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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

1 Thessalonians 3

Verses 1-6

Paul’s Concern

1 Thessalonians 3:1. Paul has just (at the end of the previous chapter) expressed his great desire to his beloved Thessalonians. They are a source of deep joy for him. He very much wanted to be with them to see how they were doing. It was a great encouragement for him to know that he would meet them at the coming of the Lord Jesus. Nevertheless, he also had an undiminished desire to know how they were doing spiritually.

That desire became so strong that he necessarily wanted to know how they were doing. He couldn’t stand it anymore to be without any information about their situation. At that moment he was in Athens (see Introduction). Timothy was also there with him, with whom he enjoyed a special bond of fellowship in the work of the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 3:2. Paul abandoned everything that he found valuable for himself. His desire to get information about the situation of the Thessalonians was so great that he sent Timothy to them. He indeed speaks in the ‘we’-form, but he, Paul was in charge (see also 1 Thessalonians 3:5). By using the word ‘we’ he shows that it was not a decision he made on his own, being dragged by his emotions. He acted in agreement with others.

You see that Paul also had feelings. He felt a strong bond with the Thessalonians. There is nothing wrong with such feelings. On the contrary, they are all included. Solidarity with believers is to be experienced, though feelings should not determine the action. That is up to the Lord. Therefore He also gives you fellow believers.

The value that Timothy had for him, is underlined by speaking about him as “our brother and God’s fellow worker”. The Thessalonians received him as a brother who was related with both Paul and them. They also received him as someone who worked together with Paul for God. The territory of their labor, the sphere wherein they worked, was “the gospel of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:14). He who works wholeheartedly in the gospel of Christ, will therefore be able to take proper care of those who have accepted this gospel.

The job description of Timothy was clear: to strengthen and encourage the Thessalonians in their faith. The believers were going through difficulties. You could think that consolation would be more appropriate. Yet it is not always the case necessarily. These believers were standing under pressure. They experienced hostility and were persecuted. In such a case strengthening of the faith is especially needed.

When the pressure on you because of your faith gets so great that you run the risk to succumb, you need strengthening to sustain. Peter received such an order from the Lord like Timothy receives from Paul here, an order which he had fulfilled by writing his first letter (Luke 22:32; 1 Peter 5:12). James has such a message for his readers (James 5:8).

They also needed encouragement to persevere. When pressure is continuously being exerted on you, it may discourage you. Then you need an encouragement.

1 Thessalonians 3:3. The important thing is that your faith, which means here your confidence of faith, does not get to waver. This danger threatens everyone who wants to live for the Lord. In tribulation it appears if there is mention of a true conversion. Whoever started to believe because it makes a person happy, will not only waver, but will surely fall (Mark 4:16-Esther :).

With his attacks the enemy is seeking to damage your faith, your confidence in God. When you’re going through difficulties because you believe, he will always whisper in your ear that the ‘nice God’ of yours has finally caused you to end up in troubles. And you were so sure that He is the solution for all your troubles.

Don’t let yourself be deceived! Tribulation is included in the salvation (Acts 14:22) and is foretold by the Lord (John 16:33) as something we have been destined for, as something that is simply fully included. Therefore do not consider it strange when this happens to you (1 Peter 4:12). Whoever believes in God, which means whoever really trusts in Him in the everyday life, will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

You should see that it is true. At least I hope that you have not started to believe in the Lord Jesus and God because of success stories, but that you have seen yourself in God’s light after a powerful preaching. A sound preaching does not promise him who believes a life without adversary and worries. No, on the contrary, you will surely be rejected and hated, just like they have rejected and hated the Master (John 15:20).

1 Thessalonians 3:4. One more time Paul reminds the Thessalonians of what had occurred to himself and his companions (1 Thessalonians 2:2). Because he could well imagine what tribulation means, his whole heart and his full compassion goes out to these young believers in Thessalonica who were suffering hardships.

1 Thessalonians 3:5. Why was Paul so concerned? Did he not trust God himself that He would take care of those believers? No, Paul had no lack of confidence in God, but he was aware of the power of the adversary and also of the way in which God operates to resist the adversary. God has given us to one another so that through each other we may be supporting one another. Not that thereby we are only dependent on one another. In everything the Lord orders us to do, we are dependent on Him. But in this way He wants to teach us how to share in His feelings and to practice His care. If we act like that, He becomes visible in our lives.

Timothy is his messenger and the interpreter of Paul’s emotions. Like no other, Timothy was able to judge how the Thessalonians were doing. He could supply Paul with reliable information about them. Paul wanted to know how they were doing in faith. He wanted to know whether their confidence of faith was increasing by the tribulation or whether it was decreasing because the tempter had gained foothold. The tempter is no one else than satan (Matthew 4:3). Satan will approach every believer, just like he approached the Lord Jesus. When children of God are going through suffering and tribulation, he tries to persuade them to say ‘goodbye’ to God (Job 2:9).

The apostle was not worried about an attack on their faith, but he was worried about a successful attack. If the latter case would become reality, his labor would be in vain. That does not mean that they would be lost, but that they should not show themselves forth as being Christians. The fire of their testimony would then be extinguished and in their behavior they would adjust themselves again to the world. That was a thought he could not bear. Therefore he needed to have an indication of the condition of their faith. What you see here with Paul, is a beautiful example of aftercare.

1 Thessalonians 3:6. What a relief it is for Paul when he hears from Timothy that his beloved children in faith are doing well. It was a joyful message to him. It cheered him up. A big burden was lifted from his shoulder. It’s a good thing to notice how much good news can help a person to recover spiritually. We may use it as an example. Let us not withhold from one another the good news that is to be told. It is so encouraging to share with one another what the Lord has worked in a church. In that way God is being glorified (Acts 21:19-Proverbs :).

Timothy had seen that their confidence of faith had not diminished. It had withstood in the tribulation. Their faith was the power that enabled them to deal with the tribulation. Out of their tribulation they looked up to heaven in faith upon Him of Whom they trusted that He would help them in the tribulation. And they have not been disappointed. Through the tribulation they learnt to know Him better.

Their love for one another was also shown through the tribulation. It drove them to one another. God uses tribulations to strengthen the bond of love. That’s what Timothy had noticed. Satan also tries to drive a wedge between the preachers and the believers. But he did not succeed. The Thessalonians looked back with gratitude on the men who brought them the gospel. They even desired to see them again, a desire of which Paul could say that it was mutual. You can ‘remember’ Paul with gratitude by reading his inspired letters and act accordingly. And how do you remember your brothers and sisters whom you do not see daily?

Now read 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6 again.

Reflection: What lessons can you learn about aftercare here?

Verses 7-13

Love and Holiness

1 Thessalonians 3:7. The news with which Timothy came to Paul about the faith of the Thessalonians was a great comfort. Their faith did not only withstand, it had increased (2 Thessalonians 1:3). He needed comfort, because he himself was in need and tribulation. His need may be caused by the lack of material things. It may also be an inward need, because he was spiritually weighed down, also because he was worrying about the Thessalonians. Also the physical tribulations that he had suffered came to his mind.

1 Thessalonians 3:8. How great could the need be for a person to have some spiritual refreshment. And then this news about their faith! What a relief. It was like life flowed back in him. Now he had heard that they were standing firm in the Lord, he totally revived (cf. Genesis 45:26-Daniel :).

You see that Paul let himself to be comforted. You could also let yourself be comforted like that by the faith of another person. That the faith of the other person still lacks some things, does not have to be a hindrance, as you also see it here. He who does not let himself to be comforted, runs the risk to become bitter. That may undermine the faith life.

1 Thessalonians 3:9. Like sorrow is related to death, so is gratitude related to life. Paul was full of gratitude for what he had heard about their faith, but he was not thanking the Thessalonians for their steadfastness. His gratitude went out to God. God had made sure that they remained steadfast through all the attacks of the enemy. In that way he was filled with joy. It was a joy that he experienced “before our God”, which is the presence of God, before God’s face, in fellowship with Him. You experience real heart-felt joy when God comforts you. That is a joy that brings you back to the Cause of your joy.

The joy of Paul was so great that he asks himself what he could render to God for that. He does not answer that question. His question actually means that there is simply no gift that is great enough to show God how intensely grateful he is to Him. That says a lot of Paul’s gratitude, doesn’t it (cf. Psalms 116:12)? Doesn’t that apply to everything that you have received from God? Are you also intensely grateful for that? And aren’t you seeking for a way to render to Him for that?

1 Thessalonians 3:10. After this awesome comforting news about their faith, you may think that Paul could leave this subject of care so that he can focus on other churches. But you do not read that here. It only makes his desire for them to grow bigger. He continued to pray that he may visit them. He prayed “night and day exceedingly” for that.

He had exceedingly endeavored to come to them (1 Thessalonians 2:17). Now he was praying “most earnestly” that that may finally happen. With ‘most earnestly’ you should think of such a great amount that it overflows the borders in such a way that it cannot be stopped. His heart was overflowing when he spoke to God about his desire to visit the Thessalonians.

His desire was not prompted by selfishness. The important thing for him was their spiritual well-being (cf. Romans 1:11). When he was with them, he was forced to depart earlier. Therefore he could not teach them everything that was needed for their faith. ‘Faith’ here is the truth of faith, the content of what they believe (Jude 1:3), that is ‘the doctrine of the apostles’ (Acts 2:42). Now he wants very much to finish his work with them.

He does not do that by himself. He trusts God for answering his prayer, at His time and through His way. It took five more years before his prayer was answered. We may assume that Paul, when he was in Macedonia later, also visited the believers in Thessalonica (Acts 20:1; Acts 20:3). God made the letter that he wrote in the meantime, to be recorded in His Word, so that you and I may also be provided with what is missing in our faith.

1 Thessalonians 3:11. In this verse God the Father and the Lord Jesus are on one line. They are seen here in there unity. Here you have a wonderful proof that the Lord Jesus is God. They are on the same level and are acting fully in agreement with one another. The will of the Father is never in contrast to the will of the Son; the same applies in reverse. Here it regards the paving of a way by Paul to the Thessalonians.

The same goes for you and me. You are allowed to put your way in the hands of Divine Persons. They have the means to pave your way and take away all hindrances. The Father Himself loves you (John 16:27) and the Father Himself is the almighty God. The Lord Jesus wants to use you in His service and will surely pave the way for it. The Lord Jesus is related to the Father as the Conductor of the ways of people and especially of His servants. That may give you rest in the way that you should go.

1 Thessalonians 3:12. Therefore it could take quite a while before Paul was with them. Up to that moment of reunion he has a wish for the Thessalonians. He wishes that the Lord will let them increase “in love” (1 Thessalonians 3:12) and that as a result of that they would be “without blame in holiness” at the coming of the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 3:13). These are the two features of the Being of God, for God is light (1 John 1:5) and God is love (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16).

Paul begins to speak about ‘love’ and after that about ‘holiness’. The order is important. When there is an abundance of love you will develop real holiness. Holiness means separation, but with the goal to be devoted. Separation without love and devotion to God only leads to the legalism of the Pharisees. Wherever there is true love there will also naturally be separation from everything that is in contrast to that one great love. Holiness is to love what God loves and to hate what God hates.

Paul himself is abounding in his love for them. That has become clear to them. His love for them must have been an exhortation for them to love one another and also all people in the same way. Love is the mark of the life of the Christian. This love does not let itself be limited to an exclusive company of people who are nice to you and whom you therefore like. It is the love of God that selflessly reaches out to every person. That love was poured out in your heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Due to that you can love every believer and that love can reach out to every human being.

1 Thessalonians 3:13. When the love of God has conquered and strengthened your heart, you are able to walk in holiness. John says it as follows in his first letter: “The one who loves his brother abides in the Light” (1 John 2:10). At the first glance it does not seem to refer to an exhortation to live in holiness. Paul is after all talking about being without blame in holiness “at the coming of our Lord Jesus”. There is no mention of an increase of holiness anymore, is there? But Paul never speaks about the coming of the Lord without it having the necessity of impacting our daily life.

Besides, here it is not about the coming of the Lord for the church. That will be dealt with in chapter 4. You can also derive that from the phrase: at the coming of the Lord “with all His saints”. That is His coming to the earth with the church and the Old Testament believers, after He has caught up the church and all Old Testament believers.

Paul points out to the final result of a holiness that should now already characterize us. He who is full of love for the Lord and His own will certainly not allow himself to be related with the uncleanness of the world. Isn’t that already your desire to look more and more like what you shall soon be in perfection? It ought not to be a big transition from our life on earth to our life in heaven.

We see a beautiful example in Enoch of this (Genesis 5:24). Enoch walked with God. He was growing therein and lived closer and closer to God. It is once presented that at a certain moment he comes so close to heaven that God says: ‘Just step in.’ Do you think that then for Enoch suddenly a totally strange world was opened?

Now read 1 Thessalonians 3:7-13 again.

Reflection: Consider the relation between love and holiness in your life.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Thessalonians 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-thessalonians-3.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.