1 Thessalonians Chapter 3
(Vs.1-3) “Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of the Messiah, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this.”
Paul, Silas and Timothy had been railroaded out of Thessalonica by the Jewish religious and the secular roman authorities. They had been smuggled out at night by the assembly members. They ended up in Athens and knew that he and Silas could not return to Thessalonica. So Paul sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage the assembly in relation to their faith knowing that the afflictions they were experiencing were severe and unrelenting in their ferocity both from the Jewish religious leaders and the secular authorities who saw them as a disturbance in society. There had been a riot in the city over the presence of Paul and Silas and the effect their ministry was having on the community as a whole. Rome had little or no tolerance for riots or disturbances in the community within the provinces of the empire.
Paul was also concerned that their afflictions would disturb the believers there and then reminds them that all who follow the Messiah our Lord Jesus have been destined for afflictions and persecution because of their stand and confession for the Lord Jesus. Indeed Paul writing to Timothy clearly states this fact when he writes; “In fact everyone who wants to live a godly life in the Messiah Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). We should not deliberately court persecution, however, if we take our stand for God and for His Word we will be persecuted. The Lord Jesus affirmed this fact (John 15:18-21). Persecution comes in many forms such as imprisonment, loss of employment, ridicule, rejection, disinheritance, rejection by family members, destruction of personal property, Physical abuse, loss of friends and martyrdom. We also need to keep in mind that the blessed Holy Spirit will empower us in all circumstances related to persecution (Luke 21:12-19) (1 Peter 4:12-19).
(Vs.4-5) “For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labour would be in vain.”
Paul took nothing for granted when it came to spiritual warfare. He knew all too well that spiritual deception was a plague of Satan that he unleashed within assemblies if he could. Satan’s method was to send in false prophets and teachers by stealth that would introduce destructive heresies, by which they would lay truth and error side by side, wolves in sheep’s clothing, tares among the wheat, avaricious shepherds feeding their greedy fleshly appetites, an accursed brood for which the blackest darkness has been reserved! (2 Peter 2:1-3, 10-22) (Jude 1:3-16). It is more so today within multitudes of denominational churches as we come to the close of this present age.
Paul was human and his care and anxiety for the spiritual wellbeing of the assemblies he had established constantly weighed heavily upon him and added a burden to his mind even more than the other persecutions he had experienced (2 Corinthians 11:28). Wherever Paul went Satan would dog his heels seeking to dismantle the teaching Paul was giving to the assemblies he would visit in his ministry. He also had to contend with false apostles or “super apostles” teaching people what they wanted to hear (2 Corinthians 11:5). There are plenty of “super-apostles” around today! Just look at the Hyper Faith prosperity teachers and the so called ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets’ associated with the New Apostolic Movement now called ICAL (International coalition of Apostolic Leadership) with their kingdom now, kingdom dominion, manifest sons of God heresy originally associated with the late William Branham. A man discredited by the Pentecostal movement of his time and a proven heretic scripturally who publically denied the Triune nature of God (the Trinity).
(Vs.6-8) “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.”
Timothy returned to Athens and his news was good news! The assembly was standing steadfast in their faith that was at work by the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:6) (Romans 5:5). Added to this, Paul and Silas were even more greatly encouraged to know that they were thought of with affection and kindness and that their longing was reciprocated by the assembly at Thessalonica. This gave a strong comfort and relief to Paul and Silas in their distress and affliction for the gospel and their concern for the spiritual stability and well-being of the Thessalonian assembly.
The faith of those at Thessalonica was like a refreshing stream to one who was thirsty, tired and hot. This was a comfort and encouragement to Paul and Silas and a reward for their tireless labour in the Lord Jesus and for the spread of the kingdom of God among men. If they continued to stand firm in their faith it would even increase Paul, Silas and Timothy spiritually in giving them further comfort.
When we see spiritual fruit for our labour in the Lord Jesus it will always bring us a sense of comfort, joy, peace and a sense of fulfilment more than anything else this world can offer. There is nothing on earth that can compare with working for the Lord Jesus and experiencing the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit at work in the everyday issues of life when we know we are walking in the will of God and in the gifts He has given us. If we know we are walking in God’s will then even though at times we will experience anxiety, depression, adverse circumstances, discouragement, disappointments, trials and tests and setbacks of all kinds and come across those teaching false and deceptive doctrines, we will know the joy of the Lord and the peace of God that transcends all human comprehension.
As James writes; “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). As Paul writes to the assembly at Philippi; “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will garrison your hearts and your minds in the Messiah Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
(Vs.9-10)) “For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?”
Paul; and his fellow workers at Athens were overjoyed and so thankful to God for the spiritual growth that was being experienced by the assembly at Thessalonica and was constantly and earnestly in prayer for the assembly there that they might all see each other face to face and that what was lacking in their faith would be added by apostolic authority and doctrine. As an apostle Paul had the power of the Holy Spirit and apostolic authority from the Lord Jesus to impart spiritual gifts to fellow believers to strengthen them in their walk and ministry for the LORD. The same desire for fellowship he had for the Thessalonian assembly he also had for the assembly at Rome. He writes; “In my prayers at all times, asking that now at last by God’s will I may succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:10-12).
In the first century there was an abundance of spiritual gifts operating within the wider Body of the Messiah and in the last days it will be the same in many assemblies, but like it was for the experience of the first century New Covenant believers it will also be a time of severe persecution and affliction and opposition to the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom. Spiritual gifts are part of God’s spiritual arsenal, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing that rises up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of the Messiah (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Without the spiritual gifts we are without ammunition to engage in spiritual warfare. We need the power of the blood of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Word of God, the power of prayer in the Holy Spirit and we also need the gifts of the Spirit for the building up of the Body of Messiah in their most holy faith (1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 14:12) (Romans 12:6-8) (Ephesians 4:11-16).
(Vs.11-13) “Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”
Paul knew that God has His ways and affirmed that He could and would somehow make a way for him, for Silas and possibly Timothy as well, to visit the Thessalonian assembly. This was Paul’s deep desire. In ministry it is vitally important to be led by the Holy Spirit as He knows every situation and knows just what needs to be said and done. He knows the thoughts, the feelings and the purposes of God and not only reveals what He knows to us but also what we need to do in the ministry He has called us to. Paul not only trusted that God would lead him to see then again if it was His will, but also that the Lord Jesus would cause them to increase and abound in love for each other, a distinguishing mark of a Spirit-filled assembly (Acts 4:31-35).
This love will not only be for ones fellow believers but spread out into the community among the unsaved. Paul wanted them to experience the same love and genuine affection towards all men that he and his fellow workers possessed for the Thessalonian assembly members. Did not our Lord Jesus say; “A new commandment I give you: Love (agape) one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
When a local assembly is being continuously filled with the Spirit corporately and walking in a faith that works by love, God Himself will establish their affections, their minds and especially their wills to remain holy, set apart to God and blameless through walking in the holiness without which no one shall see God (Hebrews 12:14). A blameless believer is not perfect but if they are walking by faith and desiring to be an obedient child of God and to please the Lord Jesus by seeking to show their love for Him and by keeping His commandments, then God will be well pleased with them because of the way they exercise their faith, their trust and their confidence in His covenant promises and He will reward them abundantly. Those who are blameless in God’s sight because they are walking by faith will be ready to meet the Lord Jesus at His Second Coming when He returns with His holy ones. These are those who have already died and whose spirits were with Him in heaven. The rapture and resurrection occurs at the Second Coming of the Messiah our Lord Jesus. Those believers who are still alive on earth when He comes back will along with those who have already died physically together receive their glorified, resurrected immortal bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) (Matthew 24:29-31). The rapture and resurrection of all believers of all the ages is the one and the same event! This will occur immediately right at the end of the time of Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:29).