1 Thessalonians 3 NIV – Pastor Valeen Netzel
1 Thessalonians 3 NIV
Paul shows once again how much he loves the Thessalonians, reminding them that he sent Timothy to them. He is overjoyed that Timothy returns with an excellent report of the church in Thessalonica and finishes his letter with prayer for them.
1 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.
Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians because he wasn’t able to go himself. He loved them so much that he felt he just had to send someone in his place rather than not minister to them at all. This was a bit of an inconvenience to Paul, since he relied heavily on Timothy and really couldn’t spare him – yet these Christians were important to him so he made the necessary sacrifice for their well-being.
Notice that even though Paul has referred to Timothy as his son time and time again – here he calls him brother. This is an indication of how he respected Timothy as an evangelist. Timothy was younger than Paul, and he was not as mature in ministry either. He had trained Timothy, and yet was humble enough to call him not only brother, but also a co-worker (a fellow minister – of equal importance). Paul did this because he valued Timothy and he valued the Thessalonians and he wanted Timothy to receive the respect he deserved when he visited them. Paul had a very good grasp on ministry as a labor in the service of Christ. He did not view it as something he could gain recognition from – possibly because he had already been down that road and knew that the admiration of men was a hollow victory in comparison to the favor of the Almighty God. In this view, he also did not see other ministers such as Timothy as any kind of a “threat” or a “rival” to his ministry. He saw only the unity of the church as Christ intended and worked towards showing others what that truly means. He understood that we are to work together – not against one another – with the goal being to further the kingdom of God. We are not called to expand our church – we are called to expand God’s church – the body of Christ, in unity and as one entity.
Paul’s utmost goal in this instance was to “strengthen and encourage” the Thessalonians. This was the reason he sent Timothy. Their encouragement was important enough that he was willing to spare Timothy and inconvenience himself for their sake. He had been the one to convert them and was personally invested in their salvation. He knew that being encouraged and comforted would help them mature and rely on God.
There was also the danger of persecution – Paul had warned them they would face persecution and he was concerned that they might fall into discouragement and leave their faith behind. This was the driving force that caused him to make this sacrifice and send Timothy to them. He was thoroughly concerned and felt the need to send encouragement to them. Paul knew first-hand how strong persecution can be and worried that these newly converted souls wouldn’t be able to stand against it.
He had worked so hard for their salvation too. One of Paul’s biggest concerns was that all the suffering he had been through, and all of the traveling and strife he had faced to bring these souls to Christ would be in vain. It seemed his biggest fear was that his whole life would have been spent in service for Christ and it would have been pointless. He was desperate to be certain that God’s kingdom was advancing.
Timothy’s Encouraging Report
6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
Paul was immensely relieved to hear encouraging things from Timothy upon his return. Timothy assured Paul that they were not shaken. They were strong in faith and in their love of the gospel and for those who brought it to them. Wherever there is a great love like this between the minister and the people – the gospel expands quickly and widely. They expressed that they longed to also see Paul so they could receive from him – although they enjoyed what Timothy had to bring.
Even though Paul’s intention was to encourage the Thessalonians, he himself was encouraged by the good report he received about them. His own faith was increased because of the good report that Timothy brought to him. These things made it easier for him to endure the hardships and persecutions he faced daily. It was reports like this that made everything he went through worth every hardship and pain and beating. It put a new determination into his ministry and caused him to rejoice and celebrate for them.
11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
The natural reaction to such a good report is to rejoice and praise God. This is exactly what Paul does. He is overjoyed with praise and thanksgiving and he prays and gives thanks for them. He prays for continued strengthening from God. He prays for them to continue to mature and grow and receive all the blessings of God. He prays for their love for each other continue to increase so the kingdom of God can continue to increase through their love and unity. He desires that they prosper in every area of their lives and he continues to pray for them, knowing he cannot visit and this is the next best thing. He lets them know that he is keeping them in prayer and spiritual support in his absence.