1st Thessalonians: Chapter 3
(3:1) “Athens” In (Acts 17:1-9), we see Paul, Silas, and Timothy in Thessalonica. “Amid much opposition” (1 Th 2:2), they left Thessalonica and went to Berea (Acts 17:10-15). While they were in Berea, “the Jews of Thessalonica” found out that they were there, went there, and “stirred up the people” of Berea against them. When this occurred, “the brethren sent away Paul…, but Silas and Timothy remained there.” Paul was sent to Athens. We see him in Athens in (Acts 17:16-33). It was here that we see Paul speaking in (1 Th 3:1).
It seems clear from (1 Th 3:1-5)(Also see: 1 Th 2:14) that Paul had somehow heard about the persecutions that the Thessalonians were facing. While Paul was in Athens, it appears that at some point, Timothy had rejoined Paul. Paul sent him from Athens back to Thessalonica to strengthen and encourage them, and to find out about their faith. His concern about their faith is clear, as he mentions the word “faith” five times in eight verses (1 Th 3:2,5,6,7,10).
In the meantime, Paul moved on to Corinth for a year and a half (Acts 18:1,11). During this time, Timothy, as well as Silas, joined Paul in Corinth and Timothy brought “good news of their (your) faith and love,” and that they longed to see him just as he longed to see them (1 Th 3:6)(Acts 18:5).
***Note: A number of sources call the “We” in verses 1-3 an “editorial we,” and say it should be “I,” meaning Paul was speaking about himself only.
Have you ever shared the Gospel with someone, and perhaps lead them to the Lord, and then you don’t see them again? You wonder what has happened with them. Did they grow? Did they fall away? This seems to be what has happened here with Paul and the Thessalonian church he planted.
(3:2) Remember in 1st Thessalonians when we showed Paul calling Timothy his “son” in a number of places (1 Tim 1:2,18)(2 Tim 1:2)(1 Cor 4:17)? It is interesting to see that Paul goes way beyond this here, calling Timothy “a brother,” a “minister of God” (KJV), and a “fellow laborer.” Timothy was much more than a “son.”
We see Paul sending Timothy to churches in several other places as well: (1 Cor 4:17)(1 Cor 16:10)(Phil 2:19-24)(1 Tim 1:3).
“Fellowlabourer” (Gr: “sunergos“) is also used in (Phil 4:3)(Phile 1:1,24). This Greek word is used in 9 other places as well (i.e. Rom 16:3,9,21, 1 Cor 3:9).
(3:3-4) “that no man should be moved by these afflictions…. we are appointed (destined) thereunto”
Interestingly, the Greek word for “moved” is “saino,” and it literally means “to wag the tail.” (This word is used nowhere else in the New Testament.)
What does it mean to be “appointed to afflictions?”
Let’s look at a few verses: (Mt 5:10-12)(Jn 15:18-20)(Jn 16:33).
There is a good quote on this from the Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary: “That no man should, amidst his calamities, be allowed by the flattering hope of a more pleasant life to abandon his duty.”
“suffer tribulation (affliction)” (James 1:2-4)(Rom 5:3-4)(Rom 8:35-39)(2 Cor 1:4)(2 Cor 4:8-9,16-18)(2 Cor 12:9-10)
(3:5) “the tempter might have tempted you” Just as in the previous chapter (1 Th 2:18), Paul mentions how Satan can cause problems.
Let’s look at some examples of him “tempting” (Mt 4:1-11)(Gen 3:1-15)(1 Cor 7:5).
Let’s go on a little “rabbit trail” here. Seven things to remember about temptation:
#1. (James 1:2-4,12-15)(1 Pet 1:6-7) ______________________________
#2. (1 Cor 10:13) ______________________________
#3. (Heb 2:18)(Heb 4:15-16) ______________________________
#4. (Prov 1:10)(Prov 7:21) ______________________________
#5. (Deut 6:16)(Mt 4:7) ______________________________
#6. (Lk 18:9-14)(Prov 16:18) ______________________________
#7. (Lk 8:13) ______________________________
“our labor would be in vain” Essentially, the same phrase used in (1 Th 2:1). This is again likely referring to Paul’s first visit to Thessalonica in (Acts 17:1-9). Paul was concerned that “the tempter” might have ruined much of the work they did during that 1st visit.
(3:6) “Timothy… brought us good news of your faith and love” Their faith was still strong! Satan had not pulled them away!
“longing to see us just as we also long to see you” They wanted to see Paul (Timothy and Silas) just as much as he wanted to see them!
***Note: Remembering from the previous chapter (1 Th 2:18) that Paul said “Satan hindered us” from seeing them.
(3:7) This news “comforted (encouraged)” (Gr: “parakaleo“) them.
(3:8) “stand fast in the Lord” How do we “stand fast in the Lord?”
The Greek word used for “stand fast” is “steko.” Paul uses this word in other places too. Let’s look at some other things in which Paul says to “stand fast.”
(2 Th 2:15) _________________________
(Phil 1:27) __________________________
(Phil 4:1) ___________________________
(Gal 5:1) ___________________________
(1 Cor 16:13) _______________________
MacArthur says this about this phrase: “Pictured here is an army that refuses to retreat even though it is being assaulted by the enemy.”
***Note: The word “steadfast” also has a similar use in the Bible.
(3:9) “For what thanks can we render to God for you…?” I see this as roughly equal to our phrase: “I am thankful beyond words.”
The Greek word used for “thanks” here is “eucharistia.” Strong’s defines this as: “grateful language (to God, as an act of worship): This prayer expresses the grateful acknowledgement of past mercies as distinct from seeking future ones.”
“for all the joy” The 5th time (KJV) (4th other versions) that Paul has used the word “joy” in Thessalonians (1:6)(2:19,20).
Remember these verses from Chapter 1 which we used to describe “joy” (Gr: “chara“): (Ps 21:1)(Ps 51:8,12)(Gal 5:22)(1 Jn 1:1-4)(1 Pet 1:8).
Have you ever had a time when you see a new Christian that you are connected to become more mature in the faith? How does that feel?
(3:10) “night and day praying” (Also see: 3:11-13, 5:23-24) Praying without ceasing (1 Th 5:17)! They “worked night and day” (1 Th 2:9), and “prayed night and day.”
“(we) might perfect (complete) (Gr: “katartizo“) that which is lacking in in your faith” What does this mean? How can someone “perfect” or “complete” another person’s faith?
We will see Paul dealing with this “lack” of the Thessalonians in the following two chapters: Ch 4 & 5.
(3:11) (The 2nd of 3 prayers offered in Thessalonians: 1:2-3, 5:23-24) “direct our way unto you” Praying that God would make a way for them to return to the Thessalonians.
***Note: It is uncertain if Paul ever did return.
A few parallel verses on God “directing our way:” (2 Th 3:5)(Prov 3:6-7)(Prov 16:9)(Jer 10:23).
(3:12-13) “to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people… ; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness”
These verses must be seen together. I believe “The Wycliffe Bible Commentary” explains this well:
“If love is the Christian law…, then one’s holiness (separation to God) is measured chiefly by love.” Love fulfills the law (Rom 13:8-10)(Gal 5:14)(James 2:8).
The “Believer’s Bible Commentary” shares a prayer regarding this: “The Lord enable you more and more to spend your lives in the interest of others, in order that He may so establish you in Christian character now, that you might be vindicated from every charge that might possibly be brought against you…”
“at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints (holy one’s)” The Second Coming of Jesus. We will be discussing this in the next few chapters.
Who are “His (God’s) saints?”
The Greek word for “saints” is “hagios.” This word is translated as “saints” 61 times in the New Testament. It is translated 161 times as “holy.” Strong’s defines “hagios” as: “fundamentally signifies separated, and hence, in Scripture in its moral and spiritual significance, separated from sin and therefore consecrated to God, sacred.”
A number of things are called “hagios” (“holy”) in the New Testament. The “Father” (Jn 17:11), “Jesus” (Mk 1:24)(Acts 3:14)(Acts 4:27,30), and the (“Holy”) Spirit are “hagios.” “Angels” (Lk 9:26)(Mk 8:38)(Acts 10:22), “Scripture” (Rom 1:2)(2 Tim 3:15), and “Jerusalem” (Mt 4:5)(Rev 21:2,10)(Rev 22:19) are called “hagios.” When “hagios” is translated as “saints,” it is speaking of Christians. All believers in Christ are called “saints:” (1 Cor 6:1-2)(Rom 8:27)(Rom 1:7)(Acts 9:32,41)(Eph 4:11-12)(Rom 12:13)(Heb 6:10).
In relation to this verse (1 Th 3:13), most agree that “hagios” is referring to Christians.
***Trivia note: The word “saint” (singular) is used only 5 times in the Bible (KJV) (Ps 106:16)(Dan 8:13 – 3 times)(Phil 4:21).
Let’s end with a few good historical quotes about “saints.”
Most of the world’s great souls have been lonely. Loneliness seems to be one price the saint must pay for his saintliness… Always remember: you cannot carry a cross in company. Though a man were surrounded by a vast crowd, his cross is his alone and his carrying of it marks him as a man apart. Society has turned against him; otherwise he would have no cross. No one is a friend to the man with a cross. – A.W. Tozer
The tragedy of today is that the situation is desperate but the saints are not. – Vance Havner
Would you like to know who is the greatest saint in the world? It isn’t he who prays most or fasts most. It isn’t he who gives most. But it is he who is always thankful to God, who receives everything as an instrument of God’s goodness, and has a heart always ready to praise God for it. – William Law
The stamp of the saint is that he can waive his own rights and obey the Lord Jesus. – C.S. Lewis