1 Thessalonian 1:3 “Patience of Hope”
“The church in Thessalonica was founded about 51 A.D. on Paul’s 2nd missionary journey, after
he left Philippi, Acts 17:1-9.” Halley’s Bible Handbook, p.560.
If we look for a theme or common thread in these epistles it seems evident to even the casual reader that it is on the subject of the Lord’s second coming.
Paul often uses the three-fold subject of faith, love and hope in his epistles (note Col.1:4 & 5 as well as 5:8 here in Thessalonians). Also you will find the words work, labor and patience together in Rev.2:2. He enlarges on these three points in the end of our chapter as he speaks of their faith being spread abroad “so that we need not to speak anything.” This is faith that works and works testifying of a vital relationship that has been brought about through faith in God. This negative and positive effect “from idols to serve....God,” he must have equated with “ a labor of love” which, of course, all true service to the Lord certainly is. He ends, as do each of the chapters in this letter, with a reference to Christ’s second advent.
I believe that the word “patience” in relation to the subject of hope is significant and was especially meaningful to those saints (v.5) and any saints who are undergoing persecution for their faith. He speaks of it in relation to the helmet in 5:8 which is part of the Christians’ armor (Eph.6:17). This covers the mind and, I think, speaks of having our thoughts fixed upon our ultimate deliverance (salvation) from suffering. Suffering saints and those who are facing martyrdom must find it a most consoling thought that they will soon be in the presence of our Lord.
1 Thessalonians 2:20 “Our Glory and Joy”
What must they be like who carry the message of the Gospel to those who have not heard? We have here an example. Find the verses that support the following missionary requirements.
They should be willing to suffer persecution, while boldly proclaiming “the Gospel of God.”
They must be perfectly honest in their presentation, never using flattery or selfish motivation.
They must be as gentle as a nurse with a child or as concerned as a father for his own children.
If these attitudes so clearly set forth in verses 1-12 are maintained it is probable that the results will be as rewarding as our correspondent found them to be. The word of God brought forth a company of “followers” so effectively that these children like their spiritual fathers were also willing to suffer for the sake of the truth.
Paul longed to revisit this precious church and he viewed each failed attempt as the work of the enemy keeping him from doing so. It does not say so, but we can be sure that he knew that this could only happen because God was allowing it, for did he not write Romans 8:28?
With such wonderful words does he close this section! These among whom he has labored he may never see again on this side of the river, but he knew that there would be, awaiting his crossing, a company of saints the very thoughts of whom brought great joy to his heart, but even more would be to him a “crown of rejoicing” in eternity....and the suffering ...forgotten.
1 Thessalonians 3:2 Your Faith
We note that the words “your faith” keep occurring in this chapter and this tells us that Paul was deeply concerned to make sure that they were continuing to walk with the Lord.
In verse two he tells of sending Timothy to them that he might establish them and comfort them concerning their faith. In verse five we learn that his chief concern was to know how they were standing up under persecution but Timothy’s report which he mentions in verse six greatly comforts his heart (v.7). In spite of all the failed attempts the great heart of the apostle in his longing to see them again tells of praying night and day exceedingly that he might continue his ministry to them, perfecting “that which is lacking in your faith.” This then corresponds with the “work of faith” that he spoke about in 1:3.
Paul goes on to speak briefly about the “labor of love” in verse twelve. It was this fruit of the Spirit that he particularly looked for and classified as being “greater “ than faith and hope in what we call the great love chapter (1 Cor.13:13). He desires that they “abound in love one toward another and toward all men” pointing to his example. As he said, this more than anything else would establish them in holiness.
Finally, as our chapter ends he returns to the theme of this epistle, the second coming of our Lord Jesus. We can see him gradually working up to what he wants to say on this great subject, but we have to wait until our next chapter before we get to that. Just think, he mentioned us in this last verse!
1 Thessalonians 4:7 Called Unto Holiness
I suppose it was due to the loose morals of these Macedonian cities as evident by what Paul dealt with in his Corinthian epistles (ch.5), that he felt it necessary to similarly admonish the Thessalonians. It is significant that his appeal lies in the framework of their responsibility to one another. Realizing that the chapter divisions are not a part of the original letter, it is easy to see that what he is dealing with here goes back to 3:12 and continues with the “furthermore then, etc” as our present chapter begins.
While he was with them he had instructed them as to how they should walk and please God and obviously he felt one of their greatest temptations would be that of moral impurity, particularly the sin of fornication. The “such were some of you”statement in the first epistle he wrote to Corinth ( 6:9-11) could probably be said of some in most of the churches to which he wrote.
It is important in applying this passage to see that Paul’s appeal for purity is based on the responsibility we have toward our brethren not to covet our neighbor’s wife/husband (10th
commandment). Our closest neighbor is our fellow (body part) church member for whom our desire should be to edify (Eph.4:16) not take advantage of for self-gratification. Because of our close association with brethren in our local assembly if one (pastor esp.) finds himself slipping into the “lust of concupiscence”(v.5) what must he do? Confess the lack of true (pure) love for the brethren, reckon himself dead to it, present his body to the Lord (Rom.12:1) as alive from the dead (Rom.6:13) and believe God for complete deliverance. Studying this passage and 1 Cor.6:13-20 will be extremely helpful. The former deals with the mystical body, the latter the physical – both however on a plane far above the world’s point of view. It knows nothing about being called “unto holiness.”
1 Thessalonians 5:22 The Appearance of Evil
It may be helpful to point out that the meaning of this verse is probably different than
most would suppose on the face of it. The Greek word here has more the sense of “form”, or “shape” and is translated by the English words shape, fashion, sight and this one time by the word appearance. One can see from this that the sense here is to abstain from every kind of evil rather than the commonly perceived concept that we should keep from doing those things that might appear to be wrong but are in themselves not necessarily so.
For example, we know that unsaved people have a very different idea of the Christian life than do we. God often calls us to a life that can be entirely mis-understood by the world. In their eyes those who live by faith may be construed to have the attitude that others should take care of them. “Why doesn’t he go out and get a real job?” etc.
When our Lord called James and John away from their nets (Matt.4:22) it could have appeared to the neighbors that they were abandoning the filial duty. When parents choose to send their children to a private school they might be thought of as being arrogant. In all of these things we must seek to be directed by the Holy Spirit, and be sure we do not violate some other principles of Scripture, but most definitely, we cannot let our actions be dictated by what others judge to be right or wrong.
On the other hand, whatever is evil, must indeed be avoided wherever it appears.