Paul’s Concern to the Church
1 Thess. 3:1-5
Once again Paul is showing his love and concern for the church in Thessalonica. Love can never be stopped. Love knows no barrier.
I. Sending of Timothy (1 Thess. 3:1-2)
A. Circumstances prohibited Paul from returning to Thessalonica personally, so he and Silas decided to send Timothy back to encourage the saints. Evidently Paul travelled from Berea to Athens without the companionship of Timothy and Silas. When he reached Athens, he sent word back to Berea (by the Berean Christians who had accompanied him) for Timothy and Silas to join him in Athens as soon as possible (Acts 17:15). Apparently, Timothy and Silas did so. Their mutual concern for the Thessalonian church led Paul and Silas to dispatch Timothy to Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:1-2). Silas also returned to Macedonia shortly after Timothy’s departure, probably to check on the Philippian church. Silas and Timothy both returned to Macedonia to re-join Paul in Corinth, Paul’s next port of call after Athens (Acts 18:1,5).
B. Paul’s description of Timothy seems to imply that the young man needed more than Paul’s normal endorsement. Perhaps because of his youth Timothy was not as readily recognized and respected as his older fellow missionaries. Paul called Timothy our brother, suggesting equality in the Lord’s work with Paul and Silas. In relation to the Lord, Timothy was a hardworking servant, suggestive of his zeal and humility. He was a brother-servant in spreading the gospel of Christ.
C. Timothy’s mission was to have been a positive blessing and help to the Thessalonian Christians. He was to establish and comfort them by providing what they needed to fight the good fight of faith, individually and collectively. Much of the ministry of the apostles was devoted to grounding new converts in the faith, a ministry as necessary today as it was in the first century.
Illustration 1: Christ is Sufficient
One night while conducting an evangelistic meeting in the Salvation Army Citadel in Chicago, Booth Tucker preached on the sympathy of Jesus. After his message a man approached him and said, “If your wife had just died, like mine has, and your babies were crying for their mother, who would never come back, you wouldn’t be saying what you’re saying.”
Tragically, a few days later, Tucker’s wife was killed in a train wreck. Her body was brought to Chicago and carried to the same Citadel for the funeral. After the service the bereaved preacher looked down into the silent face of his wife and then turned to those attending. “The other day a man told me I wouldn’t speak of the sympathy of Jesus if my wife had just died. If that man is here, I want to tell him that Christ is sufficient. My heart is broken, but it has a song put there by Jesus. I want that man to know that Jesus Christ speaks comfort to me today.”
Today in the Word, MBI, October, 1991, p. 10
II. The Encouragement (1 Thess. 3:3-4)
A. This word “moved” means to wag as a dog does its tail back and forth. Thayer defines it, “to flatter, fawn upon, to move the mind of one, to allure, beguile.” It speaks of attempting to win favor by flattery. A dog wags its tail to draw attention to itself and gain something it wants. Here the sense is, to be so moved or agitated by fear, or by the terror of persecution, as to forsake their religion. The object of sending Timothy was, that they might not be thus moved, but that amidst all opposition they might adhere steadfastly to their religion.
B. Afflictions, difficulties, trials, etc., are not necessarily a sign of God’s disfavor, but are part of every Christians’ life. When trouble comes, Christians often react by doubting that they are not where God wants them to be; they often think that they have done something wrong and that God must be displeased with them. Even some mature Christians react this way, as evidenced by Paul’s words of reassurance to Timothy many years later. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). Yet storms often come to believers to make them able to stand firm, rather than to blow them away (2 Cor. 4:15-16).
C. As Paul warned them of the coming tribulations, indeed it has happened.
Illustration 2: China’s Boxer Rebellion
During China’s Boxer Rebellion of 1900, insurgents captured a mission station, blocked all the gates but one, and in front of that one gate placed a cross flat on the ground. Then the word was passed to those inside that any who trampled the cross underfoot would be permitted their freedom and life, but that any refusing would be shot. Terribly frightened, the first seven students trampled the cross under their feet and were allowed to go free. But the eighth student, a young girl, refused to commit the sacrilegious act. Kneeling beside the cross in prayer for strength, she arose and moved carefully around the cross, and went out to face the firing squad. Strengthened by her example, every one of the remaining ninety-two students followed her to the firing squad.
Today in the Word, Feb. 89, p. 17
III. The warning about the Enemy (1 Thess. 3:5)
A. Paul’s greatest fear was that Satan, the tempter, might get a foothold and ruin the Church.
B. Paul saw Satan as using the persecution the Thessalonians were undergoing in order to lure them away from what they knew to be God’s will, namely, perseverance in the midst of trials.
Illustration 3: Satan’s Power is Permitted
Lest we be “terrified by our adversaries,” it is well to remember that Satan’s power is not inherent but permitted (Rom. 13:1). It is not unlimited, but controlled (Job 1:12; 2:6). It is not invincible, but broken (Luke 11:21-11). It is not assured of success, but is surely doomed (Rev. 20:2-3). Satan knows well that there is no ultimate victory for him. The pronounced sentence has only been postponed. But he works to hinder and postpone Christ’s final triumph. We can rejoice in the certainty of John’s assurance: “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4).
J. Oswald Sanders, Cultivation of Christian Character, (Moody Press, Chicago; 1965), p. 86
Just like the Thessalonian Christians, we all need encouragement. Satan will always be there to oppose, and make things difficult for all of us. Let us all persevere and press on in serving the Lord.