1 Thessalonians 3 - Paul Sent Timothy

INTRODUCTION: Paul now lets us know that this first letter to the Thessalonians was a result of the report that Timothy brought back while Paul remained in Athens. In chapter one, the letter opened with a greeting from Paul, Silas, and Timothy, as all three of them had been together at Thessalonica to first deliver the gospel message. The letter does not reveal who carried it back to Thessalonica, but we know that Timothy had been there twice, first with Paul and Silas, then afterward to visit and bring back a report. We learn from Acts that Timothy had joined Paul and Silas before they entered Macedonia. Acts 16 " 1 He came to Derbe and Lystra: and behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewess who believed; but his father was a Greek. 2 The brothers who were at Lystra and Iconium gave a good testimony about him. 3 Paul wanted to have him go out with him, and he took and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts; for they all knew that his father was a Greek." Now Paul describes in his letter the joy he had when timothy brought back the report about the state of affairs among the Christians in Thessalonica.

NOTE: Bible verses are taken from the World English bible (WEB).


A - PAUL SENT TIMOTHY TO ENCOURAGE THE PERSECUTED THESSALONIANS

1 Thessalonians 3 "1 Therefore, when we couldn't stand it any longer, we thought it good to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and sent Timothy, our brother and God's servant in the Good News of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith; 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you know that we are appointed to this task. 4 For most certainly, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we are to suffer affliction, even as it happened, and you know. 5 For this cause I also, when I couldn't stand it any longer, sent that I might know your faith, for fear that by any means the tempter had tempted you, and our labour would have been in vain."

COMMENTS: Being himself hindered by Satan from returning to Thessalonica, as mentioned in chapter two without any specifics given, it is clear from this opening paragraph of chapter three that Paul remained behind at Athens when he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica. Paul knew the Thessalonian believers had already been under threat (i.e. Jason and others) before Paul agreed to leave Thessalonica for his own safety. Acts 17 "5 But the unpersuaded Jews took along some wicked men from the marketplace, and gathering a crowd, set the city in an uproar. Assaulting the house of Jason, they sought to bring them out to the people. 6 When they didn't find them, they dragged Jason and certain brothers before the rulers of the city, crying, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 whom Jason has received. These all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus!" 8 The multitude and the rulers of the city were troubled when they heard these things. 9 When they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. 10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea. When they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue."

After leaving Thessalonica under pressure, Paul and Silas had a successful period with some of the Bereans who became believers by accepting the good news that Jesus is the Christ, as they searched out the Old Testament scriptures for themselves to verify the truths that Paul taught. But Paul was also unable to stay in Berea because enemies from Thessalonica came there to raise a threat to him. Acts 17 "13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Beroea also, they came there likewise, agitating the multitudes. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent out Paul to go as far as to the sea, and Silas and Timothy still stayed there. 15 But those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens. Receiving a commandment to Silas and Timothy that they should come to him very quickly, they departed."

Now, as Paul was in Athens, he has time to think about how zealous the enemies of Christ had been in Thessalonica, that they had even pursued him to Berea. He must have been concerned for the new believers who were residents of Thessalonica, and whether they would be able to stand firm in their new faith while living among those who were so strongly hostile against anyone who had part in the church of God in Christ. So he wanted them to be reminded that persecution for followers of Christ should not be unexpected, and they should not yield to any temptation to renounce their faith. Paul's own life was an example of continued persecution, and that he did not allow this to deter him from spreading the gospel of Christ.


B - THE GOOD REPORT BROUGHT BACK BY TIMOTHY

1 Thessalonians 3 "6 But when Timothy came just now to us from you, and brought us glad news of your faith and love, and that you have good memories of us always, longing to see us, even as we also long to see you; 7 for this cause, brothers, we were comforted over you in all our distress and affliction through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we render again to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sakes before our God; 10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face, and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith?"

COMMENTS: It seems that Paul wanted to immediately write a personal letter to the Thessalonian believers upon hearing a first hand report from Timothy. Paul is very pleased to hear that the believers there long to see Paul again, just as he has a longing to see them. Their time together had been perhaps only about three weeks, as implied in Acts. Acts 17 "1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 Paul, as was his custom, went in to them, and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ."" Paul is refreshed and even revived in his spirit by the report. He would like to be able to return and build them up in their faith even more, perhaps covering additional teaching that was cut short when the violent opposition there forced him to leave. He is almost beside himself as he finds it hard to imagine being able to add to the thanks he has already given to the Lord for the quality of faith the Thessalonians have demonstrated.


C - PAUL OVERFLOWS WITH JOY BECAUSE OF THE REPORT

1 Thessalonians 3 "11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you; 12 and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you, 13 to the end he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints."

COMMENTS: Paul seems here to break out in joyful prayer asking that God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ may grant him the opportunity to return to Thessalonica. Again Paul links God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ together in his comment, perhaps as a reminder that his teaching was that Jesus is God our Savior, and there is only one God. Deuteronomy 6 "4 Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: 5 and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might."

When Jesus was asked to tell which was the first commandment, Matthew 22 "37 Jesus said to him, "'you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and great commandment." With this statement, Jesus was reaffirming that there is only one God, and the believer cannot reserve any love for any other god.

Paul also prayed that the love of the Thessalonians to each other and to all men might increase to the fullest measure, even as Paul has love towards them. He explained that this was so the Lord might firmly establish their hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father. It was as if Paul was telling them that the exercise of their love would evidence the work of the Holy Spirit within them to establish their holiness through Christ. Paul was following the plain way that Jesus gave as a summary guideline for our lives after the first great commandment, Matthew 22 "39 A second likewise is this, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

Paul goes on to say that the essentials of faith he wanted to impart to the Thessalonians will prove their importance "at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." Are not these saints of whom Paul speaks as coming with the Lord, all those who have been called to place their complete trust in the true and living God for everlasting life, and thereby have been made holy as Christ is holy? The apostle Peter stated it thus, 1 Peter 1 "15 but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behaviour; 16 because it is written, "You shall be holy; for I am holy."" And this is what the Lord has done for all his saints throughout history, as Peter was quoting from the Old Testament, Leviticus 20 "26 You shall be holy to me: for I, Yahweh, am holy, and have set you apart from the peoples, that you should be mine."

The Old and New Testaments agree regarding the saints. Psalm 31 "23 Oh love Yahweh, all you his saints! Yahweh preserves the faithful, and fully recompenses him who behaves arrogantly. 24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in Yahweh." In another of Paul's letters he refers to common members of the body of Christ as saints, with no requirement of that status being a thing conferred by man. Romans 16 "15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them." In many passages of the New Testament, the same Greek word is translated sometimes as holy, and other times as saint, and it is only the grace of God through faith that can produce those saints who will have the holiness of God for their return with Christ.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, grant me the clarity of thought as I reflect on your word so I will not confuse or dilute the clear truths about my salvation and new life, or allow the temptations of the flesh or the devil to negate the changes in my life. I want to be prepared with all the other saints to rejoice at your return because you have made me blameless through your imputed holiness. Grant me the grace to withstand any persecution that might come upon me, and enable me to increase my love to an abundant level toward other saints and toward all men. Help me also Lord to gain comfort from hearing of other Christians in hard places around the world who are standing firm in their faith, because I know it is the power of the Holy Spirit within them being demonstrated before the world as a witness of your great love for those who call upon your name for eternal life. All praise to the Lord Jesus my Savior!

1 Thessalonians, Chapter 1 - Good News in Word and Power 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 2 - Boldness Out of Suffering 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4 - Abound in Love Toward Sanctification 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5 - Stay Alert for Christ's Return

Published 28 February 2011