1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13 | Our Glory & Joy
17But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavoured the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.
- We see here such a personal sense of affection from Paul for the Thessalonians, he was ‘torn away’ but not in his heart. He even mentions himself by name, that this desire was not just of his role or team, but himself personally!
- We must endeavour to love each other genuinely and sincerely and not simply as ‘projects’
- ‘satan hindered us’ – Paul points out that it was specifically Satan who had prevented Paul returning to ‘establish and exhort them’ in their faith (3:1). Satan (the adversary) is adverse towards the growth of the gospel and building of God’s kingdom
19For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20For you are our glory and joy.
- What is surprising here is that in answer to his own question, Paul’s states that his hope, joy, crown and boast is not Jesus…but the church!
- We can understand this in relation to Paul’s ministry, he had been entrusted to communicate the gospel to the gentile nations, so the effectiveness of his ministry would be like a crown to him when Jesus returns.
- However, we can also mirror this same attitude by imitating God’s attitude towards the church. For Paul, the church is his glory and joy, not just because it’s his ministry, but because it’s God’s glory and joy.
- Titus 2:14 – God is purifying for himself a people that his very own, eager to do what is good
- The church is God’s glory and joy, and since we are part of that it becomes our glory and joy too, especially in the context of adversity which this is. There is a greater glory and joy for the believer who overcomes the adversity of satan in their faith.
- People need to hear the gospel not just for the saving of their souls, but for God’s greater glory and joy!
3:1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s co-worker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith,
- ‘bear it no longer’ – the great question on Paul’s mind is whether the young faith of the Thessalonians would stand under trial. They were desperate to know whether their faith would continue and so ensured they were established and exhorted
3that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.
- This deep concern for their faith is in the context of affliction (pressure)
- Paul says that they were destined for affliction. This is not clear whether he is referring just to himself (and the apostles) or the Thessalonians too, but really we can see that all believers in Jesus are destined for some degree of affliction
- We have to realise that the enemy Satan, the world which we live in and even the bodies we are clothed in are inclined to sin and want us to deny Christ.
5For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
- Affliction often manifests itself in temptation.
- I wonder if the greatest threat for the church in the western world is not direct affliction or persecution, but the temptation to live out a comfortable and diluted faith
6But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—
- The Thessalonians still mimic the faith of the apostles
7for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.
- Paul is not just encouraged and comforted to know about the Thessalonians faith but he also says ‘for now we live’.
- It’s like Paul is saying “this is the life” or “this is living now”, knowing that the Thessalonians are standing fast in the Lord.
- We can see that the faith and growth of the church was central to his life. It makes sense that if other believers were his glory and joy, then for those believers to be standing fast in the Lord would make Paul ‘live’.
9For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
- Again, Paul is filled with joy for the Thessalonians faith and feels thankful to God simply because of his joy!
- His goal and ambition is to supply what is lacking in their faith, he desires them to fully mature in their faith for God’s glory and joy. As the body of Christ comes together we supply what is lacking in each others faith
11Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
- Paul prays two things here for a purpose – that God might direct their way to them and to increase in love for one another, treasuring each other in fellowship
- For what purpose? – so that God might establish us as a blameless and holy people before God