 6:19), your actions as a believer (Romans 6:22), the unbelieving spouse of a believer (1 Corinthians 7:14), the very food we eat as believers (1 Timothy 4:5), and in our hearts the Lord God ought to be sanctified (1 Peter 3:15).

So then, what is it to sanctify something?

At its heart, the concept expresses the idea of setting something apart from the rest of what is common.

God’s name and character are to be set apart in the eyes of his human creatures. The gold and gifts brought to the temple were to be set apart for special use to God. Jesus Christ didn’t come to live his own life and do his own things – his life was totally set apart for the purposes of the Father. We believers have been set apart to be used for God’s special purposes in our lives. So have the members of our bodies and our every action. Any of us who has a spouse who is not a believer – the mere fact that you are a believer and you are still with your spouse sets him or her apart in a special way that might just result in their salvation. Even things that seem common – like our food – are set apart in a special way in the life of a believer. And in our perceptions, God needs to be thought of in our hearts as being set apart from all that is common and ordinary.

So, how does this sanctification – that Paul is praying for the Thessalonians to have – happen in the life of a believer?

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in John 17:17

John 17:17 AV 1873

17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

As Jesus was praying to the Father in John 17, he noted that we believers don’t belong to the world just like Jesus himself didn’t belong to the world. This world is not our home.

Since this world is not our home, you might think that we should be taken out of the world. But Jesus says that he doesn’t want that for his followers. Instead, he asked the Father that you would be kept safe from the evil one – that is, Satan.

How is that going to happen? Jesus asked the Father in that context that you would be sanctified in God’s truth – which is God’s word.

Your relationship – then – and activities regarding God’s word is what Jesus will use to fulfill both his prayer to the Father concerning you – as well as Paul’s prayer to the Father here in 1 Thessalonians 5 concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in Acts 26:18

Acts 26:18 AV 1873

18 to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

In Acts 26, Paul’s standing on trial before King Agrippa. He’s recalling the time when Jesus came to him while he was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians. Jesus had other plans for Paul – namely, for him to proclaim the gospel to Jews and Gentiles. The end goal was that these people would receive forgiveness of their sins and a share of the inheritance which all those who are sanctified receive.

How is it that these folks become sanctified? The last few words of verse 18 say that this sanctification or setting apart for special use happens by faith in Jesus.

I think that it’s important to note that the New Testament speaks of sanctification as it does of salvation. That is, God talks about this action in a believer’s life in some places as if it’s a done-deal and in other places as if it’s a process to be engaged in throughout the entire life of the believer.

So, a passage like Acts 26:18 seems to be speaking of a one-time act in the life of someone who just then trusted Jesus. They are sanctified. The deed is done.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in 1 Corinthians 6:11

1 Corinthians 6:11 AV 1873

11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Or a passage like 1 Corinthians 6:11 where Paul says that while you used to be engaged in all sorts of vile sin – at some point in the past you were sanctified from all of that – just like you were justified once and for all as a one-time act in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God.

As I’ve said, this concept is spoken of in these terms sometimes – as once and for all.

But in other contexts, God portrays sanctification as an ongoing process.

We’ve actually seen this ongoing aspect of sanctification in this book of 1 Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in 1 Thessalonians 4:3

1 Thessalonians 4:3 AV 1873

3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

The ongoing process of you abstaining from sexual immorality is God’s will. This is one aspect of the continual sanctification process that God would have for you now that you’re a believer.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in 1 Thessalonians 4:4

1 Thessalonians 4:4 AV 1873

4 that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

Paul went on in that passage to speak of each believer handling his physical body – especially in regard to sexual purity – in a sanctified, set-apart manner. This again is God’s ongoing will for the believer.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in 1 Thessalonians 4:7

1 Thessalonians 4:7 AV 1873

7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

And Paul ended that discussion on the ongoing need of sanctification in the life of the believer this way. God called you to holiness – which is our word sanctification.

He called you with a purpose – sanctification. Therefore, live out that purpose constantly in your life.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in 1 Thessalonians 5:23

1 Thessalonians 5:23 AV 1873

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, back to our passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

There’s one more thing that God will often use in the life of a believer in order to continue and perfect this process of sanctification that was begun the moment you trusted Jesus.

And that is prayer. Your prayers for your fellow-believers’ sanctification is something that God will use in order to accomplish his purpose in their lives.

If God didn’t use your prayer to grow your brethren in sanctification, then why would the apostle Paul himself do it? He’s praying this way because he knows that God wants to answer this prayer in the lives of his true believers.

So, pray for one another – pray for me – for this sanctification being worked out in our lives more and more. That he would do this “wholly” – in every way. In every sphere of your life. There’s no aspect of your life in which God doesn’t want to meddle and redeem for himself. He’s making all things new in your life – in every deep dark hidden area, even. This is what he’s after with you.

So, Paul’s first prayer for these believers to end this letter is that God would continue to sanctify them – set them apart more and more from what is common and unclean – and set them apart to his good and holy purposes.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “the … God of peace”

the … God of peace

ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης

And the one who alone is ultimately able to sanctify you is given this title, “the God of peace”.

Wouldn’t you think that Paul should describe him as “the God of holiness” or something like that in order to follow-up on what he’s just been saying?

But I think this points to the reality that not all was peaceful in the church in Thessalonica. And they needed the God of peace to rule over their lives in a special way if they were to achieve this growth in holiness.

Some of them were defrauding one another in the area of moral purity. We’ll see later in this letter that there was some reason that Paul had to adjure them to make sure that every one of the believers there got this letter read to them. He needed to command them to greet every believers in their midst and not leave anyone out. Why would he need to do that if there wasn’t some tendency in some in that church to exclude others in an unloving manner?

One reality this points to – that the God of peace is being called in to this situation – is that in order for us to be holy we also need to be peaceful people. Holiness and peace go hand in hand. When you see an agitated Christian who is at odds with all sorts of believers, holiness is maybe not the first thing that comes to your mind.

So, not all was as peaceful as it ought to have been in the Thessalonian church. And therefore, there was a lack of holiness there as well.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on God of Peace in 2 Corinthians 13:11

2 Corinthians 13:11 AV 1873

11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.

Something similar was happening in a church south of Thessalonica – in the city of Corinth.

Paul ended the letter of 2 Corinthians with this term “God of peace.” And there, he tied together the necessity of that church to live in peace with one another – … with God showing himself to them as being the God of peace.

If you live in peace with other believers, then God – who is the God of peace – will be with you in a special way.

… So, Paul’s first prayer in this conclusion to his letter requests that God would sanctify those believers. And part of that sanctification would include their own peacefulness among themselves. Peaceful Holiness.

Paul’s second prayer for them is similar.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “… be preserved …”

…  be preserved …

… τηρηθείη. 

Paul’s great desire for these believers – in addition to their sanctification – is that God would keep or preserve them.

There are numerous admonitions to believers to keep or preserve themselves in various ways.

You’re to keep Jesus’ commandments (John 14:21). You’re told to keep yourself pure (1 Timothy 5:22). God wants you to keep yourself unspotted morally by the world (James 1:27). You’re on some level to keep yourself in the love of God (Jude 21).

But in this passage, Paul isn’t telling the believers to do this to themselves – to keep or preserve themselves. The wording is not “preserve”. Rather, it’s “be preserved”. It’s passive. The action of being preserved is happening to you by God.

It’s God who keeps you ultimately and he does so in part by protecting you from Satan (1 John 5:18). Jesus prayed that your Father would keep or guard or protect his believers whom he was leaving behind here on this earth (John 17:11). You’re preserved or kept in or by Jesus Christ (Jude 1).

God has plans to do this in your life – to keep or guard or preserve you.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “… blameless …”

… blameless…

… ἀμέμπτως…

And he plans to preserve you blameless.

Just like Paul and Silas ministered among the Thessalonian believers in a way that was above reproach, God is determined to make and keep you blameless and above reproach. He is working in you so that this might be the case with you.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “… your whole spirit and soul and body …”

… your whole spirit and soul and body …

… ὁλόκληρον ὑμῶν τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ τὸ σῶμα …

He’s working in your life in such a way that there’s no part of you that he’s not targeted for this blamelessness. It’s your spirit and soul and body that he’s after to make this way.

Some people have seen in this statement proof that you as a human are comprised of three parts – spirit, soul, and body. While it’s fairly simple to note the difference between your non-physical spirit/soul as opposed to your physical body, determining where the spirit ends and where the soul begins is probably more than anyone can successfully accomplish. Especially in light of passages that seem to break down human nature into the material – the body – and the immaterial – the soul or spirit or mind – it’s probably best to see your human nature as bipartite (two parts) rather than tripartite (three parts).

So, then why does Paul mention three aspects of yourself that he wishes for God to preserve? I think he’s pointing to the completeness of this desired preservation.

All that makes up who you are is what Paul wants to be kept and protected by God in a blameless fashion. Not just your inner being but your outer one as well. All of you! It’s your whole being that God wants to preserve blameless.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “… unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”

… unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

… ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ …

Now, when we preserve things, it’s typically for the purpose of using that thing in the future. You preserve your food in the refrigerator so that you can eat it later. You preserve pictures – physically or digitally – so that you can enjoy looking at them later.

For believers, God is preserving our entire being for the following event – the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul doesn’t say that God is preserving us until we die or until we’re called home to be with the Lord. He says that we’ll be preserved and protected and kept right up through the time when Jesus Christ returns to this earth – whether at the first part of his second coming where he doesn’t touch down on the earth but comes only for his people – or the second part of his second coming where he rescues his people Israel and established his thousand-year reign on earth.

And if you or I happen to be taken to be with the Lord before that time, we now have no reason for concern about that – because we heard the teaching in chapter 4 concerning that reality of believers dying before Jesus returns. And we learned that people like that won’t miss a thing. Those who die in Christ before his return will also join the living believers at the time of Jesus’s coming.

… Does this seem too hard a thing for God to do? Maybe it’s too much for your mind to even comprehend him keeping you blameless until the coming of his Son.

If you’re doubtful or uncertain as to whether this will actually happen – that you’ll be preserved blameless and be made completely holy – then Paul gives you assurance in the next verse…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 24

1 Thessalonians 5:24 AV 1873

24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

24 πιστὸς ὁ καλῶν ὑμᾶς, ὃς καὶ ποιήσει. 

God’s calling of you has to do with your salvation from sin. God is the one who called or saved you.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Calling in Romans 9:11

Romans 9:11 AV 1873

11 (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

Often in Scripture there’s this contrast between works and faith in terms of how you were saved. You’re not saved from your sins by your works, but by faith in Christ.

But interestingly in Romans 9:11 Paul contrasts works – not with faith – but with God’s calling you.

So, were we saved by our works? No. Were we saved through faith? Yes. Were we saved through God’s calling. Also, yes.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Calling in Galatians 5:8

Galatians 5:8 AV 1873

8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.

In Galatians, Paul is battling a pernicious false doctrine that had crept in to those churches in that area to the effect that you can be saved through your keeping God’s law in the Old Testament. Which is an utter impossibility!

And so, Paul says there that that kind of teaching does not originate with the one who called you. The God who saved you by grace through faith does not now somehow expect you to save yourself!

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Calling in 1 Thessalonians 2:12

1 Thessalonians 2:12 AV 1873

12 that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

That brings us back to the letter that we’re finishing-up here.

Back in chapter 2 of this letter, Paul recalled how he dealt with the Thessalonian believers when he was with them. He treated them like a father would his own children. He urges them to walk worthy of this God who saved them. And he speaks of that salvation in terms of being called to God’s future kingdom and universal glory.

… God has called you to salvation. You have a place in God’s coming kingdom. It will be glorious. And you did nothing to earn it. All you did was trust Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 24

1 Thessalonians 5:24 AV 1873

24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

So, Paul’s point now – to get back to the end of this letter – is that the God who has faithfully called you to eternal glory and joy and bliss – he’s not going to come up short.

As a result of his saving you, he has also determined to sanctify you wholly and preserve and keep and protect you blameless until the coming of his Son.

This is something you can count on by faith – because he himself is faithful. You can trust this promise because the one giving it is fully trustworthy.

… Now, I think it’s clear that verses 23 and 24 represent the same thought unit in this passage.

And what will become equally clear is that the rest of this chapter is an assortment of quick short remarks from Paul to these dear believers to close this first letter of his to them.

And yet, there is a unifying theme even in these short statements. And that is still the concept of their peaceful holiness.

This starts in verse 25…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 25

1 Thessalonians 5:25 AV 1873

25 Brethren, pray for us.

25 Brethren, pray for us.

25 Ἀδελφοί, προσεύχεσθε περὶ ἡμῶν. 

Just like Paul just uttered a prayer for these believers, so too now he’s requesting that they pray for him.

Could you imagine if you were alive back in Paul’s day having this preeminent apostle asking you to pray for him? You might wonder what you could possibly do to help this unusually-gifted apostle carry out his work for the Lord. The answer would have been – pray for him.

That’s the case for anyone in the body of Christ – no matter how new to the faith he is or how mature he is. We all need the prayers of one another.

On the flip side, we also all need to be humble enough to recognize and state to others our need for them to pray for us.

In Paul’s second letter to this church he requests that this church would pray for the success of his spiritual work. So, that ought to be a focus of ours as we pray for our fellow-believers – that our spiritual work and service to others for God’s sake would be effective.

Paul then turns back to the Thessalonians and their interactions with one another in verse 26…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 26

1 Thessalonians 5:26 AV 1873

26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

26 ἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ. 

The practice of greeting others with a kiss is rather foreign to us. When we greet others – at least before COVID-19 – it’s typically done with a handshake. Post-COVID it might be an elbow-bump. Maybe you greet someone with a hug if you’re really familiar with that person. Otherwise, the greeting is probably just verbal.

In the New Testament, there are numerous times where believers are told to greet other believers – with no reference to a kiss.

But we also have numerous instances of greeting others with this accompanying physical action.

Jesus actually rebuked the pharisee who invited him to his home because when Jesus entered that home he didn’t greet him with a kiss (Luke 7:45). Jesus was expecting that kind of appropriate reception.

Judas greeted Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane with a kiss (Luke 22:48) and no one thought anything strange of that. This was a customary way of greeting others in that day.

Four times Paul commands believers to greet one another with this accompanying action and Peter does so once.

Every time Paul commands it, it’s called a “holy kiss”. When Peter commands it, it’s called a “kiss of love”.

So, should we be practicing this?

I would say that where the cultural expectation would be to greet others with a kiss (https://www.cntraveler.com/story/a-guide-to-kissing-etiquette-around-the-world), you ought to do it.

But that’s not the culture we live in. And so, a warm handshake should generally suffice, or – depending on your level of concern with COVID – an elbow-bump.

Now, it’s interesting that for Paul and Peter, 4 of the 5 times that they collectively command this kiss to be accompanying the greeting of fellow-believers, they say that this action should be taken toward “one another”. There’s only one time where they need to clarify that this is for “all the brethren”. And that one time is right here in 1 Thessalonians 5.

And I think that’s interesting to note because we’ll now see in the next verse another reference concerning what these believers ought to do to “all the brethren”…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 27

1 Thessalonians 5:27 AV 1873

27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

27 ἐνορκίζω ὑμᾶς τὸν κύριον ἀναγνωσθῆναι τὴν ἐπιστολὴν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς. 

Those who first received this letter needed to read it to all the brethren there.

That word “charge” here is pretty strong. It’s related to pressing someone into taking an oath.

Paul then is strongly commanding them to read what he just wrote and sent to them – to every believer in their assembly.

This seems to indicate that there may have been some divisions forming among them. As we’ve noted before, maybe some of them were at odds with others of them due to the violations we read about in chapter 4 where they were told to not defraud others in relation to moral purity. Maybe some were despising prophesying and those who did the prophesying – and so divisions had formed around that issue. In that context back in chapter 4 – as he’s doing here – Paul had to admonish them to be at peace with one another.

Whatever the case was, Paul sensed enough of a potential division forming where he had to adjure them to make sure that every one of them got this letter read to them. Because this letter – with God’s help – was intended to remedy some of these interpersonal issues.

And yet, a mere letter won’t ultimately do anything to mend broken relationships and strained fellowship among believers. Only God’s grace can do such a thing. And that’s just how Paul ends this letter…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 28

1 Thessalonians 5:28 AV 1873

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

28 ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ μεθʼ ὑμῶν.

For us to truly accomplish anything of what we’ve seen in this letter – or anything that God wants us to do – we need grace from our Lord Jesus Christ.

[S] So, may his grace be abundant to you and to all of us as we attempt to do his will in this world – especially as we endeavor for peaceful holiness in our lives. Faithful is he who calls you who also will do it!

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Verses 13-18

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary: The human experience of grief is as old as sin. When our father Adam disobeyed God, sin entered into the world – and death though sin. This death – in all of its various lifelong forms and manifestations – leads to grief in just as many forms.

Our responses to this originally-unnatural grief are interesting. One major response to seeing others experience grief is to console or comfort them.

Consoling others who are experiencing grief is something that God has done from the outset.

When Adam and Eve sinned – along with the punishment that ensued – there was also consolation offered. God was the first to console mankind and he did so with the promise of a seed of the woman – Jesus Christ – who would crush the serpent’s head.

When Cain killed his brother Abel, God consoled Eve by giving her another son in Abel’s place – Seth.

God’s consolation in mankind’s grief is always perfect and appropriate. Mankind’s attempts at consoling our grieving fellow-man can sometimes miss the mark.

[S] In a second-century letter of consolation from a person named Irene to two other folks named Ta-on-no-phris and Philo who were mourning – apparently for someone who died – the following is stated. This is Irene speaking…

“I am as sorry [elypēthēn] and weep over the departed one as I wept for Didymas.… But nevertheless, against such things one can do nothing. Therefore comfort ye one another.”

(Green)

How do you like that comfort and consolation? Comfort one another because – really – you can’t do anything about what happened.

God has better consolation for believers – even and especially you lose a believing loved on to death. God’s consolation to believers is his truth.

And that’s what we’ll see this evening in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Please turn with me to that passage.

Let’s read the passage and find in the explanation of the details this message of God’s Truth Giving Us Comfort.

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Text

1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 AV 1873

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

17 then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

If God’s Truth Gives Comfort, then it’s ignorance of his truth that hinders it – which is exactly what we see in verse 13…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 4:13 AV 1873

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren,

13 Οὐ θέλομεν δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, ἀδελφοί,

Though the Thessalonians very well may have known certain aspects of what Paul is about to tell them, they in some ways did not possess a perfect knowledge of what he’s about to say.

The area in which the Thessalonian believers were ignorant was…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary concerning them which are asleep

concerning them which are asleep,

περὶ τῶν κοιμωμένων,

This therefore is the third concern which Paul is taking up in this letter to these believers. He apparently received some sort of communication from Timothy that informed him that these believers were struggling with this matter.

Paul had addressed the matter of sexual purity with these believers and then of brotherly love and responsibility. Now he needed to speak with them concerning those who are asleep.

Obviously, Paul isn’t giving instruction about literal physical sleep, as will become very apparent as we go along in this section. As if some of the believers there were being lazy and sleeping way too much.

Paul’s speaking of believers who have physically died. And their death is viewed as mere sleep. Because some day they will awake in the resurrection and be reunited with their fellow-believers and the Lord himself.

As pleasant as that sounds, reality lived-out is often not as flowery. The Thessalonians had experienced the harshness of death – possibly as a result of persecution that would have terminated in the death of some of their dear loved ones. Or perhaps it was death as a result of disease or so-called natural causes.

Whatever the case, the Thessalonians were faced with the following temptation as their response to the temporary death of their beloved fellow-Christians…

that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope

that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε καθὼς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ οἱ μὴ ἔχοντες ἐλπίδα. 

The ignorance of the Thessalonian believers was leading at least some of them to despair. They were sorrowing as others which have no hope.

Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:11-13 that before we were brought near to God through the blood of Christ that we ourselves were “having no hope and without God in the world”. This is the state of every lost person in this world.

This lack of hope affected everything in your life, not the least of which areas was your conception of death.

What does this sorrowing without hope look like?

You have the example of the ancient Epicurean disciples whose gravestones contained this hopeless series of four short sentences: “I was not. I was. I am not. I care not.”

(https://epicurus.today/the-epicurean-attitude-to-death/)

Or, the Sicilian poet named Theocritus from around 300 BC said, “Hopes are for the living; the dead are without hope.”

{Green, G. L. (2002). The letters to the Thessalonians (p. 218). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos.}

Is that true? Is either of those ways correct interpretations of reality in the life of a believer? Is all there is to you mere physical existence and when that’s taken from you, you’re just done? Do you have hope only up to the point of death – but when death comes your hope ends?

Paul is going to correct those – and any other aberrant – ways of thinking by pointing you to the central frame of reference for believers when it comes to the matter of death – the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in verse 14…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Verse 14

1 Thessalonians 4:14 AV 1873

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again,

14 εἰ γὰρ πιστεύομεν ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἀπέθανεν καὶ ἀνέστη,

And we do – don’t we! We believe that Jesus died for our sins on the cross, that he was buried, and that he rose again on the third day. This is the Gospel. It’s what every truly born-again Christian believes. It’s God’s message that alone has any power to save a person.

If  and since you believe the Gospel, then – whether you know it or not – you believe the next assertion…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him

even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

οὕτως καὶ ὁ θεὸς τοὺς κοιμηθέντας διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἄξει σὺν αὐτῷ. 

This is apparently another facet of the ignorance of the Thessalonian believers. They were uncertain of this reality – that God would bring with Jesus believers who had died before Jesus’ coming.

These believers are said once more to be sleeping – a euphemism for death. But actually, it’s also the correct way to think about death for a believer. Because Jesus has made death utterly temporary for those who trust him. Jesus died – he was separated from his Father – so that we never have to die in that sense of permanent separation from God. We will never even see death because Jesus has tasted death in our place. So that our temporary death can be viewed as mere sleep.

Just like waking the kids up from sleep to go to Church Sunday morning, so also will God awaken our departed beloved believers and bring them along to some event.

What event is that? We see that in verse 15. He starts this way…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Verse 15

1 Thessalonians 4:15 AV 1873

15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord

15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord,

15 τοῦτο γὰρ ὑμῖν λέγομεν ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου,

First, Paul needs to assert the authority upon which he’s going to say what’s to follow. What he’s about to say – and what he’s said already – are said by the word of the Lord.

This is prophetic wording. It could be that Paul is hearkening back to Jesus’ statements in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 and Luke 17:20-37 about his future coming. Though I think it’s more likely that Paul received a special word from Jesus directly since some of what Paul’s going to say doesn’t seem to be taught directly in those other passages.

Whatever the case, Paul has an authoritative prophetic word concerning the fact that believers who have died in Christ will be brought with him at some future point.

Here’s that future point and what we need to not be ignorant of concerning it…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord

that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord

ὅτι ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι εἰς τὴν παρουσίαν τοῦ κυρίου

There it is – the coming of the Lord. That’s where God will bring believers who have temporarily died with Jesus. When Jesus comes, those departed believers will be brought with Christ.

But then there’s also this mention of the possibility that not all of us will pass away before Jesus’ coming. There will be some believers who are alive and remain unto that very event.

The apostle Paul categorized himself in that group. He held this great desire that he himself would be alive when Jesus returned. Of course, Paul was taken to be with the Lord before Jesus came. But he leaves us an example as to how we ought to think about Jesus’ coming. We don’t know when Jesus will return. But we’re encouraged to be waiting and watching for his coming. We are to assume that it will happen in our lifetime.

If it doesn’t happen in our lifetime, that’s OK. Because we would simply find ourselves in that other group which Paul described in this passage – this cohort of believers who die before Jesus returns.

Paul now explains the relationship of those two groups when it comes to Jesus’ return – those who die before Christ’s coming and those believers who live up to the point of his return. Those who are alive unto Jesus’ coming…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary shall not prevent them which are asleep

shall not prevent them which are asleep.

οὐ μὴ φθάσωμεν τοὺς κοιμηθέντας· 

That word prevent is defined as “to be beforehand in moving to a position; to come before; to precede.”

{Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 1053). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.}

Part of the comfort for these Thessalonian believers then was that if they lived to the point of Jesus’ return, they would not go before their departed brethren. It seems then that they were generally concerned that their loved ones would somehow miss out on Jesus’ coming. As if death kind of disqualified them from participating in this wonderful and joyful event and that only the believers who were living on earth at the time of Jesus’ return would be included in it.

But that’s not at all the case. In fact, instead of somehow being excluded from the events associated with Jesus’ coming, the resurrection of the dead in Christ will be the first thing to happen, as Paul now goes on to explain in verse 16…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Verse 16

1 Thessalonians 4:16 AV 1873

16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven

16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven

16 ὅτι αὐτὸς ὁ κύριος … καταβήσεται ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ,

Remember that when Jesus was speaking his last words to his disciples, he was taken up into heaven. They watched him until they couldn’t see him anymore due to the clouds. And then those two angels appeared and asked the disciples why they kept looking up into the sky. Because – they said – Jesus will return in the same way in which he went up (Acts 1:6-11).

He ascended up from the earth into heaven. He will descend back down to the earth from heaven. Eventually.

But actually, as we continue studying this passage we’re going to see that Jesus is not represented as touching down on the earth this time. There will be a time when he will touch down on the earth and establish his kingdom from Jerusalem which will last for 1,000 years.

But this return of Jesus under discussion in 1 Thessalonians 4 is portrayed as him being – not on the earth – but in the clouds and in the air. And it stops there – apparently without Jesus coming all the way down to the earth.

He descends from heaven but doesn’t descend all the way to the earth at this point.

When this happens, this event will be accompanied by at least three elements…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary with a shout

with a shout,

ἐν κελεύσματι,

The first element to attend Jesus’ descending from heaven is a shout. This is a shout of authoritative command.

Who’s voice is this and what is the content of the authoritative shouted-command at Jesus’ descent from heaven?

It’s likely that the voice is Jesus’ and the command is for the dead in Christ to rise.

John 5:25-30 records Jesus’ assertion that there’s a time coming when the dead will hear his voice and will come out of their tombs. There he speaks of both the righteous and unrighteous rising – the righteous to life and the unrighteous to condemnation. Not that these two events need to happen at the same time. And indeed we have reason to think that the dead in Christ rise first and the dead apart from Christ don’t rise until the Great White Throne Judgment after the Millennium.

At any rate, the first element involved in Jesus’ return is this shout of authoritative command from Jesus himself aimed at the dead – especially those who have died in Christ – to be raised up.

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary with the voice of the archangel

with the voice of the archangel,

ἐν φωνῇ ἀρχαγγέλου

The second element accompanying Jesus’ return will be the voice of the archangel.

The Bible explicitly identifies only one archangel – or one angel who is apparently over numerous other angels in some sort of hierarchy that we’re not quite aware of. His name is Michael.

[S] In Daniel 12:1, the prophet Daniel was given this message which includes information concerning this archangel Michael…

Daniel 12:1 AV 1873

1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

Daniel 12:1 caps-off a message to Daniel from a heavenly messenger who may have been an appearance of Jesus before his first coming. He gives Daniel this lengthy message of what will happen to the Jews in the latter days (Daniel 10:14).

Then there ensues this lengthy relating of historical events – many of which have already taken place from our vantage point in history. But some have not yet.

Among those events which have not taken place is this one in Daniel 12:1 that caps off the back-and-forth political and military skirmishes described in Daniel 11.

So, I suggest that we take this verse to be sequential.

First, Michael the archangel “stands up.” And to tie that back into our passage in 1 Thessalonians 4, his standing up should be identified by his voice attending the return of Jesus.

Then there’s a time of unparalleled trouble – what we refer to as the Great Tribulation, perhaps. This comes chronologically after the event described in our passage in 1 Thessalonians 4.

But in the midst of the turmoil and distress of the Great Tribulation, God will deliver his people the Jews – at least the ones whom he’s chosen to deliver, whose names are in “the book”.

Lots of mystery wrapped up in all of that.

But there’s a time coming when Jesus himself will give a commanding shout to the dead. They will rise, especially the believers in Christ who have died. Then what we gather from Daniel 12:1 is that this will also be attended by the standing-up and the uttering of the voice of the archangel – probably Michael. And then a great time of tribulation will ensue for the Jews.

Here’s the last element that will attend Jesus’ return…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary and with the trump of God

and with the trump of God:

καὶ ἐν σάλπιγγι θεοῦ,

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:51ff reveals to us a mystery that no one had known up to the point when he communicated it. That mystery was that we shall not all sleep – that is, die. We believers will not all die.

But we will all be changed. In a moment this will happen – with the rapidity of the tiniest movement of your eye. The time it takes for your eye to adjust to a change in lighting.

And this is all going to happen in conjunction with a “last trumpet”. That trumpet will sound, and the dead – in Christ – will be raised incorruptible and imperishable. And we will all be changed.

Those who sleep in Christ will be raised. We know that much from 1 Thessalonians 4. And those of us who are alive and remain will all be changed – which we were not explicitly told here in 1 Thessalonians 4. We will put on immortality and be given imperishable bodies.

Some have pointed out that there seems to be a transition hinted at from the current Church age to a new age in Revelation 4:1. Before Revelation 4:1 we have mention of the Church in the world. But after Revelation 4:1 we don’t. What marks that transition of the Church being here in this world… to it not being mentioned? It’s this matter of a voice like a trumpet saying, “Come up here”. Is that not a picture of what we hear combined together in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4? The idea of a trumpet and a voice of command declaring that the prototypical believer John must “come up” from this earth?

So, Jesus’ return will be accompanied by a shout of command, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God.

And then this will happen…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary and the dead in Christ shall rise first

and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναστήσονται πρῶτον, 

Remember, those believers who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord won’t have any sort of advantage over those who have fallen asleep in Christ. We won’t precede them. Rather, those who die in Christ will be the first to rise, as we also heard in 1 Corinthians 15.

And probably almost immediately after this event, the following events occurs in verse 17…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 4:17 AV 1873

17 then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up

17 then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up

17 ἔπειτα ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι … ἁρπαγησόμεθα

We’ll be caught up.

•           Like a bird snatching up seed (Matthew 13:19)

•           or like the people intending to take Jesus by force to make him their king (John 6:15)

•           or like the Holy Spirit catching up and transporting Philip to some other place (Acts 8:39)

•           or Paul being snatched away and rescued from the violent mob by the Roman authorities (Acts 23:10)

•           or Paul being caught up into the third heavens – into paradise (2 Corinthians 12:2,4) …

So too, those believers who are alive and remain up to the point of Jesus’ return will be caught up from this earth. We’ll be taken up. We’ll be taken away.

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary together with them

together with them

ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖς

And we won’t go alone. We’ll be accompanied by those dead in Christ who have been raised to life once more.

They’re coming from under and from within the earth upwards. We’re coming from above and on top of the earth upwards. And together we will be caught up and snatched away.

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary in the clouds

in the clouds,

ἐν νεφέλαις

This will be our destination – at least temporarily. In the clouds.

Believers – both previously dead and currently living at that point – will be caught up together from the earth when Jesus descends from heaven.

You know where this is. This isn’t a metaphor. It’s not poetic language. We are given every reason to believe that this will happen literally. This is a hope that the apostle Paul and the Lord himself want you to be expecting and nourishing within yourself.

It’s easy to doubt that this is going to happen. So many people have so many opinions as to what’s going to happen concerning this event known as the rapture of the Church. Forget all of the noise. Focus on what God is saying to you here.

Do you think it’s impossible for God to catch you and all the raised believers in Christ up into the clouds? What about his creating this entire universe in a mere six days? What about his literally raising his Son from the dead? Is anything too hard for God?

Your future – whether you die in Christ before his return or you remain until his return – is to be caught up together with all believers in the clouds.

And when you’re brought to those clouds, this is the purpose and this is what awaits you…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary to meet the Lord in the air

to meet the Lord in the air:

εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ κυρίου εἰς ἀέρα·

You’ll finally see the Lord if you remain until his coming. Those who have fallen asleep in Jesus will have already been in his presence since the day of the death of their mortal bodies – since being absent from this body is being present with the Lord.

We will go out to the Lord to greet him. This word “meet” is used of the appropriate response to the bridegroom coming at midnight – “go out to meet him!” (Matthew 25:6). It’s used of the disciples in Rome coming out of their city to meet Paul and his company (Acts 28:15).

Those who hold that believers will go through the Great Tribulation – suffering God’s punitive wrath poured out on this world – and that this rapture will happen at the end of the Tribulation – they point out that the sense of this word seems to be that a delegation comes out to meet an honorable official and then brings that official back to the place from which they originally came.

There’s no doubt that eventually Jesus will return to earth to set up his kingdom. But can there not be a delay between this event in 1 Thessalonians 4 and the return of Jesus to set up his kingdom?

In addition, whereas with the mention of this verb “meet” in Matthew 25 and Acts 28 the context indicates a returning to the place from where they came specifically given – in 1 Thessalonians that idea of returning to the earth isn’t explicitly mentioned at all.

In fact, this is where the apostle Paul ends this idea of meeting the Lord together with all of Christ’s people…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary and so shall we ever be with the Lord

and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

καὶ οὕτως πάντοτε σὺν κυρίῳ ἐσόμεθα

“And thus always with the Lord we will be.”

However long we’re in the clouds with the Lord and his people… or whether we linger there rejoicing for a while or go somewhere else immediately… wherever we are for that seven year period between this coming of Jesus for his Church … and his coming back to earth to establish his kingdom – the main fact of the matter is that we will forever be with the Lord.

Isn’t this what your heart yearns for? To be with the Lord and to be with his people?

Ultimately, I don’t care where and when and for how long.

Don’t get me wrong – determining the order of eschatological events is important. I’ve attempted to do some of that here with the time we’ve had. We don’t want to minimize anything that the Bible calls us to.

But can we also recognize that while Paul knew the order of end-times events, his focus is not on the spectacular and the sensational. His focus is so practical. He’s seeking to comfort believers who lost believing loved ones. And those living believers were concerned that somehow their loved one wouldn’t participate in the joyful celebration that is to be Jesus’ return.

When all is said and done, our ultimate understanding of the return of Jesus and the rapture of his Church ought to be focused on this one goal and prize: to be with the Lord.

These considerations then were intended to bring about the following inner change in those who would otherwise be worried and fearful and discouraged about the state of their believing departed loved one…

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Verse 18

1 Thessalonians 4:18 AV 1873

18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

18 ὥστε παρακαλεῖτε ἀλλήλους ἐν τοῖς λόγοις τούτοις.

The consolation of this world is hopelessness and powerlessness.

The consolation of the Lord is hope and power.

Hope through God’s truth – in this case the truth concerning the resurrection. And power through God’s power to raise both us and those believers whom we love and to bring us to a joyful end.

[S] God’s truth is your only consolation. God’s truth truly gives you comfort in this world of thorny ways.

May the Lord comfort you as you heed his truth from his word.

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Verses 9-12

[S] In the past decade or so, a new term has been coined. I’m talking about the word “adulting”.

The linguistics journal American Speech has offered up these definitions for this word:

1. to behave in an adult manner; engage in activities associated with adulthood

2. to make someone behave like an adult; turn someone into an adult

https://time.com/4361866/adulting-definition-meaning/

The idea comes from the reality that individuals who are classified to be in the Millennial  generation (those born 1980 – ~2000) tend to experience what some call developmental delays. Not that they have a recognized mental or physical disability – but rather that things their parents did at a certain age they might not do for several years later – if at all.

Buying a house, getting married, having children, becoming a supervisor at work, etc. Those are all examples of things that tend to happen later in life for Millennials than for previous generations in this country.

I’m actually officially in that generation and I can attest to some of those dynamics in my own life. As several of you can as well.

And some amount of that stereotype is humorous. But for the Christian, if any of this characterizes you and is a result of personal laziness or a lack of love, then this is one area in which God can help you to be more loving and more responsible. With God’s help you can break free of the Millennial stereotype – whether you fall into that generation or not – and actually start “adulting” in a Christian way without having to mention to others the fact that that’s what you’re doing.

That transition of leaving behind laziness and embracing uncomfortable challenges starts with what we’re going to be considering this evening in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12. So, let’s turn there in our Bibles.

[S] We’re going to see in this passage the Apostle Paul urging his relatively new converts in Thessalonica with two main concepts: their love and their responsibility.

And this is the message for every one of us here: God wants you to grow in your loving actions toward other believers and the outside world by increasing in the area of your personal responsibilities.

So, let’s be challenged by this idea as we read the text and then attempt to explain and understand the content.

Text

1 Thessalonians 4:9–12 AV 1873

9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.

10 And indeed ye do it towards all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;

11 and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;

12 that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

1 Thessalonians 4 9

1 Thessalonians 4:9 AV 1873

9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.

But as touching

9 But as touching

9 Περὶ δὲ

Verse 9 begins in Greek with two words – that are found elsewhere in Paul’s letters – to indicate that the apostle was responding to certain questions that were asked of him by the recipients of his letter.

You see this phrase 6 times in the book of 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:1,25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1, 12) where it delineates Paul’s answers to several questions that the Corinthians had sent to him.

For this letter to the Thessalonians, it’s certainly possible that as Timothy left the Thessalonian believers in order to go back to Paul in Corinth with Silas that those believers sent some questions back to Paul via Timothy.

Or it could just be that Timothy saw some areas of need in that church when he visited them and he mentioned those needs to Paul who then felt compelled to address those situations.

Whatever the case, the first question or issue that was addressed – even though it wasn’t introduced by the typical Greek phrase we’ve been talking about – was in verses 3-8 concerning sexual purity.

Now, the second issue that Paul needs to address with these folks is the matter of brotherly love and responsibility.

In the next section we’ll see him address the issue of those who have died before the Lord Jesus returned. That will end this chapter.

And then at the beginning of the fifth chapter of this letter, we’ll see Paul address the matter of the Day of the Lord for these believers. It appears that’s where the answering of questions ceases in this letter.

So, here in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12, we’re witnessing Paul’s response to the second issue that was brought to his attention concerning this church in Thessalonica.

brotherly love

brotherly love

τῆς φιλαδελφίας

It’s this matter of brotherly love.

This is one word in Greek that contains the concepts of “love” and “brother”.

In this case, the term “brother” is metaphorical. We’re not talking about loving your literal physical family members – though if those family members are saved, they’re included in this concept.

Rather, this idea of brotherly love in this passage is speaking of loving your fellow Christians – who are viewed by God as now being of the same family as you are.

Many of us are not related by blood in this room – we don’t share the same lineage. But we actually are related by blood – by the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for us so that we now share the same Father and the same Brother, our Lord Jesus.

Jesus loved us enough to die for us so that our sins would be forgiven. And since our shared Lord and Savior loved each of us that much, we instinctively now love one another.

Having this brotherly love for another Christian involves honoring and preferring them (Rom 12:10). It’s something that God wants to be continuing in our lives – and not just be a one-time thing, but it’s rather something to continue to strive after (Hebrews 13:1). It’s a quality that’s to be unfeigned – you shouldn’t have to pretend to love your fellow-believers. It needs to be genuine. We’re not to be loving our brethren to their faces and then stabbing them in the back (1 Peter 1:22). And this love is also something that you can grow in – you add this quality and action and feeling to your growing godliness (2 Peter 1:7).

So, this matter of having and then demonstrating to other believers this genuine love is no small matter in your Christian life. It deserves some real attention and work from you.

But amazingly, Paul indicates to these Thessalonian believers that he really doesn’t feel all that compelled to say a whole lot about it to them…

ye need not that I write unto you

ye need not that I write unto you:

οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε γράφειν ὑμῖν,

Like a healthy person doesn’t need to seek a doctor, by-and-large, these Thessalonians generally didn’t need to be instructed on how to love one another.

•           After all, Paul and Silas and Timothy could recall constantly the love of these believers that resulted in concrete actions for one another (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           When Timothy returned to Paul and Silas from Thessalonica, the love of these believers is one thing he was very glad to report on (1 Thessalonians 3:6).

•           And yet, this was one matter which Paul ended the 3rd chapter of this letter with – wishing to God that the love of these believers – as present and active as it was – that it would increase and abound (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

So, actually, it seems like Paul maybe did need to write to them about this love in order to help them increase and abound in it. And certainly, there’s an aspect to this where Paul actually is writing to them about this matter. I mean, that’s what he’s doing in this section here in verses 9-12.

So, why does Paul say that he doesn’t need to write anything to them about brotherly love? It’s not because they’re perfect at doing it. It’s because God himself had already taught – and was at that very moment teaching – them about this matter of loving one’s fellow-believers…

for ye yourselves are taught of God

for ye yourselves are taught of God

αὐτοὶ γὰρ ὑμεῖς θεοδίδακτοί ἐστε

When were you taught this truth by God? That you ought to love one another?

This term that’s translated into English as “taught of God” is actually one Greek word. Literally, the Thessalonians were God-taught concerning this matter of brotherly love.

Isaiah 54:13 held out hope for the nation of Israel that one day when God would turn to them and be gracious to them once more – that all of their children would be taught by the Lord.

And Jesus picked up on this in John 6:45 where he was responding to those who thought he was just a mere human teacher – the carpenter’s son. And he quotes that verse from Isaiah 54:13.

What do you think his point was?

Isn’t this man who’s teaching us just the son of that carpenter, Joseph? – they said.

He responds – Look, the prophets foretold that you would be taught by God. And if the Father has given you to me, you come to me and I teach you.

What’s his point there? He himself is God. The God who would teach his people, Israel.

So, has Jesus taught you? Is he still teaching you through his word and his Spirit?

If the Father has given you to Jesus then you know he has both taught and will continue to teach you.

And one of the areas in which he did and does that is in this matter of how you think about and feel toward and act concerning your fellow Christians – your fellow believers in Christ…

to love one another

to love one another. 

εἰς τὸ ἀγαπᾶν ἀλλήλους· 

This is the new command that Jesus gave to his disciples – that we would love one another just as he loved us (John 13:34; 15:12,17).

If you do this, all people will know that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ (John 13:35).

To do this is to fulfill the whole law. All of God’s commands and precepts – at least as they relate to how you interact with people – boil down to this one command – that you would love one another (Romans 13:8). This is actually your debt to others. You owe this kind of love to your brethren.

The wonderful freedom that is yours through the gospel is given to you – not so that you would use that freedom to fulfill your own lusts and desires – but that you would genuinely love your fellow believers (Galatians 5:13).

None of this is news to anyone who’s been walking with Christ for very long at all. This is the message that you’ve heard from the beginning (1 John 3:11).

When the apostle John summarizes all of what God wants from you, it’s twofold: first of all to believe in the name of Jesus and second to love one another (1 John 3:23).

So, Paul the apostle acknowledges that there’s no need for him or anyone to write to the Thessalonians concerning how they ought to love their fellow-believers – because God himself has taught and is teaching them that very thing.

And apparently, the Thessalonians were – in some ways – doing a fine job of it…

1 Thessalonians 4 10

1 Thessalonians 4:10 AV 1873

10 And indeed ye do it towards all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;

And indeed ye do it towards all the brethren which are in all Macedonia

10 And indeed ye do it towards all the brethren which are in all Macedonia:

10 καὶ γὰρ ποιεῖτε αὐτὸ εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς τοὺς ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ.

So, not only were the Thessalonians taught by God to love one another – but they were actually doing it.

They were doing it not just to one another in the city of Thessalonica. But their love for the brethren was spreading out into the entire surrounding region – which would have included Philippi and Berea at least.

This would be the equivalent of someone telling our church here that it’s evident to them that we are loving all the believers who are in all Wisconsin. I can’t think of a single church that I would ever have thought to describe in those terms – of loving all of the believers in their state or region. Maybe you can.

I don’t tend to think in those terms. I tend to think in terms of a church’s sending out missionaries. Or their preaching. Or their soundness as it pertains to lifestyle and doctrine and worship.

No doubt, the apostle was concerned about all of those matters. But he pinpoints here their love that was expanding beyond their locality and into the general surrounding region.

But what did that love actually look like? How would you know if a church is even close to reaching what the Thessalonians were doing in terms of brotherly love in their region?

We already know from the first chapter of this letter that the Thessalonian believers became examples to all of the Macedonian believers (1 Thessalonians 1:7). God’s word sounded out throughout Macedonia and even beyond that region (1 Thessalonians 1:8). So, maybe they were loving their fellow-Macedonians in the sense that they were proclaiming the gospel and mentoring and discipling new believers throught the region.

Perhaps, the Thessalonians were being hospitable to visiting believers who happened to be traveling through their city on business or for whatever other purpose. Maybe that’s how they were demonstrating love to others in that region.

The love of these Thessalonians impacted what they did with their money and how they provided for other believers in their need as well as providing for missionaries like Paul in their need.

Paul said in Romans 15:26 that it pleased the believers in Macedonia – including the Thessalonians, no doubt – to contribute to the needs of the believers all the way in Jerusalem. Their generosity and their love extended that far.

Paul boasted to the church in Corinth (which was south of Macedonia in the region called Achaia) that the believers north of them were given grace by God to love by giving generously – probably again to the saints in Jerusalem. And they did this even though they themselves were enduring a severe ordeal of suffering and were extremely poor (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

Paul continued telling the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 11:9 that believers from Macedonia – surely including those from Thessalonica – supplied all of his need when he was in Achaia ministering to that church in Corinth. The Corinthian believers should have been providing for Paul while he was there. But they didn’t. The believers in Macedonia came down to him and in love they provided him what he needed to continue to minister there in that city.

So, this last aspect of financial giving is likely the aspect of love that the Thessalonians were so famous for. They generously gave of their own resources to see the gospel advanced and the needs of God’s people provided for.

Is that what our church is known for? Could it be? Could we become notorious for our love to other believers by providing their needs for the sake of gospel advancement?

In some ways, perhaps we could say that our church is already doing some of this. We support numerous missionaries and have taken on a few more since our family has been here just over a year and a half. That happens through your generous giving – your brotherly love.

But if you were to be able to ask Paul the apostle if what you’re doing is enough, here’s how he might respond…

but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more

but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; 

παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, περισσεύειν μᾶλλον, 

We’ve already seen Paul beseeching the Thessalonians to increase more and more in verse 1 of this very chapter.

Just like Paul and Silas and Timothy acknowledged back there that the Thessalonians were indeed living lives that pleased God – but that they needed to do more and more of that kind of living, so now they’re zeroing-in on this matter of the Thessalonians brotherly love. They’re recognizing that these believers do indeed love their fellow-Christians – in word and deed. But they need to do it more and more. They need to get better and better at it.

The authors of this letter then go on to fill-out what they mean by this desire for the Thessalonians to abound more and more in brotherly love in verse 11…

1 Thessalonians 4 11

1 Thessalonians 4:11 AV 1873

11 and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;

and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands

11 and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands,

11 καὶ φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν καὶ πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια καὶ ἐργάζεσθαι ταῖς χερσὶν ὑμῶν,

Paul describes this increasing brotherly love in three ways.

1.         Studying to be quiet

2.         Doing your own business

3.         Working with your own hands

Let’s take those one-at-a-time.

and that ye study to be quiet

What does it mean to study to be quiet?

This word “study” refers to making something your ambition or to aspire toward something.

•           Like Paul aspiring or making it his ambition to go and preach the gospel where Christ had not been named (Romans 15:20).

•           Or Paul’s aspiring and making it his ambition to live his life in such a way as to please the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:9).

So, the Thessalonians were to aspire or make it their ambition …  to “be quiet”.

The quietness enjoined on them is focused on social quietness. Paul was forbidding them from disturbing the peace – both in the assembly of believers and in the surrounding community.

It’s not a sign of brotherly love to be always agitated about something and spreading that agitation to others.

And personally, one big area of potential agitation is politics. Because everything seems to be political these days in our country, it’s hard to escape this potential agitation in your life.

Some Christians allow themselves to be carried away with their inner angst over the political situation – to the point where they’re taking to the streets and marching and demonstrating and protesting.

If Paul the apostle – and ultimately the Lord himself – were to confront these individuals about their actions, he would admonish them to stop. This is not brotherly love.

But to take in all of the social media and all of the news media and all of the political commentary – and to come out of it without being stirred up into a rage takes work. That’s what Paul already recognized in this passage. He said that this needs to be your study – your aspiration – your ambition.

Some people’s – and even some Christians’ – ambition is to create a stir. Apostolic teaching admonishes you to make it your ambition to live quietly.

This is part of loving the brethren. As you’re not stirred up against others – even believers – you will be able to better increase more and more in this area of brotherly love.

and to do your own business

The second way in which your brotherly love is to increase is in this matter of doing your own business.

It’s not love to be overly involved in other people’s business. God wants his people to be engaged generally in their own things.

Obviously, the Lord wants believers to be concerned for one another and what’s going on in the lives of their brethren. But idle meddling is not what’s called for.

Again, social media can challenge our resolve on this matter. It’s so easy to snoop and spy on others digitally without anyone’s knowledge. It’s so easy for minutes to turn into hours as you’re attempting to keep up with the Jones’ – maybe even the Jones’ of this church! But what happens to your own business as you’re feeling the pull to be constantly connected to other people’s digital lives?

That’s not brotherly love. The Lord wants your love for your fellow-Christians to grow – in part – by letting them have their privacy and space while positively you attend to your own business.

and to work with your own hands

Closely-linked to doing your own business is this matter of working with your own hands.

This wasn’t merely apostolic teaching – as important as that is. It was also apostolic personal example. Paul told the Corinthian church that he did this very thing – he worked with his own hands (1 Corinthians 4:12). Paul also commanded this activity to the Ephesian church – especially for those who used to steal for their living before trusting Christ (Ephesians 4:28).

There are a few alternatives to working with your own hands that would allow for your continued survival in ancient Greece.

•           The first I just mentioned – stealing. That’s ultimately not very sustainable.

•           Another option – as a believer – would be to presume upon the kindness of other believers and live by means of your brethren constantly providing your sustenance. After all, we just considered how generous Macedonian believers were. Generosity can be abused. It’s a possibility that a combination of laziness and a legitimate – if not extreme – hope for Jesus’ return caused some of the Thessalonian believers to stop working because they had hoped that Jesus’ return would be very soon. So, what’s the point of working?? And when those people started to go hungry, they perhaps approached their generous fellow-believers for assistance.

•           Yet another option that would have been available to survive in ancient Greece would be the lesser-known patron-client relationship. In that system, the patron was a wealthy individual in society who would pay or feed clients as reimbursement for the client’s support in various ways – showing up in the morning at the patron’s house to demonstrate just how important this patron was and how many people he was supporting, for example. The clients would also be obliged to support the patron in the public political sphere by voting for them in the demos or public assembly. (Green)

Whatever the Thessalonians were struggling with – and maybe they were struggling with all three temptations I just mentioned, and maybe others as well – Paul is admonishing them that this is not the way to live the Christian life and to love your brethren.

Stealing, free-loading, and the client-patron relationship – none of these is a loving way to live.

And the Thessalonians actually already knew this…

as we commanded you

as we commanded you; 

καθὼς ὑμῖν παρηγγείλαμεν

Paul had already commanded these believers about these matters. But apparently they needed a reminder – likely because some of them were still stuck in their bad habits.

This word “commanded” is related to a word in verse 2 of this chapter that started out this section of exhortation. There too Paul reminded these believers of what he had already commanded them.

I think we get a progression in our minds here.

1.         When Paul was actually with the Thessalonians, he commanded them these things.

2.         Now that he’s heard back from Timothy about how the Thessalonian believers are doing, he’s now taking the opportunity to once more remind them of his commands.

3.         And then we see in 2 Thessalonians that Paul gets a little more direct with the believers who still have not submitted themselves to act according to the commands that Paul gave them with the authority of Jesus Christ.

Now, there was a definite purpose – and still is today – of believers living this way – of aspiring to lead quiet lives, of attending to your own business, and of working with your own hands.

Here it is…

1 Thessalonians 4 12

1 Thessalonians 4:12 AV 1873

12 that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without

12 that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without,

12 ἵνα περιπατῆτε εὐσχημόνως πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω

To walk honestly is to live in an appropriate manner.

It’s the same concept that we find in the command in 1 Corinthians 14:40 to do all things decently and in order.

It’s the opposite of practices of dark living like carousing, drunkenness, sexual immorality, sensuality, discord, and jealousy (Romans 13:13).

There’s an appropriateness or decency or decorum to being a hard worker who minds his own business – rather than causing stirs everywhere you go and being inordinately involved in the affairs of others and relying on others to support your irresponsible behavior and lifestyle.

And Paul wanted the appropriateness and decency of these ancient believers to be visible to those outside of the believing community. That’s the reference to “them that are without”. That’s not referring to those who lack something. It’s those who – from the perspective of born-again saved individuals – are outside of that experience and the community that goes along with it.

We don’t do our righteous deeds before men with the purpose of being seen by them and being praised by them. But we do need to do our good works before men with the purpose that they would glorify our Father in heaven.

This is one such area where we can bring glory to God – as outsiders see our appropriate and decent lives that are characterized by quietness and peace and diligence.

But there’s an even more practical aspect to this way of living…

and that ye may have lack of nothing

and that ye may have lack of nothing.

καὶ μηδενὸς χρείαν ἔχητε.

It doesn’t take an advanced degree to figure out that working is the way to provide for your needs. If you have needs, you need to work honestly and diligently. God has ordained that your needs be met by your diligent labor.

The phrasing in the Greek of this statement is mechanically, “and that you all may be having need of nothing”. Whether or not Paul the apostle intended this, it’s interesting to note that he started this section that we’ve been studying tonight with a note to the effect that the Thessalonians had no need for anyone to write to them about brotherly love. Now he ends this portion by encouraging them to continue to be without need – this time in the physical realm.

So, Paul says in effect: You currently have no need that anyone write to you about loving your fellow-believers. Therefore, to continue to have no need – even in this realm of material provisions – follow my instructions.

God wants you to grow in your loving actions toward other believers and toward the outside world – by increasing in the area of your personal responsibilities.

[S] And so, may the Lord help each of us to increase in our brotherly love by growing in this area of our personal responsibility.

1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Verses 1-8

How would you characterize the American church right now in one word?

•           Maybe “fractured” comes to mind. So many denominations and groups. So little agreement among those groups as to what God actually wants from us.

•           How about “worldly”? The attitudes, lifestyles, and worship of the members and leaders of churches can tend to distract from truly worshipping God and following his will for your life.

•           “Lukewarm’, perhaps describes the church. How many of God’s professing people are really interested in doing his will in our lives – to the point that we’re actually doing it?

These considerations lead to a question of what exactly God’s will is.

We don’t want to be needlessly fractured – we want to know what God’s will is and – along with God’s people – do it. We don’t want to be worldly – we need to rather do what God wants us to do. We don’t want to be lukewarm – we need to know God’s will and do it.

What is God’s will for you?

The passage before us this evening in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 is going to tell you what God’s will is for you.

Here it is.

God’s Will: Your (Bodily) Holiness

Let’s read the text and see this exposition of God’s will for you in the details of the passage.

The Text

1 Thessalonians 4:1–8 AV 1873

1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

4 that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

5 not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

6 that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

The Message

Paul begins here a new section of this letter to the Thessalonian believers in chapter 4, verse 1. It’s emphasis is on exhortation and instruction.

And here’s again how it starts…

1 Thessalonians 4 1

1 Thessalonians 4:1 AV 1873

1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

Furthermore then

Furthermore then

Λοιπὸν οὖν,

I mentioned in our last message how this word translated as “furthermore” here is used by Paul in several of his letters to indicate a transition into “final” materials in his letters.

Oftentimes, in Paul’s other letters, he follows a doctrinal or teaching section by an exhortative section where he presses upon his listeners what they ought to do with that knowledge that he’s just imparted to them.

But 1 Thessalonians is different even as it’s similar to that typical pattern. In 1 Thessalonians, the opening section of chapters 1-3 has not been doctrinal so much as it’s been relational.

Nevertheless, as Paul opens into this new section, he’s borrowing from that first section. Based on the relationship that Paul had with those Thessalonian believers, he can now speak into their lives concerning areas that could be potentially uncomfortable or even controversial – like the area of sexual purity.

And these matters can be controversial and difficult to discuss even among believers…

brethren

brethren,

ἀδελφοί,

And yet, I think what gives anyone who’s attempting to reach out in ministry to others any hope of real change taking place, is if that person to whom you’re reaching out has been genuinely born-again. If that person is a brother or sister in Christ.

That’s whom Paul is addressing here, after all. He’s not instructing the lost community in Thessalonica. He’s addressing the believers – at least all who profess themselves to believe in Jesus and to have been truly saved through faith in his sacrifice for their sins.

And here’s what Paul was doing to those believers

we beseech you … and exhort you

we beseech you, … and exhort you

ἐρωτῶμεν ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλοῦμεν

You can sense that there’s seriousness and urgency about this. Beseeching and exhorting are directional activities. They’re intended to influence the thoughts and behaviors of others.

If the Thessalonians were to reject what Paul and Silas and Timothy were communicating to them in this section, you can imagine that Paul and his group wouldn’t be happy. In fact, they’d likely feel the need to follow-up and offer further corrections and even rebuke where necessary.

And the importance of what Paul is about to say is ratcheted-up as we consider that the content we’re about to receive isn’t just human words. These words have the authority of our Lord Jesus…

by the Lord Jesus

by the Lord Jesus,

ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ,

This beseeching and exhortation then – and the content of what we’re going to be hearing – they’re not the actions or words of just a man – or even a group of people. These words are in accordance with the heart of Jesus Christ – our Savior and our Lord and our God.

Well, what is it that Paul and his company – and Jesus himself – want the Thessalonians to do? Jump to the end of this verse…

so ye would abound more and more

so ye would abound more and more.

ἵνα περισσεύητε μᾶλλον. 

Paul and Jesus himself want the Thessalonians – and us – to abound more and more.

The question then is – in what way or ways are these believers – and you and I by extension – to abound more and more? …

how ye ought to walk and to please God

how ye ought to walk and to please God,

τὸ πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν καὶ ἀρέσκειν θεῷ,

These Thessalonians already knew how to live in a manner that was pleasing to God.

Did you know that it’s possible and indeed necessary to please God in your Christian life?

Now, does your obedience save you? No, it’s doesn’t.

But does your obedience – once you’re saved – please God? Some would dispute this. But Paul is clear. Yes, it does. Your obedience and growth in grace pleases God once you’re saved.

How did these Thessalonians know how to live in such a way that pleased God? …

that as ye have received of us

that as ye have received of us

ἵνα καθὼς παρελάβετε παρʼ ἡμῶν

The way that the Thessalonian believers knew how to live lives that pleased God is that someone came along and told them.

We remember from Acts 1:1-9 that Paul and Silas gave the folks the gospel. Some Jews believed and a number of Greeks did, too. And as the Lord was saving them, Paul and Silas would come alongside them and instruct them on what the Lord wanted for them concerning their new life in Christ. That’s discipleship – and it’s something every Christian needs.

Now, the Thessalonians could have rejected what Paul and Silas were telling them with Jesus’s authority. But they didn’t. They received those instructions from Paul and Silas. This indicates that the Thessalonians themselves had already bought-into most of what they had been instructed.

In fact, there are numerous ancient Greek copies of the New Testament that include the phrase “just as you are indeed walking” right here – indicating that Paul and Silas are generally pleased with the level of obedience of these newer believers.

And whether that particular phrase was actually in the original text or not, the result is the same. These Thessalonian believers had heard instruction on how to live their lives in such a way as pleases God – and they accepted it. They received it. And they – by-and-large – obeyed it.

But sanctification is never complete in the life of a believer. And so, that’s why Paul needs to exhort and beseech them – with the authority of Jesus – to abound more and more in living lives that are pleasing to God.

And because of this past instruction that they welcomingly received, the Thessalonians couldn’t claim ignorance on these matters. Paul says, …

1 Thessalonians 4 2

1 Thessalonians 4:2 AV 1873

2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

For ye know what commandments we gave you

For ye know what commandments we gave you

οἴδατε γὰρ τίνας παραγγελίας ἐδώκαμεν ὑμῖν

Once again, this is not some new thing that Paul is instructing the Thessalonians. Those believers themselves could call to mind and recollect the commands that Paul gave to them.

And these commands – or instructions or orders or charges – these were vital to the Thessalonians living in such a way as pleased God – to connect this back to verse 1.

This reality of following commands in order to live lives that please God might seem foreign to you. And it should be – if you’re talking about salvation. We are not saved by keeping commands. We are saved by trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s clear from Scripture.

But equally clear should be in our minds that there are certain instructions and charges and orders from Scripture that we must keep – after the Lord saves us – if we are to live lives that God can look at with a smile.

But we’re not to obey just any old commandments that someone can think up. Once again, these commandments that are good and right and necessary for you to obey have as their source-of-authority the one who bled on a tree and who had your vile sins placed on himself – so that he could save you from sin both now and forever. We obey commandments given by this one…

by the Lord Jesus

by the Lord Jesus.

διὰ τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ. 

But what commandments are you supposed to obey – because they came from your Savior – and from those who are clearly following him in giving you his commandments?

That’s what our Bibles – and especially our New Testaments – are filled with. But in this context, these commandments are what the rest of the letter of 1 Thessalonians is going to tell you about.

Verses 3-6 contain the first section of these commandments that were given ultimately by the Lord Jesus through his faithful servants. So, let’s look at verse 3 to start in to these commandments…

1 Thessalonians 4 3

1 Thessalonians 4:3 AV 1873

3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

For this is the will of God

For this is the will of God,

τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ,

So, the commandments that – if we follow them – cause us to live lives that are pleasing to God – these are described as the will of God. In other words, God is not ambivalent as to whether or not you obey them.

He has a will for your life. And if you resist that will – which is expressed to you largely in the form of commandments – you’re not going to be pleasing God with your life – the life he purchased with the blood of his own Son.

So, what is God’s overarching will for your life as a believer in Jesus Christ?…

even your sanctification

even your sanctification,

ὁ ἁγιασμὸς ὑμῶν,

For something to be sanctified, it needs to be set apart from other things. When you use only particular plates and cups and silverware for special occasions, you have sanctified those objects for a special use.

And that’s what God is doing for you. He has set you apart for himself. He has saved you out of the world in which you used to be quite comfortable as you were satisfying your lusts and living for yourself and your pleasures. And he’s actively working to keep you apart from the world and to be more and more set apart for him – in every area of your life.

The area which Paul needs to address with these Thessalonian believers is the area of their sexual purity…

that ye should abstain from fornication

that ye should abstain from fornication:

ἀπέχεσθαι ὑμᾶς ἀπὸ τῆς πορνείας, 

This is God’s will for you. There’s no question about it. To abstain from fornication is God’s will for every believer.

Fornication (πορνεια) is a fairly broad word that can describe any sort of sexual activity outside of God’s prescribed boundaries.

Is sexual activity and expression outside the limits that God places on humans a problem in our day? It absolutely is.

In fact, in our current culture you get the idea that this matter of deviant sexual activity and expression is practically the single characteristic that defines most people.

To listen to the media and the great influencers of our world, you’d think this is nearly the only issue that anyone is thinking about these days.

Think of the practices that our culture is trying to make us all believe are normal:

•           Casual sexual encounters

•           Intimacy before marriage

•           Homosexuality

•           Transgenderism

•           In New York you have a parent trying to marry his or her adult child and the courts need to decide on whether they can do that or not.

•           There was even a woman recently trying to marry her chandelier. No joke. It’s absurd.

But this is what happens when there are no boundaries. And by-and-large – in our day – there are no absolute boundaries for anyone when it comes to sexual activity and expression.

But there are boundaries in God’s mind. And therefore, there are boundaries for you. The God who saved your helpless soul is demanding of you that you abstain from sexual immortality. These practices of the lost world around you are not to characterize your life.

Well, the concepts of sanctification and of immorality are sort of broad and perhaps nebulous. And so, Paul continues in verse 4 by narrowing-in on what he and the Lord himself are commanding these believers. …

1 Thessalonians 4 4

1 Thessalonians 4:4 AV 1873

4 that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

that every one of you should know

that every one of you should know

εἰδέναι ἕκαστον ὑμῶν

To know this reality described in this verse, then, is the will of God for you.

And each one of you ought to – needs to – know this.

What is it that you need to know in order to fulfill God’s will for you in this life? …

how to possess his vessel

how to possess his vessel

τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σκεῦος κτᾶσθαι

This is by far the most difficult aspect of this passage to understand.

We have the matter of what this “vessel” happens to be. And we also have the issue of how does one “possess” whatever this vessel is.

In regard to the vessel, the two more popular ways of interpreting this word are:

1.         That the vessel is speaking of one’s wife. Peter in 1 Peter 3:7 refers to the wife as the “weaker vessel”.

2.         The other option is that the vessel here is referring your body or physical person.

•           Paul in Romans 9:21-23 speaks of people as vessels created by a metaphorical potter which symbolizes God. Some of those vessels – or people / their bodies – are fitted for destruction, while others are characterized as receiving Gods mercy. But the people and their bodies are in view.

•           Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7 that we have the treasure of knowing the gospel in our “earthen vessels” – in ourselves – our bodies.

•           Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:20-21 that if he or anyone else purifies himself from false teaching and ungodly living that he will be a vessel fit to be used by the master.

So, the vessel in this passage is either going to be one’s wife or one’s own body. Let’s reserve judgement until we figure out what it is to posses this vessel – whatever it is.

To posses something in the New Testament usage of that word could refer to three different realities:

1.         To the act of acquiring something.

•           Jesus told his disciples whom he sent out to not acquire gold or silver for their journey while he was with them (Matthew 10:9).

•           Judas acquired a field with the money he was paid to betray Jesus (Acts 1:18).

•           Simon the Sorcerer wanted to acquire the gift of the Holy Spirit with money (Acts 8:20).

•           Some Romans actually acquired their Roman citizenship with a great deal of money (Acts 22:28).

2.         The state of owning something that you already acquired.

•           The self-righteous pharisee let God know in his prayer that he was so good that he gave tithes – or 10% – of all that he owned (Luke 18:12).

3.         And the last way this word can be used in the New Testament is the aspect of preserving or protecting something.

•           Jesus says of those Jewish believers alive during the Great Tribulation before he returns that by their patience they will possess their souls (Luke 21:19). That is, as they endure all of the hardships and trials and persecutions presented to them, they will guard or protect or preserve their life, spiritually-speaking.

So, when the New Testament speaks of “possessing” something, it’s referring to acquiring something, already owning something, or protecting something. Which is it in 1 Thessalonians 4:4?

Well, if the vessel in mind here is a wife, then the idea of acquiring her would make some sense. But is Paul really speaking of finding a mate in this passage?

Is Paul telling these believers in effect: “You all know what we commanded you by Jesus’ authority. This is God’s will for you – that you be holy and stay away from immorality and that you acquire or own your own wife in a holy way.”?

Or is he saying something like this: “You all know what we commanded you by Jesus’ authority. This is God’s will for you – that you be holy and stay away from immorality and that you learn how to guard and protect your own person – your own body in a holy way.”?

Well, do you think that there’s a sense in which both of these are truly God’s will?

•           Does God want you to marry the right one?

•           Does God want you to deal with the one you marry in a holy way?

•           Does God want you to control your own body with all of its passions that so easily tend toward immorality?

I think that the answer is yes to all of those questions. But if you were to choose one of those options that would include the others, I think that the broader picture in view here is to guard and protect your own body.

This then applies to both women and men. Paul is broadly speaking of abstaining from immorality – and he’s urging you to do so by learning something. This has to be learned. You have to learn how to guard and protect your body – and not just your body, but your whole person. You have to treat yourself carefully. God demands of you that in regard to the temptation to slide into immorality, that you guard yourself…

in sanctification and honour

in sanctification and honour;

ἐν ἁγιασμῷ καὶ τιμῇ, 

Your treatment of yourself – both the you that others can see, as well as the internal you of your heart and mind – that it be done in holiness and honor.

•           This holiness is God’s will for you as we heard in verse 3 (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

•           It’s what God has called you to according to verse 7 (1 Thessalonians 4:7).

•           And Paul will go on and tell these believers in his second letter to them (2 Thessalonians 2:13) that this sanctification was actually part of their salvation. God chose you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and faith in the truth.

So, there’s a real sense in which you are already made totally holy in God’s sight when you trusted Christ. And because of that, God is expecting you to act that out. You need to cooperate with what God has already in fact done for you. He has made you holy in reality. So, be holy – in reality!

Just like God has already sanctified you in reality and you need to work out that sanctification in your present life,… so too you have been called to honor by God. Therefore, live honorably!

We already touched on this, but God compares you to a vessel for honor in Romans 9. God has plans to honor you throughout eternity. In the presence of your almighty Creator and your all-loving Savior – you will be shown honor for ages of eternal ages with absolutely no end.

… And you’re going to use this body – your eyes, your hands, your heart, your mind – you’re going to use those members of your vessel … for dishonorable purposes?

•           You’re going to clothe yourself in such a way that others look and lust and dishonor both you and themselves?

•           You’re going to keep watching that video on that website even though you know that it’s not honorable in God’s sight?

God has called you to greater things, brothers and sisters. He’s called you to manage your body – every part and aspect of it – in a holy and honorable way. This is his will for you. This is what Jesus Christ your loving merciful Savior commands you to do.

And the alternative to living this way is not what would characterize true believers in Jesus Christ. Actually, this is the way you were before Jesus saved you. So, Paul commands you negatively in verse 5 to possess your vessel…

1 Thessalonians 4 5

1 Thessalonians 4:5 AV 1873

5 not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

not in the lust of concupiscence

not in the lust of concupiscence,

μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας

This is not the will of God for you. God doesn’t want his people managing their bodies in this manner – in the lust of concupiscence.

Both of these words are found in Colossians 3:5 surrounded by other words that have reference to sexual sin – like fornication (πορνεια) and uncleanness. These are matters to be put to death in the life of a believer. And this guidance is given in light of the fact that Jesus is coming again and when he does you will be with him in glory. “Therefore, … ” – Paul says there – put these evil practices to death in your body.

This word “lust” is describing the experiencing of a strong desire – and in this case, it’s an evil desire. It’s what Paul in Romans says comes upon people and societies who have rejected God. They reject God, so God rejects them by giving them up to “vile affections” or “dishonorable lusts” (Romans 1:26). The dishonorable lusts that Paul mentions there focuses on homosexuality, which he says is against nature.

In our text, this word “lust” is qualified with this other word “concupiscence”. This is a desire for something forbidden or just inordinate.

•           It’s like how Paul recalled in Romans 7:7 that he would not have even have known that coveting (our word) was wrong except the law of God told him, “You shall not covet”.

•           This is what draws you away into sin – this lust or concupiscence (James 1:14).

•           But we praise the Lord – because, as Peter tells us, we have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Peter 1:4). The world is corrupt on account of or because of this concupiscence or lust. But believers have escape that through God’s divine power and everything he’s given us that pertains to life and godliness – through knowing him – through the exceeding precious promises he’s given to us.

So, this is not the will of God for you. This is not apostolic instruction for you – that you would manage your body according to these inclinations of lust and concupiscence.

Why not? Because this way of living characterizes lost people – not believers. …

even as the Gentiles

even as the Gentiles

καθάπερ καὶ τὰ ἔθνη

This kind of immoral behavior is expected of Gentiles – that is, everyone in this world who is not a Jew.

Peter admonishes us in 1 Peter 4:3 that you have had plenty of time in your old life before Christ to live out the lusts of the Gentiles.

What kind of lusts characterize Gentiles? He names debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, carousing, drinking bouts, and all sorts of idolatry. That’s how Gentiles are characterized as living.

Now, what’s so wonderful to note is that Paul here in 1 Thessalonians is writing  – not to a mainly Jewish audience. You’ll remember that a few Jews in Thessalonica were saved back in Acts 17. But the predominant group of individuals who were saved was composed of Gentiles.

But it’s like Paul here is separating them out of that category. They were Gentiles. They weren’t Jews and they still aren’t Jews. But now they’re not really Gentiles anymore, either. Paul’s saying, “Don’t be like the Gentiles!” But he’s not telling them to be Jews.

So, we get this concept from passages like this that in this world there are now three groups into which God categorizes all peoples. It used to be two – Jew and Gentile. And there still is a tiny minority of Jews in this world and there will be until Jesus returns. Then there’s a majority of earth’s population who are Gentiles. And then there’s now this third group of humanity in God’s sight – the Church.

And that’s you!

When we came back from pandemic lockdowns last year, we were singing this song called “We Are Your Church”.

And at the end of the refrain we affirmed this – “We are your people. We are your church.” We – the Church – are God’s people. We know God.

But there was a time in your life when you didn’t. And the sad reality is that all of those Gentiles – out of whom you came – are still in that predicament. …

which know not God

which know not God:

τὰ μὴ εἰδότα τὸν θεόν, 

So, this managing of one’s body in a way that isn’t characterized by sanctification and honor – but is rather characterized by lust and concupiscence – it’s expected of people who don’t know God.

This is how your neighbors live. This is how you used to live before Christ to one extent or another.

Paul says in Galatians 4:8 that before you knew God personally you served other gods which really aren’t gods at all. But now you do know God – and yet your temptation is to turn back to those weak and beggarly elements – those idols from your former life. And in the case of the churches in Galatia, numerous of them were voluntarily and willingly back in slavery to those old things. And the apostle Paul’s concern for people like that who claim to be Christians and yet have turned back to their old idols is that maybe his labor for them was in vain. Maybe they are not the Church. Maybe they’re lost. Because that’s how they’re acting.

You – on the other hand – know better. You know God’s will for you to be sanctified and to live a holy life. You know how that relates to the area of sexual activities and expressions in handling your body. This is God’s will for you.

Furthermore, Paul goes on in verse 6 to give one more aspect of God’s will for you concerning these matters. …

1 Thessalonians 4 6

1 Thessalonians 4:6 AV 1873

6 that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter

that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter:

τὸ μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν καὶ πλεονεκτεῖν ἐν τῷ πράγματι τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ,

It’s God’s will not to go beyond and defraud.

The defrauding here is speaking of taking advantage of someone else (2 Corinthians 12:17-18). And in this way you can “go beyond” the bounds and limits of God’ will for you.

And you’re not to do this “in any matter”. That phrase is literally “in the matter”. In what matter? In the matter of proper sexual activities and expressions.

And the one who’s the potential victim of going beyond and taking advantage is your brother – a fellow believer.

So, is it possible to be unholy in how you behave toward other believers in such a way as you go beyond God’s will in the matter and take advantage of him or her?

•           Have we not seen in recent years numerous cases of sexual abuse in the church? This is a possibility for God’s people.

•           And even if it’s not physical sexual abuse as we know it, there are other ways of taking unlawful advantage over other believers in this realm of life. Flirting with your words or with your clothing even will lead to this kind of violation of God’s will for your life.

You can imagine in the close quarters of the house church situation in Thessalonica that there were opportunities for close contact which could have led to immorality in various forms. And Paul wants those Thessalonians – and we ourselves – to be careful and blameless in this area of conduct.

Because it’s not as if God is ambivalent toward your sexual conduct. He leaves you no ambiguity as to how he feels about the potential of your taking advantage of others sexually…

because that the Lord is the avenger of all such

because that the Lord is the avenger of all such,

διότι ἔκδικος κύριος περὶ πάντων τούτων,

Paul says in Romans 13:4 that God has set up the government to avenge wrongs done in the civil sphere with a sword and with wrath.

But in the Church, God is the avenger. He notes as his professing people take unloving advantage of one another and he’s promising in this verse to take appropriate action.

This is what we see in the church in Corinth as Paul’s admonishing them concerning the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11). The ones who were kind of in the “in crowd” were taking advantage of those who were not – not sexually, but by excluding them in various ways. And God says because of that abuse, several of those professing believers were sick. And some slept – as in, they had died because of their misbehavior towards one another.

Behold both the kindness and severity of God. He is love itself. And yet, you don’t want to cross him. This is the fear of the Lord – to view God as your loving kind gracious heavenly Father. But to also treat him with great honor and respect because of who he is.

And none of this was news to the Thessalonians. Paul and Silas and probably even Timothy had already let them know that this is how God functions with his people…

as we also have forewarned you and testified

as we also have forewarned you and testified.

καθὼς καὶ προείπαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ διεμαρτυράμεθα. 

So, this matter of God avenging his people who are being taken advantage of by others among his professing people – this is something that Paul and Silas had told these believers before.

And the word testified adds an aspect of this being something that Paul and Silas were very adamant and sober about. This matter of instructing believers concerning sexual purity and appropriateness can be a rather heavy thing.

But the weight of the instruction – and even the way that it needs to be delivered – matches the weight of importance that God places on this issue in your life.

Because from the beginning of you and God – when he called you through the Gospel of his son, Jesus – he has called you to this very thing – to a holy life…

1 Thessalonians 4 7

1 Thessalonians 4:7 AV 1873

7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness

7       For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

7 οὐ γὰρ ἐκάλεσεν ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ ἀλλʼ ἐν ἁγιασμῷ. 

The purpose for which God saved you is that you would live a holy life.

And of course, there are numerous other aspects in your life that need to be made holy. Sexual purity is not the only area.

And yet, this matter is receiving a significant amount of treatment by the apostle and it’s the first thing that he wants to talk about with these relatively new believers after being separated from them for a few months.

Paul is so black-and-white here as he contrasts how God could have called to salvation with how he really called you. He could have called you to uncleanness. There were religious groups in ancient Greece where part of the worship itself was engaging in sexual activities with prostitutes.

But that’s not what God has called you to as he’s saved you. His purpose in your life is holiness – sanctification – being set apart from all that is evil and common and being set apart for his use. This is exactly why he saved you. It’s exactly what he had in mind when he reached down and turned you from your sins to himself. And toward the top of the list of those sins from which he turned you is this matter of sexual immorality.

Now, I trust that there’s isn’t anyone who’s hearing this and thinking – Well, that’s just this brother’s opinion. He must be one of those “legalists” The God that I worship doesn’t really care what I do with my body. He just wants my heart.

Well, though I might not have anyone here thinking that way, the apostle Paul was anticipating that some would harbor those kinds of thoughts. And he addresses them in the last verse of this section…

1 Thessalonians 4 8

1 Thessalonians 4:8 AV 1873

8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God

He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God,

τοιγαροῦν ὁ ἀθετῶν οὐκ ἄνθρωπον ἀθετεῖ ἀλλὰ τὸν θεὸν

If anyone is inclined to reject or ignore this kind of teaching on God’s desire for sexual purity in his people, from their vantage point, they’re probably doing that with the mindset that this teaching is just based on the opinions of the preacher or whomever else is conveying this message.

But Paul is very clear that this teaching is straight from God. And so, to reject or despise or ignore God’s will for you in this arena of life is to despise the God who loves you and who saved you from your sins.

And when God saved you from your sins, he gave you his Spirit who himself is holy – just like he wants you to be…

who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit

who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

τὸν καὶ διδόντα τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ τὸ ἅγιον εἰς ὑμᾶς.

God didn’t give us an unclean spirit so that now he wants us to live in ways that are unclean and unholy and godless.

He gave us his Spirit who is holy.

And that’s just one more indication in this passage that God wants your life to reflect his own holiness.

And he wants your life to reflect his holiness particularly in this area of your sexual activities and expressions.

[S] God’s Will: Your (Bodily) Holiness

His will for his people all the way back to the Old Testament was this – be holy, because I am holy.

Does that characterize your life – especially in this matter of how you behave toward other believers with your body?

May the Lord help us to abound more and more in holiness in this area and every area of our lives – for his sake.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary

Afflictions, suffering, and trials are an unavoidable part of life for believers in this fallen world.

Coming into this assembly tonight in the middle of the week – we all look real nice and well put together. But if we were to be able to somehow take a poll of the afflictions of life that are being experienced by each of us here, the list – I imagine – would be lengthy.

On that list would surely be:

•           Relationship difficulties

•           Health problems

•           Discouraging family dynamics

•           Work pressures

•           Financial hardships

•           Uncertainty about the future

•           Loneliness

•           Guilt

•           Grief

•           Disappointment by others

And that list would certainly go on and on.

And in the midst of all of our afflictions – great or small – God is calling us to trust him. As we suffer difficulties, God doesn’t want us to lose sight of him. He wants us to believe him – that he’ll take care of you.

If God is at work in your life, then he’s teaching you an inevitable lesson. And that lesson is that believers Respond to Afflictions with Faith.

And it’s that very lesson that we see at work in the life of the Apostle Paul and the church in Thessalonica which he’s addressing in 1 Thessalonians 3. So, please join me there in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 – where we’ll see this concept modeled for us of Responding to Afflictions with Faith.

Let’s read the first five verses of this chapter and then get into the details.

1 Thessalonians 3:1–5 AV 1873

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.

So, let’s find this principle of Responding to Afflictions with Faith – starting in verse 1.

Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 3:1 AV 1873

1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;

Wherefore

3:1 Wherefore

1 Διὸ

Paul begins this chapter by saying “wherefore”. This indicates that he’s pointing back to something he previously said.

And what he’s referring back to is what we saw toward the end of chapter 2 in verses 17-20. That was the matter of Paul and Silas and Timothy wanting to be with those believers in Thessalonica – but being hindered from doing so.

And Paul says that there’s only so much of that forced separation that he and Silas and Timothy could take…

When we could no longer forbear

when we could no longer forbear

μηκέτι στέγοντες

Now, Paul twice in other passages in the New Testament claimed that he could forbear or bear with or endure anything.

How much suffering do you feel like you can endure?

•           Well, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:12 that instead of demanding his rights to being compensated as an apostle, he and his fellow-ministers endured or forbore everything so that they would not hinder the Gospel of Christ from going forth.

•           And then as Paul is in 1 Corinthians 13:7 commending to those Corinthian believers the excellencies of doing everything they do motivated by genuine love for others, he says that one of the qualities of true genuine love is that it bears all things. And since Paul was a mature believer, he would have been displaying this virtue of love in his life and thereby he would have been increasingly bearing all things.

So, the point is that the apostle Paul had gotten to the point in his Christian life that he could bear or endure just about anything.

But there was something that even the apostle Paul could not bear. And that was being separated from those Thessalonian believers for a moment longer. He says that there was a point at which he and Silas and Timothy “could no longer forbear” to be parted from the Thessalonians.

So, what did Paul and Silas and Timothy do when they reached that breaking point? …

we thought it good to be left at Athens alone

we thought it good to be left at Athens alone

εὐδοκήσαμεν καταλειφθῆναι ἐν Ἀθήναις μόνοι

We’re going to discover that the “we” in this verse is referring to Paul and Silas – and not Timothy. As we considered in our last message, those two were forbidden from going back to Thessalonica as far as we know. And – again as we considered last time – that’s probably because Jason – one of the Thessalonian believers – had promised to his city’s rulers that Paul and Silas wouldn’t return there again.

So, Paul and Silas are the “we” who were left alone in Athens. But that geographical reference leads us to consider the broader scope of the timeline that Paul has in mind in this passage.

[S] So, let’s remind ourselves of the events involved here.

•           As you know, Paul and Silas were run out of Thessalonica in Acts 17:1-9. Timothy was probably still in Philippi at that time.

•           Paul and Silas then went to Berea, but the unbelieving Thessalonian Jews followed them there and caused enough trouble that the believers in Berea had to send just Paul away from that city as well (Acts 17:10-15).

•           In the mean time, Timothy caught up with them from being in Philippi. And so, Silas and Timothy end up staying in Berea. But Paul goes to Athens (Acts 17:10-15), which would have been a 340 mile journey on land.

•           The believers who accompanied Paul to Athens were given an order when they arrived in that city to go back to Berea – where Silas and Timothy were – and to have them come to Paul there in Athens (Acts 17:10-15).

•           That much is fairly simple to attain from a reading of Acts. But it’s after these events that the chronology gets a little complicated.

•           We have Luke in Acts telling us that Paul was alone in Athens waiting for Silas and Timothy after giving them the command to come to him there (Acts 17:16).

•           Then Paul after some period of time – and, again, apparently without Silas and Timothy – he decided to move on to Corinth from Athens (Acts 18:1).

•           Some surmise that Silas and Timothy came to Paul in Athens and then left again to go back north to Thessalonica. And I think that’s probably how we need to think about this and I’ll advocate for this in just a moment.

•           Then finally both Silas and Timothy come to Paul in Corinth from Macedonia (Acts 18:5). (Remember that Macedonia is the northern part of Greece where Thessalonica and Berea are, while Corinth and Athens are in the region of Achaia.)

•           But we need to reconcile the account in Acts to the information we have in 1 Thessalonians. Because in our text in 1 Thessalonians 3 it says that “we” thought it was a good idea to be left in Athens alone and to send Timothy. So, how do we fit someone or someones being left alone in Athens and sending Timothy back to Thessalonica?

•           I would reconstruct the situation as follows.

•           Paul goes down to Athens and asks for Silas and Timothy to come to him there. They do come. So then, Paul and Silas stay in Athens while they send Timothy to Thessalonica. But before Paul moves on to Corinth, Silas goes up toward Thessalonica to meet Timothy. Then both Silas and Timothy come down together to Corinth and meet Paul who is already there.

•           Finally, those three men were then all based there in Corinth for over a year and a half and wrote this letter at that point (Acts 18:11,18).

So, Paul and Silas thought it was a good idea to be left alone in Athens.

And as we’ve already considered, they sent Timothy back to Thessalonica…

Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 3:2 AV 1873

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:

and sent Timotheus

2 and sent Timotheus,

2 καὶ ἐπέμψαμεν Τιμόθεον,

But the believers in Thessalonica didn’t know Timothy all that well because he apparently wasn’t with Paul and Silas while those two were ministering in that city.

And so, even now in this letter, Paul decides to describe Timothy a little for these believers…

our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ

our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ

τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν καὶ συνεργὸν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ

So, Timothy is identified by Paul as a believer – he’s a brother – and “our” brother, Paul says.

And he’s a fellow-worker with – and servant of – God in the sense that he was working to bring God’s gospel of his Son Jesus Christ everywhere.

And here was Timothy’s mission for which Paul and Silas sent him from Athens back to Thessalonica…

to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith

to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith

εἰς τὸ στηρίξαι ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλέσαι ὑπὲρ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν

This word “establish” refers to the strengthening of something. From weak to strong or even from strong to stronger.

This is an activity that leaders in Christ’s church need to be particularly engaged in – strengthening their fellow believers’ faith.

•           As Jesus was telling Peter that he would deny him the night before he was crucified, Jesus commanded him that after he turned from his denial, that he needed to strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32).

•           This is what the apostle Paul would do for the disciples – the believers – as he traveled throughout region after region. He would find them and strengthen them (Acts 18:23).

•           This is why Paul wanted to visit the believers in Rome (Romans 1:11). He wanted to impart some spiritual gift to them so that they might be strengthened in their faith.

•           And ultimately, it’s God himself who will use his servants and whatever other means he wishes to strengthen us – his people (1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:17;3:3).

So, based on these considerations, might I suggest that we all pray – that as we gather together as an assembly – that this would be one result of our gatherings? That we would strengthen the faith of one another?

That’s what Timothy did for the Thessalonian believers.

He also comforted those believers.

•           This is what God does for you and me in all of our afflictions and trials (2 Corinthians 1:4). God comforts those who are cast down (2 Corinthians 7:6). Can you testify to that reality?

•           This act of comforting is also what believers are supposed to do for their fellow-believers – in particular, we have an example of this being urged on the Corinthian church which had just had to discipline a member for being disorderly. And thankfully that individual repented. And so, that kind of repentant brother needs to be – not disciplined anymore – but rather, comforted (2 Corinthians 2:7).

•           In two other places in the New Testament, Paul sent another believer to comfort an assembly – just like he did here with Timothy and the Thessalonians. He sent a man named Tychicus to the believers both in Ephesus (Ephesians 6:21) and in Colossae (Ephesians 6:21). Wouldn’t you like to be the go-to guy that was called in when an assembly of believers needed comfort? That was Tychicus.

•           And then Paul in the 4th and 5th chapters of 1 Thessalonians exhorts the believers there to comfort one another. They were to do that primarily with Paul’s own words as he’s teaching them in this letter (1 Thessalonians 4:18;5:11).

And no doubt this is exactly what God wants for us as well in this assembly and outside of this assembly in the context of fellowship with others believers. That we would be comforting to others and comforted by others.

Is this comfort what you look to do as you come to church on Sundays and Wednesdays? Is this the aim of your communication with your fellow Christians throughout the week – to comfort them as any of us have sorrows or afflictions or trials in our lives?

Wouldn’t it be great to be a Timothy or a Tychicus who was known for his ability to comfort his fellow believers? But the reality is that we’re all called to do this as we gather together and as the need arises.

Well, what was Paul hoping would happen from Timothy’s going to the Thessalonians after their forced departure from those believers? What was his intention for Timothy going to them and strengthening and comforting them?…

Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 3:3 AV 1873

3 that no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

that no man should be moved by these afflictions

3 that no man should be moved by these afflictions

3 τὸ μηδένα σαίνεσθαι ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσιν ταύταις

Paul wanted to make sure that no one in that church was moved by these afflictions.

This verb moved occurs nowhere else in either the New or Old Testaments. But in ancient Greek literature outside of the New Testament the word was used to speak of a dog wagging its tail.

And whether you own a dog or you’ve just observed one doing its “dog things”, you know what its like for a dog to wag its tail.

Our family unfortunately had to sell our dog Oreo back to the person who originally sold him to us. It was just too much for us after several weeks of us trying to make it work out.

But I’ll use him for one last illustration! When we had Oreo for the better part of a month, I observed this phenomenon of his wagging his tail. Sometimes it was sort of slow. But often the wagging could become quite fast. And interestingly, sometimes that fast wagging could even disturb him and he would seek to bite this thing that was moving behind him and irritating him.

And I think that’s sort of how Paul is picturing the potential impact of these afflictions on the Thessalonian believers – of course, in a completely non-humorous way. It’s as if the Thessalonians were the tail being wagged around harshly and even violently.

And you and I are amongst people in this very room who may at any moment be experiencing this kind of dynamic in life. Maybe you yourself feel like life is shaking you.

So, what has the power to cause this kind of violent shaking of a believer?

Paul identifies afflictions as the culprit.

•           Affliction is the label given to several unpleasant and painful realities – like the pains of childbirth (John 16:21) or being betrayed by family (Acts 7:10) or going through a famine and having no food to eat (Acts 7:11) or having to leave your home and place of residence because your life is being threatened (Acts 11:19) or being bound with chains (Acts 20:23) or even experiencing the pain of being widowed (James 1:27). Those realities of life are all identified as things that are afflictions for believers.

•           And the reality is that affliction in the life of a professing believer really tests the nature of your faith. Jesus reminds us in the parable of the seed and the soils that affliction causes a certain type of individual who receives the word with joy – but has no firm root in himself – to fall away from Christ (Mark 4:17). And certainly the opposite is the case. If you’re firmly rooted in Christ, then afflictions will come but you will remain. You will not fall away. You will bear fruit for God.

•           So, we shouldn’t feel like something strange is happening to us when we experience affliction in this life. Jesus basically promised all of his people that you will experience affliction in this world. But he adds – “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).

•           The apostle Paul’s message to the believers in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch was “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

•           And contrary to what our flesh would want us to do – we’re to glory and even boast in afflictions. Because we know that afflictions work endurance in us (Romans 5:3).

•           And ultimately, afflictions will never separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35).

For the Thessalonian Christians, these afflictions would certainly center on the persecution in their city that led to Paul and Silas being run out of town. And no doubt the persecution continued against them after the departure of Paul and Silas.

And Paul didn’t want them to be moved or shaken – or wagged, as it were – by these afflictions and persecutions.

Well, how could the Thessalonians – or even we ourselves – not be moved or shaken by afflictions in our lives?

We need to know and be convinced of a vital truth concerning these afflictions in our lives…

for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto

αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἴδατε ὅτι εἰς τοῦτο κείμεθα

This word appointed refers to something determined or set.

•           It’s like the prophet Simeon told Mary, Jesus’ mother, that her child was set for the rise and fall of many and as a sign that would be rejected (Luke 2:35). Jesus was destined for that purpose. God had determined to use him that way.

•           Or like how Paul the apostle was set for the defense of the gospel (Philippians 1:16). It’s for that reason that he found himself in prison as he wrote his letter to the Philippian church. God has determined that he would be there in order to preach the gospel to those who there in that prison – and beyond.

•           Or like how God set or determined or appointed the Old Testament Law for sinners and unrighteous people (1 Timothy 1:9). That’s it’s purpose – to show lost individuals their need of salvation from their sin.

And you and I have a purpose. We have something that God has determined that we need to experience in this life. He has appointed us to this. And that is afflictions.

You may look at your afflictions and trials and difficulties and think that somehow God has temporarily lost control of your life. That he has perhaps abandoned you for the moment. And you’re just waiting for him to kind of reappear in your life and start blessing you again – and then you would know that he’s with you once more.

But the reality is that for all believers, God has appointed for us our particular afflictions in this life. Your suffering difficulties is no indication that God has abandoned you. To the contrary – your difficulties are God’s special appointment for you.

You’re not some anomaly because you’re suffering hardships. You are in the mainstream of Christian living and experience. Paul says “we are appointed thereunto”. Its not just the apostle Paul who was set for suffering. And it’s not just the Thessalonians. But its you and me as well.

And this is just one reason why I hate the so-called prosperity gospel. This false religion teaches: “that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for [you], and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth.”

According to the prosperity gospel then, the more godly you are, the better your life will be. If you live for God – however that may be defined – God will in turn reward you with tangible physical blessings in this life. In fact, he’s actually obligated to do so.

The problem with this way of thinking is that it takes future blessings that we’re promised beyond this life and moves them forward in God’s timeline into the present age.

But the reality of the matter is that God has determined in this life that you will experience afflictions – rather than unmixed tangible blessings.

And the real problem with adopting the prosperity gospel is that – because it isn’t actually what God has promised his people – those who embrace this religion become disillusioned when God doesn’t come through for them in the ways that they’ve been led to believe that he’s obligated to come through for them.

It’s good for us to align ourselves with reality. And that reality for believers in this life is that we will suffer afflictions. But the far greater reality that we need to simultaneously keep in mind is that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – who himself experienced afflictions in this wicked world – that he has overcome this world.

And because of that – because Jesus died for your sin and rose victoriously over sin and death – soon enough you and I will enjoy an eternity free of affliction.

But for now – like our Lord and all of his apostles and all believers throughout history – we’re appointed for sufferings and hardships and trials. And God will see us through all of it.

And yet, our tendency is – and the tendency of the believers in Thessalonica was – to be kind of shocked as we experience these difficulties. And so, Paul needs to remind these folks that he used to remind them about this unpleasant reality when he was with them…

Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 3:4 AV 1873

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.

For verily, when we were with you we told you before that we should suffer tribulation

4 For verily, when we were with you we told you before that we should suffer tribulation

4 καὶ γὰρ ὅτε πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἦμεν προελέγομεν ὑμῖν ὅτι μέλλομεν θλίβεσθαι

So, with whatever time that Paul and Silas had with those believers in Thessalonica before they were forcefully parted from them, this matter of suffering afflictions is something that they addressed with them on apparently numerous occasions. The phrase “we told you before” could also be translated as “we kept on telling you before”. Like this was a repeated theme for Paul and Silas.

Because the unpleasant reality of suffering as a believer is one that the mind just doesn’t want to comprehend or pick up. So, that’s surely one reason for Paul and Silas’ repeated warnings about coming afflictions.

But another reason for the repeated emphasis on this reality of affliction in the life of a believer is that it was coming. That word “should” is translating a word that means “about to” – indicating imminence. Paul and Silas knew that both they and the Thessalonians were about to suffer tribulation.

And suffer tribulation they did as we saw in Acts 17 and as is mentioned in these two letters to this church.

•           This word – translated as “suffer tribulation” in English – is used in the gospels to describe the narrow and tight way by which we are saved (Matthew 7:14).

•           It describes the impact of a crowd of people gathering around Jesus (Mark 3:9).

•           So, there’s a tightness and pressure about this idea. Does that describe your being afflicted? You feel pressure from all directions? You feel squeezed and like there’s nowhere to turn?

•           In fact, Paul twice uses this word in 2 Corinthians with the added description that this tightness and squeezing of their inner men was “on every side” (2 Corinthians 4:4;7:5).

•           But we need to remember that this suffering tribulation has been the experience of God’s people for ages. Hebrews 11:37 reminds us that this experience of constricting difficulties in one’s life has been the lot of those who truly follow God by faith throughout the Old Testament and even now.

•           And while believers are commended for doing our best to relieve those who are experiencing this kind of tribulation (1 Timothy 5:10), ultimately it’s God alone who will completely and ultimately relieve us of these tight, constraining difficulties when Jesus returns. He will give us rest with all of his people at that time (2 Thessalonians 1:7). And the individuals who are currently troubling God’s people – themselves will be troubled on that day (2 Thessalonians 1:6).

So, Paul and Silas had told the Thessalonian believers these things before their forced parting. They told them that they would all suffer situations in their life that were tight and squeezing and full of pressure.

And so, that’s just what happened…

even as it came to pass, and ye know

even as it came to pass, and ye know

καθὼς καὶ ἐγένετο καὶ οἴδατε

So, the Thessalonian believers indeed saw – and were fully aware – that what Paul had told them would happen concerning their afflictions and suffering did indeed happen.

And again, I think this is referring to their forced separation by the means of the mob that ran Paul and Silas out of town and then would have turned their malicious intents toward the believers who were left behind.

… So, can you imagine seeing a group of individuals – or even just one individual – saved as a result of your verbal witness to them… and then as you’re ministering to them and trying to do your part to see them grow in the faith – that persecution arises to the extent that you need to leave them? And they’re left with no human resource to help them continue-on in their walk with Jesus Christ.

How would you feel about that? I think it would weigh heavy on your heart.

And that’s just how Paul expresses feeling about his having to leave the Thessalonians as he continues into verse 5…

Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 3:5 AV 1873

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.

For this cause when I could no longer forbear

5 For this cause when I could no longer forbear

5 διὰ τοῦτο κἀγὼ μηκέτι στέγων

So, this idea of forbearing is repeated from verse 1. It serves to bookend this section – here in verse 5 and back in verse 1.

Now, back in verse 1, it was stated that “we” couldn’t forbear. But in this verse now it says that Paul himself couldn’t forbear. It’s getting more personal as he continues to think about their untimely parting. It was a painful memory and reality for Paul, Silas, and Timothy altogether – but especially for Paul, personally.

And this personal concern led Paul to action…

I sent to know your faith

I sent to know your faith

ἔπεμψα εἰς τὸ γνῶναι τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν

Paul wanted to know – are those Thessalonians still standing strong in their faith in Christ? So, he sent Timothy to check on them.

Paul wanted to know the status of the Thessalonians’ trusting Christ. They had made an initial profession. But were they clinging to Christ in the midst of their difficulties? Because one thing that difficulties does is to really test whether your faith in Christ is genuine. Will you stick with him even if he sends hard things into your life? Some don’t. Some leave him.

And behind every decision of a professing believer to stop following Christ, there’s a real, literal, and very evil being. There is a literal devil who is at work in this world and even among God’s people…

lest by some means the tempter have tempted you

lest by some means the tempter have tempted you

μή πως ἐπείρασεν ὑμᾶς ὁ πειράζων

So, Paul’s great desire and prayer was that this wouldn’t have happened to those believers in Thessalonica. He was greatly desirous that the Tempter would not have effectively tempted them.

This is of course referring to the ultimate enemy of God and his people – the devil.

This is his identification and activity. He tempts. He is the tempter. He influences an entices us to sin. He suggests subtly that we abandon God when times are tough. In our times of weakness and deep need, he offers “solutions” that are not in keeping with what God wants for us.

But – as you know – it’s this kind of temptation that Jesus Christ our Savior suffered himself from the devil. And so, Hebrews 2:18 shares with us the wonderful reality that because Jesus suffered temptation, he’s able to help people like you and me who are beset with temptations.

So, Paul’s question was – did the Thessalonians take this help from the Lord? Did they continue trusting this one who was tempted just like they were – yet without sin?

Because if the Thessalonians did give in to the temptations of Satan, that would mean that in a sense, all of the hard work of Paul and Silas and Timothy would be in vain…

and our labour be in vain

and our labour be in vain

καὶ εἰς κενὸν γένηται ὁ κόπος ἡμῶν

Now, there’s a real sense in which anything you do for the sake of Jesus Christ won’t ever truly be in vain. You will receive a reward – whether your efforts outwardly appear to be “successful” or not.

And yet, we understand what Paul’s saying here. He worked hard to proclaim the gospel to these folks. He and Silas labored among them – both working with their hands and trying to build these people up in their faith. They did this day and night. Paul and Silas had little rest for a significant period of time as they served these new believers.

And the thought that the devil might have been able to undo all of their hard work – was unbearable for Paul, personally.

So, what did Paul discover concerning the faith of the Thessalonians when he sent Timothy to them? We’ll see that next time in verses 6 and following!

[S] In the meantime, may the Lord help each of us to Respond to Afflictions with Faith.

What encourages you in this life? When things get difficult for you and you feel down, what is it that lifts you up?

The internet, of course, is full of ideas on how you can be encouraged. One Ph.D. author suggests that engaging in positive self-talk, watching uplifting videos on the internet, and seeking encouraging quotes are what you should use to encourage yourself.

https://www.goodfinding.com/encourage-yourself.html

Still others suggest that the key to being encouraged involves being proud of yourself, being your own best friend, keeping a good sense of humor, spending time on hobbies, exercising, and eating good food. Those are the things that are going to encourage you.

https://www.wikihow.com/Support-and-Encourage-Yourself

But for the believer, encouragement from God can take numerous forms.

In the passage before us this evening in 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10, Paul speaks of encouragement coming from fellow-believers – especially regarding the aspect of their faith.

As you recall, Timothy brought news to Paul concerning the Thessalonians’ faith – and that greatly encouraged him. And by the end of our passage tonight, Paul is going to tell those folks how he wants to come to them and reciprocate the favor by encouraging them. Their faith encouraged him and so he wanted to go encourage them.

So, what we see in this passage is this truth: Your Faith Encourages Other Believers.

Haven’t you experienced that? You hear of your fellow-believers standing strong – either in the present or the past – and there’s something about that that’s strengthening and encouraging.

Whether that be reading a missionary biography or hearing from a contemporary believer about undergoing trials but remaining steadfast in the faith – this’s encouraging to us.

And it was to the apostle Paul, as well.

So, let’s read 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10 and then examine this passage in closer detail and be reminded of how Your Faith Encourages Other Believers.

Verses 6-10

1 Thessalonians 3:6–10 AV 1873

6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, 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.

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?

As you might remember, we ended our last message with the apostle Paul wondering if Satan had effectively tempted the recent converts in Thessalonica. Had they fallen away from the faith?

Because if they did, that would mean that numerous aspects of Paul’s tireless labor among them would have proven vain or empty. And what a discouragement that would have been for the apostle and Silas and Timothy.

That’s why they sent Timothy to the Thessalonians – to figure out what was going on with them and their new faith in Christ.

And that’s where the note of contrast in verse 6 couldn’t be more welcome. He starts that verse with this phrase …

Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 3:6 AV 1873

6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:

But now

But now

6 Ἄρτι δὲ

This is indeed a sharp contrast to what Paul had previously been sharing with the Thessalonians.

In the previous passage in verses 1-3 of this chapter, there was a lot of discussion about the agony that Paul and Silas were experiencing as they were kept from these believers in Thessalonica. Paul wanted so greatly to see these people and to know whether they were still walking with the Lord in the midst of their afflictions. And it was unbearable for them to have to wait so long.

“But now”…

Paul’s fears were allayed and comforted – he was encouraged – by hearing of the faith of these Thessalonians, he says, …

when Timotheus came from you unto us

when Timotheus came from you unto us

ἐλθόντος Τιμοθέου πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἀφʼ ὑμῶν

This in-and-of-itself was comforting and encouraging enough for Paul. Timothy’s return by itself would have been a great relief to the apostle.

•           Because this Timothy – who had been absent from Paul for quite some time – is the man who was known for his selfless service to the apostle (Acts 19:22).

•           Timothy was one whom Paul calls elsewhere his workfellow (Romans 16:21). Paul esteemed him as a true co-worker.

•           He was Paul’s dearly beloved son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2) who was faithful in the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:17).

•           He was one who worked the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 16:10).

•           He was a brother (2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1) and a preacher (2 Corinthians 1:19) and a servant of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:1).

As Timothy and Silas completed their journey of over 300 miles from Macedonia to Corinth where Paul was stationed – the return of this man of faith would have brought great encouragement to Paul.

And yet, what was even better to Paul was the message that Timothy brought back from the Thessalonians…

and brought us good tidings

and brought us good tidings

καὶ εὐαγγελισαμένου ἡμῖν

This phrase in the English, “brought … good tidings” is actually the word from which we get the term “evangelize”. The concept is “bringing good news”. And of course, the best news one can ever receive is the message of forgiveness of your sins through Jesus Christ.

But sometimes this word refers to bringing other kinds of good news – not as good as the Gospel itself, but good nonetheless.

What good news did Timothy bring to Paul? …

your faith

your faith

τὴν πίστιν … ὑμῶν

Timothy brought good news concerning the faith of the Thessalonians.

•           It’s this faith of theirs that Paul remembered back in chapter 1 and verse 3 where he could recall that this  faith of theirs caused the Thessalonians to be engaged in encouraging work for the Lord’s sake (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           The faith of these Thessalonians was spread all over the place – in Macedonia – their region – and in Achaia – a region a little father – and even beyond that (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

•           And it was this faith that Paul and Silas sent Timothy to the Thessalonians to strengthen and encourage (1 Thessalonians 3:2).

•           But toward the end of our last message, Paul was very concerned that perhaps the Tempter had effectively tempted those believers. And so the status of the faith of those believers in Paul’s mind was in question (1 Thessalonians 3:5).

But now Timothy’s return to Paul with good news concerning the Thessalonians’ faith was a great encouragement to him.

And along with the faith of these believers, Timothy also had an encouraging update concerning their love

your … charity

your … charity

τὴν ἀγάπην ὑμῶν

That’s of course the idea behind the KJV’s “charity”.

•           This notable love of the Thessalonians is why Paul opened this letter commending their faith and love – and noting how these two virtues caused those believers to act (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           These two aspects of faith and love are something for which Paul – in his second letter to them – just can’t stop giving thanks to God (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           And yet, in keeping with Paul’s theme in this letter of already attaining but still pressing on to to more godliness, Paul exhorts the Thessalonians later on in this letter to put on “the breastplate of faith and love” (1 Thessalonians 5:8).

So, not only was the faith of the Thessalonians an encouragement to Paul. The love that sprung forth from that faith was a great joy to him as well.

The Thessalonians’ faith was directed toward God. Their love was directed toward God – and likely toward one another.

And now, Paul points to one other dynamic that was very encouraging to him. And that’s this matter of how the Thessalonians felt about the ones who originally brought them the gospel…

and that ye have good remembrance of us always

and that ye have good remembrance of us always,

καὶ ὅτι ἔχετε μνείαν ἡμῶν ἀγαθὴν πάντοτε

In the apostle Paul’s last letter to his son in the faith, Timothy, he says this very thing. That he had remembrance of Timothy. The minister – Paul – remembered the one to whom he had ministered – Timothy.

But here in 1 Thessalonians 3:6, it’s actually the other way around. The ones who were ministered to are remembering the ones who ministered to them.

And this remembrance was good

good remembrance

Sure – the Thessalonians hand’t forgotten about the apostle Paul and his helper Silas.

But what’s more – the Thessalonians had not become what certain other churches to whom Paul ministered were tending to become – those whose remembrance of the apostle would not have been characterized as “good”…

You think of the church in Corinth. And in both of his letters to that church – which Paul himself founded! – he finds himself in the strange position of having to defend his own apostleship and calling of God to those folks who should have known better.

Or how about the churches in Galatia who – at least some of them – had abandoned the gospel all together! They had started to drift away from salvation by faith alone through Christ alone and had started to adopt a works-based Christian-like religion.

Paul – no doubt, with great grief – could not have said to those two churches that they had good memories of him.

But it was different with the Thessalonians. They “had good remembrance of” Paul and Silas.

And they remembered those two who has brought them the gospel – always

always

As often as the Thessalonians thought about Paul and Silas, their memories of them were good. And this thought must have crossed the minds of the Thessalonians often.

You might have someone like that in your life. Where this man or woman was greatly used by God in your life to bring you to faith in Christ or to mature you in the faith. And every time you think about that individual, your thoughts and memories of them are good. They’re pleasant. You’d like to be with them again if you could.

And that’s just what we see these good thoughts of the Thessalonians about Paul and Silas leading them to. Those thoughts led those believers to a certain inner compulsion to see Paul and Silas again…

desiring greatly to see us

desiring greatly to see us,

ἐπιποθοῦντες ἡμᾶς ἰδεῖν

This great desire that the Thessalonians had to see Paul and Silas and Timothy is akin to the desire that a baby has for milk – which was of course the only nutritional option for babies of the 1st century (1 Peter 2:2).

As I was in our church’s lobby the other evening I heard a baby crying. And it could have been a tired cry – but if I remember my baby-cries correctly from 8 or 9 years ago with our last baby – I think it was a hungry cry. You can tell the difference sometimes.

And of course that’s what babies do. They’re greatly desiring milk to feed them and to keep them alive. And they’re not just going to let out a little whimper about it. They’re not going to just quietly clear their throat and hope that someone pays attention. They let out a great and lamenting cry. They’re determined to be noticed!

And while the Thessalonians probably weren’t bellowing-out with great agitation to see Paul and his company – they at least harbored that inner feeling about seeing the men that had been so greatly used by the Lord in saving them from their sin and starting them off on their walk with the Lord.

And the truth of the matter was that this wasn’t a one-sided deal. It wasn’t just that the Thessalonians so greatly desired to see Paul and Silas and Timothy. No – it was a reciprocal feeling…

as we also to see you

as we also to see you:

καθάπερ καὶ ἡμεῖς ὑμᾶς, 

There’s no verb in that phrase in the Greek text. And in English you can observe that the phrase “to see” is in italics, which indicates that the King James translators added it to enhance understanding of the readers – but that it’s not there in the biblical text.

So, the operative verb is actually understood from what preceded this phrase. The Thessalonians so greatly desired to see Paul and Silas and Timothy – that’s the verb. And that feeling of desire was mutual. Paul and Silas and Timothy greatly desired to see those believers in Thessalonica from whom they had been violently torn away by that mob in that city.

And that abrupt parting from one another that these folks had to experience was an affliction and distress to Paul and Silas. It was a discouraging hardship that really only the word that Timothy brought back from the Thessalonians could comfort and encourage them about…

Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 3:7 AV 1873

7 therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress, by your faith:

therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress, by your faith:

7 therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress, by your faith:

7 διὰ τοῦτο παρεκλήθημεν, ἀδελφοί, ἐφʼ ὑμῖν ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ ἀνάγκῃ καὶ θλίψει ἡμῶν διὰ τῆς ὑμῶν πίστεως, 

Let’s break that down a little bit …

therefore … by your faith

therefore … by your faith

διὰ τοῦτο … διὰ τῆς ὑμῶν πίστεως

Therefore is literally “because of this”. And then the last phrase in this verse by your faith is literally “because of your faith”.

So – because of this…

Well, because of what?

Because of your faith.

we were comforted

we were comforted

παρεκλήθημεν

Now, it was because Timothy brought back word of the Thessalonians’ faith and love and their sweet spirit toward Paul and Silas and their great desire to see them – because of all of that – which can be summarized as their faith, Paul and Silas and Timothy altogether were greatly encouraged or comforted. That Greek word can mean either concept depending on the context.

There was a real grief in the mind of the apostle as he contemplated the possibility that these folks to whom he had preached the gospel and ministered – that perhaps they were tempted by Satan and fell away from Christ. Paul was cognizant of that real danger in their lives. And perhaps emotionally he had prepared himself for the worst concerning those people.

This inner turmoil that Paul would have faced was a lot like when the young man in Acts 20 fell asleep and then fell out of the window and everyone was dismayed and thrown into despair concerning the death of that one. But then Paul came and miraculously brought him back to life. And it says that they were “not a little comforted”. They had come to reckon with the worst-case scenario for that young man. But then God graciously changed the outcome.

And I think that’s what happened with Paul and the Thessalonians. Paul had reckoned that the worst had happened – that the Thessalonians had fallen away from Christ. So, when Timothy comes back to him and gives him this great news about them – Paul is comforted – as if he were receiving them back from the dead – at least in his mind.

And that period in which Paul was entertaining in his mind the worst-case scenario about the Thessalonians – he describes that time as “affliction” and “distress” …

in all our affliction and distress

in all our affliction and distress

ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ ἀνάγκῃ καὶ θλίψει ἡμῶν

That word distress often refers to neediness.

You’re in a hard position because you’re so incredibly needy. You have needs that are going unmet. And that’s a painful situation to find yourself in – and one that the apostle Paul was no stranger to.

And for Paul in this context, his need was to see those believers in Thessalonica and to know that they were still walking with Christ. And Timothy’s report to them was something that comforted Paul about his distress.

Now, that word affliction oftentimes refers to trouble that comes on someone because of other people.

The way that Paul and Silas were sent out of Thessalonica was this kind of affliction. And it was fresh on Paul’s mind as he’s writing this letter.

But the news from Timothy about these believers in Thessalonica comforted and encouraged Paul about this awful memory which he hadn’t been able to forget.

So, because spiritually the Thessalonians were indeed alive as Paul discovered from Timothy, Paul and Silas and Timothy all felt a new sense of life in themselves …

Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 3:8 AV 1873

8 for now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.

for now we live

for now we live

ὅτι νῦν ζῶμεν

The only other place in the Bible where Paul uses these two words “now” and “live” together in the same context is Galatians 2:20. There Paul’s telling the Galatians that he was crucified with Christ – and yet amazingly he still lives. But the life that he “now lives” in the flesh, he lives by faith in Christ.

He’s speaking there of new resurrection life. Of being dead in a spiritual sense – and then being raised spiritually to new life.

And I think that’s the concept that Paul’s communicating here, though there’s a little different angle to it. In 1 Thessalonians 3:8 Paul is viewing himself before hearing from Timothy about the Thessalonians’ faith as if he were dead. That’s how affected Paul was about the plight of these relatively-new Christians. But now that Paul heard from Timothy – now he lives again! As if he were raised from his emotional death by this wonderful good news of the Thessalonians.

And Paul says here that the good news which raised him back to life – as it were – is that the Thessalonians stand or stand fast

if ye stand fast

if ye stand fast

ἐὰν ὑμεῖς στήκετε

So, clearly, standing is the opposite of falling.

The Thessalonians could have done the spiritual equivalent of falling in their faith. They could have renounced their faith in Jesus. They could have fallen away to some sort of perversion of Christianity that was works-based to avoid some of the persecution they experienced.

But they didn’t do any of that. They stood or stood fast or stood strong.

And they did this in the Lord

in the Lord

in the Lord.

ἐν κυρίῳ

Paul said this very thing to the church in Philippi. But instead of stating that they were in fact standing in the Lord, Paul commanded the Philippians to actually do this.

And the context there in Philippians 4:1 connects this idea of standing firm in the Lord with being imitators of Paul and rejecting the example of those who are, as Paul says there with tears, “enemies of the cross of Christ”.

To imitate Pauline example then is to stand firm in the Lord. And that’s just what we’ve seen to be true of the Thessalonians so far in this epistle.

•           You might remember that in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Paul commended them there that they became followers of Paul and Silas and of the Lord Jesus himself by receiving the word that Paul and Silas preached to them.

•           Then 1 Thessalonians 2:14 told us that the Thessalonians became followers of the good examples of the churches in Judea in their suffering at the hands of their fellow-citizens.

So, the Thessalonians had stood firm in the Lord. And this was evident by their imitating godly examples in their lives.

For you and me, there are a lot of examples for us to follow. Some are good and many are not. Social media allows anyone to publish and document their lifestyles for everyone to see and follow.

What examples are you following? What examples are you shunning? The examples that you follow will have an eternal impact on your life. If you want to stand firm in the Lord you’ll need to follow those good and godly examples that you have all around you – both (and primarily) in the Scripture but also in life – in this church and among other believers.

The Thessalonians had followed good godly examples and were thus standing firm in the Lord – rather than falling away from the faith. And this caused the apostle Paul to rejoice and to feel as though he were brought back from the brink of death, emotionally. That’s what we’ve seen in verse 8.

And Paul continues expressing his great relief at the good news of the Thessalonians’ standing strong in the Lord in verse 9, but this time in question form…

Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 3:9 AV 1873

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;

For what thanks can we render to God again for you

For what thanks can we render to God again for you

τίνα γὰρ εὐχαριστίαν δυνάμεθα τῷ θεῷ ἀνταποδοῦναι περὶ ὑμῶν

So, in case anyone would think that Paul’s describing himself as coming back to life from being dead was an overstatement, he wants to make clear here that it was not. He now explains why he was so relieved at the news that the Thessalonians still stood strong in Christ.

In summary, he could never ever pay God back for all of the joy that the Thessalonians had caused him.

This giving of thanks is to characterize our speech (Ephesians 5:4). It’s to characterize our prayers (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2) – especially concerning our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1). It’s even to characterize our hearts as we receive food at our mealtimes (1 Timothy 4:3-4).

And for Paul, this giving of thanks was characteristic of his thoughts and heart attitude toward God every time he thought of those Thessalonian believers.

For what thanks can we render to God again for you

For what thanks can we render to God again for you

τίνα γὰρ εὐχαριστίαν δυνάμεθα τῷ θεῷ ἀνταποδοῦναι περὶ ὑμῶν

And yet that wasn’t enough, he says. He could never render an appropriate amount of thanksgiving back to God for these folks.

It’s like inviting to dinner at your house a person who has no money and no home. He could never repay you (Luke 14:14).

That’s how God pictures himself in Job 41:11 where he’s confronting Job about this creature identified as Leviathan. This creature – who seems to be something like a crocodile – is fierce and unpredictable and uncontrollable. And God is showing Job that if a creature that he created is like that, then how can Job possibly ever hope to control God?

And in the midst of that confrontation from God, he says “Who has [‘given to, Romans 11:35”] me that I should repay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.”

So, the point is that any amount of thanksgiving that Paul and Silas and Timothy could possibly return to God for the Thessalonian believers – it wouldn’t be a true pay back to God. Our best attempts at thanking God for his wonderful gifts to us always pale in comparison to the true value and worth of those gifts.

for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God

for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;

ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ χαρᾷ ᾗ χαίρομεν διʼ ὑμᾶς ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν, 

And in this case, the gift that Paul knows he can’t repay God for is joy.

Does God’s spiritual work in this world cause you any amount of joy? If you were here Sunday evening to hear about missionary Rachel Steffensmeier’s work in the Philippines and that of her co-workers there, was your response to what God’s doing in that area of the world joy? As you hear about new believers and what the Lord is doing in their lives – does that cause you joy?

It should. It did for the apostle Paul.

And this joy was some kind of joy! The wording there is that the apostle Paul and Silas and Timothy “joyed a joy” – or that they “rejoiced a rejoicing”.

And the joy was abundant – it was all the joy that they rejoiced.

Something similar happened with the church in Corinth. After several difficult letters and visits to that troubled church, Paul could finally write in 2 Corinthians 7:13 that he “rejoiced a rejoicing” or “joyed a joy” after Titus had returned from that church with good news concerning their attitude toward Titus and toward Paul himself.

So, why wouldn’t Paul feel the way he did about those Thessalonians? He could never possibly repay God for the joy brought to the apostle by what God was doing in their lives.

And yet, though Paul would never get close to repaying God, he was still determined to pray for those relatively new believers as fervently as he possibly could…

Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 3:10 AV 1873

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

night and day praying exceedingly

night and day praying exceedingly

νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ δεόμενοι

So, Paul and Silas and Timothy weren’t communicating merely thanksgiving to God for the Thessalonians. They were also engaged in prayers for them.

Often this word is translated in other passages as beg or beseech or plead. There’s a balance to Christian prayer. It’s not all joy-filled thanksgiving. Neither is it all striving agonizing requests for dire needs in our life and the lives of others. It’s both – and more.

And so, Paul and his company knew the great joy of joy-filled thanksgiving on behalf of these believers in Thessalonica. But they also knew heart-rending begging and beseeching on their behalf.

exceedingly

And there really was a great earnestness and urgency to their praying to the Lord for these believers. It was done “exceedingly”.

That’s the word used to describe how God can do for us so much more than we would ever think to ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). A common definition of the word would be “beyond all measure” or “super-abundantly”.

night and day

And that concept of the super-abundance of Paul’s praying for these Thessalonians is reinforced by that phrase “night and day”. This is to say that it always happened. These are the two parts of every 24-hour cycle – night and day.

Summer is just a season away at this point. And that means gardening will finally be possible. Even now, some things are growing out in our yards. And the Bible describes that process of seeds germinating and growing in this way as “night and day”. It’s a constant and continual process (Mark 4:26-27).

And what’s interesting is that Paul and Silas said earlier in this letter that their physical labor for these Thessalonian believers was this kind of constant and continual occurence. They labored physically “night and day” for them (1 Thessalonians 2:9).

And now here in this passage in chapter 3 we don’t see the physical aspect of their work for these believers. We see the spiritual aspect of it.

Well, Paul and Silas and even Timothy were all constantly praying for the Thessalonians.

And they were doing so with two purposes in mind. First…

that we might see your face

that we might see your face

εἰς τὸ ἰδεῖν ὑμῶν τὸ πρόσωπον

So, just like Timothy had reported back to Paul and Silas how the Thessalonians longed to see them, so too did Paul and Silas want to see the Thessalonians. It wasn’t enough to write them a letter. They wanted to see their face and be in their physical company.

And they made it a matter of earnest constant prayer that they would be able to do this.

I’m guessing that you’ve sometimes experienced some strong desire about something – and maybe that thing was good and godly and right for you. Maybe it was even God’s will for you. But isn’t it strange how sometimes we don’t even think to actually address God about it? We just kind of let the desire linger in our hearts as if that were enough.

That wasn’t enough for Paul and Silas. They took their deep desire to see these believers and they turned it into prayer to God – who is the only one who’s able to fulfill our every good and holy desire.

And let me note for our edification that Paul and Silas and Timothy prayed this way for a while. And yet only Timothy was able to see these Thessalonian believers.

So, be encouraged that what you feel constrained to pray for – even if the answer is long delayed – it doesn’t mean that God wants you to stop asking.  He might be testing your faith to see if you’ll continue in seeking him concerning whatever thing that you think is his will for you.

Alright. So, that’s the first item on Paul’s prayer list concerning these Thessalonians – that he and Silas and Timothy would get to see their face.

And when they saw their faces, here’s what Paul was prayerful would happen…

and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith

and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

καὶ καταρτίσαι τὰ ὑστερήματα τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν;

This at first might sound like a backhanded insult. But obviously that’s not what the apostle Paul is doing here.

When Paul speaks here of perfecting the Thessalonians, he’s using the word that’s used of fixing fishing nets (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19). Where there should have been a perfect pattern of net, some areas were bare – lacking the netting. And those empty areas needed to be filled-in.

But in the case of the Thessalonians Paul isn’t talking about a net. He’s talking about their faith. And he’s aware of some lack there.

This lack isn’t a result of sin. It’s just a matter of immaturity.

Now, obviously, the Thessalonians had faith enough to save them from their sins. They had truly trusted Jesus Christ to save them from their sins. And so in that aspect they lacked nothing in their faith.

And yet, there were some areas of their walk with Christ that did indeed lack – in the same way as the widow who gave her meager living to the offering is described. That lady had a very small amount of income on which to live (Luke 21:4). And so it is with new believers. Some aspects of a life of faith just aren’t fully developed yet. They’re lacking in certain ways. And Paul will go on in chapter 4 of this letter to detail some of those areas.

Well, what’s the solution to that lack? It’s that mature believers empowered by the Lord would come along and prayerfully seek to edify – to build up – to perfect – that newer believer in the faith.

And as that happens, there’s encouragement all the way around concerning the faith of everyone involved, isn’t there?

We could hope to experience that kind of ministry from others and to others in our life for the rest of this week.

[S] Because the reality is that Your Faith Encourages Other Believers. So, let’s seek the Lord about experiencing that more and more in our lives.

No one really likes waiting. Whether it’s waiting in a line or waiting for food when you’re hungry or waiting for the next significant event in your life – waiting isn’t usually comfortable or enjoyable. Sometimes it feels downright unbearable.

And yet, waiting is inevitable – even in the life of a believer.

•           David waited years from the time when Samuel declared him king until he was actually crowned by all Israel.

•           Abraham waited decades between the time of God promising him a son and when Isaac was actually born.

•           Anna and Simeon were waiting their whole lives for the Messiah to come. And finally in their old age they got to actually hold him in their hands.

You can find literature out there as to how to deal with your having to wait. (https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/68517/15-scientific-tricks-make-waiting-easier and https://www.wikihow.com/Wait-Patiently, for example.)

A lot of that advice has to do with your focus. You’re advised to listen to music while you wait or to bring a friend to break the boredom. And the list goes on, but much of it has to do with what you’re going to choose to focus on while you’re waiting.

In our passage for today, this seems to be what’s happening. Paul is going to talk about two comings – both his coming to the Thessalonians and ultimately the Lord’s coming to them. And neither of those events were going to happen immediately, as we now know. So, Paul instructs the believers in Thessalonica as to what their focus should be while they wait.

So, let’s explore this theme of Your Focus While You Wait in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 to end this chapter and this first major section of this letter.

We’ll start by reading the text…

The Text

1 Thessalonians 3:11–13 AV 1873

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 towards another, and towards all men, even as we do towards 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.

A Door

Let me just point out something that’s outside of the text that we’ll be considering this evening.

Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:1. How does it begin? In the KJV it starts with the word “Furthermore”.

That word is actually translating a word that has kind of a special function in several of Paul’s letters. That word (λοιπος) serves as kind of a transition in 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians (twice!), and 2 Thessalonians. And it’s used this way here in 1 Thessalonians as well.

If you were to look at the material that Paul covers in chapters 4 and 5 and compared that to what we’ve seen in chapters 1, 2, and 3, you would notice a difference in the nature of the content.

Chapters 1-3 have been so focused on personal matters between Paul and the Thessalonian believers. How many times have we heard how much Paul wants to see the Thessalonians and vice versa? So much material has been devoted thus far to Paul and Silas and Timothy’s history with and feelings toward these believers.

But then if you look at chapters 4 and 5, you’ll see Paul pivot to discuss major lifestyle and theological issues – appropriate relationships, brotherly love, the Lord’s return for believers, and the Day of the Lord – before Paul finishes with some closing remarks at the end of chapter 5.

But you can sense the difference in content between the first section of this letter in chapters 1-3 and the second major unit of the letter in chapters 4 and a good deal of 5.

And in between these two rooms – as it were – is a door (use your imagination) swinging on the hinge of chapter 3, verses 11-13.

So, we’re not in the new room yet. We’re still in the old room. But this evening we’re opening the door and soon enough we’ll walk through it together.

Let’s start walking then with verse 11…

Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 3:11 AV 1873

11 Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s familiar with the first three chapters of this letter that Paul and Silas and Timothy end this first major part of their letter to the Thessalonians by expressing yet again their wish to God that they would be able to see the Thessalonians soon. We’ll take the last part of the verse first…

direct our way unto you

11       direct our way unto you.

11 κατευθύναι [opt.] τὴν ὁδὸν ἡμῶν πρὸς ὑμᾶς· 

The verb used here – direct – is in the optative mood in Greek. All that means is that Paul isn’t just making a matter-of-fact statement here. Neither is he issuing a command. Nor is he describing a potential reality. He’s expressing a wish or a desire of his.

And he’s doing this to summarize what he’s already said in this letter. In addition, he’s going to use two more optatives in the next verse – verse 12 – in order to preview some of what he’s going to say in the rest of his letter to these believers.

This is why I said this text is like a hinge. Verse 11 points back to what we’ve already seen while verses 12 and 13 point ahead to what we will see later in this letter.

So, Paul’s first of three wishes or desires concerning these believers is that he and Silas and Timothy would be directed or guided back to the Thessalonians in the right timing.

And as I’ve alluded to, this kind of sentiment has already been expressed a number of times in this letter. But what’s new to this particular expression of this desire of Paul’s is the subject of his wish.

The content of his wish is that they would be able to visit the Thessalonians. But who’s the actor that’s going to make that happen?

God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ

11       God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ

11 Αὐτὸς … ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ ἡμῶν καὶ ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς

Well, it’s two actors but one being. It’s God … our Father and our Lord Jesus. They’re being invoked by Paul as he expresses his desire to see the Thessalonian believers once more. Because really, only God could make a pursuit like that work out – especially when you consider all of the obstacles that would have been in the way of that happening.

Now, it appears that Paul was later able to visit these believers. We have that recorded for us in Acts 19-20. In fact, on that third missionary journey of Paul’s it seems that he would have had several opportunities to visit the believers in Thessalonica.

So, Paul’s wish/desire was heard and answered. But who did the hearing and who did the answering? We’ve already noted that it’s God our Father and our Lord Jesus.

Now, it’s easy to overlook the significance of that statement and the inclusion of both the Father and Jesus. But maybe we can see more of the importance of that statement if we were to imagine that Paul said in this verse, “Now God himself and our Father, and our brother Timothy, direct our way unto you.

Or what about this? “Now God himself and our Father, and the city rulers in Thessalonica, direct our way unto you.”

Or what if it was stated, “Now God himself and our Father, and our archangel Michael, direct our way unto you.”

Neither Timothy nor the city rulers of Thessalonica nor even the archangel Michael is able to fulfill Paul’s stated desire of visiting the Thessalonians. Only God can do this.

And yet, we have two persons mentioned and appealed to – God our Father and our Lord Jesus.

This is one piece of a vast array of evidence in the Bible that within the one being that we refer to as God, there exists three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (even though the third person of what we call the Trinity isn’t mentioned here in 1 Thessalonians 3).

There’s one God which consists of three Persons. And in this verse we see that it’s perfectly acceptable and appropriate to address both the Father and the Son in our prayers and while we express our holy desires and wishes.

That’s what Paul did.

So, I think we see in verse 11 that Paul is looking back over all that he’s said so far. And the very simple way that he summarizes it is – I just want God to let us see you again.

Well, then he moves on from there to what we’ll see next in verses 12 and 13 to end chapter 3 where Paul gives a sneak peak into what he’s going to write to them in the rest of this letter.

Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 3:12 AV 1873

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

And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love

We see in verse 12 Paul uttering another desire or wish to God in the form of two optative verbs – increase and abound.

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

12 ὑμᾶς δὲ ὁ κύριος πλεονάσαι [opt.] καὶ περισσεύσαι [opt.] τῇ ἀγάπῃ εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας, καθάπερ καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς ὑμᾶς, 

But the main idea in focus here is the Thessalonians’ love. As they were waiting, this was to be their focus.

•           It’s this love of theirs that fueled their service to God, to one another, and to others (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           And it’s this love that Timothy was so glad to have seen while he was there in Thessalonica and which he no doubt was greatly encouraged to be able to bring back to Paul (1 Thessalonians 3:6).

So, the point is that the love of these believers there in Thessalonica – for the Lord himself and for his people and even for lost folks – it was present. It was noteworthy. It was encouraging.

And yet, that love had room for growth.

•           Later on in this letter, Paul is going to have to remind those Thessalonian believers that in the area of sexual purity and wholesome interpersonal relationships, they needed to not violate or take advantage of other believers (1 Thessalonians 4:6). That sounds like a potential lack of love.

•           And even when Paul tells the Thessalonians later in chapter 4 that they don’t need anyone to talk to them about brotherly love because they know all about it and even practice it fairly well. Yet, Paul has to urge them on to continue loving one other more and better (1 Thessalonians 4:10).

•           Paul admonishes them in chapter 5 to esteem their spiritual leadership highly in love (1 Thessalonians 5:13). Maybe they weren’t doing that to the extent that they needed to.

•           Paul needed to command them to be at peace with one another (1 Thessalonians 5:13). No matter how much love you think you have, you’re always in need of more interpersonal peace – which is ultimately fueled by love for God and others.

And there are a few more admonitions in the 5th chapter of this letter that have to do with love, but these will suffice.

The idea is plain though. Paul – in pivoting from his previous personal material in this letter (about how much he loves those Thessalonians, wants to see them, is so encouraged about them, etc.) – is now moving forward. And in doing so, he needs to address the love of these Thessalonians – which has room to grow.

And for you and me, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to note that any significant progress in our Christian lives is a direct result of our love abounding and increasing. Loving God and loving his people and those created in his image.

To have extraordinary spiritual gifts apart from exercising those gifts from a heart of love is worthless. Being extremely knowledgeable of the Scriptures – apart from possessing and exercising this genuine love – is vain.

Most people are familiar with “the 10 Commandments”. But fewer are aware of “the 2 Commandments” – to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.

This matter of your love is the bottom line. When God condenses all of his rules and regulations, he sums it up in one word – love.

This area is vital then for your Christian life.

Do you want to grow as a Christian? Do you want to draw more people to Christ so that they might be saved? Your love needs to grow.

Pray that God would do just that in your life. That he would grow your love. Pray that he would increase your love and cause it to abound.

That’s what Paul did for these believers in Thessalonica.

Paul wished to God that the love of the Thessalonians would increase.

•           That word is used of God’s abundant grace in the life of a sinner whom he’s saved (Romans 6:1).

•           It’s the opposite of the concept of lack (2 Corinthians 8:15). Paul wished to God that their love would show no lack  – no signs of deficiency.

•           And actually we discover later in Paul’s second letter to these believers that God indeed answered the apostle’s wish for them. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3 Paul says there that he gave thanks to God for them because their love towards one another was indeed abounding.

And then this second verb that Paul uses – which the KJV translates as “abound” – is a closely-related concept.

•           It’s like being filled with food and still having some left (John 6:12). That’s the way that Paul wanted the Thessalonians’ love to be – present just as it was – but not stopping there. Overflowing. Super-abounding. Going above and beyond.

•           And again, this concept appears in the 4th chapter of this letter where Paul admonishes the believers there to abound more and more in living life the way they were instructed to do from the Lord – particularly in their love others (1 Thessalonians 4:1,10).

So, this instruction at the end of chapter 3 is kind of a friendly gentle warning shot to them that more is to come along these lines.

But, really, who is sufficient for these things?

You might be sitting there and in your heart you’re thinking – “Yeah! I need to love people more!” You can recognize the need. But how do you actually do it?

And that’s where Paul’s example here is instructive and to be emulated. How did Paul seek to increase the love of his hearers?

Well, in this verse we’ve seen that he utters a wish/prayer in the presence of these people for their love to grow. So, Paul is both praying to God that this would happen – as well as putting this need before the people who need God to work in them. He puts both these folks and God himself on notice – as it were – that this is a need in the lives of the Thessalonian believers.

even as we do towards you

And then Paul offers himself and Silas and Timothy yet again as an example to these relatively-new believers.

He’s saying that he and his company have love that increases and abounds toward the Thessalonians. Therefore, those believers themselves ought to have love that’s increasing and abounding toward one another and toward everyone – all men.

And this prayer for the Thessalonians’ love to increase and abound is going somewhere. Paul has an end in mind – which he goes on to describe in verse 13…

Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 3:13 AV 1873

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.

He says…

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.

13 εἰς τὸ στηρίξαι [inf.] ὑμῶν τὰς καρδίας ἀμέμπτους ἐν ἁγιωσύνῃ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ μετὰ πάντων τῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ.

So, the intended goal of Paul’s desiring out loud to God that the love of the Thessalonians would increase and abound was that their “hearts” would be “stablished” by God…

your hearts

The Greek term behind “heart” is the word from which we derive our English word “cardio” as in “cardio-vascular”. But Paul obviously isn’t speaking of their literal blood-pumping heart organ being strengthened as if by some physcal exercise.

One Greek lexicon – or dictionary – defines “heart” in the New Testament as follows:

[It’s] the causative source of a person’s psychological life in its various aspects, but with special emphasis upon thoughts—‘heart, inner self, mind.’

Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains 26.3 καρδία, ας

the causative source of a person’s psychological life in its various aspects, but with special emphasis upon thoughts—‘heart, inner self, mind.’

Though in English the term ‘heart’ focuses primarily upon the emotive aspects of life, in the Greek NT the emphasis is more upon the result of thought, …

Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains

Though in English the term ‘heart’ focuses primarily upon the emotive aspects of life, in the Greek NT the emphasis is more upon the result of thought, particularly in view of the relationship of καρδία to the Hebrew term leb, which, though literally meaning ‘heart,’ refers primarily to the mind.

So, it’s the inner man of the Thessalonians’ that Paul is concerned about – especially their thoughts. Paul knew that an increase in real love in these believers – as they waited to be reunited with both Paul and his company as well as with the Lord himself – would result in something good happening to their inner thought life.

to the end he may stablish

What was Paul hoping would happen to their thoughts?

That they would be stablished. or you could say, “strengthened”.

[S] Our Lord Jesus’ physical half-brother James gives an illustration for us of what this “strengthening” looks like in James 5:7-8.

James 5:7–8 AV 1873

7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

 This “strengthening” looks a lot like patience.

Be patient

James admonishes you to be patient until the Lord returns. Just like a farmer is patient as he waits for the harvest, waiting for the rains to come in the right times.

Just like that patient farmer, we need to “stablish” – or be “strengthened” in – our thought-life.

So, how can we do that?…

the coming of the Lord draweth nigh

We need to recall that the Lord Jesus Christ’s return is near.

How near is it? Well, metaphorically it’s as near as Jesus was to Jerusalem when he was at the Mount of Olives – a mere 3,000 ft (or less than 900 meters) as the crow flies. For context, one of my sons ran 800 meters in about 3 minutes. So, the idea is that it’s near – not here – yet – but near. At any moment – whenever he and the Father please – he could and will return.

How often does this thought cross your mind? That Jesus could return at any moment? That his return is “soon”?

Instead, you tend to have other things on your mind.

•           Obviously this pandemic has been on everyone’s mind for over a year. Many are filled with fear in their minds concerning if they or someone they love could die from it.

•           Maybe you’re more afraid of the government overreach related to the vaccines and out-of-control spending associated with the pandemic.

•           There’s great reason for concern over the wide-scale embracing of gender dysphoria in our culture and what that’s going to mean for Bible-believing Christians.

•           Closer to home, you might be struggling at work with a lack of fulfillment or a sense of constant failure or interpersonal conflicts.

•           If you have kids, maybe you’re burdened for their souls and you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle to see them truly saved and walking with the Lord.

And I could go on. We could ask each of us what’s the most troubling reality in our minds – on our hearts – right now. And I think that we’d be here for quite some time if we were all being honest.

The Bible holds out this hope for you – that Jesus Christ is returning. He’s returning for you – believer! And he’ll make everything right. And this blessed return of his is to be soon…

draweth nigh

Now, we can all be real honest and recognize that it hasn’t happened for 2,000 years at this point. So you might be tempted to look at that assertion that Jesus’ coming is to be soon with some skepticism. Maybe you even have some level of disappointment and inner pain because at some point in your life you thought it was going to happen right then – and it didn’t.

But Jesus didn’t give us a date for his return. He didn’t promise that it would happen at a certain point. He wants us to continually wait for him – until he returns.

And he wants that reality – of his returning some day at any time – to guide our thoughts.

All those fears and worries and concerns that we considered earlier just melt – when in our hearts we truly believe that Jesus could come at any moment and set everything right.

So – really – what’s eating you up inside – in your mind – in your heart? Look for the soon return of Jesus, by faith.

And if you feel no strength to even do that, pray for help. God will surely answer your request for help from him to really have Jesus’ return in your mind as you face your difficulties.

So, the coming of the Lord indeed “draweth nigh”.

Now, Paul’s going to kind of back up and give us more details on what this strengthening of our hearts looks like. A believer with a strengthened heart will be increasing in holiness…

in holiness

in holiness

ἐν ἁγιωσύνῃ

Holiness is put in juxtaposition with the concept of anything that defiles the body and spirit, according to 2 Corinthians 7:1. And in that context, Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to not become partners – or be mismatched – with unbelievers. And he goes on to describe unbelievers with words like lawlessness, darkness, worthlessness, idolatry, and uncleanness.

In contrast, holiness is separateness from those things that characterize unbelievers – and which characterized your unbelieving self before you trusted Christ. Paul once more in that context describes holiness with words like righteous, light, Christ, faith, living and walking with God and being his people. And that’s all dependent upon you coming out from among the uncleanness and unholiness that characterized your life before Christ and being separate from all of that.

So, be honest with yourself. What in your life could be characterized as unclean? As lawless? As spiritually dark? As worthless? As tending toward the praising and worshipping of something other than the one true God?

As you come to love God and others more and more, the result will be that your inner thoughts will be characterized more and more by this kind of holiness – this separateness from sin.

And when your thought life can be characterized by this quality of holiness, then – because what is in your heart eventually comes out – your holy inner thoughts will impact your outward actions and life.

And Paul in this passage describes an outward life that’s impacted by holy inner thoughts as unblameable

unblameable

unblameable

ἀμέμπτους

God wants to strengthen your heart unblameable – or strengthen your heart to be unblameable. He wants you yourself to be blameless. Because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be sinless. Rather, it means that generally you’ll be living in such a way so that people won’t be able to genuinely find fault with you.

Part of this blamelessness in this life involves your avoiding grumbling and arguing. And this avoidance of these two very common vices comes through clinging to God’s word according to Philippians 2:15.

Now, once again in this letter to the Thessalonians, we see a reference here at the end of chapter 3 to what has come before in this letter and what is still to come in this letter.

•           Back in chapter 2, Paul could give himself and Silas as examples concerning this blameless living (1 Thessalonians 2:10).

•           And then, going forward, Paul is going to end this letter with another prayer/wish to God for these believers to be blameless (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

So, we’ve been saying that the purpose of your love abounding and increasing is that your inner thoughts would be strengthened and holy. And the result of all of that is a blameless life.

But we shouldn’t get the idea that this blameless life ends at our physical death. In fact, the real ultimate fulfillment of this blamelessness in your life won’t be fully realized until you’re with the Lord…

before God, even our Father

before God, even our Father,

ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν

Now, there’s a sense in which to speak of something happening “before God” is to speak metaphorically, indicating that it’s happening with his acknowledgement.

•           Paul said earlier in the first chapter of this letter that the Thessalonian believers were engaged in various activities in God’s presence. God was aware of them. God approved of what they were doing. They were doing those things in his presence – before him, with his approving knowledge (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           Or when Paul said that he and Silas and Timothy were just so filled with joy because the Thessalonians were still standing strong in the faith. And the apostle and his co-workers were doing their rejoicing “before God” or in his presence or with his full and approving acknowledgement (1 Thessalonians 3:9).

So, there’s a way in which to speak of doing something “before God” is to say that he is the main audience. You’re living a certain way for his attention – that he would see and be pleased.

And – no doubt – this is part of what Paul means here that the Thessalonians would be blameless “before God”. Our blameless living is not done with the purpose of impressing others. You’re living your blameless life by God’s grace so that God will see it – because he’s the only audience who ultimately counts.

But I do also want to point out that to do something “before God” is also spoken of in Scripture in more of a literal non-metaphorical way. In other words, to be “before God” is sometimes to literally be in his physical presence.

Jesus identifies this realm of being “before” his “Father” as the final judgement where he will confess to his Father those who confessed him to other humans in this life – and where he will deny to his Father those who denied him to other men (Matthew 10:32-33). He’s going to do this in the presence of – or before – his Father – physically in God’s presence.

And so, your blameless life is to be lived right here and now as God watches silently from a distance. And the ramifications of that blameless life are to continue on into the time when Jesus Christ returns and we’re all literally and physically in God’s presence…

at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ

We’ve already discussed this coming of Jesus – this parousia – in a previous message. And so, we’re definitely not going to rehash all of that material.

But, I’ll just remind us that this reference to Jesus’s coming seems to be somewhat elastic. It can refer to his first coming where he came and ministered among his disciples (2 Peter 1:16). It also can refer to his coming to judge the world and save his people Israel after what we call the Tribulation (2 Thessalonians 2:8). This concept can also refer to what I would understand to be what happens after the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth (2 Peter 1:12).

And then there’s this puzzling reality that Jesus describes his parousia in Matthew 24 as both apparent to everyone like lightning is (v 27) and yet a surprise to nearly everyone like in the days of Noah (v 37). And this – and a few other references – are where we get the idea of a rapture of believers that precedes great tribulation followed by Jesus coming to the earth to reign for 1,000 years.

So, whether Paul’s talking about Jesus’ secret parousia for his believers or his later obvious parousia, Paul is aiming his prayers for these Thessalonian believers toward this final goal – Jesus’ coming.

And in particular, Paul is praying that these believers would be ultimately blameless at this point – when Jesus returns.

Perhaps as I’ve been pointing out what Paul says concerning being blameless, there’s been some discouragement in your heart. You might be feeling like it’s an impossible feat that you would be as blameless as you ought to be in this life.

Well, first of all, it’s not impossible to live a life as a Christian where you can’t legitimately be accused of wrongdoing. But even if that’s a seeming impossibility, God will see to it that if you’re a believer, he’s going to keep working in you in such a way that you will be blameless when Jesus returns. God is able. And he’s determined to present you to himself blameless in the end.

And in the end, when you’re presented blameless to God, you won’t be alone. You and I will all be there together “with all his saints”…

with all his saints

with all his saints.

μετὰ πάντων τῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ.

As you know, this term “saints” isn’t referring to the Roman Catholic system of declaring a certain select group of individuals to be “saints”, while the rest of professing Christians are not.

This word “saint” is the New Testament word to identify anyone who trusts Jesus Christ alone for salvation from his sin.

But the word itself could be literally translated as “holy one”.

And I think this is an interesting note that the apostle Paul includes here. Because he had just expressed his desire that the Thessalonians’ love would increase to the point where they are strengthened in their holiness.

And then Paul’s going to go on in this letter and challenge this church about this matter of their holiness. And you might wonder why he’s doing that.

Ultimately, it’s because no one is going to be with Jesus who isn’t one of these holy ones – one of these saints.

Paul had to declare to the church in Corinth that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. And Christians can be deceived on this point. He says – don’t be! And there he gives a list of 10 sins which – if they characterize your life – they indicate that you are not going to be in this group that Paul mentions in 1 Thessalonians 3. You’re not among the holy ones if your life is dominated and characterized by sin and unholiness.

And you of course remember there in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 that Paul ends that by saying “such were some of you”. Some of you used to be characterized by lives of immorality or idolatry or drunkenness. You didn’t love others. You didn’t love God.

But now you’ve been washed. You’ve been sanctified – or made holy. And because of that work of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit, you are going to inherit the Kingdom of God. Because you are now a holy one – a saint.

all

Now, Paul says that the coming of our Lord Jesus is going to be accompanied “with all his saints”. Can you think – based on the rest of the letter of 1 Thessalonians – why Paul might be pointing out the fact that when Jesus Christ returns that he’s going to be with all of his saints?

We’re going to see in chapter 4 of this letter that Paul needs to correct some wrong thinking on the part of some of the Thessalonian believers. He’s going to need to assure them that those who are alive when the Lord comes won’t somehow go before those who have trusted Christ and died before his return.

And the context of the Thessalonian’s concern is focused on believers who have passed away – Paul says that in the most important ways, these believers have not really died. They’re just “asleep”. So-complete is Jesus’ victory over death, that those who trust fully in him will never really die. You just sleep until he wakes you up and brings you back with himself to rule and reign with him.

And Jesus isn’t just coming with only saints – believers – who are living at the time of his return. He’s coming with all of us true believers through the centuries – including your loved ones who have passed away believing Jesus and looking for his return.

Your Focus While You Wait

So, what is your focus to be as you wait – for Christ’s return ultimately? Your focus is to be on a growing love within your self directed toward others. This love is to result in inner thoughts that are strengthened in holiness and in a life which is outwardly blameless. And after pursuing that focus for however long the Lord gives you on this earth, you will be with him and all of his people forever.

May the Lord help this to be our focus until he comes.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13: No one really likes waiting. Whether it’s waiting in a line or waiting for food when you’re hungry or waiting for the next significant event in your life – waiting isn’t usually comfortable or enjoyable. Sometimes it feels downright unbearable.

And yet, waiting is inevitable – even in the life of a believer.

•           David waited years from the time when Samuel declared him king until he was actually crowned by all Israel.

•           Abraham waited decades between the time of God promising him a son and when Isaac was actually born.

•           Anna and Simeon were waiting their whole lives for the Messiah to come. And finally in their old age they got to actually hold him in their hands.

You can find literature out there as to how to deal with your having to wait. (https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/68517/15-scientific-tricks-make-waiting-easier and https://www.wikihow.com/Wait-Patiently, for example.)

A lot of that advice has to do with your focus. You’re advised to listen to music while you wait or to bring a friend to break the boredom. And the list goes on, but much of it has to do with what you’re going to choose to focus on while you’re waiting.

In our passage for today, this seems to be what’s happening. Paul is going to talk about two comings – both his coming to the Thessalonians and ultimately the Lord’s coming to them. And neither of those events were going to happen immediately, as we now know. So, Paul instructs the believers in Thessalonica as to what their focus should be while they wait.

So, let’s explore this theme of Your Focus While You Wait in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 to end this chapter and this first major section of this letter.

We’ll start by reading the text…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | The Text

1 Thessalonians 3:11–13 AV 1873

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 towards another, and towards all men, even as we do towards 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.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | A Door

Let me just point out something that’s outside of the text that we’ll be considering this evening.

Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:1. How does it begin? In the KJV it starts with the word “Furthermore”.

That word is actually translating a word that has kind of a special function in several of Paul’s letters. That word (λοιπος) serves as kind of a transition in 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians (twice!), and 2 Thessalonians. And it’s used this way here in 1 Thessalonians as well.

If you were to look at the material that Paul covers in chapters 4 and 5 and compared that to what we’ve seen in chapters 1, 2, and 3, you would notice a difference in the nature of the content.

Chapters 1-3 have been so focused on personal matters between Paul and the Thessalonian believers. How many times have we heard how much Paul wants to see the Thessalonians and vice versa? So much material has been devoted thus far to Paul and Silas and Timothy’s history with and feelings toward these believers.

But then if you look at chapters 4 and 5, you’ll see Paul pivot to discuss major lifestyle and theological issues – appropriate relationships, brotherly love, the Lord’s return for believers, and the Day of the Lord – before Paul finishes with some closing remarks at the end of chapter 5.

But you can sense the difference in content between the first section of this letter in chapters 1-3 and the second major unit of the letter in chapters 4 and a good deal of 5.

And in between these two rooms – as it were – is a door (use your imagination) swinging on the hinge of chapter 3, verses 11-13.

So, we’re not in the new room yet. We’re still in the old room. But this evening we’re opening the door and soon enough we’ll walk through it together.

Let’s start walking then with verse 11…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 3:11 AV 1873

11 Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s familiar with the first three chapters of this letter that Paul and Silas and Timothy end this first major part of their letter to the Thessalonians by expressing yet again their wish to God that they would be able to see the Thessalonians soon. We’ll take the last part of the verse first…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | direct our way unto you

11       direct our way unto you.

11 κατευθύναι [opt.] τὴν ὁδὸν ἡμῶν πρὸς ὑμᾶς· 

The verb used here – direct – is in the optative mood in Greek. All that means is that Paul isn’t just making a matter-of-fact statement here. Neither is he issuing a command. Nor is he describing a potential reality. He’s expressing a wish or a desire of his.

And he’s doing this to summarize what he’s already said in this letter. In addition, he’s going to use two more optatives in the next verse – verse 12 – in order to preview some of what he’s going to say in the rest of his letter to these believers.

This is why I said this text is like a hinge. Verse 11 points back to what we’ve already seen while verses 12 and 13 point ahead to what we will see later in this letter.

So, Paul’s first of three wishes or desires concerning these believers is that he and Silas and Timothy would be directed or guided back to the Thessalonians in the right timing.

And as I’ve alluded to, this kind of sentiment has already been expressed a number of times in this letter. But what’s new to this particular expression of this desire of Paul’s is the subject of his wish.

The content of his wish is that they would be able to visit the Thessalonians. But who’s the actor that’s going to make that happen?

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ

11       God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ

11 Αὐτὸς … ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ ἡμῶν καὶ ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς

Well, it’s two actors but one being. It’s God … our Father and our Lord Jesus. They’re being invoked by Paul as he expresses his desire to see the Thessalonian believers once more. Because really, only God could make a pursuit like that work out – especially when you consider all of the obstacles that would have been in the way of that happening.

Now, it appears that Paul was later able to visit these believers. We have that recorded for us in Acts 19-20. In fact, on that third missionary journey of Paul’s it seems that he would have had several opportunities to visit the believers in Thessalonica.

So, Paul’s wish/desire was heard and answered. But who did the hearing and who did the answering? We’ve already noted that it’s God our Father and our Lord Jesus.

Now, it’s easy to overlook the significance of that statement and the inclusion of both the Father and Jesus. But maybe we can see more of the importance of that statement if we were to imagine that Paul said in this verse, “Now God himself and our Father, and our brother Timothy, direct our way unto you.

Or what about this? “Now God himself and our Father, and the city rulers in Thessalonica, direct our way unto you.”

Or what if it was stated, “Now God himself and our Father, and our archangel Michael, direct our way unto you.”

Neither Timothy nor the city rulers of Thessalonica nor even the archangel Michael is able to fulfill Paul’s stated desire of visiting the Thessalonians. Only God can do this.

And yet, we have two persons mentioned and appealed to – God our Father and our Lord Jesus.

This is one piece of a vast array of evidence in the Bible that within the one being that we refer to as God, there exists three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (even though the third person of what we call the Trinity isn’t mentioned here in 1 Thessalonians 3).

There’s one God which consists of three Persons. And in this verse we see that it’s perfectly acceptable and appropriate to address both the Father and the Son in our prayers and while we express our holy desires and wishes.

That’s what Paul did.

So, I think we see in verse 11 that Paul is looking back over all that he’s said so far. And the very simple way that he summarizes it is – I just want God to let us see you again.

Well, then he moves on from there to what we’ll see next in verses 12 and 13 to end chapter 3 where Paul gives a sneak peak into what he’s going to write to them in the rest of this letter.

Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 3:12 AV 1873

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

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love

We see in verse 12 Paul uttering another desire or wish to God in the form of two optative verbs – increase and abound.

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

12 ὑμᾶς δὲ ὁ κύριος πλεονάσαι [opt.] καὶ περισσεύσαι [opt.] τῇ ἀγάπῃ εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας, καθάπερ καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς ὑμᾶς, 

But the main idea in focus here is the Thessalonians’ love. As they were waiting, this was to be their focus.

•           It’s this love of theirs that fueled their service to God, to one another, and to others (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           And it’s this love that Timothy was so glad to have seen while he was there in Thessalonica and which he no doubt was greatly encouraged to be able to bring back to Paul (1 Thessalonians 3:6).

So, the point is that the love of these believers there in Thessalonica – for the Lord himself and for his people and even for lost folks – it was present. It was noteworthy. It was encouraging.

And yet, that love had room for growth.

•           Later on in this letter, Paul is going to have to remind those Thessalonian believers that in the area of sexual purity and wholesome interpersonal relationships, they needed to not violate or take advantage of other believers (1 Thessalonians 4:6). That sounds like a potential lack of love.

•           And even when Paul tells the Thessalonians later in chapter 4 that they don’t need anyone to talk to them about brotherly love because they know all about it and even practice it fairly well. Yet, Paul has to urge them on to continue loving one other more and better (1 Thessalonians 4:10).

•           Paul admonishes them in chapter 5 to esteem their spiritual leadership highly in love (1 Thessalonians 5:13). Maybe they weren’t doing that to the extent that they needed to.

•           Paul needed to command them to be at peace with one another (1 Thessalonians 5:13). No matter how much love you think you have, you’re always in need of more interpersonal peace – which is ultimately fueled by love for God and others.

And there are a few more admonitions in the 5th chapter of this letter that have to do with love, but these will suffice.

The idea is plain though. Paul – in pivoting from his previous personal material in this letter (about how much he loves those Thessalonians, wants to see them, is so encouraged about them, etc.) – is now moving forward. And in doing so, he needs to address the love of these Thessalonians – which has room to grow.

And for you and me, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to note that any significant progress in our Christian lives is a direct result of our love abounding and increasing. Loving God and loving his people and those created in his image.

To have extraordinary spiritual gifts apart from exercising those gifts from a heart of love is worthless. Being extremely knowledgeable of the Scriptures – apart from possessing and exercising this genuine love – is vain.

Most people are familiar with “the 10 Commandments”. But fewer are aware of “the 2 Commandments” – to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.

This matter of your love is the bottom line. When God condenses all of his rules and regulations, he sums it up in one word – love.

This area is vital then for your Christian life.

Do you want to grow as a Christian? Do you want to draw more people to Christ so that they might be saved? Your love needs to grow.

Pray that God would do just that in your life. That he would grow your love. Pray that he would increase your love and cause it to abound.

That’s what Paul did for these believers in Thessalonica.

Paul wished to God that the love of the Thessalonians would increase.

•           That word is used of God’s abundant grace in the life of a sinner whom he’s saved (Romans 6:1).

•           It’s the opposite of the concept of lack (2 Corinthians 8:15). Paul wished to God that their love would show no lack  – no signs of deficiency.

•           And actually we discover later in Paul’s second letter to these believers that God indeed answered the apostle’s wish for them. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3 Paul says there that he gave thanks to God for them because their love towards one another was indeed abounding.

And then this second verb that Paul uses – which the KJV translates as “abound” – is a closely-related concept.

•           It’s like being filled with food and still having some left (John 6:12). That’s the way that Paul wanted the Thessalonians’ love to be – present just as it was – but not stopping there. Overflowing. Super-abounding. Going above and beyond.

•           And again, this concept appears in the 4th chapter of this letter where Paul admonishes the believers there to abound more and more in living life the way they were instructed to do from the Lord – particularly in their love others (1 Thessalonians 4:1,10).

So, this instruction at the end of chapter 3 is kind of a friendly gentle warning shot to them that more is to come along these lines.

But, really, who is sufficient for these things?

You might be sitting there and in your heart you’re thinking – “Yeah! I need to love people more!” You can recognize the need. But how do you actually do it?

And that’s where Paul’s example here is instructive and to be emulated. How did Paul seek to increase the love of his hearers?

Well, in this verse we’ve seen that he utters a wish/prayer in the presence of these people for their love to grow. So, Paul is both praying to God that this would happen – as well as putting this need before the people who need God to work in them. He puts both these folks and God himself on notice – as it were – that this is a need in the lives of the Thessalonian believers.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | even as we do towards you

And then Paul offers himself and Silas and Timothy yet again as an example to these relatively-new believers.

He’s saying that he and his company have love that increases and abounds toward the Thessalonians. Therefore, those believers themselves ought to have love that’s increasing and abounding toward one another and toward everyone – all men.

And this prayer for the Thessalonians’ love to increase and abound is going somewhere. Paul has an end in mind – which he goes on to describe in verse 13…

Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 3:13 AV 1873

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.

He says…

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.

13 εἰς τὸ στηρίξαι [inf.] ὑμῶν τὰς καρδίας ἀμέμπτους ἐν ἁγιωσύνῃ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ μετὰ πάντων τῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ.

So, the intended goal of Paul’s desiring out loud to God that the love of the Thessalonians would increase and abound was that their “hearts” would be “stablished” by God…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | your hearts

The Greek term behind “heart” is the word from which we derive our English word “cardio” as in “cardio-vascular”. But Paul obviously isn’t speaking of their literal blood-pumping heart organ being strengthened as if by some physcal exercise.

One Greek lexicon – or dictionary – defines “heart” in the New Testament as follows:

[It’s] the causative source of a person’s psychological life in its various aspects, but with special emphasis upon thoughts—‘heart, inner self, mind.’

Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains 26.3 καρδία, ας

the causative source of a person’s psychological life in its various aspects, but with special emphasis upon thoughts—‘heart, inner self, mind.’

Though in English the term ‘heart’ focuses primarily upon the emotive aspects of life, in the Greek NT the emphasis is more upon the result of thought, …

Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains

Though in English the term ‘heart’ focuses primarily upon the emotive aspects of life, in the Greek NT the emphasis is more upon the result of thought, particularly in view of the relationship of καρδία to the Hebrew term leb, which, though literally meaning ‘heart,’ refers primarily to the mind.

So, it’s the inner man of the Thessalonians’ that Paul is concerned about – especially their thoughts. Paul knew that an increase in real love in these believers – as they waited to be reunited with both Paul and his company as well as with the Lord himself – would result in something good happening to their inner thought life.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | to the end he may stablish

What was Paul hoping would happen to their thoughts?

That they would be stablished. or you could say, “strengthened”.

[S] Our Lord Jesus’ physical half-brother James gives an illustration for us of what this “strengthening” looks like in James 5:7-8.

James 5:7–8 AV 1873

7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

 This “strengthening” looks a lot like patience.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | Be patient

James admonishes you to be patient until the Lord returns. Just like a farmer is patient as he waits for the harvest, waiting for the rains to come in the right times.

Just like that patient farmer, we need to “stablish” – or be “strengthened” in – our thought-life.

So, how can we do that?…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | the coming of the Lord draweth nigh

We need to recall that the Lord Jesus Christ’s return is near.

How near is it? Well, metaphorically it’s as near as Jesus was to Jerusalem when he was at the Mount of Olives – a mere 3,000 ft (or less than 900 meters) as the crow flies. For context, one of my sons ran 800 meters in about 3 minutes. So, the idea is that it’s near – not here – yet – but near. At any moment – whenever he and the Father please – he could and will return.

How often does this thought cross your mind? That Jesus could return at any moment? That his return is “soon”?

Instead, you tend to have other things on your mind.

•           Obviously this pandemic has been on everyone’s mind for over a year. Many are filled with fear in their minds concerning if they or someone they love could die from it.

•           Maybe you’re more afraid of the government overreach related to the vaccines and out-of-control spending associated with the pandemic.

•           There’s great reason for concern over the wide-scale embracing of gender dysphoria in our culture and what that’s going to mean for Bible-believing Christians.

•           Closer to home, you might be struggling at work with a lack of fulfillment or a sense of constant failure or interpersonal conflicts.

•           If you have kids, maybe you’re burdened for their souls and you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle to see them truly saved and walking with the Lord.

And I could go on. We could ask each of us what’s the most troubling reality in our minds – on our hearts – right now. And I think that we’d be here for quite some time if we were all being honest.

The Bible holds out this hope for you – that Jesus Christ is returning. He’s returning for you – believer! And he’ll make everything right. And this blessed return of his is to be soon…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | draweth nigh

Now, we can all be real honest and recognize that it hasn’t happened for 2,000 years at this point. So you might be tempted to look at that assertion that Jesus’ coming is to be soon with some skepticism. Maybe you even have some level of disappointment and inner pain because at some point in your life you thought it was going to happen right then – and it didn’t.

But Jesus didn’t give us a date for his return. He didn’t promise that it would happen at a certain point. He wants us to continually wait for him – until he returns.

And he wants that reality – of his returning some day at any time – to guide our thoughts.

All those fears and worries and concerns that we considered earlier just melt – when in our hearts we truly believe that Jesus could come at any moment and set everything right.

So – really – what’s eating you up inside – in your mind – in your heart? Look for the soon return of Jesus, by faith.

And if you feel no strength to even do that, pray for help. God will surely answer your request for help from him to really have Jesus’ return in your mind as you face your difficulties.

So, the coming of the Lord indeed “draweth nigh”.

Now, Paul’s going to kind of back up and give us more details on what this strengthening of our hearts looks like. A believer with a strengthened heart will be increasing in holiness…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | in holiness

in holiness

ἐν ἁγιωσύνῃ

Holiness is put in juxtaposition with the concept of anything that defiles the body and spirit, according to 2 Corinthians 7:1. And in that context, Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to not become partners – or be mismatched – with unbelievers. And he goes on to describe unbelievers with words like lawlessness, darkness, worthlessness, idolatry, and uncleanness.

In contrast, holiness is separateness from those things that characterize unbelievers – and which characterized your unbelieving self before you trusted Christ. Paul once more in that context describes holiness with words like righteous, light, Christ, faith, living and walking with God and being his people. And that’s all dependent upon you coming out from among the uncleanness and unholiness that characterized your life before Christ and being separate from all of that.

So, be honest with yourself. What in your life could be characterized as unclean? As lawless? As spiritually dark? As worthless? As tending toward the praising and worshipping of something other than the one true God?

As you come to love God and others more and more, the result will be that your inner thoughts will be characterized more and more by this kind of holiness – this separateness from sin.

And when your thought life can be characterized by this quality of holiness, then – because what is in your heart eventually comes out – your holy inner thoughts will impact your outward actions and life.

And Paul in this passage describes an outward life that’s impacted by holy inner thoughts as unblameable

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | unblameable

unblameable

ἀμέμπτους

God wants to strengthen your heart unblameable – or strengthen your heart to be unblameable. He wants you yourself to be blameless. Because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be sinless. Rather, it means that generally you’ll be living in such a way so that people won’t be able to genuinely find fault with you.

Part of this blamelessness in this life involves your avoiding grumbling and arguing. And this avoidance of these two very common vices comes through clinging to God’s word according to Philippians 2:15.

Now, once again in this letter to the Thessalonians, we see a reference here at the end of chapter 3 to what has come before in this letter and what is still to come in this letter.

•           Back in chapter 2, Paul could give himself and Silas as examples concerning this blameless living (1 Thessalonians 2:10).

•           And then, going forward, Paul is going to end this letter with another prayer/wish to God for these believers to be blameless (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

So, we’ve been saying that the purpose of your love abounding and increasing is that your inner thoughts would be strengthened and holy. And the result of all of that is a blameless life.

But we shouldn’t get the idea that this blameless life ends at our physical death. In fact, the real ultimate fulfillment of this blamelessness in your life won’t be fully realized until you’re with the Lord…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | before God, even our Father

before God, even our Father,

ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν

Now, there’s a sense in which to speak of something happening “before God” is to speak metaphorically, indicating that it’s happening with his acknowledgement.

•           Paul said earlier in the first chapter of this letter that the Thessalonian believers were engaged in various activities in God’s presence. God was aware of them. God approved of what they were doing. They were doing those things in his presence – before him, with his approving knowledge (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           Or when Paul said that he and Silas and Timothy were just so filled with joy because the Thessalonians were still standing strong in the faith. And the apostle and his co-workers were doing their rejoicing “before God” or in his presence or with his full and approving acknowledgement (1 Thessalonians 3:9).

So, there’s a way in which to speak of doing something “before God” is to say that he is the main audience. You’re living a certain way for his attention – that he would see and be pleased.

And – no doubt – this is part of what Paul means here that the Thessalonians would be blameless “before God”. Our blameless living is not done with the purpose of impressing others. You’re living your blameless life by God’s grace so that God will see it – because he’s the only audience who ultimately counts.

But I do also want to point out that to do something “before God” is also spoken of in Scripture in more of a literal non-metaphorical way. In other words, to be “before God” is sometimes to literally be in his physical presence.

Jesus identifies this realm of being “before” his “Father” as the final judgement where he will confess to his Father those who confessed him to other humans in this life – and where he will deny to his Father those who denied him to other men (Matthew 10:32-33). He’s going to do this in the presence of – or before – his Father – physically in God’s presence.

And so, your blameless life is to be lived right here and now as God watches silently from a distance. And the ramifications of that blameless life are to continue on into the time when Jesus Christ returns and we’re all literally and physically in God’s presence…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ

We’ve already discussed this coming of Jesus – this parousia – in a previous message. And so, we’re definitely not going to rehash all of that material.

But, I’ll just remind us that this reference to Jesus’s coming seems to be somewhat elastic. It can refer to his first coming where he came and ministered among his disciples (2 Peter 1:16). It also can refer to his coming to judge the world and save his people Israel after what we call the Tribulation (2 Thessalonians 2:8). This concept can also refer to what I would understand to be what happens after the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth (2 Peter 1:12).

And then there’s this puzzling reality that Jesus describes his parousia in Matthew 24 as both apparent to everyone like lightning is (v 27) and yet a surprise to nearly everyone like in the days of Noah (v 37). And this – and a few other references – are where we get the idea of a rapture of believers that precedes great tribulation followed by Jesus coming to the earth to reign for 1,000 years.

So, whether Paul’s talking about Jesus’ secret parousia for his believers or his later obvious parousia, Paul is aiming his prayers for these Thessalonian believers toward this final goal – Jesus’ coming.

And in particular, Paul is praying that these believers would be ultimately blameless at this point – when Jesus returns.

Perhaps as I’ve been pointing out what Paul says concerning being blameless, there’s been some discouragement in your heart. You might be feeling like it’s an impossible feat that you would be as blameless as you ought to be in this life.

Well, first of all, it’s not impossible to live a life as a Christian where you can’t legitimately be accused of wrongdoing. But even if that’s a seeming impossibility, God will see to it that if you’re a believer, he’s going to keep working in you in such a way that you will be blameless when Jesus returns. God is able. And he’s determined to present you to himself blameless in the end.

And in the end, when you’re presented blameless to God, you won’t be alone. You and I will all be there together “with all his saints”…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | with all his saints

with all his saints.

μετὰ πάντων τῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ.

As you know, this term “saints” isn’t referring to the Roman Catholic system of declaring a certain select group of individuals to be “saints”, while the rest of professing Christians are not.

This word “saint” is the New Testament word to identify anyone who trusts Jesus Christ alone for salvation from his sin.

But the word itself could be literally translated as “holy one”.

And I think this is an interesting note that the apostle Paul includes here. Because he had just expressed his desire that the Thessalonians’ love would increase to the point where they are strengthened in their holiness.

And then Paul’s going to go on in this letter and challenge this church about this matter of their holiness. And you might wonder why he’s doing that.

Ultimately, it’s because no one is going to be with Jesus who isn’t one of these holy ones – one of these saints.

Paul had to declare to the church in Corinth that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. And Christians can be deceived on this point. He says – don’t be! And there he gives a list of 10 sins which – if they characterize your life – they indicate that you are not going to be in this group that Paul mentions in 1 Thessalonians 3. You’re not among the holy ones if your life is dominated and characterized by sin and unholiness.

And you of course remember there in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 that Paul ends that by saying “such were some of you”. Some of you used to be characterized by lives of immorality or idolatry or drunkenness. You didn’t love others. You didn’t love God.

But now you’ve been washed. You’ve been sanctified – or made holy. And because of that work of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit, you are going to inherit the Kingdom of God. Because you are now a holy one – a saint.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | all

Now, Paul says that the coming of our Lord Jesus is going to be accompanied “with all his saints”. Can you think – based on the rest of the letter of 1 Thessalonians – why Paul might be pointing out the fact that when Jesus Christ returns that he’s going to be with all of his saints?

We’re going to see in chapter 4 of this letter that Paul needs to correct some wrong thinking on the part of some of the Thessalonian believers. He’s going to need to assure them that those who are alive when the Lord comes won’t somehow go before those who have trusted Christ and died before his return.

And the context of the Thessalonian’s concern is focused on believers who have passed away – Paul says that in the most important ways, these believers have not really died. They’re just “asleep”. So-complete is Jesus’ victory over death, that those who trust fully in him will never really die. You just sleep until he wakes you up and brings you back with himself to rule and reign with him.

And Jesus isn’t just coming with only saints – believers – who are living at the time of his return. He’s coming with all of us true believers through the centuries – including your loved ones who have passed away believing Jesus and looking for his return.

Your Focus While You Wait

So, what is your focus to be as you wait – for Christ’s return ultimately? Your focus is to be on a growing love within your self directed toward others. This love is to result in inner thoughts that are strengthened in holiness and in a life which is outwardly blameless. And after pursuing that focus for however long the Lord gives you on this earth, you will be with him and all of his people forever.

May the Lord help this to be our focus until he comes.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary Verses 6-10

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | Verses 6-10: What encourages you in this life? When things get difficult for you and you feel down, what is it that lifts you up?

The internet, of course, is full of ideas on how you can be encouraged. One Ph.D. author suggests that engaging in positive self-talk, watching uplifting videos on the internet, and seeking encouraging quotes are what you should use to encourage yourself.

https://www.goodfinding.com/encourage-yourself.html

Still others suggest that the key to being encouraged involves being proud of yourself, being your own best friend, keeping a good sense of humor, spending time on hobbies, exercising, and eating good food. Those are the things that are going to encourage you.

https://www.wikihow.com/Support-and-Encourage-Yourself

But for the believer, encouragement from God can take numerous forms.

In the passage before us this evening in 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10, Paul speaks of encouragement coming from fellow-believers – especially regarding the aspect of their faith.

As you recall, Timothy brought news to Paul concerning the Thessalonians’ faith – and that greatly encouraged him. And by the end of our passage tonight, Paul is going to tell those folks how he wants to come to them and reciprocate the favor by encouraging them. Their faith encouraged him and so he wanted to go encourage them.

So, what we see in this passage is this truth: Your Faith Encourages Other Believers.

Haven’t you experienced that? You hear of your fellow-believers standing strong – either in the present or the past – and there’s something about that that’s strengthening and encouraging.

Whether that be reading a missionary biography or hearing from a contemporary believer about undergoing trials but remaining steadfast in the faith – this’s encouraging to us.

And it was to the apostle Paul, as well.

So, let’s read 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10 and then examine this passage in closer detail and be reminded of how Your Faith Encourages Other Believers.

Verses 6-10

1 Thessalonians 3:6–10 AV 1873

6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, 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.

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?

As you might remember, we ended our last message with the apostle Paul wondering if Satan had effectively tempted the recent converts in Thessalonica. Had they fallen away from the faith?

Because if they did, that would mean that numerous aspects of Paul’s tireless labor among them would have proven vain or empty. And what a discouragement that would have been for the apostle and Silas and Timothy.

That’s why they sent Timothy to the Thessalonians – to figure out what was going on with them and their new faith in Christ.

And that’s where the note of contrast in verse 6 couldn’t be more welcome. He starts that verse with this phrase …

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 3:6 AV 1873

6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | But now

But now

6 Ἄρτι δὲ

This is indeed a sharp contrast to what Paul had previously been sharing with the Thessalonians.

In the previous passage in verses 1-3 of this chapter, there was a lot of discussion about the agony that Paul and Silas were experiencing as they were kept from these believers in Thessalonica. Paul wanted so greatly to see these people and to know whether they were still walking with the Lord in the midst of their afflictions. And it was unbearable for them to have to wait so long.

“But now”…

Paul’s fears were allayed and comforted – he was encouraged – by hearing of the faith of these Thessalonians, he says, …

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | when Timotheus came from you unto us

when Timotheus came from you unto us

ἐλθόντος Τιμοθέου πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἀφʼ ὑμῶν

This in-and-of-itself was comforting and encouraging enough for Paul. Timothy’s return by itself would have been a great relief to the apostle.

•           Because this Timothy – who had been absent from Paul for quite some time – is the man who was known for his selfless service to the apostle (Acts 19:22).

•           Timothy was one whom Paul calls elsewhere his workfellow (Romans 16:21). Paul esteemed him as a true co-worker.

•           He was Paul’s dearly beloved son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2) who was faithful in the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:17).

•           He was one who worked the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 16:10).

•           He was a brother (2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1) and a preacher (2 Corinthians 1:19) and a servant of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:1).

As Timothy and Silas completed their journey of over 300 miles from Macedonia to Corinth where Paul was stationed – the return of this man of faith would have brought great encouragement to Paul.

And yet, what was even better to Paul was the message that Timothy brought back from the Thessalonians…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | and brought us good tidings

and brought us good tidings

καὶ εὐαγγελισαμένου ἡμῖν

This phrase in the English, “brought … good tidings” is actually the word from which we get the term “evangelize”. The concept is “bringing good news”. And of course, the best news one can ever receive is the message of forgiveness of your sins through Jesus Christ.

But sometimes this word refers to bringing other kinds of good news – not as good as the Gospel itself, but good nonetheless.

What good news did Timothy bring to Paul? …

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | your faith

your faith

τὴν πίστιν … ὑμῶν

Timothy brought good news concerning the faith of the Thessalonians.

•           It’s this faith of theirs that Paul remembered back in chapter 1 and verse 3 where he could recall that this  faith of theirs caused the Thessalonians to be engaged in encouraging work for the Lord’s sake (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           The faith of these Thessalonians was spread all over the place – in Macedonia – their region – and in Achaia – a region a little father – and even beyond that (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

•           And it was this faith that Paul and Silas sent Timothy to the Thessalonians to strengthen and encourage (1 Thessalonians 3:2).

•           But toward the end of our last message, Paul was very concerned that perhaps the Tempter had effectively tempted those believers. And so the status of the faith of those believers in Paul’s mind was in question (1 Thessalonians 3:5).

But now Timothy’s return to Paul with good news concerning the Thessalonians’ faith was a great encouragement to him.

And along with the faith of these believers, Timothy also had an encouraging update concerning their love

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | your … charity

your … charity

τὴν ἀγάπην ὑμῶν

That’s of course the idea behind the KJV’s “charity”.

•           This notable love of the Thessalonians is why Paul opened this letter commending their faith and love – and noting how these two virtues caused those believers to act (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           These two aspects of faith and love are something for which Paul – in his second letter to them – just can’t stop giving thanks to God (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           And yet, in keeping with Paul’s theme in this letter of already attaining but still pressing on to to more godliness, Paul exhorts the Thessalonians later on in this letter to put on “the breastplate of faith and love” (1 Thessalonians 5:8).

So, not only was the faith of the Thessalonians an encouragement to Paul. The love that sprung forth from that faith was a great joy to him as well.

The Thessalonians’ faith was directed toward God. Their love was directed toward God – and likely toward one another.

And now, Paul points to one other dynamic that was very encouraging to him. And that’s this matter of how the Thessalonians felt about the ones who originally brought them the gospel…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | and that ye have good remembrance of us always

and that ye have good remembrance of us always,

καὶ ὅτι ἔχετε μνείαν ἡμῶν ἀγαθὴν πάντοτε

In the apostle Paul’s last letter to his son in the faith, Timothy, he says this very thing. That he had remembrance of Timothy. The minister – Paul – remembered the one to whom he had ministered – Timothy.

But here in 1 Thessalonians 3:6, it’s actually the other way around. The ones who were ministered to are remembering the ones who ministered to them.

And this remembrance was good

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | good remembrance

Sure – the Thessalonians hand’t forgotten about the apostle Paul and his helper Silas.

But what’s more – the Thessalonians had not become what certain other churches to whom Paul ministered were tending to become – those whose remembrance of the apostle would not have been characterized as “good”…

You think of the church in Corinth. And in both of his letters to that church – which Paul himself founded! – he finds himself in the strange position of having to defend his own apostleship and calling of God to those folks who should have known better.

Or how about the churches in Galatia who – at least some of them – had abandoned the gospel all together! They had started to drift away from salvation by faith alone through Christ alone and had started to adopt a works-based Christian-like religion.

Paul – no doubt, with great grief – could not have said to those two churches that they had good memories of him.

But it was different with the Thessalonians. They “had good remembrance of” Paul and Silas.

And they remembered those two who has brought them the gospel – always

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | always

As often as the Thessalonians thought about Paul and Silas, their memories of them were good. And this thought must have crossed the minds of the Thessalonians often.

You might have someone like that in your life. Where this man or woman was greatly used by God in your life to bring you to faith in Christ or to mature you in the faith. And every time you think about that individual, your thoughts and memories of them are good. They’re pleasant. You’d like to be with them again if you could.

And that’s just what we see these good thoughts of the Thessalonians about Paul and Silas leading them to. Those thoughts led those believers to a certain inner compulsion to see Paul and Silas again…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | desiring greatly to see us

desiring greatly to see us,

ἐπιποθοῦντες ἡμᾶς ἰδεῖν

This great desire that the Thessalonians had to see Paul and Silas and Timothy is akin to the desire that a baby has for milk – which was of course the only nutritional option for babies of the 1st century (1 Peter 2:2).

As I was in our church’s lobby the other evening I heard a baby crying. And it could have been a tired cry – but if I remember my baby-cries correctly from 8 or 9 years ago with our last baby – I think it was a hungry cry. You can tell the difference sometimes.

And of course that’s what babies do. They’re greatly desiring milk to feed them and to keep them alive. And they’re not just going to let out a little whimper about it. They’re not going to just quietly clear their throat and hope that someone pays attention. They let out a great and lamenting cry. They’re determined to be noticed!

And while the Thessalonians probably weren’t bellowing-out with great agitation to see Paul and his company – they at least harbored that inner feeling about seeing the men that had been so greatly used by the Lord in saving them from their sin and starting them off on their walk with the Lord.

And the truth of the matter was that this wasn’t a one-sided deal. It wasn’t just that the Thessalonians so greatly desired to see Paul and Silas and Timothy. No – it was a reciprocal feeling…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | as we also to see you

as we also to see you:

καθάπερ καὶ ἡμεῖς ὑμᾶς, 

There’s no verb in that phrase in the Greek text. And in English you can observe that the phrase “to see” is in italics, which indicates that the King James translators added it to enhance understanding of the readers – but that it’s not there in the biblical text.

So, the operative verb is actually understood from what preceded this phrase. The Thessalonians so greatly desired to see Paul and Silas and Timothy – that’s the verb. And that feeling of desire was mutual. Paul and Silas and Timothy greatly desired to see those believers in Thessalonica from whom they had been violently torn away by that mob in that city.

And that abrupt parting from one another that these folks had to experience was an affliction and distress to Paul and Silas. It was a discouraging hardship that really only the word that Timothy brought back from the Thessalonians could comfort and encourage them about…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 3:7 AV 1873

7 therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress, by your faith:

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress, by your faith:

7 therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress, by your faith:

7 διὰ τοῦτο παρεκλήθημεν, ἀδελφοί, ἐφʼ ὑμῖν ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ ἀνάγκῃ καὶ θλίψει ἡμῶν διὰ τῆς ὑμῶν πίστεως, 

Let’s break that down a little bit …

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | therefore … by your faith

therefore … by your faith

διὰ τοῦτο … διὰ τῆς ὑμῶν πίστεως

Therefore is literally “because of this”. And then the last phrase in this verse by your faith is literally “because of your faith”.

So – because of this…

Well, because of what?

Because of your faith.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | we were comforted

we were comforted

παρεκλήθημεν

Now, it was because Timothy brought back word of the Thessalonians’ faith and love and their sweet spirit toward Paul and Silas and their great desire to see them – because of all of that – which can be summarized as their faith, Paul and Silas and Timothy altogether were greatly encouraged or comforted. That Greek word can mean either concept depending on the context.

There was a real grief in the mind of the apostle as he contemplated the possibility that these folks to whom he had preached the gospel and ministered – that perhaps they were tempted by Satan and fell away from Christ. Paul was cognizant of that real danger in their lives. And perhaps emotionally he had prepared himself for the worst concerning those people.

This inner turmoil that Paul would have faced was a lot like when the young man in Acts 20 fell asleep and then fell out of the window and everyone was dismayed and thrown into despair concerning the death of that one. But then Paul came and miraculously brought him back to life. And it says that they were “not a little comforted”. They had come to reckon with the worst-case scenario for that young man. But then God graciously changed the outcome.

And I think that’s what happened with Paul and the Thessalonians. Paul had reckoned that the worst had happened – that the Thessalonians had fallen away from Christ. So, when Timothy comes back to him and gives him this great news about them – Paul is comforted – as if he were receiving them back from the dead – at least in his mind.

And that period in which Paul was entertaining in his mind the worst-case scenario about the Thessalonians – he describes that time as “affliction” and “distress” …

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | in all our affliction and distress

in all our affliction and distress

ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ ἀνάγκῃ καὶ θλίψει ἡμῶν

That word distress often refers to neediness.

You’re in a hard position because you’re so incredibly needy. You have needs that are going unmet. And that’s a painful situation to find yourself in – and one that the apostle Paul was no stranger to.

And for Paul in this context, his need was to see those believers in Thessalonica and to know that they were still walking with Christ. And Timothy’s report to them was something that comforted Paul about his distress.

Now, that word affliction oftentimes refers to trouble that comes on someone because of other people.

The way that Paul and Silas were sent out of Thessalonica was this kind of affliction. And it was fresh on Paul’s mind as he’s writing this letter.

But the news from Timothy about these believers in Thessalonica comforted and encouraged Paul about this awful memory which he hadn’t been able to forget.

So, because spiritually the Thessalonians were indeed alive as Paul discovered from Timothy, Paul and Silas and Timothy all felt a new sense of life in themselves …

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 3:8 AV 1873

8 for now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | for now we live

for now we live

ὅτι νῦν ζῶμεν

The only other place in the Bible where Paul uses these two words “now” and “live” together in the same context is Galatians 2:20. There Paul’s telling the Galatians that he was crucified with Christ – and yet amazingly he still lives. But the life that he “now lives” in the flesh, he lives by faith in Christ.

He’s speaking there of new resurrection life. Of being dead in a spiritual sense – and then being raised spiritually to new life.

And I think that’s the concept that Paul’s communicating here, though there’s a little different angle to it. In 1 Thessalonians 3:8 Paul is viewing himself before hearing from Timothy about the Thessalonians’ faith as if he were dead. That’s how affected Paul was about the plight of these relatively-new Christians. But now that Paul heard from Timothy – now he lives again! As if he were raised from his emotional death by this wonderful good news of the Thessalonians.

And Paul says here that the good news which raised him back to life – as it were – is that the Thessalonians stand or stand fast

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | if ye stand fast

if ye stand fast

ἐὰν ὑμεῖς στήκετε

So, clearly, standing is the opposite of falling.

The Thessalonians could have done the spiritual equivalent of falling in their faith. They could have renounced their faith in Jesus. They could have fallen away to some sort of perversion of Christianity that was works-based to avoid some of the persecution they experienced.

But they didn’t do any of that. They stood or stood fast or stood strong.

And they did this in the Lord

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | in the Lord

in the Lord.

ἐν κυρίῳ

Paul said this very thing to the church in Philippi. But instead of stating that they were in fact standing in the Lord, Paul commanded the Philippians to actually do this.

And the context there in Philippians 4:1 connects this idea of standing firm in the Lord with being imitators of Paul and rejecting the example of those who are, as Paul says there with tears, “enemies of the cross of Christ”.

To imitate Pauline example then is to stand firm in the Lord. And that’s just what we’ve seen to be true of the Thessalonians so far in this epistle.

•           You might remember that in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Paul commended them there that they became followers of Paul and Silas and of the Lord Jesus himself by receiving the word that Paul and Silas preached to them.

•           Then 1 Thessalonians 2:14 told us that the Thessalonians became followers of the good examples of the churches in Judea in their suffering at the hands of their fellow-citizens.

So, the Thessalonians had stood firm in the Lord. And this was evident by their imitating godly examples in their lives.

For you and me, there are a lot of examples for us to follow. Some are good and many are not. Social media allows anyone to publish and document their lifestyles for everyone to see and follow.

What examples are you following? What examples are you shunning? The examples that you follow will have an eternal impact on your life. If you want to stand firm in the Lord you’ll need to follow those good and godly examples that you have all around you – both (and primarily) in the Scripture but also in life – in this church and among other believers.

The Thessalonians had followed good godly examples and were thus standing firm in the Lord – rather than falling away from the faith. And this caused the apostle Paul to rejoice and to feel as though he were brought back from the brink of death, emotionally. That’s what we’ve seen in verse 8.

And Paul continues expressing his great relief at the good news of the Thessalonians’ standing strong in the Lord in verse 9, but this time in question form…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 3:9 AV 1873

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;

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | For what thanks can we render to God again for you

For what thanks can we render to God again for you

τίνα γὰρ εὐχαριστίαν δυνάμεθα τῷ θεῷ ἀνταποδοῦναι περὶ ὑμῶν

So, in case anyone would think that Paul’s describing himself as coming back to life from being dead was an overstatement, he wants to make clear here that it was not. He now explains why he was so relieved at the news that the Thessalonians still stood strong in Christ.

In summary, he could never ever pay God back for all of the joy that the Thessalonians had caused him.

This giving of thanks is to characterize our speech (Ephesians 5:4). It’s to characterize our prayers (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2) – especially concerning our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1). It’s even to characterize our hearts as we receive food at our mealtimes (1 Timothy 4:3-4).

And for Paul, this giving of thanks was characteristic of his thoughts and heart attitude toward God every time he thought of those Thessalonian believers.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | For what thanks can we render to God again for you

For what thanks can we render to God again for you

τίνα γὰρ εὐχαριστίαν δυνάμεθα τῷ θεῷ ἀνταποδοῦναι περὶ ὑμῶν

And yet that wasn’t enough, he says. He could never render an appropriate amount of thanksgiving back to God for these folks.

It’s like inviting to dinner at your house a person who has no money and no home. He could never repay you (Luke 14:14).

That’s how God pictures himself in Job 41:11 where he’s confronting Job about this creature identified as Leviathan. This creature – who seems to be something like a crocodile – is fierce and unpredictable and uncontrollable. And God is showing Job that if a creature that he created is like that, then how can Job possibly ever hope to control God?

And in the midst of that confrontation from God, he says “Who has [‘given to, Romans 11:35”] me that I should repay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.”

So, the point is that any amount of thanksgiving that Paul and Silas and Timothy could possibly return to God for the Thessalonian believers – it wouldn’t be a true pay back to God. Our best attempts at thanking God for his wonderful gifts to us always pale in comparison to the true value and worth of those gifts.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God

for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;

ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ χαρᾷ ᾗ χαίρομεν διʼ ὑμᾶς ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν, 

And in this case, the gift that Paul knows he can’t repay God for is joy.

Does God’s spiritual work in this world cause you any amount of joy? If you were here Sunday evening to hear about missionary Rachel Steffensmeier’s work in the Philippines and that of her co-workers there, was your response to what God’s doing in that area of the world joy? As you hear about new believers and what the Lord is doing in their lives – does that cause you joy?

It should. It did for the apostle Paul.

And this joy was some kind of joy! The wording there is that the apostle Paul and Silas and Timothy “joyed a joy” – or that they “rejoiced a rejoicing”.

And the joy was abundant – it was all the joy that they rejoiced.

Something similar happened with the church in Corinth. After several difficult letters and visits to that troubled church, Paul could finally write in 2 Corinthians 7:13 that he “rejoiced a rejoicing” or “joyed a joy” after Titus had returned from that church with good news concerning their attitude toward Titus and toward Paul himself.

So, why wouldn’t Paul feel the way he did about those Thessalonians? He could never possibly repay God for the joy brought to the apostle by what God was doing in their lives.

And yet, though Paul would never get close to repaying God, he was still determined to pray for those relatively new believers as fervently as he possibly could…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 3:10 AV 1873

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

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | night and day praying exceedingly

night and day praying exceedingly

νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ δεόμενοι

So, Paul and Silas and Timothy weren’t communicating merely thanksgiving to God for the Thessalonians. They were also engaged in prayers for them.

Often this word is translated in other passages as beg or beseech or plead. There’s a balance to Christian prayer. It’s not all joy-filled thanksgiving. Neither is it all striving agonizing requests for dire needs in our life and the lives of others. It’s both – and more.

And so, Paul and his company knew the great joy of joy-filled thanksgiving on behalf of these believers in Thessalonica. But they also knew heart-rending begging and beseeching on their behalf.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | exceedingly

And there really was a great earnestness and urgency to their praying to the Lord for these believers. It was done “exceedingly”.

That’s the word used to describe how God can do for us so much more than we would ever think to ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). A common definition of the word would be “beyond all measure” or “super-abundantly”.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | night and day

And that concept of the super-abundance of Paul’s praying for these Thessalonians is reinforced by that phrase “night and day”. This is to say that it always happened. These are the two parts of every 24-hour cycle – night and day.

Summer is just a season away at this point. And that means gardening will finally be possible. Even now, some things are growing out in our yards. And the Bible describes that process of seeds germinating and growing in this way as “night and day”. It’s a constant and continual process (Mark 4:26-27).

And what’s interesting is that Paul and Silas said earlier in this letter that their physical labor for these Thessalonian believers was this kind of constant and continual occurence. They labored physically “night and day” for them (1 Thessalonians 2:9).

And now here in this passage in chapter 3 we don’t see the physical aspect of their work for these believers. We see the spiritual aspect of it.

Well, Paul and Silas and even Timothy were all constantly praying for the Thessalonians.

And they were doing so with two purposes in mind. First…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | that we might see your face

that we might see your face

εἰς τὸ ἰδεῖν ὑμῶν τὸ πρόσωπον

So, just like Timothy had reported back to Paul and Silas how the Thessalonians longed to see them, so too did Paul and Silas want to see the Thessalonians. It wasn’t enough to write them a letter. They wanted to see their face and be in their physical company.

And they made it a matter of earnest constant prayer that they would be able to do this.

I’m guessing that you’ve sometimes experienced some strong desire about something – and maybe that thing was good and godly and right for you. Maybe it was even God’s will for you. But isn’t it strange how sometimes we don’t even think to actually address God about it? We just kind of let the desire linger in our hearts as if that were enough.

That wasn’t enough for Paul and Silas. They took their deep desire to see these believers and they turned it into prayer to God – who is the only one who’s able to fulfill our every good and holy desire.

And let me note for our edification that Paul and Silas and Timothy prayed this way for a while. And yet only Timothy was able to see these Thessalonian believers.

So, be encouraged that what you feel constrained to pray for – even if the answer is long delayed – it doesn’t mean that God wants you to stop asking.  He might be testing your faith to see if you’ll continue in seeking him concerning whatever thing that you think is his will for you.

Alright. So, that’s the first item on Paul’s prayer list concerning these Thessalonians – that he and Silas and Timothy would get to see their face.

And when they saw their faces, here’s what Paul was prayerful would happen…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary | and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith

and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

καὶ καταρτίσαι τὰ ὑστερήματα τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν;

This at first might sound like a backhanded insult. But obviously that’s not what the apostle Paul is doing here.

When Paul speaks here of perfecting the Thessalonians, he’s using the word that’s used of fixing fishing nets (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19). Where there should have been a perfect pattern of net, some areas were bare – lacking the netting. And those empty areas needed to be filled-in.

But in the case of the Thessalonians Paul isn’t talking about a net. He’s talking about their faith. And he’s aware of some lack there.

This lack isn’t a result of sin. It’s just a matter of immaturity.

Now, obviously, the Thessalonians had faith enough to save them from their sins. They had truly trusted Jesus Christ to save them from their sins. And so in that aspect they lacked nothing in their faith.

And yet, there were some areas of their walk with Christ that did indeed lack – in the same way as the widow who gave her meager living to the offering is described. That lady had a very small amount of income on which to live (Luke 21:4). And so it is with new believers. Some aspects of a life of faith just aren’t fully developed yet. They’re lacking in certain ways. And Paul will go on in chapter 4 of this letter to detail some of those areas.

Well, what’s the solution to that lack? It’s that mature believers empowered by the Lord would come along and prayerfully seek to edify – to build up – to perfect – that newer believer in the faith.

And as that happens, there’s encouragement all the way around concerning the faith of everyone involved, isn’t there?

We could hope to experience that kind of ministry from others and to others in our life for the rest of this week.

[S] Because the reality is that Your Faith Encourages Other Believers. So, let’s seek the Lord about experiencing that more and more in our lives.

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary Verses 1-5

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary Verses 1-5 | Afflictions, suffering, and trials are an unavoidable part of life for believers in this fallen world.

Coming into this assembly tonight in the middle of the week – we all look real nice and well put together. But if we were to be able to somehow take a poll of the afflictions of life that are being experienced by each of us here, the list – I imagine – would be lengthy.

On that list would surely be:

•           Relationship difficulties

•           Health problems

•           Discouraging family dynamics

•           Work pressures

•           Financial hardships

•           Uncertainty about the future

•           Loneliness

•           Guilt

•           Grief

•           Disappointment by others

And that list would certainly go on and on.

And in the midst of all of our afflictions – great or small – God is calling us to trust him. As we suffer difficulties, God doesn’t want us to lose sight of him. He wants us to believe him – that he’ll take care of you.

If God is at work in your life, then he’s teaching you an inevitable lesson. And that lesson is that believers Respond to Afflictions with Faith.

And it’s that very lesson that we see at work in the life of the Apostle Paul and the church in Thessalonica which he’s addressing in 1 Thessalonians 3. So, please join me there in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 – where we’ll see this concept modeled for us of Responding to Afflictions with Faith.

Let’s read the first five verses of this chapter and then get into the details.

1 Thessalonians 3:1–5 AV 1873

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.

So, let’s find this principle of Responding to Afflictions with Faith – starting in verse 1.

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 3:1 AV 1873

1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary Wherefore

3:1 Wherefore

1 Διὸ

Paul begins this chapter by saying “wherefore”. This indicates that he’s pointing back to something he previously said.

And what he’s referring back to is what we saw toward the end of chapter 2 in verses 17-20. That was the matter of Paul and Silas and Timothy wanting to be with those believers in Thessalonica – but being hindered from doing so.

And Paul says that there’s only so much of that forced separation that he and Silas and Timothy could take…

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary When we could no longer forbear

when we could no longer forbear

μηκέτι στέγοντες

Now, Paul twice in other passages in the New Testament claimed that he could forbear or bear with or endure anything.

How much suffering do you feel like you can endure?

•           Well, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:12 that instead of demanding his rights to being compensated as an apostle, he and his fellow-ministers endured or forbore everything so that they would not hinder the Gospel of Christ from going forth.

•           And then as Paul is in 1 Corinthians 13:7 commending to those Corinthian believers the excellencies of doing everything they do motivated by genuine love for others, he says that one of the qualities of true genuine love is that it bears all things. And since Paul was a mature believer, he would have been displaying this virtue of love in his life and thereby he would have been increasingly bearing all things.

So, the point is that the apostle Paul had gotten to the point in his Christian life that he could bear or endure just about anything.

But there was something that even the apostle Paul could not bear. And that was being separated from those Thessalonian believers for a moment longer. He says that there was a point at which he and Silas and Timothy “could no longer forbear” to be parted from the Thessalonians.

So, what did Paul and Silas and Timothy do when they reached that breaking point? …

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary we thought it good to be left at Athens alone

we thought it good to be left at Athens alone

εὐδοκήσαμεν καταλειφθῆναι ἐν Ἀθήναις μόνοι

We’re going to discover that the “we” in this verse is referring to Paul and Silas – and not Timothy. As we considered in our last message, those two were forbidden from going back to Thessalonica as far as we know. And – again as we considered last time – that’s probably because Jason – one of the Thessalonian believers – had promised to his city’s rulers that Paul and Silas wouldn’t return there again.

So, Paul and Silas are the “we” who were left alone in Athens. But that geographical reference leads us to consider the broader scope of the timeline that Paul has in mind in this passage.

[S] So, let’s remind ourselves of the events involved here.

•           As you know, Paul and Silas were run out of Thessalonica in Acts 17:1-9. Timothy was probably still in Philippi at that time.

•           Paul and Silas then went to Berea, but the unbelieving Thessalonian Jews followed them there and caused enough trouble that the believers in Berea had to send just Paul away from that city as well (Acts 17:10-15).

•           In the mean time, Timothy caught up with them from being in Philippi. And so, Silas and Timothy end up staying in Berea. But Paul goes to Athens (Acts 17:10-15), which would have been a 340 mile journey on land.

•           The believers who accompanied Paul to Athens were given an order when they arrived in that city to go back to Berea – where Silas and Timothy were – and to have them come to Paul there in Athens (Acts 17:10-15).

•           That much is fairly simple to attain from a reading of Acts. But it’s after these events that the chronology gets a little complicated.

•           We have Luke in Acts telling us that Paul was alone in Athens waiting for Silas and Timothy after giving them the command to come to him there (Acts 17:16).

•           Then Paul after some period of time – and, again, apparently without Silas and Timothy – he decided to move on to Corinth from Athens (Acts 18:1).

•           Some surmise that Silas and Timothy came to Paul in Athens and then left again to go back north to Thessalonica. And I think that’s probably how we need to think about this and I’ll advocate for this in just a moment.

•           Then finally both Silas and Timothy come to Paul in Corinth from Macedonia (Acts 18:5). (Remember that Macedonia is the northern part of Greece where Thessalonica and Berea are, while Corinth and Athens are in the region of Achaia.)

•           But we need to reconcile the account in Acts to the information we have in 1 Thessalonians. Because in our text in 1 Thessalonians 3 it says that “we” thought it was a good idea to be left in Athens alone and to send Timothy. So, how do we fit someone or someones being left alone in Athens and sending Timothy back to Thessalonica?

•           I would reconstruct the situation as follows.

•           Paul goes down to Athens and asks for Silas and Timothy to come to him there. They do come. So then, Paul and Silas stay in Athens while they send Timothy to Thessalonica. But before Paul moves on to Corinth, Silas goes up toward Thessalonica to meet Timothy. Then both Silas and Timothy come down together to Corinth and meet Paul who is already there.

•           Finally, those three men were then all based there in Corinth for over a year and a half and wrote this letter at that point (Acts 18:11,18).

So, Paul and Silas thought it was a good idea to be left alone in Athens.

And as we’ve already considered, they sent Timothy back to Thessalonica…

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 3:2 AV 1873

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:

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary and sent Timotheus

2 and sent Timotheus,

2 καὶ ἐπέμψαμεν Τιμόθεον,

But the believers in Thessalonica didn’t know Timothy all that well because he apparently wasn’t with Paul and Silas while those two were ministering in that city.

And so, even now in this letter, Paul decides to describe Timothy a little for these believers…

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ

our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ

τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν καὶ συνεργὸν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ

So, Timothy is identified by Paul as a believer – he’s a brother – and “our” brother, Paul says.

And he’s a fellow-worker with – and servant of – God in the sense that he was working to bring God’s gospel of his Son Jesus Christ everywhere.

And here was Timothy’s mission for which Paul and Silas sent him from Athens back to Thessalonica…

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith

to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith

εἰς τὸ στηρίξαι ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλέσαι ὑπὲρ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν

This word “establish” refers to the strengthening of something. From weak to strong or even from strong to stronger.

This is an activity that leaders in Christ’s church need to be particularly engaged in – strengthening their fellow believers’ faith.

•           As Jesus was telling Peter that he would deny him the night before he was crucified, Jesus commanded him that after he turned from his denial, that he needed to strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32).

•           This is what the apostle Paul would do for the disciples – the believers – as he traveled throughout region after region. He would find them and strengthen them (Acts 18:23).

•           This is why Paul wanted to visit the believers in Rome (Romans 1:11). He wanted to impart some spiritual gift to them so that they might be strengthened in their faith.

•           And ultimately, it’s God himself who will use his servants and whatever other means he wishes to strengthen us – his people (1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:17;3:3).

So, based on these considerations, might I suggest that we all pray – that as we gather together as an assembly – that this would be one result of our gatherings? That we would strengthen the faith of one another?

That’s what Timothy did for the Thessalonian believers.

He also comforted those believers.

•           This is what God does for you and me in all of our afflictions and trials (2 Corinthians 1:4). God comforts those who are cast down (2 Corinthians 7:6). Can you testify to that reality?

•           This act of comforting is also what believers are supposed to do for their fellow-believers – in particular, we have an example of this being urged on the Corinthian church which had just had to discipline a member for being disorderly. And thankfully that individual repented. And so, that kind of repentant brother needs to be – not disciplined anymore – but rather, comforted (2 Corinthians 2:7).

•           In two other places in the New Testament, Paul sent another believer to comfort an assembly – just like he did here with Timothy and the Thessalonians. He sent a man named Tychicus to the believers both in Ephesus (Ephesians 6:21) and in Colossae (Ephesians 6:21). Wouldn’t you like to be the go-to guy that was called in when an assembly of believers needed comfort? That was Tychicus.

•           And then Paul in the 4th and 5th chapters of 1 Thessalonians exhorts the believers there to comfort one another. They were to do that primarily with Paul’s own words as he’s teaching them in this letter (1 Thessalonians 4:18;5:11).

And no doubt this is exactly what God wants for us as well in this assembly and outside of this assembly in the context of fellowship with others believers. That we would be comforting to others and comforted by others.

Is this comfort what you look to do as you come to church on Sundays and Wednesdays? Is this the aim of your communication with your fellow Christians throughout the week – to comfort them as any of us have sorrows or afflictions or trials in our lives?

Wouldn’t it be great to be a Timothy or a Tychicus who was known for his ability to comfort his fellow believers? But the reality is that we’re all called to do this as we gather together and as the need arises.

Well, what was Paul hoping would happen from Timothy’s going to the Thessalonians after their forced departure from those believers? What was his intention for Timothy going to them and strengthening and comforting them?…

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 3:3 AV 1873

3 that no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary that no man should be moved by these afflictions

3 that no man should be moved by these afflictions

3 τὸ μηδένα σαίνεσθαι ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσιν ταύταις

Paul wanted to make sure that no one in that church was moved by these afflictions.

This verb moved occurs nowhere else in either the New or Old Testaments. But in ancient Greek literature outside of the New Testament the word was used to speak of a dog wagging its tail.

https://ref.ly/logosres/lsj?ref=Page.p+1580&off=7333

And whether you own a dog or you’ve just observed one doing its “dog things”, you know what its like for a dog to wag its tail.

Our family unfortunately had to sell our dog Oreo back to the person who originally sold him to us. It was just too much for us after several weeks of us trying to make it work out.

But I’ll use him for one last illustration! When we had Oreo for the better part of a month, I observed this phenomenon of his wagging his tail. Sometimes it was sort of slow. But often the wagging could become quite fast. And interestingly, sometimes that fast wagging could even disturb him and he would seek to bite this thing that was moving behind him and irritating him.

And I think that’s sort of how Paul is picturing the potential impact of these afflictions on the Thessalonian believers – of course, in a completely non-humorous way. It’s as if the Thessalonians were the tail being wagged around harshly and even violently.

And you and I are amongst people in this very room who may at any moment be experiencing this kind of dynamic in life. Maybe you yourself feel like life is shaking you.

So, what has the power to cause this kind of violent shaking of a believer?

Paul identifies afflictions as the culprit.

•           Affliction is the label given to several unpleasant and painful realities – like the pains of childbirth (John 16:21) or being betrayed by family (Acts 7:10) or going through a famine and having no food to eat (Acts 7:11) or having to leave your home and place of residence because your life is being threatened (Acts 11:19) or being bound with chains (Acts 20:23) or even experiencing the pain of being widowed (James 1:27). Those realities of life are all identified as things that are afflictions for believers.

•           And the reality is that affliction in the life of a professing believer really tests the nature of your faith. Jesus reminds us in the parable of the seed and the soils that affliction causes a certain type of individual who receives the word with joy – but has no firm root in himself – to fall away from Christ (Mark 4:17). And certainly the opposite is the case. If you’re firmly rooted in Christ, then afflictions will come but you will remain. You will not fall away. You will bear fruit for God.

•           So, we shouldn’t feel like something strange is happening to us when we experience affliction in this life. Jesus basically promised all of his people that you will experience affliction in this world. But he adds – “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).

•           The apostle Paul’s message to the believers in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch was “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

•           And contrary to what our flesh would want us to do – we’re to glory and even boast in afflictions. Because we know that afflictions work endurance in us (Romans 5:3).

•           And ultimately, afflictions will never separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35).

For the Thessalonian Christians, these afflictions would certainly center on the persecution in their city that led to Paul and Silas being run out of town. And no doubt the persecution continued against them after the departure of Paul and Silas.

And Paul didn’t want them to be moved or shaken – or wagged, as it were – by these afflictions and persecutions.

Well, how could the Thessalonians – or even we ourselves – not be moved or shaken by afflictions in our lives?

We need to know and be convinced of a vital truth concerning these afflictions in our lives…

for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto

αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἴδατε ὅτι εἰς τοῦτο κείμεθα

This word appointed refers to something determined or set.

•           It’s like the prophet Simeon told Mary, Jesus’ mother, that her child was set for the rise and fall of many and as a sign that would be rejected (Luke 2:35). Jesus was destined for that purpose. God had determined to use him that way.

•           Or like how Paul the apostle was set for the defense of the gospel (Philippians 1:16). It’s for that reason that he found himself in prison as he wrote his letter to the Philippian church. God has determined that he would be there in order to preach the gospel to those who there in that prison – and beyond.

•           Or like how God set or determined or appointed the Old Testament Law for sinners and unrighteous people (1 Timothy 1:9). That’s it’s purpose – to show lost individuals their need of salvation from their sin.

And you and I have a purpose. We have something that God has determined that we need to experience in this life. He has appointed us to this. And that is afflictions.

You may look at your afflictions and trials and difficulties and think that somehow God has temporarily lost control of your life. That he has perhaps abandoned you for the moment. And you’re just waiting for him to kind of reappear in your life and start blessing you again – and then you would know that he’s with you once more.

But the reality is that for all believers, God has appointed for us our particular afflictions in this life. Your suffering difficulties is no indication that God has abandoned you. To the contrary – your difficulties are God’s special appointment for you.

You’re not some anomaly because you’re suffering hardships. You are in the mainstream of Christian living and experience. Paul says “we are appointed thereunto”. Its not just the apostle Paul who was set for suffering. And it’s not just the Thessalonians. But its you and me as well.

And this is just one reason why I hate the so-called prosperity gospel. This false religion teaches: “that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for [you], and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_theology

According to the prosperity gospel then, the more godly you are, the better your life will be. If you live for God – however that may be defined – God will in turn reward you with tangible physical blessings in this life. In fact, he’s actually obligated to do so.

The problem with this way of thinking is that it takes future blessings that we’re promised beyond this life and moves them forward in God’s timeline into the present age.

But the reality of the matter is that God has determined in this life that you will experience afflictions – rather than unmixed tangible blessings.

And the real problem with adopting the prosperity gospel is that – because it isn’t actually what God has promised his people – those who embrace this religion become disillusioned when God doesn’t come through for them in the ways that they’ve been led to believe that he’s obligated to come through for them.

It’s good for us to align ourselves with reality. And that reality for believers in this life is that we will suffer afflictions. But the far greater reality that we need to simultaneously keep in mind is that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – who himself experienced afflictions in this wicked world – that he has overcome this world.

And because of that – because Jesus died for your sin and rose victoriously over sin and death – soon enough you and I will enjoy an eternity free of affliction.

But for now – like our Lord and all of his apostles and all believers throughout history – we’re appointed for sufferings and hardships and trials. And God will see us through all of it.

And yet, our tendency is – and the tendency of the believers in Thessalonica was – to be kind of shocked as we experience these difficulties. And so, Paul needs to remind these folks that he used to remind them about this unpleasant reality when he was with them…

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 3:4 AV 1873

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.

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary For verily, when we were with you we told you before that we should suffer tribulation

4 For verily, when we were with you we told you before that we should suffer tribulation

4 καὶ γὰρ ὅτε πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἦμεν προελέγομεν ὑμῖν ὅτι μέλλομεν θλίβεσθαι

So, with whatever time that Paul and Silas had with those believers in Thessalonica before they were forcefully parted from them, this matter of suffering afflictions is something that they addressed with them on apparently numerous occasions. The phrase “we told you before” could also be translated as “we kept on telling you before”. Like this was a repeated theme for Paul and Silas.

Because the unpleasant reality of suffering as a believer is one that the mind just doesn’t want to comprehend or pick up. So, that’s surely one reason for Paul and Silas’ repeated warnings about coming afflictions.

But another reason for the repeated emphasis on this reality of affliction in the life of a believer is that it was coming. That word “should” is translating a word that means “about to” – indicating imminence. Paul and Silas knew that both they and the Thessalonians were about to suffer tribulation.

And suffer tribulation they did as we saw in Acts 17 and as is mentioned in these two letters to this church.

•           This word – translated as “suffer tribulation” in English – is used in the gospels to describe the narrow and tight way by which we are saved (Matthew 7:14).

•           It describes the impact of a crowd of people gathering around Jesus (Mark 3:9).

•           So, there’s a tightness and pressure about this idea. Does that describe your being afflicted? You feel pressure from all directions? You feel squeezed and like there’s nowhere to turn?

•           In fact, Paul twice uses this word in 2 Corinthians with the added description that this tightness and squeezing of their inner men was “on every side” (2 Corinthians 4:4;7:5).

•           But we need to remember that this suffering tribulation has been the experience of God’s people for ages. Hebrews 11:37 reminds us that this experience of constricting difficulties in one’s life has been the lot of those who truly follow God by faith throughout the Old Testament and even now.

•           And while believers are commended for doing our best to relieve those who are experiencing this kind of tribulation (1 Timothy 5:10), ultimately it’s God alone who will completely and ultimately relieve us of these tight, constraining difficulties when Jesus returns. He will give us rest with all of his people at that time (2 Thessalonians 1:7). And the individuals who are currently troubling God’s people – themselves will be troubled on that day (2 Thessalonians 1:6).

So, Paul and Silas had told the Thessalonian believers these things before their forced parting. They told them that they would all suffer situations in their life that were tight and squeezing and full of pressure.

And so, that’s just what happened…

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary even as it came to pass, and ye know

even as it came to pass, and ye know

καθὼς καὶ ἐγένετο καὶ οἴδατε

So, the Thessalonian believers indeed saw – and were fully aware – that what Paul had told them would happen concerning their afflictions and suffering did indeed happen.

And again, I think this is referring to their forced separation by the means of the mob that ran Paul and Silas out of town and then would have turned their malicious intents toward the believers who were left behind.

… So, can you imagine seeing a group of individuals – or even just one individual – saved as a result of your verbal witness to them… and then as you’re ministering to them and trying to do your part to see them grow in the faith – that persecution arises to the extent that you need to leave them? And they’re left with no human resource to help them continue-on in their walk with Jesus Christ.

How would you feel about that? I think it would weigh heavy on your heart.

And that’s just how Paul expresses feeling about his having to leave the Thessalonians as he continues into verse 5…

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 3:5 AV 1873

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.

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary For this cause when I could no longer forbear

5 For this cause when I could no longer forbear

5 διὰ τοῦτο κἀγὼ μηκέτι στέγων

So, this idea of forbearing is repeated from verse 1. It serves to bookend this section – here in verse 5 and back in verse 1.

Now, back in verse 1, it was stated that “we” couldn’t forbear. But in this verse now it says that Paul himself couldn’t forbear. It’s getting more personal as he continues to think about their untimely parting. It was a painful memory and reality for Paul, Silas, and Timothy altogether – but especially for Paul, personally.

And this personal concern led Paul to action…

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary I sent to know your faith

I sent to know your faith

ἔπεμψα εἰς τὸ γνῶναι τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν

Paul wanted to know – are those Thessalonians still standing strong in their faith in Christ? So, he sent Timothy to check on them.

Paul wanted to know the status of the Thessalonians’ trusting Christ. They had made an initial profession. But were they clinging to Christ in the midst of their difficulties? Because one thing that difficulties does is to really test whether your faith in Christ is genuine. Will you stick with him even if he sends hard things into your life? Some don’t. Some leave him.

And behind every decision of a professing believer to stop following Christ, there’s a real, literal, and very evil being. There is a literal devil who is at work in this world and even among God’s people…

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary lest by some means the tempter have tempted you

lest by some means the tempter have tempted you

μή πως ἐπείρασεν ὑμᾶς ὁ πειράζων

So, Paul’s great desire and prayer was that this wouldn’t have happened to those believers in Thessalonica. He was greatly desirous that the Tempter would not have effectively tempted them.

This is of course referring to the ultimate enemy of God and his people – the devil.

This is his identification and activity. He tempts. He is the tempter. He influences an entices us to sin. He suggests subtly that we abandon God when times are tough. In our times of weakness and deep need, he offers “solutions” that are not in keeping with what God wants for us.

But – as you know – it’s this kind of temptation that Jesus Christ our Savior suffered himself from the devil. And so, Hebrews 2:18 shares with us the wonderful reality that because Jesus suffered temptation, he’s able to help people like you and me who are beset with temptations.

So, Paul’s question was – did the Thessalonians take this help from the Lord? Did they continue trusting this one who was tempted just like they were – yet without sin?

Because if the Thessalonians did give in to the temptations of Satan, that would mean that in a sense, all of the hard work of Paul and Silas and Timothy would be in vain…

1 Thessalonians 3 Commentary and our labour be in vain

and our labour be in vain

καὶ εἰς κενὸν γένηται ὁ κόπος ἡμῶν

Now, there’s a real sense in which anything you do for the sake of Jesus Christ won’t ever truly be in vain. You will receive a reward – whether your efforts outwardly appear to be “successful” or not.

And yet, we understand what Paul’s saying here. He worked hard to proclaim the gospel to these folks. He and Silas labored among them – both working with their hands and trying to build these people up in their faith. They did this day and night. Paul and Silas had little rest for a significant period of time as they served these new believers.

And the thought that the devil might have been able to undo all of their hard work – was unbearable for Paul, personally.

So, what did Paul discover concerning the faith of the Thessalonians when he sent Timothy to them? We’ll see that next time in verses 6 and following!

[S] In the meantime, may the Lord help each of us to Respond to Afflictions with Faith.