1 Thessalonians Bible Study, Chapter 3

The Thessalonians’ spiritual growth encouraged Paul.

Tod Kennedy, November 18, 2009

Some observations from chapter 3

  1. Paul stayed at Athens and sent Timothy to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
  2. Timothy was to strengthen and encourage them in the faith (1 Thessalonians 3:2).
  3. Paul did not want the persecution to disrupt their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:3).
  4. The suffering was because of the spiritual warfare (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4).
  5. Paul had great concern for the spiritual welfare of the Thessalonians.
  6. He wanted to make sure they were remaining strong in the faith (1 Thessalonians 3:5).
  7. Satan may have tempted them to reject the faith (1 Thessalonians 3:5).
  8. Timothy returned to Paul with a good report (1 Thessalonians 3:6).
  9. Timothy reported about the faith, love, and kind thoughts of the Thessalonians toward Paul (1 Thessalonians 3:6).
  10. The Thessalonians’ strong faith comforted Paul (1 Thessalonians 3:7).
  11. Paul and his team were content and happy when the Thessalonians stood firm in the faith (1 Thessalonians 3:8).
  12. Paul and his team thanked God for the joy the Thessalonians brought them by standing strong in the faith (1 Thessalonians 3:9).
  13. They also prayed night and day to be able to revisit the Thessalonians and equip them in the faith (1 Thessalonians 3:10).
  14. Paul prayed that God would get them to Thessalonica again (1 Thessalonians 3:11).
  15. Paul prayed that the Lord would increase and spread their love (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
  16. Paul prayed that the Lord would establish their hearts without blame and in holiness (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
  17. God the Father wants us to be established without blame and in holiness (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
  18. Jesus will come again with all the saints (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

Main points to emphasize in 1 Thessalonians 3

  1. Paul had such a sense of love and ministry for the Thessalonians that he continued to follow their spiritual growth and service. He prayed for them. He sent Timothy to build them in the faith. He was encouraged to hear Timothy’s good report about them. He wrote two letters to them which were inspired Scripture. We should have this same sense of love and ministry for those we serve in the Lord.
  2. Paul and those serving with him faced great opposition and persecution because of their active service for the Lord. This did not cause Paul to leave the ministry or to reduce his service. In fact, it seemed to strengthen his resolve to serve. Does opposition and difficulty cause us to rethink and back away from Christian service? It should not.
  3. Paul prayed that he might be allowed to further equip or train these believers so that they would not be deficient in their biblical faith. It was important for him that believers advanced in the faith to a point where application was automatic and so glorified God and blessed people. We have the privilege to pray for others and in these prayers to ask that we may have the privilege of passing on God’s word to them.
  4. God’s love in and through us is that ingredient that makes all the other parts of the Christian life fit. It also prepares us for when Christ returns and then evaluates us at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Exposition of 1 Thessalonians 3

  1. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8. Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to strengthen, encourage, report that Paul was doing well, and to find out how these believers were standing strong in the faith.
    • 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2. From Acts 17 we know that Paul, Silas, and Timothy had gone to Berea from Thessalonica (Acts 17:10; Acts 17:13-14). Paul then went to Athens and Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea with instructions to join Paul in Athens (Acts 17:14-16). Comparing Acts 17:15 with 1 Thessalonians 3:1 and Acts 18:1 and 5, Silas and Timothy apparently joined Paul in Athens, and then Timothy, possibly with Silas, was sent back to Thessalonica. They rejoined Paul in Corinth. Paul wrote the 1 Thessalonians after receiving Timothy’s report.
    • 1 Thessalonians 3:2. Notice Paul’s commendation of Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker. This is high praise. Philippians 2:19-24, written about 10 years later puts an exclamation mark on Timothy’s ministry. Leaders need Timothy’s.
    • 1 Thessalonians 3:2. Timothy’s job in Thessalonica was to strengthen (sterizo; aorist active infinitive with eis=purpose; to make fast, support, ground, establish, strengthen) and encourage (parakaleo, aorist active infinitive with eis=purpose; to call to one’s side, to encourage) them about their faith.
    • 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4. Paul did not want the pressures and persecutions to harm (disturbed=saino, to wag the tail, to ingratiate, to cause to be upset, disturbed, agitated) their faith. Because Satan strongly opposes believers, he will incite much opposition to believers and to their message. This happened to the Thessalonians and to Paul. He had warned them.
    • 1 Thessalonians 3:5. Paul’s great sense of love for these believers caused him to send Timothy. Note that the tempter (Satan) is able to distract and ruin the faith of believers. We need to be aware of this. Ephesians 6 warns us. 1 Peter 5 warns us. Jesus, in John 17, prayed for believers that Satan would not win them over. God provided the spiritual armor (Ephesians 6). Peter tells us to be alert to this roaring lion. We can resist him by remaining strong in the faith—knowing and apply God’s word. Keep our spiritual eyes on Jesus Christ.
    • 1 Thessalonians 3:6. Timothy brought the very encouraging report. “Brought good news” is euaggelizo, to announce good news as in Luke 2:10. He reported about their Christian life. It was strong, supportive, and active. These characteristics provide examples for us in our Christian life toward those who teach and lead us.
      • Faith (pistis, belief in).
      • Love (agape) God’s kind of love.
      • Good memory of Paul and his team (agathos, good, moral, beneficial).
      • Long to see Paul and his team (epipothew, to yearn for, long for).
    • 1 Thessalonians 3:7.When Paul learned of their growing and active faith he was encouraged. Distress and affliction were more than offset by this good report. Distress (anagke, necessary pressure due to Christian service); affliction (thlipsis, oppression, affliction, tribulation).
      • When we put time and energy into teaching, encouraging, helping other believers, it is very encouraging to see those people growing in the Lord.
    • 1 Thessalonians 3:8. The stability of these new believers made all Paul’s effort and struggle and suffering worthwhile. From the perspective of those to whom one ministers Paul is saying “Life is worthwhile,” or “this is what life is all about.”
      • From the larger perspective Paul wrote “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians in 1:21).
      • What is our perspective about life and about the people to whom we minister?
      • We are all busy with living. Details, good or bad, often distract us. Is Paul’s perspective reproduced in our lives?
      • Do we take it as a privilege to live by faith through the Holy Spirit?
      • Do we take it as a privilege to witness, teach, help, encourage—all for the LORD?
      • Do we have the heavenly view or the world’s view?
  2. 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10. Paul’s joy at the Thessalonians’ spiritual growth and application produced thanks to God and prayer for further ministry with them so their faith will be more complete.
    • 1 Thessalonians 3:9. Spiritual growth and application are goals of the ministry. When that occurs, are we joyful and express thanks to God?
    • 1 Thessalonians 3:10. Persistent prayer was made by Paul asking that he may have the privilege of equipping, preparing, and advancing the Thessalonian believers in the biblical faith.
      • “Complete” is the verb katartizo, to adjust, put in order, to restore; to furnish, to equip;  aorist active infinitive of purpose. The verb is used in 2 Corinthians 13:11, Hebrews 10:5, Galatians 6:1, Matthew 4:21, Luke 6:40, and here. The noun katartismos is used in Ephesians 4:12, and the noun katartisis is in 2 Corinthians 13:9. This word group refers to the preparation or equipping for some function.
      • What does he want to complete or prepare or adjust? “What is lacking (husterma, for example 2 Corinthians 11:9) in your faith.” That lacking refers to deficiencies, to what they need but do not understand. Paul wants to teach, train, and adjust the spiritual deficiencies of their biblical faith. This will take some time, but it can be done. I do this when I teach in Ukraine.
  3. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13. Paul concludes with two requests directed to the Father and the Son.  The first is that he may be taken back to the Thessalonians. The second is that they may abound in love for each other and all people, so that they will stand without blame in holiness at the judgment seat of Christ. The point is that they would be ready for Christ’s evaluation when he returns for believers.
    • Note the importance of love (agape) in the life and ministry of believers. This love is built into the believer by God. It then overflows to believers around you (“one another”) and then to all people. Love for God and then for others brings with it ministry, right attitudes, and right actions. It brings support, encouragement, responsibility, and protection, among other things. See 1 Corinthians 13 for the different aspects of God’s love shed in and through us by the Holy Spirit.
      • Love is found 287 times in 226 verses in the New Testament. It is important. It is the head of the list in the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We are to walk in love (Ephesians 5:2). It is mentioned six times in 1 Thessalonians (1:3; 3:6, 12; 4:9; 5:8, 13).
      • God’s kind of love means that we will do the right thing because of our love for God and our love for others. Love is first wanting God’s will and God’s best for others. Love then thinks and acts in the right ways.
    • At the judgment seat of Christ He will evaluate each of us for our service and reward accordingly. Eternal salvation is not the issue. Everyone who has believed in Jesus Christ for salvation possesses that eternal salvation.