#193 “THE REMEDY FOR DISTRESS” (1 THESSALONIANS 3:1-5)
Companionship to Strengthen Your Faith (3:1-2)
- Therefore, when we could bear it no longer (hold out against), we were willing (thought it better; preferable)to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, After arriving to see Paul in Athens, Timothy went back to the Macedonian cities to strengthen the faith of the Christians facing persecution. Could bear it no longer—The expression Paul uses refers to a substance that can no longer be contained or confined. He was so moved with compassion that he needed to tell the Thessalonians how he felt about them. Left behind at Athens alone—In Ac. 17:14-15, Luke records that Paul went to Athens alone, and then sent for Timothy and Silas. It is not clear when Silas arrived to be with Paul and Timothy. Paul was unable to return to Thessalonica so sent Timothy in his place. Establish—The GK word is stērizō, “to cause someone to grow stronger and immovable in their thinking, attitude, and beliefs.” The word is found in classical GK literature in reference to a buttress being placed on a building for added strength. Exhort—Timothy is considered one of the most effective ministry companions that the apostle Paul had on his team. He not only strengthened the faith of thousands in Thessalonica, but he also ministered to the churches in Philippi. Paul writes in Phil. 2:19-24, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.”
Acceptance of Hardship (3:3)
- 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. Paul uses an interesting phrase moved by these afflictions. The imagery is of dogs wagging their tails; to fawn or to cringe; to be shaken. Thus, Paul stresses that Christians shouldn’t be disheartened or shaken by the troubles and suffering they are going through for their faith. Destined for this—It is inevitable that Christians will face some form of opposition or persecution because of their faith in Christ. Paul writes that Christians will “suffer for Jesus’s sake” (Phil. 1:20) but we are to “rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance” (Rom. 5:3). 2 Tim. 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to love a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Accordingly, Christians are not to feel defeated but ought to rejoice for being considered worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ. Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Defeating the Enemy (3:4-5)
- 4 For 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.Paul prepared the church to suffer for their faith and face persecution. We kept telling you—This gives insight into one of the most talked about topics Paul had with the Thessalonians—persecution. Paul told the Thessalonians repeatedly that they will suffer persecution—and they did. Jesus said in John 15:18-20: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
- 5 For this reason, when I could bear (to endure; to put up with difficulty) 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. Paul was concerned that Satan would defeat the Thessalonians after dealing with so much opposition. I sent to learn—Paul’s enemies were telling the Thessalonians two lies: (1) Paul wasn’t returning because he didn’t care about them and (2) they were suffering because of sin. The tempter—Paul already characterized Satan as a “hinderer” (2:18). He now uses the same word found in Matt. 4:13: And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “The idea of putting to the proof—from either a good or bad intention—is found throughout the Bible. Thus the Lord often tests his people with the purpose of strengthening their faith, while Satan tempts them because he wishes to undermine their faith. Jesus, true man, faced both testing from God and temptation from Satan.” Jesus refers Satan as the “ruler of this world” (Jn. 12:31; 16:11). Paul indicates that Satan is the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Paul issues another title for Satan, “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). Labor would be in vain—Paul was concerned that Satan destroyed the ministerial work he had done in the lives of the Thessalonians. The force of this phrase draws out Paul’s feelings that his ministry in Macedonia might have been without a purpose.
- Christians need to be aware of Satan’s schemes (2 Cor. 2:11).
- Christians need to shield of faith to block Satan’s fiery darts (Eph. 6:11).
- Christians need to resist Satan’s temptations (1 Cor. 7:5).
Warren Wiersbe, “God’s Word is one of the best tools for establishing new Christians in the faith. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He used the Word of God to defeat him (Matt. 4:1–11). Paul admonished the Ephesian believers to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17) in their battle against Satan and his demonic assistants. A working knowledge of the Bible is essential for spiritual growth and stability. God’s Word is food to nourish us (Matt. 4:4), light to guide us (Ps. 119:105), and a weapon to defend us (Eph. 6:17). “This is what the Lord says!” is our sure foundation. One reason God has established local churches is that believers might grow in the Word and, in turn, help others to grow (2 Tim. 2:2; Eph. 4:11–16).”